Announcements, audiobooks, authors, chapterbooks, News, voice talent

Interview with Aimee Smith, narrator of Princess Hayley’s Comet

We’re delighted to announce that Princess Hayley’s Comet is soon to be released as an audiobook. Rebecca Fung and Kathy Creamer’s lovely chapterbook, which we published in print in 2018, is going to be launched into the audio market, which is very exciting! Created by the fabulous team at Spineless Wonders Audio, it’s a truly gorgeous production, and will be released in October on many audio book retailer sites (more on that soon).

To celebrate the upcoming release of the audiobook, we chatted to the talented Aimee Smith, who did the fabulous narration, about the fascinating process of voice acting and recording.

We love your narration of Princess Hayley’s Comet, Aimee! It’s as bright, breezy and fun as the story itself. How did you go about preparing to create the narration, in terms not only of reading the story beforehand but also thinking about characters, pacing etc?

Aww thank you so much, it was such a gorgeous story to read! I absolutely love narrating children’s books. I think that having been a Primary School teacher for several years before taking the leap to becoming a full-time Voice Actor had been an interesting realisation for me that being a teacher doesn’t only stick with you as a profession, but it stays in your heart too. It was exceptionally organic for me to have picked up a book on a whim when we had some minutes in the day to spare, create an engaging and magical environment in the classroom without being self-conscious for sounding a little silly and finding those beats in a story to give kids the chance to giggle and gasp in response!

Those real-life experiences don’t just leave you, the audience is always really close in mind when I’m reading a story and I feel that’s important in kids’ books: When are they going to react? And I use those instincts to play up my emphasis in the right spots and leave a poignant beat. In the case of the technicalities of audiobook narration, something I like to do to form definitive consistency is keeping little audio files of each of the characters I’ve voiced early on in the story, and I like to flick between them to ensure there’s something special and memorable with them all, as kids aren’t going to see the physicality like they do in the classroom to realise when a new character is speaking!

 You have your own home studio and do your own initial recordings. Tell us how you work: what’s the process like?

Yes, I’ve had a home studio for almost 10 years (upgraded many, many times in that period!) and do a solid 95% of my work from it here in Sydney, Australia! For a lot of my work I like to stand in my studio to keep energy high and dynamic, however with audiobooks and other long-form work I generally like to pull up a stool to keep an even pace throughout (but my hands always go crazy, gesturing is super important in all forms of narration, so I use them to play with emphasis, cadence and beats!). This was a self-directed session, which meant I had freedom to listen back over my character files to cross-check my voices, could pause for more water when I needed it, and spend a little more time going back over segments if I wasn’t 100% sold on them. Sometimes in live-directed sessions you don’t always feel like you have that freedom to be a bit nitpicky, so it was really nice!

How do you work with the audio engineer on the edited files? And what happens afterwards?

 The process of working with an audio engineer is always a little different depending on the client and the story. In the case of Princess Hayley’s Comet, I really got into the story fast, and when I achieve flow I really like to stay in it! So I actually finished the audiobook within minutes of getting the email introducing me to the audio engineer which was funny timing! I had already created an into and outro to the audiobook, however every publisher has a preference for the exact language, so in this case I had a small revision on that front to send back to the audio engineer and we were then done! It was a very, very quick easy partnership due to the timing of our communication and the audiobook being a shorter text.

Have you worked on other audiobooks for children? Why do you think audiobooks are an increasingly popular way to take in a story—both for children and adults?

I’ve worked on quite a few texts for children, including ‘Tortoise and the Hare’ by Talethings on mobile devices, ‘Tommy’s Tooth’ on Farfaria, ‘Douglas You Need Glasses’ on the Learning Ally and many more! I find that most of my audiobook work is more catered for under 18s in the fiction and non-fiction spaces which I love. In terms of why audiobooks are popularly, I think it just comes down to the fact we’re part of a multi-tasking age, which makes audiobooks such an easy thing to implement into our lives. If you spend 30 minutes driving to work, why not pop on a chapter of an audiobook you’re enjoying? Some people would listen to music as they sleep which in some cases, has now become listening to a relaxing audiobook. Whether for information or for enjoyment, it’s such an easy and enjoyable way to consume media.

You also work on other audio projects than audiobooks, such as narration for video games. Tell us a bit about that.

Oh yes! So I actually started my career as a Voice Actor working in video games, and have worked on well-over 100 games, some of which include SMITE, Mobile Legends, Freedom Planet and a bunch more.

I also work in kids’ animation shows and anime, having worked on shows that stream across Binge, Funimation, meWatch and YouTube. I’m very fortunate to have an incredibly fun and fulfilling career that embraces my sense of play. We’re often told as we enter adulthood to ‘grow up’ when we do something a little silly, whereas in the land of being a Voice Actor it’s incredibly important that you can harness your sense of play and aren’t scared of showing that side of yourself. Silly mistakes make for wonderful characters. It’s an incredibly valued skill that is often lost by adults!

How did you get into voice acting? What advice would you give anyone interested in making it a career?

Back in October 2011 I came across an online voice acting website called ‘The Voice Acting Club’ while I was studying to be a Primary School Teacher. It still exists today, and was my first foray into the online voice acting world and I got hooked instantly. I already loved acting and tried theatre and screen, but they didn’t click in the same way voice acting did. I felt it was a cultivation of everything I loved in one beautiful little art form.

 I’d love to suggest just two things: 1. PLAY. It can be hard to train yourself to enjoy and relish in the mistakes and the ridiculousness of it all. Go with it, it doesn’t have to even be a career, it’s also just abeautiful creative outlet if that’s what you’re after. 2.KNOWLEDGE. Consume as much information you can. Go to www.iwantobeavoiceactor.com and the Voice Acting Club and read everything, because without a doubt they’ll answer most initial questions you have!

That was so interesting, Aimee! Thank you.

Thanks so much for chatting with me!

More about Aimee:

Aimee Smith is a full-time Australian voice talent specialising in recording for audiobooks across Australian/American/British accents, with 10+ narration credits to her name. She’s even recorded a couple of these audiobooks at the studios of Penguin Random House in Sydney! Aimee is a former Primary School Teacher and experienced video game voice actor (SMITE, Mobile Legends, Freedom Planet) and animation voice actor (Unicorn Girls, Sunset Paradise, Dragon Goes House Hunting) which really helps her stay in a constant state of make-believe!

Website: www.aimeesmithva.com

Social Media Handle: @AimeeSmithV

Aimee reading Princess Hayley’s Comet in preparation for recording.

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