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.
Announcements, authors, chapterbooks, Illustrators, New releases

Publication day for Four All At Sea

It’s publication day for Four All At Sea, the exciting, funny sequel to last year’s popular Four on the Run! We’re delighted to be publishing the next adventures of the four lovable friends who just happen to be machines:-) Congratulations to writer Sophie Masson and illustrator Cheryl Orsini on another fabulous book for young readers!

Announcements, authors, chapterbooks, Cover reveals, forthcoming books, Illustrators

Cover reveal for Lucy Newton, Cat Trouble!

We are delighted to reveal the gorgeous cover of Lucy Newton, Cat Trouble, written and illustrated by Phoebe McArthur, which we are publishing in November. It’s the fabulous sequel to Lucy Newton, Little Witch, which we published in 2018 and which was shortlisted for the 2019 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards.

Here’s a bit about the story:

Lucy is spending the holidays with her grandparents at an old house near a loch.

Thomas the cat disappears on the train trip there and Lucy is frantic.

Taking advice from her spell book and a talking library, Lucy casts a spell to find him.

But when she does there’s something different about him…

Can Lucy Newton solve the mystery in her second magical adventure?

Wait and see!

Announcements, Books, chapterbooks, forthcoming books, videos

Fun little trailer for Four All At Sea

Delighted to announce that there’s now a fun little trailer on our You Tube channel for our upcoming chapter book title, Four All At Sea, by Sophie Masson and Cheryl Orsini, which we are publishing next month. Four All At Sea is the fabulous sequel to Sophie and Cheryl’s popular chapterbook, Four on the Run, which was published last year.

Enjoy!

Announcements, authors, chapterbooks, Cover reveals, forthcoming books, Illustrators

Cover reveal for Four All at Sea!

We are delighted to reveal the gorgeous cover of Four All at Sea, our September title and upcoming new chapter book, written by Sophie Masson and illustrated by Cheryl Orsini. It’s also the sequel to Sophie and Cheryl’s popular title, Four on the Run, which we published in September last year. In this cracking new adventure, the four loveable friends(who just happen to be machines!) find themselves marooned on a deserted island: at least, they thought it was deserted! But eek, what is that scary noise they can hear??

Announcements, authors, Books, Illustrators, Junior fiction, New releases, publication day

Publication day for Fil and Harry!

It’s publication day for Jenny Blackford’s fabulous junior novel, Fil and Harry! Illustrated with charming, lively black and white pictures by Kristin Devine, this is a warm and engaging short novel, with a touch of fantasy, which readers seven and up will love.

Find out more about the book, author and illustrator here and read a great review of the book here.

Announcements, authors, Illustrators, Junior fiction, Reviews

Lovely advance review for Fil and Harry

We are delighted to announce that there was a lovely advance review, by Lian Hingee of Readings, of Fil and Harry in this week’s edition of the Weekly Book Newsletter (Books+Publishing). Here’s an extract from the review:

Written by Jenny Blackford, whose debut book The Girl in the Mirror won the 2020 Davitt Award for Best Children’s Crime Novel, Fil & Harry also includes whimsical illustrations by Kristin Devine…..It is a gentle novel with short, accessible chapters and some excellent vocabulary-building words for emerging readers to discover. It’s perfect for readers aged seven and up.

Congratulations to Jenny and Kristin! It’s a great start for the novel’s reception.

Fil and Harry will be released on May 3.

Announcements, authors, Books, Cover reveals, Illustrators

Cover reveal for Fil and Harry!

We are delighted to reveal today the gorgeous front and full cover of Fil and Harry, a fabulous new junior novel by Jenny Blackford, which we are publishing on May 1. The beautiful cover illustration is by Kristin Devine, who has also created some great internal black and white illustrations for the book. Design of the covers is by Kristin and by Authors’ Elves.

Read more about Fil and Harry here.

Announcements, Business, collaborations, internships, publishing, United Publishers of Armidale

Introducing our new intern for United Publishers of Armidale!

Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books, under the umbrella of our joint initiative, United Publishers of Armidale, are delighted to announce the appointment of Ms Sharnee Rawson to a 3-month publishing internship with us.

Sharnee Rawson, an experienced regionally-based writer and editor who has worked in a range of media, is soon about to complete a bachelor degree in Media and Communications at UNE, majoring in Writing and Publishing, acquiring several academic awards in the process. Wishing to extend her experience to book publishing, she approached us with her excellent resume, and after a fruitful meeting online discussing possible projects she might be involved in, we were delighted to confirm her appointment.

Congratulations and welcome, Sharnee! We are delighted to have you working with us on several projects over the next few months. And we would like to introduce you to our readers, friends and supporters. So, here are a few questions for you!

How did you come to select us as publishers you’d like to work with?

Although there were several fantastic publishers based in the New England region, United Publishers of Armidale was distinguished by its its combination of two prominent children’s book publishers, Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books. I had known since the beginning of my undergraduate degree that I wanted to be involved in book publishing for younger audiences, so when I discovered United Publishers of Armidale, I knew I had to take part!

Like us, you are based in Armidale—have you always lived there, or have you come here more recently?

I’ve lived in a motley of places over the years, but for most of my life, I called a small rural property near Grafton home. It was after graduating from high school in 2017 that I moved to Armidale to begin my bachelor’s degree at the University of New England. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to explore many of the national parks in the region, including favourites like Gara Gorge and Wollomombi Falls. It’s certainly a beautiful area.

Can you tell us about your professional background as an editor and writer? What kinds of things have you worked on?

I’ve had some previous experience in the publishing industry, although, until recently, it has primarily been in news and journalism. One of the most rewarding of these positions was as a content writer at News Corp’s The Daily Examiner. The experience was fascinating, and it granted me the opportunity to work with a range of mediums, including paper-based publications, online publications and videographic material. Working at News Corp also prepared me for my next role at Tune!FM where I had the privilege of working as editor-in-chief for the company’s online news platform. United Publishers of Armidale is my first experience at a book publishing company.

Tell us about the degree you are about to complete, and why you chose to major in writing and publishing? And what’s next for your studies?

Currently, I’m in my final trimester of a Bachelor of Media and Communications degree with a major in Writing and Publishing. Originally, I had enrolled as a Bachelor of Arts student, but I quickly realised media and communications offered the specialisation I needed to enter the publishing industry. So far, I haven’t been disappointed! In 2021, I plan to enrol in a Bachelor of Media and Communications with Honours degree and continue my studies at the University of New England.

What areas interest you most in publishing? What do you hope to learn from the internship with us? And what opportunities do you hope might come from it?

As most individuals within the publishing industry will probably agree, interest in the field began through a love of reading. In high school, I remember googling ‘Jobs relating to books’ and when I read about the publishing industry, I thought, ‘Great! A job where I can read all day!’ I now know there’s a lot more to publishing than simply reading, but I still haven’t lost my passion. In editing, in particular, there’s something about refining a text that will be read and enjoyed by like-minded readers that offers enormous appeal. Through my internship at United Publishers of Armidale, I would love to continue to develop my editing skills and gain further insight into various aspects of publishing. Hopefully, the experience will lead me to further work opportunities within the industry.

And finallyWhat’s on your reading pile at the moment?

American Gods by Neil Gaiman is currently sitting on my bedside table. I’ve loved the author’s previous work and can’t wait to tuck in!

Sharnee Rawson