Chapter 1: The Devil’s in the Details
I’m living a double-life.
I wake up in the morning, drive to my day job, behave like Tassoula, sound like Tassoula and drive home as Tassoula, but when I step through Tassoula’s front door in the evening, I become Lexy.
Narrating my first book on tape, Schooled, by Christa Charter, has so far been an exhilarating, exciting experience. I’m using my voice in ways I haven’t since I was singing in the 90s; I’m enjoying the book even more than I did the first two times I read it; I’m relishing the escape of morphing into Lexy and the entire cast of characters who color her life.
There’s even a part of me that enjoys the rituals associated with this type of work.
To explain: On days that I’m recording, I limit my speaking—I don’t take phone calls (except texts), I forbid myself from singing in the car, and try to avoid unnecessary conversations in the office. I eat no dairy. I perform breathing exercises I used to use with my music students to warm up. I turn off all of my heat (electric furnaces make a lot of noise); I take the landline phone off the hook and put my obnoxious Smartphone under a pillow; I don’t run the dishwasher or do laundry; I saturate my immediate surroundings with blankets to absorb the sound and prevent echoes. I turn off the Internet so I won’t be tempted to look. I set my laptop on a kitchen trivet to keep it from overheating. I suck on Ricola and Luden’s cherry cough drops to clear my throat and keep water or hot tea with honey at the ready for my breaks. I coat my lips in orange ChapStick to avoid the sounds that dry mouths make. I remove my shoes so I won’t accidentally tap the side of my desk. I check the file settings six—maybe eight—times before hitting “record” to ensure all of the volume levels are equal to the other completed recordings. I turn the lights off except the one I need to read the script. All of this helps me transform into a living, breathing citizen of the Xenon culture.
As I begin to record, I read each page all the way through before I start speaking to ensure there are no pronunciations I need to look up or no accents I need to learn. Then, I place myself in the mind of whomever I’m about to become. Lexy is the easiest because I feel I know her best. I speak an octave higher to communicate her youth, give her a sense of urgency since she’s always hot on the trail, and (hopefully) add a little seduction in there to mirror her physical allure. Her uncle Mike is the most difficult for me because he would undoubtedly have a deep voice and as a soprano, deep voices are hard to achieve without sounding cartoonish. Kim is the closest to my own voice, etc. I have a key that I keep adding to (see photo) with little hints to remind myself what my voice should be doing. I also have to be careful not to “act” too much because as a reader I know how insanely annoying it is when the narrator is trying so hard, they overpower the story.
Schooled stands strong on its own, without theatrics.
When looking back at some childhood report cards not long ago, I noticed that I always got perfect marks in the category that stated, “Reads with interest.”
Let’s hope the audience for this book agrees!