Jayne is a voice over artist, actress, avid improviser, and narrator of audiobooks for Random House winning awards for her work on the popular Flavia De Luce series. She gives life to one of my favorite sleuths! Good ol’ Flavia.
Listen to a sample of the Flavia de Luce Mysteries on Audible
Other titles narrated by Jayne: View here
I saw that you are from Blackpool England…
The accent is different from other parts of the UK. It always amazes me that townships and villages can have a completely different accent from a neighbouring township that is only 5 miles away. Blackpool is in the North of England and has a Lancashire accent.
I love subtle variation of accents.
What led you to become an actress
As hokey as it sounds, I think I was pre-determined to be an actress before I ever had words for it. I performed as a child, read voraciously and had a vivid imagination I would act upon. It wasn’t until a friend suggested I take drama because, “there is no homework and you sit on the floor” that I discovered there was a name for what or how I felt compelled to be. I will never forget the teacher, the red-headed Miss. Smith, who, incidentally, I had a dream about last night, who gave me permission to be as dramatic as I wanted to be.
Wonderful! I’m glad you’re living your dream.
What exactly is a voice artist?
A voice artist is essentially anyone who places emphasis on their voice as a tool. This can cover animation and the creation of unique character voices, audiobook narration, the voice behind a radio commercial or a movie trailer, the narrator of a documentary or educational film right down to the voice on the telephone that tells you, “for accounting press one, for customer service press two!”
I would love to do that! Have a ton of voices swirling in my head. I’m still sane though.
Is there specific training to become a narrator
There is specific training that focuses solely on audiobook narration. I studied at a voice over conservatory in San Francisco that covered a wide range of subjects. I did not specifically study audiobook narration but feel, in a way, I have been training for it my whole life especially since I was an avid reader as a child. I still am!
That’s awesome, Jayne!
Who is Flavia de Luce?
Flavia de Luce is a precocious 12 year old girl living in a crumbling British mansion in the 1950’s. She is a whiz at chemistry and the art of detection. She has a keen eye for her surroundings and an astute understanding of human behaviour. She is the youngest daughter of three and lost her Mother when she was young. She is both fiercely independent and staunchly loyal and has a knack for encountering dead bodies when she least expects it.
She’s one of my favorites. Pretty unique in her own right.
“Being Flavia De Luce was like being a sublimate: like the black crystal residue that is left on the cold glass of a test tube by the violet fumes of iodine.”-Alan Bradley
After narrating several books…
The first thing that pops to mind is that I find it very difficult to believe the characters in Bishop’s Lacey, the village where Flavia lives, don’t exist. I find myself wondering how Mrs. Mullet or Feely are doing and feel sad to remember that they aren’t real.
I am extremely emotionally attached to Flavia and her cohorts and as she grows, I grow. When something devastating happens to Flavia (don’t worry, no spoilers) I usually cry so much in the recording booth that it is difficult to carry on. Sometimes I even catch myself thinking in Flavia’s voice!
Wow! That’s amazing you have such an attachment to them. Truly remarkable. It takes a lot of heart.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of Flavia?
Without a doubt it is Flavia’s wit that I enjoy the most. She has the most remarkable one-liners and comebacks. She can render a grown man speechless with a raised eyebrow and a few cleverly placed sharp words.
Excellent. I love this aspect of her as well. A well written character in many ways.
Wit is a sword; it is meant to make people feel the point as well as see it.-G.K. Chesterton
Compared to other sleuths how is she different?
Not knowing too many sleuths, I’d say what separates Flavia from Agatha Christie’s Miss. Marple, Murder She Wrote’s Jessica Fletcher or Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is simply, age. She is just as fast and sardonic as Sherlock and equal in deductive reasoning to Marpole and Fletcher.
I wholeheartedly agree.
Besides Flavia who are your favourite characters?
Dogger and Mrs. Mullet are definitely my favourites. They are Flavia’s biggest champions and such fun to voice! I love giving Mrs. Mullet the Northern cadence I grew up with. There is a lesser known character named Maximillian Brock who pops up every now and again. He is a gossipy man and I chose to voice him as very sing-songy and nosy. He makes me smile and I can see him in my head as clear as day.
Dogger and Mrs. Mullet are great, but I haven’t gotten to Maximillian Brock just yet.
If she were your daughter…
What an unusual question. Since I feel like I am Flavia, it is hard to conjure the answer to that question. I wouldn’t want her to be any different than she is. Loneliness and despair have made her who she is. She would be a completely different being if she were deeply loved. I would love and cherish her while stoking that fiery independence that makes her so remarkable.
I wish she were real I’d love to meet her.
How do you determine the voice…
Characters usually make themselves known to me rather quickly. As I am reading the book for the first time, I hear the characters speaking their lines as I read. This can be both a gift and a hindrance. What I can imagine isn’t always what I am capable of producing. I am often disappointed that I can’t get my voice to go deeper for the male characters. Once I have done all of my preparations, I wander around my house talking out loud – improvising lines the character might say until I find a voice that I can recreate and, more importantly, sustain. I narrate a fair amount of children’s books and those tend to have talking wolves and witches, trolls and dragons and they almost always have a baddie! All of those voices require a deep, gruff, gravelly voice and those voices are the ones that tend to wreak havoc on my throat.
Accents not only inform a character’s personality, they become crucial in differentiating characters. Sometimes the author indicates the accent they wish the character to have. Sometimes certain details about a character inform their accent as in the gypsy in, A Red Herring without Mustard. It wouldn’t really work to have the gypsy speak with am RP (posh) accent.
If there is a group of men who have not been described in much detail and aren’t main characters, I use accents to keep them all separate so the listener knows who is talking.
Being able to generate an interesting voices for characters, and having the skill to differentiate between them while narrating is what makes a great narrator in my opinion. I’m still not sure how it’s possible, but it’s utterly amazing!
What happens behind the scenes…
I can only really speak about my experience as a narrator as I don’t know what happens after I leave the booth.
Sometimes I am offered a book to narrate and sometimes I audition. Once I receive the manuscript I read it through once. As I read, I highlight all of the words I either don’t know how to pronounce or I am unclear on their meaning. I also write down the page number for a new character’s appearance. This is where character’s descriptions are usually found;
Meredith strode into the room with as much force as a winter gale hell bent on destruction. Her icy gaze froze Thomas to his chair so he was caught in mid-rise, neither standing nor sitting. She didn’t speak as much as she barked and Thomas could feel her breath pummeling his cheek as she spat each vicious word at his cowering head.
I also underline directives such as; she whispered, he drawled, a voice like nails on a chalkboard.
After I have read the book, I tackle the vocabulary and write phonetic pronunciations next to the highlighted words. This is an important step and there can be hundreds of words in a book I don’t know how to say and we can’t afford to stop and review how each word is to be pronounced. If there are words I cannot find or words the author has invented, such as names or fictitious towns, those are sent to the director for clarification. The last step, but by no means the least, is finding the voices.
I record in a booth with a director at the controls and we record until we are finished, approximately 4 days for a 375 page book. I am called back in once the recording has been edited to make any changes that are needed. After that some kind of magic happens to turn it into an audiobook, hopefully a great one!
Wow, this is astounding. Would love to be a fly on the wall to see it all unravel.
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