I was so excited to hear over the summer that the lovely Scottish actress Eilidh Beaton had agreed to narrate the audiobook of In Another Time which is out now, digitally and on CD—purchase links down below. (And in case you wondered, Eilidh is a beautiful Scottish Gaelic name and is pronounced like Hailey, but without the H!)
Eilidh already has around 30 audiobooks under her belt, and when I first heard her audition tape in which she read the opening few pages of my latest novel, I didn’t want her to stop reading. With her soft Scottish accent and deliciously lush tone, she lifted Maisie and all the other characters right off the page. The audiobook comes out today in North America, but it has been available in the UK for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve already had wonderful feedback from reader-listeners.
Audiobooks are a huge part of my life, and I seldom do any driving, cleaning, shopping, ironing etc without headphones in, listening to a book, but I realized that I knew very little about how the magic happens. So, while I held Eilidh Beaton captive in the recording studio recently, I took my chance to ask her all about it:
Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background/acting training?
I realised at a very early age that I was going to be an actor when I was maybe three or four. My parents, who are both scientific, were terrified at the prospect of this and did everything they could to dissuade me. As a compromise I went to university before drama school (thank goodness I did, what a blast) to study Drama at Aberystwyth. It was the perfect playground for actors, writers and directors because the English and Drama departments were so massive. This meant that we could put on plays constantly, generally getting performance spaces for free, and had a lot of fun. Then I went to East 15 Acting School to do a Postgraduate Diploma in Acting where I honed my performance skills.
How and why did you start specializing in audiobook narration?
I come from a very large Scottish family and story-telling has always been a huge part of our get-togethers and general way of interacting. I used to record myself telling stories and making up radio shows when I was younger—always with lots of characters—and I loved listening to audiobooks. However then dreams of the stage took over. My postgraduate year at Drama School was one of the best, and definitely most intense years of my life but whilst I came away confidant that I was a far better actor and ready to tackle this crazy world of theatre, my school left me woefully equipped with the skills to actually secure work. After a couple of years spending more time juggling day jobs to pay the rent than treading the boards I thought it was time to think about where my real strengths lay. I love reading stories, I love telling stories, I love creating characters and worlds with my voice and finding subtext and I can sight read really rather well. I also LOVE microphones. This all led me to one conclusion: audiobooks were the answer! I got in touch with lots of publishing houses and production companies, sending my demo and hoping someone would give me a chance. Finally, WF Howes took a chance on me and gave me my first book to narrate, Remember Me by Lesley Pearce. I was hooked. The Royal National Institute of Blind People was also fantastic at giving me a chance to come and show what I could do and I’ve done lots of books for them over the years, alongside commercial book reading.
With a story like In Another Time, in which you are narrating any number of characters, many of whom have very different accents, how do you go about preparing to create the voices? Did In Another Time give you any particular challenges?
Creating the characters is one of my favourite parts of the audiobook process. First of all, I read the book through, writing down any clues for the characters (accent, vocal characteristics, age, any physical features, what people say about them, what they say about themselves). My aim is to make each character as rounded as possible. Of course, you don’t have the time to do this for minor characters who only have a couple of lines but any who are part of the story, even briefly, need to be real. I mentioned physical features because although listeners are hearing the book, the actor will not be sitting still while narrating it. In books such as In Another Time, when you might have five or six characters talking on a single page, a physical gesture can really help get you straight into the voice you need. Accent wise, different accents are focused in different areas of the mouth, and the jaw and mouth are also held differently so this is another way of getting into the characters.
|To sample the first chapter, click here|
Or is having everyone speaking with only one accent even harder? How do you differentiate between the voices of different characters who are, say, from the same place/family?
Both present challenges! Preparation is key because you need to have built up your characters (know how they would tie their shoelaces, know what makes them angry etc.) and this then enables you to slip between the characters more easily. For characters who have the same accent, this is particularly important. For example, in In Another Time, Maisie and her sister Beth have the same accent but are very different characters, and Beth is also a few years younger, which allows the narrator to create a slightly more immature voice as well as considering the differences in their characters.
Is this something you have to go to a big recording studio to do, or do you sit at your kitchen table with your iPhone and earbuds? How often do you take a break, and how do you protect your voice from overwork? Paint us a picture of a typical recording day for you.
I have a recording studio at home but it needs a little work to make it fully equipped enough to record a book. I have a really good microphone, audio interface, editing software etc, so the hope is there that I’ll be able to do so in the future. It’s a brilliant way of doing what you love whilst also being around to pick the kids up from school and help with homework and everything else family life demands. However, there’s nothing like going into a lovely studio, working with a lovely producer who is your audience for the days you’re recording the book. In the studio, I would typically record for an hour and a half and then take a 15 or so minute break. The aim is to record 4-4½ hours of finished material a day. That’s intense so as you say, protecting your voice is really important. I start my day with a pint of hot water and lemon. I do a vocal warm-up in the shower. My children think this is normal behaviour! If things are feeling croaky, I will pop my head over a bowl of hot water and let the steam work its magic. I also do a lot of articulation exercises because keeping your tongue nimble as a narrator is very important!
What’s your favorite moment in the audiobook process? The first read? The final word? Something else?
This is very tricky. I love the whole process. I love it when I get the main character. For example, in In Another Time, getting Maisie right was key, and I hope I did. The moment I really felt I had found her energy and impulses was a pretty nice moment. It can feel a bit magic when you’re in the recording booth, your headphones are on and it’s just you, the mic and the world you’re creating. When that clicks, and you can feel the breeze and see the mountains, you can feel confident that you’re building images for the listener (fingers crossed!).
You’ve narrated all sorts of audiobooks – for kids, teens, detective stories, romances and even non-fiction. Do you have a favorite genre to narrate, and why? And is this different from the books you like to read for pleasure?
I love stories and I love the variety of taking on different genres. It’s amazing to be building up eerie suspense one week and then a couple of weeks later, the main aim is to make the listener laugh out loud. It is particularly enjoyable when the you can have fun with the main character. For example, in In Another Time, although it’s written in the third person, Maisie is so integral to the energy and drive of the book, her character comes through the prose.
What are your best tips for anyone who needs to read stories aloud, whether they are narrators, authors, teachers or parents?
I would say that remembering that you’re reading to entertain is key. If you want to keep your listener on the edge of their seats, whether you’re a narrator, author, teacher or parent, you need to vary the pace, trusting and using the punctuation, it is your friend! Take pauses between sentences to ensure the listener is keeping up and take the pace easy but don’t be afraid to speed up at times to keep things spontaneous. Putting on different character voices keeps people’s attention so, parents and teachers especially, should not be afraid to put on silly voices. It is really fun to do and the kids won’t judge you for it; they’ll love it!
IN ANOTHER TIME on audio
You can buy your copy of the IN ANOTHER TIME audiobook from all the usual audiobook places, including:
Also available through international distributors
Please also check with your local library's digital catalog, and if they don't yet have IN ANOTHER TIME (or my first book WAIT FOR ME) in their system, why not request that they buy it so you can borrow it and recommend it to your friends?
And if you’d like to listen to other books narrated by Eilidh Beaton,