This interview is sponsored by Macmillan Audio.
Mary Kay Andrews is the bestselling author of The High Tide Club, The Weekenders, Beach Town and more. She’s also a big fan of audiobooks! In fact, for her latest audiobook, Sunset Beach, Andrews herself reads a bonus chapter, “Beach House Dreaming,” that is included on the program. Accomplished voice actress Kathleen McInerney narrates the rest of Sunset Beach and many of Andrews’ other audiobooks. Here Andrews poses some questions to McInerney about the Sunset Beach audiobook and her process.
MKA: Set the scene in the recording studio for me: What do you wear? Do you bring anything to eat or drink into the booth with you?
KM: Narrating books is an intensively creative, yet incredibly unglamorous job. When I open the studio door, I step into the world that I will live in for the next few days (literally and figuratively). Technically speaking (ha!), recording sessions are around 8 hours a day so loose, quiet clothing is required. I bring light snacks to eat throughout the day and lots of water!
What was your process like in preparing to narrate Sunset Beach?
To prepare a book, I read it. (This may sound obvious but some people don’t.) I note the storyline, the tone of voice of narrator, the setting/time period, words that need pronunciation help (in English or other languages), etc. I write down all the characters and anything that is said to describe them. Then, I build all of the voices off of the main character. She is normally in ‘the middle’ and others are ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ in comparison, a kind of vocal tapestry. Some accents are brought in as needed. I try to keep in mind what will help the listener clearly understand who is talking, especially in group scenes, and allow them to be drawn into the story. I look at each audiobook as a sort of play. The character development and interaction is so important to how the scenes play out and the story is told.
"I look at each audiobook as a sort of play."
How is Sunset Beach different than my other audiobooks you’ve narrated?
I suppose this is a good time to say that I am a big fan of all of your books! I really love a strong female character who has incredible challenges and finds herself by taking a path that was not clear from the start. They are stories that entertain and inspire me. Sunset Beach is a terrific mystery which kept me guessing until the end. Getting to narrate this was so fun. I have to tell the story in a way that doesn’t give away the ending prematurely, but, rather, keeps the listener on the edge of their seat. Also, the longer format of this book allows for a deeper dive into the lives of the characters and the story and, therefore, a more "meaty" journey for the listener/reader. And, speaking of food…amazing meals are served in this book. I was hungry the whole time!
How did you come up with main character Drue Campbell’s voice?
Drue is a woman figuring out how she wants to fit in, where she wants her life to go. She is unassuming and quiet one minute, self assured and headstrong the next. She needed to have a voice that allowed for that range and could show her intelligence and the growth in her self-confidence.
Any challenges in voicing Sunset Beach?
The main challenge in narrating a mystery is to not make the bad guy a suspect from the beginning. Also, any type of romance that may or may not blossom needs to be handled carefully so the listener can decide what is going on, not be hit over the head with my interpretation.
How does the Southern setting impact your narration?
Certainly the Southern setting allows for a variety of accents for some characters, which is fun. But, honestly, I think the setting mostly impacts my enjoyment of the book. The descriptions of the places, the food, the houses….I can really visualize where I am and live in that place for a while. It makes for nice "armchair traveling," if you know what I mean.
Do you listen to audiobooks, or is that too close to work for you?
My daughter and I often listen together on road trips. Our favorite was Roald Dahl’s The Witches, narrated amazingly by Lynn Redgrave. We listened to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for her summer reading assignment in 8th grade. I was able to pause and explain the jokes…very helpful! I find audiobooks to be entertaining and inspiring. I get ideas from how other narrators approach characters and pace the story. I don’t listen as often as I’d like as I am consumed by NPR while driving and prepping the next book that I am working on when at home!
Andrews author photo © Bill Miles.