I don’t get to do interviews often, so it is a wonderful privilege to be able to host this one today. We are featuring Miss Sophie Andrews in today’s chat. I met Sophie last year when I ran across her on Goodreads, and very soon afterwards she came over to Facebook, and we have become such good friends since. She is a big name in the blog world for her book reviews. If you want to check out her blog, it is called Laughing With Lizzie.You can also find her here on Facebook.
Now grab a cup of tea, or hot cocoa, maybe a scone or crumpet, and join me for the next few minutes as we sit and chat with a wonderful up and coming audiobook producer – MISS SOPHIE ANDREWS!!
Welcome Sophie! I am so glad to have you stop by this week and tell your story and what led you to this new adventure… and not just because I am part of it. Tehehehehe. It has been fun to see what doors have opened for you over the last few months, and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about your journey.
Thank you Sarah for inviting me to your blog today!
😀 I am happy to have you here. So let’s get started. I would love to hear what motivated you to take the big leap into audiobooks?
Well, put simply, you did! I am sure you remember the conversation back in September, after you had had the wonderful idea of someone reading an extract from your new book, Just To Hear I Love You, on video. Given that I was of a similar age to the main characters in the story and, which I think is what really clinched it, because I live in England and sound very typically British, I was an obvious candidate. So, a few weeks later, on the 1st of October in fact, the video was released, and the rest is history, so they say! The feedback and comments I received on the video were just fantastic and very complimentary, and a few suggested I should go into audiobook narration, which was something I had never thought about. After a lot of a persuasion, I had a look into it all, signed up to ACX (the production side of Audible) and bought a microphone! A few weeks down the line and I had learned the basics of recording and editing, and then in November I began recording my first ever audiobook, Snow Storms and Kissing Games!
I remember that day well! As a matter of fact, if you don’t mind me adding a bit to that – when I was setting up the blog tour for the release of my book, Just to Hear ‘I Love You’, I was trying to find something different to do, and nothing was coming to mind. Then one morning I awoke with a start, and booming through my mind was the idea of having you read an excerpt on video! So I contacted you with the idea, and the rest was history! lol. Now on to our next question: As an audio producer, what was your biggest challenge?
Um… Everything? Can I say that? No? Ok, well I think the main challenge was the terminology. There is a looooong list of ‘submission requirements’ which your files have to meet to be accepted by ACX, and most of them I had NO idea what they were going on about! ‘Each submitted file must measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS and have -3dB peak values and a maximum -60dB noise floor and be a 192kbps or higher MP3, CBR at 44.1 kHz…’ um… Excuse me? As a complete technophobe that is just letters and numbers to me! Once I could work out – more accurately, was told! – the buttons I needed to press in my editing program, Audacity, I got the hang of the actual editing out of mistakes and background noise, and eventually, after having my files rejected when first submitting them, I got them to the required …. (I’m going to say) format? (I doubt that is the correct term!) and they were accepted by ACX on my second submission! While I can now tell you what to do to have you files accepted, if you ask me why, or what it all means, I still have no idea!
LOL I grew up with a dad who was a television and radio engineer, as well as a minister, so I was running a sound board before I was even in double digits in age. To me the terms are second nature, but if you don’t need to know, then who really cares about decibels and kilohertz, and other such things! I wish we lived closer so I could be of more help, but you figured it out on your own quite well! I am proud of you!
Did you have any surprises while going through the process?
One thing which really surprised me was that fact that I have come to tolerate and get used to the sound of my own voice! I used to HATE hearing myself on camera (as I think most people do!). However, when you are doing your own editing you have no choice but to listen to yourself back! I was also surprised that I was able to come up with the different voices and be brave enough to, well, do it! When I recorded the samples on video, I didn’t really alter my voice much – I was more self conscious being on camera! But in my own little studio in my bedroom I am able to lose my inhibitions and go for the character voices! (The real challenge will come now though, as Snow Storms had only 8 speaking parts, whereas my next one may have more like 18!). Also, still with the different voices, I was surprised I managed to remember them and maintain them throughout the book. I was very worried they would change slightly as I went through, forgetting how I voiced them in chapter one when I got to chapter 8 or something. But I was thrilled when you said the consistency with the voices was very good, especially as you were specifically listening for that! Finally what surprised me was that I didn’t realize how long editing takes! Firstly, editing out mistakes takes a while, and I did seem to make many mistakes or redo certain lines a few times until I was happy – I mean, some clips could be 30 minutes of recording which will edit down to 10-15mins of audio due to mistakes, retakes, water breaks and pauses! And secondly, listening for breaths and mouth clicks and funny noises which slip in while recording and editing them out to make your narration flow takes a while too! And a lot of concentration!
I bet that does take a while to get down properly! I was very impressed with the quality of your recordings! Whose voice is your
greatest pleasure to read?
Well in Snow Storms the major characters to narrate were Lizzy, Jane, Lydia, Darcy and Bingley. Caroline Bingley and Mr and Mrs Bennet also had a small speaking part. So out of these characters, however unsurprising it seems, my favorite has to be Elizabeth Bennet, for many reasons! 1. Because, come on, what Jane Austen fan hasn’t dreamed of being Elizabeth? I think being cast as her in an adaptation is the closest you can really get, and unless I suddenly become a famous actress, being able to voice Elizabeth in an audiobook is the closest *I* will ever get! 2. I have seen or heard many, many interpretations of Elizabeth so it has been a fun challenge to come up with my own ‘Elizabeth Bennet’. And 3. when I started my blog a few years ago, I chose Elizabeth Bennet (well, Elizabeth Darcy) as my persona or alias, so it has been really fun to bring her to life!
Even my mom made a comment, when I first played your audio recording of chapter 1 to her, that your voice was simply perfect for Elizabeth – she was impressed from the start! I am curious now to find out – whose voice is your greatest challenge to read?
Well, when thinking of all the characters in this one, I expect you would think it would have been the two young gentlemen, but actually they weren’t the main challenge. I thought the hardest would be Lydia, trying to get the whiny and childish voice right, but she was easier than I imagined and good fun actually! The challenge was actually Jane, or perhaps I should say finding a voice for Jane which sounded different enough from Elizabeth. They are quite similar really, compared to say Elizabeth and Lydia, so finding, and then maintaining, a voice for Jane which sounded different from Lizzy was quite hard! Darcy was quite hard, not because of trying to get my voice lower so as to imply a man speaking, but because he is such an important character to me, and close to my heart. I just wasn’t happy with how I was voicing him; trying to live up to my own expectations of what Darcy sounds like, let alone the brilliant portrayals on television, was hard! I am lady, so I really couldn’t get close to what I wanted Darcy to sound like – Bingley I didn’t mind nearly as much, I wonder why? 😉
LOL 😛 You definitely did better than I anticipated with the voices – honestly, I didn’t expect voices so much as just narration, but the final product was perfect. I remember the first time I listened to one part, when the five are all playing a game and Jane teases Elizabeth, suggesting a penance of a kiss be paid. Elizabeth’s answer, when I wrote it, was one of those moments as a writer where I could just see it all playing out before my eyes, hear them talking, smell the logs in the fireplace, etc. But when I heard your take on Elizabeth’s answer, it made the character come even more alive, even to me! That is the moment I knew you were the perfect choice for this project.
I am curious to find out if there is anything particular you do before you start a recording session? (Favorite drink,
calming methods, etc.)
I tend to record at the same time of day, about midday, and I don’t eat anything just before recording. I stick with water and before recording I just tend to remind myself of my character voices. You mention calming methods, well I don’t actually get nervous if I am honest. I just feel as though I am reading aloud to myself, as I am tucked away in my cozy little make-shift recording studio in my bedroom. *Now* I am nervous and could use some calming methods! (Any suggestions?) Now that it is for sale and I know anyone can listen to me, it feels much more real, and very scary! Whereas when recording, it just felt like something I was doing for myself, as I often used to read aloud to myself when reading anyway.
That is such a talent you have – and I am glad you are as comfortable as you can be with it. It makes me nervous to do any recording. I did dramatic reading and such at speech competitions back when I was in junior high and high school, but the only way for me to do them justice was to have it memorized. I was never any good at just reading and making it have good flow. Looking towards the future, what are your other upcoming projects?
Well I am about to start my next book, Pride and Persistence by Jeanna Ellsworth, which is a full length novel and a really fun story so that should be good. I need to invent some more voices before I start that! I also am hopefully soon to be working with Monica Fairview on her book Mr Darcy’s Challenge. I have also had interest from Joana Starnes, Cassandra Grafton, Heidi Ashworth, Joy King, and I am looking forward to narrating some more of your books soon too Sarah!
I cannot wait to hear Jeanna’s story – I have to say, it is one of my favorites! Are there any specific titles or authors who would be an automatic YES if they asked you to produce their audiobook?
Oh now that is a mean question as I am bound to leave someone out! Well, all the authors mentioned above, of course, and many others. Anyone’s books I have read before and enjoyed (which is most I have read as I am quite easy to please and open to the most bizarre variations, so long as they are well written!) I would be happy to narrate. I have to say, the more upbeat and funny ones would be a preference as those sort of scenes I enjoyed narrating the most in yours. While I don’t mind doing the more emotional scenes, it is harder to portray the emotion of a scene through just the voice. What might make me hesitate would be if the story contained any more steamy scenes. I am not overly fond of reading such scenes myself and so I feel narrating them would be …. difficult and embarrassing!
A few books in particular which spring to mind that I would like to narrate would be any of KaraLynne Mackrory’s books, particularly Haunting Mr Darcy which I think has to be one of my, if not *the*, favourite variation I have read so far. It was so unique and different and I think it would be really fun to narrate. Also Kara Louise’s books I really enjoyed reading, again because they are very unique variations. Mr Darcy Came to Dinner by Jack Caldwell is just hilarious and would be good fun, if I could stop myself laughing that is! Rose Fairbanks has some fun novellas and stories which I would enjoy narrating I think. A Noteworthy Courtship by Laura Sanchez is a favourite, and also The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams. Amanda Grange’s diary series would be fun as well I think. Also, I have to say I love the books from Julianne Donaldson, Edenbrooke in particular. It isn’t JAFF but a brilliant regency romance. I love the story, and again, it is a lot of fun, and also it is written in the first person which would be a different narrating experience. (I don’t see this ever happening as she is far too successful an author to turn to the likes of me, and I think she has already done audio versions anyway!) I am also hoping to be able to record my own versions of Jane Austen’s own stories before too long.
Oh how fun! Do you plan on sticking only with JAFF stories, or will you expand to other genres?
Oh no I am open to genres other than JAFF. I would like to stick to historical books as that is what I enjoy reading myself, and I don’t think I would be able to narrate a book I didn’t want to read at all well. I don’t particularly enjoy reading modern day books, so while the offers for historical romances and JAFF are coming in I will stick with those thank you!
LOL I think we can keep you occupied with JAFF stories for a while. And now for my final question before we get to the reader questions. What was your favoritepart about doing this first project?
I think it has to be discovering a completely new talent (so people tell me anyway!) I didn’t know I had for story telling! Also, while it has been stressful, just learning about something so completely new and different has been fascinating. I was a complete novice in the world of audiobooks, narration, recording and editing when I started this. I did rather jump in at the deep end, being completely clueless, and I am just about still swimming so that must be a good sign! It has been a real learning curve, and it has been great proving to myself that I can do something I never imaged I would be able to do!
Oh you are definitely talented, my dear!! And now, we have been collecting some questions from your fans, so let’s see what they would like to know. Joy King sent quite a few, so we will go through them first. Her first question is:
Which Bennet sister would you describe yourself as closest to in personality? Which one would your parents choose?
Honestly, it has to be Elizabeth Bennet. I enjoy good debates and exchanges of lively and witty repartee, my philosophy on love and marriage is just like her (I am determined that nothing but the very deepest love will induce me into matrimony) and I enjoy the outdoors and a long walk (resulting in many petticoats – or rather coats – becoming 6 inches deep in mud!) – and people do say my eyes are particularly fine. 😉 My friends may say I have Jane qualities and that I always try to see the good in people. While this isn’t wholly untrue, I do have the fault of judging people. I will keep my thoughts to myself, but I don’t think Jane Bennet would even think judging thoughts whereas Lizzy certainly would! My parents… well my father doesn’t know much about the characters but my mum would probably say Lizzy, especially as my older sister is certainly more of a Jane Bennet. My sister would say… Well when in a good mood Lizzy, but may also compare me to Mary; I wear glasses, I read a lot and I play the piano!
I have enjoyed watching to your piano videos on your YouTube channel. (And I have to interject here that if you have not caught them, check out Sophie’s YouTube Channel here). Joy’s next question is: Have you ever had a Lydia moment and would you share?
Oh I certainly have! Last September at the Jane Austen Festival Promenade in Bath. My Lydia side really come to the fore! Once we had reached the parade gardens, I practically ran around trying to have as many photos with gentlemen as I could – and I did very well! 😉 I also realised I was a little Lydia-ish as every time I saw the red coats I got a little bit excited – the gentlemen who were dressed as soldiers were the ones I got the most excited about!
**sigh** I have to say, as a military wife of fifteen years, a man in uniform definitely sets my heart to pitter-pattering! Speaking of things that make you sigh or swoon, Joy’s next question is sure to please all the readers today. What was the most sigh and swoon-worthy sentence of Sarah’s project?
Oh just a sentence? Wow…. Um…. No, sorry, I have to say two!
In the context of the scene this line is taken from, this is a very romantic line…
“I cannot but follow my heart, and if you must crush my spirit today, then know this,” he said quietly, just inches from her mouth again, “I will not stop until I win your affection.”
But for a real romantic one liner, despite the context of the scene, it has to be this…
After seeing the love that shone between the two when they looked at each other, he joked that theirs was a storybook romance, to which Mr Darcy immediately replied, “only if the storybook never ends.”
Awwww – That is so sweet of you to say! I would have to agree, about both of those lines – they are clear favorites of mine as well. Now for Joy’s last question, and I am sure you are going to laugh when you hear this one. If a 30 year old Colin Firth, a 30 year old Matthew MacFadyen, and a 30 year old Richard Armitage all rushed at you to help you out of your car, who would you give your hand to?
Ohhhhhhh well sorry Macfadyen but you are out. I loved his portrayal, and he was my first Darcy, but he is not my favourite. Firth or Armitage… That is hard! I love Firth as Darcy, and in everything else I have seen him in. But the same goes for Armitage. I think Colin Firth would have to be the one to clinch it for me, as I have seen him in a lot more than Armitage, and I have been a Colin Firth fan for a lot long than I have a Richard Armitage fan. Besides, I just really want to meet Colin Firth – and I do prefer Darcy over Thornton. Very hard choice though!
(I am so glad that question was not asked of me, cause I have no clue who I would pick!)
Our next question comes from Kathy Langstein Berlin, and its one I have wondered as well! She would like to know: Sophie, when you visualize Mr. Darcy, what does he look like? I admit, my Mr. Darcy does not look like any of the popular versions of him in the movies. Are you visualizing Mr. Darcy, or indeed, any of the characters, when you are doing the audiobooks?
Well, for me he is similar to Colin Firth. Unfortunately, I saw an adaption before reading the book so I never really came up with my own Darcy in my imagination. Having said that, he isn’t Colin Firth exactly in my head. He has the same hair but the facial features are blurry actually! And his voice is… in between Firth’s and Macfadyen’s. His clothing is always an outfit Firth had in the series. So I do sort of have my own Darcy in my head, albeit very vaguely, but he is definitely Colin Firth influenced. While voicing Elizabeth I am definitely thinking about Jennifer Ehle. I really think she captured Elizabeth’s spirit and vivacity in the series, but again she doesn’t look like Ehle in my head when narrating – I think she looks more like… me if I am honest! (As you saw in an earlier answer, she was my favourite to narrate as I liked pretending to be her, so that is why I imagine myself in that role in my head I suppose!). As to the other characters, I am not really seeing actors from the adaptations. Mrs Bennet perhaps Alison Steadman a little. But generally they all seem to take on a character of their own in my head and really, other than Elizabeth, I don’t feel as strongly influenced by specific portrayals as I thought I might be when starting this recording process.
Another reader, Balcita Blue, has a great follow-up question to that one. She would like to know: Sophie Andrews, what do you have to do to get different voices for different characters, like men or women?
Well, as mentioned above, some are easy and some are not. Characters like Lydia and Mrs Bennet came easily. Elizabeth was also easy for me, but being able to come up with a voice which sounded different for Jane was hard. I think it is going to become more challenging as I move to other books and there are more characters – I am not sure how many voices I will be able to invent! Being a lady myself, voicing a man is certainly a challenge. I didn’t want to sound so low that it did actually sound quite like a man, as that would just be very silly and sound too comical. So I went as low as I dared with the men.
Another reader, Ann Weiler, also has a question about voicing the characters: How do you decide on a voice for the character? And then how do you develop the character voice?
Well I have touched on this already, but it depends on the character. I am not as influenced by the adaptations as I thought I might be. My imagination seems to want to invent its own versions of the characters! Elizabeth, as I said, I do think about Ehle, and so she didn’t need much developing. I just *knew* how to voice her. Lydia was another easy one as I knew she needed to sound childlike and a bit whiny. She took a little experimenting as I didn’t want her to sound comical. I found her lines in the story and would say them in different ways until I was happy with how I voiced her. Jane was hard. I couldn’t hear a Jane voice in my head very well. I knew she needed to sound calmer and quieter than Lizzy, but yet quite similar, as Jane and Lizzy are the most alike sisters. To develop her I just experimented with different ideas until I was happy that Jane could be distinguishable from Lizzy! For the male characters, I experimented with tone as I wanted it lower to imply a man speaking, but not so low that it made people laugh listening to me. Darcy was a nightmare actually. It took me ages to be happy (enough – I am still not entirely happy!) with how I was voicing him. He proved the biggest struggle as I went through the book as well, with trying to maintain his voice and sound deep enough and manly enough during the more emotional scenes. I remember one moment in particular, when he asks the important question, “marry me?”, I think I said that about 50 times – no exaggeration! I just couldn’t say it how I knew it should sound in my head! The editing took ages for that, listening through my 50 tries to find one I was happiest with! So, as you can see, some I just know, others I have a good idea and just need a little experimenting, while others will be a real challenge and take a lot of work and cause problems throughout the recording!
Our last reader question comes from Hazel Mills. She would like to know: When you were reading for your audio book, did you read to yourself or imagine an audience?
I have touched on this in another answer, but I am definitely reading to just myself! If I imagined an audience, I would become very nervous and self-conscious! I would never be able to do all the voices if I thought I was being watched! As I mentioned, when recording my video clips for book promotions (of which I have done a few now) I couldn’t bring myself to alter my voice very dramatically, as the camera made me very self-conscious and shy! So to be brave enough to go for all the voice changes, I think that it is just me, in my cute little recording studio in the corner of my bedroom, all alone and just reading it out loud for my own pleasure!
Are there any final words you have for our readers, Sophie?
Thank you everyone for all those wonderful questions! I really enjoyed answering them and really thinking about the whole process and what I did enjoy and everything; I hadn’t really thought about it before!
We have one more thing to take care of before this interview is completed. In the launch party we held last week for my newest book, Whispered Kisses, Sophie was gracious enough to do a video message for everyone. She asked a question of the readers and we promised an EBook of Whispered Kisses to the person who could answer it correctly. In the story, Elizabeth receives flowers anonymously from a secret admirer – of course we know who that is!! So I will now turn the floor back over to Sophie for her to give her answer.
I had some great guesses of lilies, forget-me-nots, lavender, orchids… Thank you to all who had a guess at what my favourite is, but no one guessed it!
Although no one guessed it, the winners have to be Hazel Mills and Joana Starnes, as they guessed The Pride and Prejudice Rose, which is a very good guess! In fact, I had forgotten about the rose when I was deciding on my favourite flower, as it is a recently developed flower. But since having it in my front garden it has become a firm favourite, and so as no guessed my actual favourite, the prize has to go to Hazel and Joana for 1. Reminding me of my rose and 2. Guessing my second favourite flower!
Congratulations Hazel and Joana!
You have each won an EBook copy of Whispered Kisses!
Thank you everyone for the questions, and the guesses, and I will be in touch with our winners about your ebook. I had such fun doing this interview, and I hope you had just as much fun learning about what is new and exciting in Sophie Andrew’s life right now. Thanks!