Emily Woo Zeller Narrates The Vault of Dreamers Audiobook
The Vault of Dreamers comes out in audiobook format today with an engaging, nuanced performance by narrator Emily Woo Zeller. Tantor Media produced the audiobook, and the sample of the recording reveals how Emily brings Rosie’s character and her world alive in a rich, new way. So, so cool! The audiobook is available through Tantor, Amazon, and Audible.com, too, in case you’re interested.
I had the chance to ask Emily a bit about narrating, and her answers intrigued me. She’s clearly an invested artist, which is perfect for this novel.
O’Brien: I feel very much that you bring the story alive when you narrate, and it’s fascinating to me how it’s essentially a different art form even though the words are the same whether written or spoken. A sensitive match is very important, creating almost a collaboration. Do you feel this, as well, and does it give you a sense of shared ownership of Rosie’s story?
Zeller: Yes, it is, in a sense, a collaboration, although I wouldn’t say I feel an ownership over the story itself. The story is definitely yours. My telling of the words, which you put together in that magical way that is writing, is where I feel ownership. I feel shared ownership in the telling of the story. It’s an interpretation. I believe my job is to help bring the story to life through sound.
O’Brien: You certainly do it expertly. Does your voice naturally, unconsciously express your engagement with the text, or are you concentrating on inflection, punctuation, and clarity while you’re reading aloud?
Zeller: All the choices I make are very conscious. It is part of my job to have great control over the performance and it involves varied skills that I am constantly working to hone. That said, my performance comes from a very natural place, and is based on my intuition, voice, and what I “got” out of reading the book prior to narration. The most important job is to communicate the story that I read, that I “heard”, which dictates delivery of inflection and intensity, etc. Then, while I’m doing that, I’m honoring punctuation and clarity and microphone technique as much as possible.
O’Brien: Do you make notes in the margins, then?
Zeller: Yes, but the teched up version of that – notes on my iPad.
O’Brien: Did you do your recording in Connecticut, at the Tantor office?
Zeller: I record in a home studio that Tantor has approved. I have recorded books in the booths they have in CT before and it is quite nice to do that, too. Working from home has its pros and cons, of course, and I enjoy working both ways for different reasons. At home, I am more flexible with my schedule and I don’t have to travel very far but I have to work harder at the work and rest balance. In Tantor’s studio, I work with a program that is easier on me in terms of editing and I get to, for the most part, leave work for the day but it requires some travel to get to CT (although sometimes that’s really nice, too!)
O’Brien: Did the Tantor team ask you to audition for the narrating work, or did they know you’d be perfect based on your previous work?
Zeller: In many ways, I’m constantly auditioning. I take pride in the work I do and I’m always trying to make it better; every piece I perform or book I narrate contributes to what may or may not come next. In this case, they offered the book to me. The process is different depending on the book and, honestly, I don’t really know how it all works internally on their end but I do know that they always offer me books that seem like a good fit. So whatever the process is, it works! I have narrated with Tantor for a couple of years now and they are wonderful to work with.
O’Brien: How many other novels have you narrated for Tantor, and for how long have you been narrating?
Zeller: I’ve recorded over 25 titles with Tantor. I started narrating audiobooks in 2009 and have narrated over 75 titles to date.
O’Brien: That’s a lot of experience. Should we expect you to narrate the next book in The Vault of Dreamers series?
Zeller: I hope so! I had such a good time with this first book.
O’Brien: Are you willing to say if you have a family and if you read aloud to your kids, and if that is at all related to your work?
Zeller: I do not have children of my own. If I ever do, I will definitely read aloud to them. It’s great for them to be exposed to books and storytelling and family time centered around a space that allows for imagination and self-generated or shared ideas is to be encouraged! Whenever I get the opportunity, I enjoy reading to children of close friends or other family members. Reading aloud to children is a bit different than reading YA books or other books in the studio. I have recorded some books for children in the studio as well but reading aloud to children is fun for different reasons. For one, it’s live. Kids may squirm or skip or contribute to the story in their own ways, which adds a level of unpredictability that’s exciting. They may also be completely captivated. Having a live audience always helps a performer, and the activity in general provides a sense of bonding. There’s also more freedom to get more animated with children. Children’s books often have characters that we don’t see much in the adult world, outside of fantasy or science fiction. I started voiceover by doing voices for animation and that will always be a first love for me.
O’Brien: I love it when the kids contribute to the story as you describe. I would think you could do some pretty incredible voices for unusual characters. Thank you very much, Emily! I’m so happy you’re the narrator of Rosie’s story.