Everyone, please welcome Heather Henderson to the blog today. I really enjoyed her narration of the classic The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald. A big thank you to Jess at The Audio Book Worm for setting up this book tour. Swing by the tour page to catch more interviews, reviews, giveaways, and audio excerpts. If your interested in the giveaway (and who wouldn’t be?), scroll to the very bottom to learn how to win an Amazon GC, or credit at Post Hypnotic Press (audiobooks, yay!). On to the interview!
It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?
Actually, in thinking about this question, I came up with a cool idea (well, I think it’s cool!). I would invite a group of my friends who are audiobook narrators, and I would ask each of them to bring a book to discuss that he or she had narrated.
I thought of this because narrators’ experience of books is so much different from that of readers or even listeners. No matter how well I might know a book in print, when I perform it, I learn all these new things about its style, cadence, rhythm, syntax — new layers of meaning and technique.
Narrators live in these books for weeks, as we prep (pre-read and study) the script, figure out how to perform the author’s intention, decide how we are going to do each character and accent, research pronunciations . . . And then we go into the studio and record every word, every sentence for hours and hours a day for a week (or three, depending on the book). I think it would be fascinating to hear other narrators share what they have learned about an author or a book through narrating it.
For our first meeting, I would bring Betty MaDonald’s Anybody Can Do Anything (the third in her memoirs series that I narrated, and I think my favorite of the four). I would invite . . . well, I wouldn’t know where to start. We narrators are spread all over the world, and sometimes the only time we see each other is at conferences, so I would want to see all them. Off the top of my head: Judith West, Cassandra Campbell, Hillary Huber, Scott Brick, Johnny Heller, Grover Gardner, Andi Arnt (who would keep us all in stitches), Xe Sands, Elizabeth Wiley, Ann Richardson, Simon Vance . . . .
Oh, forget it: I couldn’t possibly choose!
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to voice acting/narrating?
The worst job I ever had ever was through a temp agency in 1978, in the days before computers or even copy machines that collated for you . . . read on: I was sent to a company that made utility boxes for electric companies — you know, those bland green things on street corners? This company designed a whole range of shapes and sizes of these boxes (who knew?), and they needed me to collate their 12-page catalog. I spent two weeks, eight hours a day, taking one page from each 12 piles and stapling it into a catalog, over and over again. It was absolutely silent in there all day. If only Walkmans had been invented — I could have listened to music, or an audiobook!
Voice acting — especially audiobook narrating — is on the other end of the spectrum. It is all kinds of things: incredibly technically difficult, exhausting, rewarding, and exhilarating, intellectually stimulating. It challenges all of my training in theater and voice, is wonderfully creative. And I get to work with wonderful people — and with books!
Who are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite heroes from the pages?
Iago (from Shakespeare’s Othello) comes to mind as the worst villain. I think it’s because he’s so intentional about doing evil, and he does it parasitically, through Othello. Othello is one of the most kind, intelligent, loving characters in Shakespeare, but Iago manages to get to him.
Heroes: Jane Eyre. She has a heart willing to give everything, but she’s made of steel. She speaks her mind, and she insists that everyone around her live up to her high standards of honesty and authenticity.
You are co-curator of AudioEloquence.com, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry. What is the toughest accent for most American voice actors to do well?
That absolutely depends on the actor. I honestly could not identify a single accent that “most” actors struggle with. We all have natural abilities with some and not with others, and we have all gotten different training.
A tougher challenge, especially for less experienced narrators, is not to overdo an accent. You don’t have to speak East Indian like a native — you just have to sound like an Indian who is speaking English with an Indian accent. Otherwise you’ll come off like Apu from The Simpsons (which Hank Azaria does brilliantly — but that’s a whole different kind of character voice and voiceover specialty).
I worked really hard on this balance when I was narrating the character of Kimi in The Plague and I (Betty MacDonald’s third memoir). Kimi is Betty’s Japanese-born best friend, and her dialogue is written with a pretty strong Japanese accent. But I didn’t want to make her sound like, you know, Mickey Rooney doing Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I did many takes of Kimi’s lines as I recorded the book — I’d do sentences over until they sounded natural enough to my ear.
On AudioEloquence, we list two types of resources: pronunciation sites and dialect/accent sites. The pronunciation sites are the most valuable part to most people, I think. You would not believe how many words you need to research when you have to say every single one of them correctly — character names place names, technical terms, sci-fi character names . . . etc. If you go onto AudioEloquence.com, you can see what I mean — we have resources for pronunciation sites on everything from music to microbiology to Alaska towns.
If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?
For some reason, all the people who come to mind for this question are not fictional — they’re authors. They would be:
1) Robert Heinlein. I met him at a Star Trek conference in 1976 (yes, you heard that right), and he was so sweet and interesting that I always wanted to get to know him better!
2) Betty MacDonald, of course. When you read The Egg and I and her other memoirs, you feel like she could be your most loyal and hilarious BFF.
3) Charlotte Brontë. I would love to meet the woman who created that amazing character of Jane Eyre.
4) M. Wylie Blanchet. She wrote one of my favorite books, which I was fortunate enough to be able to narrate: The Curve of Time.
5) Alice Hoffman. I like to imagine that we could have tea and do magic spells together. 🙂
What is the first book you remember reading on your own? And what is the first book you narrated professionally?
I have no idea what the first book I ever read was. As soon I learned to read (via Dick and Jane books in first grade — I clearly remember that), I read so constantly that it’s all a blur. On more than one report card, I had the teacher comment, “Heather must stop reading during class and pay attention.” 🙂
The first book I narrated professionally was a wonderful young adult fiction, Hit the Road by Caroline B. Cooney, produced by Audible Studios.
Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?
Well, the final book in the Betty MacDonald memoirs series — Onions in the Stew — is just about to be released, which means that the whole set will now be available in audio for the first time ever!
The back-story to this is that I had been searching my whole career to find a producer who would collaborate with me on pulling this classic series out of obscurity. Most of the book jobs I do are new releases, and I don’t choose them — I get asked to do them by audiobook publishers. But I had a dream of narrating Betty MacDonald’s humorous memoirs (published betwen 1945 and 1955), because they are some of my favorite books ever. There are four: The Egg and I, The Plague and I, Anybody Can Do Anything, and Onions in the Stew. Finally, I found Carlyn Craig, who owns Post Hypnotic Press . . . and my dream came true.
About Heather Henderson:
Heather Henderson is a voice actress and audiobook narrator with a 20-year career in literary and performing arts. Her narrations include the NYT bestseller (now also a feature film) Brain on Fire; and Sharon Creech’s The Boy on the Porch, which won her an Earphones award and was named one of the Best Children’s Audiobooks for 2013 by Audiofile Magazine. She earned her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Drama, and is co-curator of AudioEloquence.com, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry. In 2015, Heather was a finalist for a Voice Arts Award (Outstanding Narration, Audiobook Classics), for her narration of Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I.
When Betty MacDonald married a marine and moved to a small chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, she was largely unprepared for the rigors of life in the wild. With no running water, no electricity, a house in need of constant repair, and days that ran from four in the morning to nine at night, the MacDonalds had barely a moment to put their feet up and relax. And then came the children. Yet through every trial and pitfall – through chaos and catastrophe – this indomitable family somehow, mercifully, never lost its sense of humor.
A beloved literary treasure for more than half a century, Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I is a heartwarming and uproarious account of adventure and survival on the American frontier.
About the Author Betty MacDonald:
Betty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters.
MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island).
Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.
Find out more on Wikipedia
Connect with the Publisher Post Hypnotic Press
There are 4 different giveaways for this tour. You can enter any of them or all of them. These giveaways are hosted by The Audiobookworm and the prizes provided by the publisher. Enjoy!
Giveaway 1: Grand Prize! $100 Credit to Post Hypnotic Press
Giveaway 2: $80 Credit to Post Hypnotic Press
Giveaway 3: $60 Credit to Post Hypnotic Press
Giveaway 4: $20 Amazon Gift Card