Friday, December 21, 2012

Narrator Xe Sands Stops By

Xe Sands has more than a decade of experience bringing stories to life through narration, performance, and visual art. From smoldering paranormal romance to powerful first-person literary fiction, Sands's characterizations are rich and expressive, her narrations evocative and intimate and her performance of dialog and male characters authentic. She has also won multiple AudioFile Magazine Earphones Awards, including for her narration of The Sweet Relief of Missing Children, The Bird Sisters, and Magnificence.

You can find Xe Sands on Twitter: @xesands -  Facebook - Website

Help welcome one of my favorite audio book narrators, Xe Sands, to The Book Nympho today. Her smoky and sultry voice has brought to life one of my favorite Urban Fantasy series, Kelly Meding’s Dreg City series.

Thanks for having me – honored to be here. And thrilled that you enjoyed Meding's Dreg City series. Evy still rattles around in my head.

How did you get into audio books?

Gideon (Nightwalkers, #2)Honestly? By reading to my daughter through her tween years. Beginning with animated readings of picture books, into “full cast” versions of novels, I developed a passion for reading aloud in a way that truly engaged her (and me!) in the story, and decided to pursue it as a career.

Of course, discovering your passion and making a career out of it can be OCEANS apart, but through training, volunteering, mentoring and just plain force of will, I eventually began making inroads in the industry.

Do you get approached by publishers/authors to read their books or do you approach them?

Both. With publishers I've already worked with, they will often contact me with a project proposal. With authors I've worked with, it's a bit more complicated, as not all authors have a say in the choice of narrator.

Conversely, if I notice that a publisher will be producing a title I am particularly interested in and I have a relationship with them, I will contact them and request consideration for it.

And I have been blessed with the support of several authors who have requested me specifically for their projects, for which I've been profoundly grateful.

As a listener I find myself having to remind myself when listening to some of my favorite narrators that read different books/series that this is a different character. I think no matter what I listen to that you’ve done I will always think of Evy from the Dreg City series. Do you find keeping characters’ voices apart from each other hard in the different series that you’ve done?

Three Days to Dead (Dreg City, #1)
Oh I know exactly what you mean, and I've heard that from many listeners regarding favorite narrators of series, especially long-running series within the same genre. Evy is a great example, because she is somewhat representative of a particular type of UF heroine. So any time I do a book that features a character like her, there is the danger of Evy creeping into the portrayal :) Then again, each character is different, with a different backstory, damage and arc. As an actor, I should be able to draw on each character's specific “hooks” in order to sufficiently differentiate them from others I've done like them.

I assume you read the books before you narrate them to prepare the voices for the characters. Can you tell us a little about how you “create” a character’s voice for a book?

Most definitely. Only way to fly in this line of work! do I create them. That seems like such a simple question, but I just found myself at a loss as to how to answer and realized it's because I don't consciously create them – they create themselves, LOL! I'm not trying to be flippant...when I read for a project or pleasure, the book is an audio in my head. I hear the characters speaking more than I visualize them. So if it's a project book, it all starts with how they sound in my head.

Of course, then it can get tricky. It does sometimes happen that a character who is SO clear in my head just will not come out of my mouth! But most of the time, it's just a matter of finding them with my body. That sounds a bit weird I'm sure...but each character has their own posture, mannerisms, etc. Sometimes, characters hold their faces in a particular way, sit up straighter, slouch, slur, have their hands on their hips (hard to do sitting down!)...and I've been known to use props in my booth (a glass tumbler for a “lush,” a paintbrush for an artist, etc.).

On Thin Ice (Ice, #6)One thing I look for in a female narrator is their ability to do good male voices and you have one of those voices that is nice for both female and male. What do you do to prepare for your male characters?

Ooo, the deeply voiced bad boys, alpha heroes and noble tortured souls of the PNR/UF world! Oh how I adore them. Thank you for your kind words, which I appreciate all the for how hard I work at performing them as authentically as possible. Preparing for them requires a bunch of vocal maneuvering as I prefer to give them my lowest register possible. For psychological prep, it's a matter of getting into their heads (which isn't always a comfortable place to be). Just between us tortured hero lovers, I have a confession: I think I like voicing them more than the women. How delicious is it to voice a character that starts out as a total BLEEP, and is eventually broken and transformed? Pretty darn delicious...

Would you explain how a director, directs your reading?

A good director offers immediate feedback on whether you are “present” enough with your read to truly engage the listener – are you really delivering on the author's intent and the subtext, or are you just using fancy vocal footwork to fake it? They might ask you ramp up the emotion (if you're coming off flat or disinterested), tone down the read (if you sound melodramatic), kill or augment an accent, etc. They also offer general commentary on overall tone, energy level, etc.

What are you currently working on?

Heart of Atlantis (Warriors of Poseidon, #8)I recently finished the 8th and final book in Alyssa Day's Warriors of Poseidon series, Heart of Atlantis, and what a great ride that was! It was challenging to step into the series at the end, but I'm so thankful that I was afforded the opportunity, as it was a wonderful book to voice. I just finished Brooklyn Bones, a nifty murder mystery set in Brooklyn, and next up is Caroline Leavitt's next book, Is This Tomorrow, which I am very much looking forward to.

Now for some quickie questions.

First audio book –

Thrill of the Chase by Christina Crooks. OMG, first audiobook, first romance AND there was smexy scene featuring engine oil. It was quite the inauguration.

Favorite book

Oh now, how can I answer that? I can't, I tell you! Here are the first five that just popped into my head:

Time Traveler's Wife 
The Fault in Our Stars 
The Book Thief 
Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (It's actually 9 books – I'm cheating)
Mists of Avalon

Wait, did you mean favorite of those I've narrated? Tsk picking favorites...

Favorite character

Of books I've read for pleasure? Can't believe I'm saying this but Thomas Covenant. He's so flawed and did so many awful things in the course of that series, I'm almost ashamed to love him. I could lie and say Henry from Time Traveler's Wife (who I also loved)...

Of characters I've voiced, I think it's a tie between Wyatt and Evy :) I just adore them. But to be fair, I've loved many of the characters I've voiced.

Favorite genre  

First-person, literary fiction...tied with urban fantasy, I think. Huh, surprised myself with that last bit. I think you've got me nostalgic for Evy. Speaking of of the series might consider checking my Twitter feed on 12/31 for a little something from Evy and Wyatt (and a few other favorite characters).

Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by The Book Nympho today to ask a few questions about narrating books. I love your work and can’t wait to listen to some more of your books.

You're so welcome! The pleasure and honor is all mine – thanks for being interested in my crazy little world.

Xe has a long list of books she has narrated. 
Here is just a sample.

Adam by Jacquelyn Frank 
Another Kind of Dead by Kelly Meding
Arizona Embrace by Leigh Greenwood
As Lie the Dead by Kelly Meding
Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins
Coming Home by Mariah Stewart
Damien by Jacquelyn Frank
Elijah by Jacquelyn Frank
Fire and Ice by Anne Stuart
Forbidden by Jacquelyn Frank
Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank
Heart of Atlantis by Alyssa Day
Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady
Hearts of Fire by Kira Brady
Home Agai, by Mariah Stewart
Home for the Summer by Mariah Stewart
Hometown Girl by Mariah Stewart
Hunting Julian by Jacquelyn Frank
Jacob by Jacquelyn Frank
Noah by Jacquelyn Frank
On Thin Ice by Anne Stuart Stealing Kathryn by Jacquelyn Frank
Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding
Thrill of the Chase, by Christina Crooks 

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  1. I love this interview! It answers so many questions I have about the profession. Didn't know a director was involved...duh! Thanks, much.

  2. Thanks Jonetta! As for a director, used to be that a director was always present. But these days, many of us record solo, in home-based studios. I do have to say that it's far more comfortable for me personally to do the "steamy bits" without a director present. LOL! Can you imagine the direction during those scenes?

    1. Ooh...I hadn't thought of that aspect:) I cannot imagine reading aloud some of the scenes I've read recently with someone in the room!

    2. Yes those naughty scenes would be hard to read with someone watching AND telling you how to read them. LOL

      Makes me think of that scene with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal where she is faking an organism. LOL

  3. Great interview! it's so cool to get an insider's perspective. I'm a big fan, and when it comes to audiobooks I truly believe the narrator is such important, if not the most important part or the listening experience, and you sure know how to deliver a super enjoyable one.


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