Interview with Gabrielle de Cuir

36439d9Last week, the audiobook edition of Exile: The Book of Ever (#1) came out, narrated by the wonderful Gabrielle de Cuir and produced by Skyboat Media, the production company behind the Hugo Award-winning Lightspeed magazine podcast and many other wonderful books in the genre and out of it.

Gabrielle was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few interview questions about herself and the recording process.  She also sent along a great clip of her recording a piece of Exile, which you can watch below!

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. 

I’m a native Californian, but grew up in Rome and have travelled extensively because my father was an Oscar-winning film designer and he always took the family with him on his cinematic adventures. I currently live and thrive in Los Angeles. I attended UCLA and received my degree there in Theatre Arts.

How did you get started narrating audiobooks?

I started in this business as an abridger; when I started doing this a decade ago, most books had to be cut down to fit onto four cassettes. Editing Anna Karenina down to four cassettes was quite a challenge! It also was an invaluable learning process as to what is essential in a story and what is fluff. Then, the company I worked for went out of business, and I hung out a shingle as a narrator. I couldn’t afford to pay anyone else! (The truth is I have a tremendously strong acting and performing background in theatre.) 

How do you choose your projects?

I need to connect at some emotional or intellectual level with the material. And my tastes are varied. I look for books with poetic flow, sharp humor or a variety of accents and characters. Some books have all of these; some just have one quality or another. Exile attracted me because of Ever’s personality and point of view. Stories with a strong point of view are acting gold.

Does your own interest in the subject matter of the book in question matter?

Not really. My job as an effective narrator is to channel author intent; to “midwife” the book, supporting it where I can and being a catalyst between the author and the listener, without getting in the way. 

Tell us a little bit about the recording process itself.  Where do you start? What’s your studio like?  Do you record all the way through and worry about errors in postproduction, or do you do a lot of stopping and starting?

I start by doing a thorough scan of the book. I know that sounds contradictory, but there are not enough hours of the day for me to read and rehearse every word of the book. I look for the story arc; whether the book is going to need a lot of pronunciation research. I determine who the main characters are; whether there are particular accents indicated. When recording begins, we at Skyboat Studios work with a director, for accuracy and also to allow the narrator to fully “perform” the audiobook. Industry demands have forced many actors to work alone in their studios, doing both the narration and the editing as they go. This can be fine for some books, but not, in my opinion for novels with many characters. If a book is estimated at ten hours finished, for example, it will usually take twice that long to record in the studio (i.e., twenty hours).

Audiobook narrators generally don’t record more than four or five hours a day, because the vocal chords can only stand so much stress. So, a ten-hour book might take up to a week to record. So, I start reading. The director stops me when he/she hears an error.

I take tea breaks every hour or so to keep hydrated. The director marks the script for my editor. When we have finished recording the book, we send the director’s pages and the audiofiles to the editor. He does his magic by editing out all the flubs and noises.

Were there any memorable moments recording Exile?  What was it like living with the book in so much detail for so long?

I loved all the instances where Ever’s power made itself apparent; I would try to actually feel the tingling she felt as I narrated it. (I know that sounds a bit New Agey, but, hey, I’m all alone in the booth; I’m allowed!) I found the dialogue scenes between Jared and Ever to flow very easily; I truly felt they made a great pair in the adventures.

Creating Thayne was the most challenging with his “inner voice” and his transformations. It’s heaven living in a whole world., so different from our own. James has created a complete universe, and it was a joy spending time there every day of the recordings!

Thanks so much to Gabrielle and the crew at Skyboat Media!

The audiobook of Exile: The Book of Ever (#1) is available now at Audible.com.

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