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Narrator Elizabeth Schmidt and I Talk Audiobooks

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

In February, the audiobook version of my book After the Blue, Blue Rain, narrated by Elizabeth Schmidt, was released on Audible/ACX. As the producer, I had to audition a number of narrators from the ACX pool, male and female, looking for the right voice for my story. The moment I heard Elizabeth's voice I knew she had the vocal qualities for a period mystery – just deep enough and with enough edge to suggest tension and menace, but not so low and rough to bury the lighter moments. Elizabeth also nailed the rhythms and emotional intensity of the sample scenes I sent. I consider myself very lucky to have found a narrator who checked all the boxes for me.


And as it turned out, Elizabeth had a fun connection to the story's setting. Her great-great uncle, Max Schmidt, was the founder of Schmidt Label & Litho, a San Francisco-based printing business famous for its California produce labels. A Schmidt-inspired label appears as a clue in After the Blue, Blue Rain. I love the labels' vibrant colors and their elegant, clever designs. They capture perfectly the California zeitgeist.


 

Elizabeth Schmidt is a Northwestern University theatre program graduate and a proud co-founder and co-artistic director of InHouse Theatre Company, an intimate, site-specific theatre in Los Angeles. Her film and TV credits include "American Sniper""Strange Angel," "For the People" and "Grey's Anatomy."

Amy: When you’re looking at books to narrate, what qualities attract you? Do you prefer certain genres? Or a certain type of protagonist? How important is the author’s writing style in your selection process?

Elizabeth: Honestly, as I'm just beginning my audiobook narrating journey, I've been excited to work with practically anyone who wants to hire me! But I do submit myself for work that is well-written and that draws me into the narrative. But it can be in any genre – it's been such a great learning experience to do romance, children's literature, bilingual books, non-fiction, thrillers and historical fiction.




Elizabeth: What has the transition been like for you working in this new medium of novels? Have there been any challenges, and do you have a preference?

Amy: Actually, the transition has been easy. I’ve long dabbled in fiction writing, so the medium itself was familiar when I started After the Blue, Blue Rain. In a way, it felt like everything in my professional life had led to the writing of that book. I enjoy writing both types of prose, and each type feeds off the other. Many of my plot ideas come from my article and book writing research. And how I write fiction has had an influence on my nonfiction writing style. But at the end of the day, writing mysteries is my preference!

Amy: If you could narrate any one mystery, what would it be and why?

Elizabeth: Probably something by Agatha Christie, because I love to play around and do bad British accents for fun!


Elizabeth: Did you have an inspiration for Kit?

Amy: Unlike for Henry, Kit’s detective partner, I didn’t have one inspiration for Kit. Some of her qualities and background I took from my mother. Like Kit, my mother was whip smart and capable, but had to fight the limitations placed on women in postwar America. Mostly, though, Kit was a product of my imagination, an amalgamation of all the ordinary women of the period who succeeded in spite of the odds.


Amy: Which emotion is the toughest to convey via narration? Are some types of characters more challenging to represent vocally than others?

Elizabeth: I don't think there are more difficult types of emotion to narrate than others. I just put myself in the circumstances of the characters and try to live through with they are as well. Though I can worry about getting angry and too loud and blowing out my mic! Sometimes, it can be challenging to narrate a bunch of different male characters, as I try to find nuance to them all, but I can be limited by the range of my lower register. I definitely don’t want to sound too charactery or cartoony if it’s not appropriate!

Elizabeth: Was it disorienting hearing the audiobook version of your novel for the first time, when you might have had different voices in mind (for at least some of the characters) when you wrote it?

Amy: I wouldn’t say it was disorienting so much as eye-opening. I do “perform” the dialogue scenes in my head as I’m writing, but in my head, all the characters sound like me. I don’t imagine star actors reading the lines or anything like that. I’m more concerned about getting the rhythm of the dialogue right. So, when I first heard the recording, I was hearing voices that were distinct from one another for the first time and not me. And that was pleasantly revelatory.


Amy: How long does it take to narrate a 300-page book on average?


Elizabeth: Generally, I estimate that it will take me about two and a half hours of work time to narrate one hour of per finished work. Your novel came in at a little over 8 hours long, and I went back to my notes, and I spent about 27 hours working on it, including the time I took to read it first and meet with you.



Elizabeth: You’ve envisioned After the Blue, Blue Rain as a series. Do you have an idea in your mind of how/where you’d want the series to end?

Amy: That’s a toughie! I have plot ideas for other books in the series, but haven’t thought about an ending point. The second book takes place only a few months after the first, so as far as the series timeline goes, I still have lots of history to work with. And who knows, I may throw in a Brit or two!


Amy: Which children’s books are your favorites to read out loud? Elizabeth: I will read anything and everything to my daughter, but our favorites have been the beginning of the Harry Potter series (we've only read the first two, as she's only seven years old, and I'm trying to avoid scaring or scarring her!), the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and "The Little Princess," which I couldn't get through without sobbing. My daughter is very tolerant of my weeping and will offer me kleenex! And generally, she’s tolerant of (again) my ever present desire to do a moderately bad English accent!


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