Request for advice (since I can't get Benedict)


A little while ago, I set up the page for the One Green Bottle audio book, where I posted my recordings of the first four chapters. I don’t think many people have listened to them, but Aaron Meizius, my publisher, has. The other day he suggested doing the whole book, and asked if I’d want to read it myself or have someone else do it. Now, the problem is, I have no idea. I always loved acting but when I moved to France there wasn’t much call for British accents  (I know Jane Birkin did all right but she had a few other assets which I lack) so I haven’t done any for decades. My question, then, is simple: what do I say to Aaron?

I’d be quite happy to do it, but I’m far from Benedict Cumberbatch. The question is, am I too far, or does it pass muster? Your opinion here would be much appreciated – you only need to listen to a few minutes (ignoring if possible the quality of the recording, which wasn’t done in a proper studio), then give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the comments. And I won’t be at all offended if it’s no – I’m not intending to audition for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Many thanks!



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  1. I’ve listened to several minutes now, even as I’m writing. . . . (It just dawned on me what it sounds like. I’ll have to dig up the specific reference, as I don’t know the actor’s name or the real name of the video . . . but we have a Rowan Atkinson live comedy video and the actor who plays the father [in one of the many skits] of the ‘dead’ schoolboy . . . AND he narrates the skit with the invisible man on the bus. That’s who you sound like, to my ear, anyway. Pleasant, understandable, clear, not heavily accented for those of us who have trouble with such things. ] . . . Curtis, this will kill (in the best possible way) in America, I’m pretty convinced. You have a lovely “posh” accent–most Americans can’t distinguish among British or other continental cadences, sometimes not even among Australians, Britons, and Kiwis–and I like the, oh, I’m probably forgetting . . . the Satie classical intro as well (Debussy? feel free to correct me, likewise!). I haven’t listened to a ton of audio books, mind you, but I find the voice pleasant and straightforward; to me, it doesn’t detract or draw you away from the text. It kind of foundations it, so to speak, and does exactly what it needs to do. But that’s one person’s take. Good luck with the conundrum!

    • Thanks for such a detailed and encouraging response, Leigh! I think officially my accent is RP – received pronunciation – which is a sort of standard, or what used also to be known as BBC English. Good to know it’ll go down well in the States! (I just looked up the Rowan Atkinson sketch, by the way – it’s Angus Deayton. And you’re quite right, the music is Satie.) Thanks again for taking the time to listen, analyse and reply.

      • Yeah, I really think it will. Of course you could get really ‘hammy’ with a soaring actorly voice (Americans will probably think of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen), but it seems to me that OGB doesn’t need that kind of histrionics. Americans, in general, find most “British” accents sexy, suave, sophisticated, and/or pleasant. Again, my 2 cents’. Good luck, and can’t wait to see what you decide, Curtis!

  2. Absolutely! I love audio books. Since I have to sew many days as my “paying” job, I’ve found I can listen to audio books at the same time. Sometimes it’s the only way I can read! Love the accent and I’ll be the first one to “read” this way…wish I could figure out a way to write while sewing. Maybe I’d finish my book. Good luck! ~Elle

    • Thanks, Elle, that’s a great response! I hadn’t thought of sewing as one of the audio book activities. But writing, yes, I’m afraid it’s an activity on its own. I sometimes find ideas coming to me when I’m running and regret not having a recorder with me.

  3. I can follow along very well with the accent and think you cast the story very well through voice inflections, clarity and richness of vocal pitch. In this book though, I hear a woman’s voice. But I am not often listening to audio books due to hearing difficulties. I’m sure the preferences of others vary greatly as well. Therefore, it is by preference of gender and my lack of audio concentration that I would not listen to the whole book in this manner. Which is to say, go for it because you certainly have the right voice to do it despite my preferences. Love the accent by the way 🙂

  4. Yes. Your reading and voice convey un-acted honesty. You’ve communicated the humor in the dialogue and the arched eyebrow in the narration. After a cautious beginning, you set a pace that flows naturally and won’t leave the listeners’ ears leaning across the gap between words, waiting for the next one to drop. Well done.

    Am I correct in imagining you’ve read the previous comments and thought, “Accent? What accent? I don’t have an accent.” 😉

    • Thanks, Sue! Some very helpful detail in that response. As for the accent, everyone has one, I suppose, but it’s true that I’ve always thought of mine as pretty neutral!

    • Thank you, Shirley. It’s certainly true that it helps to know the text really well before. I guess the professionals have to read it several times beforehand.

  5. 90% of my “reading” these days is audio books. The best (IMO) are those read by a male and female because when I actually read paper, that is how I “hear” the characters in my head. I have grown accustomed to single narrators, and most alter their voice when reading different characters. It helps keep who’s who more clear in my mind.

    Some of the male narrators get a little too swishy or slutty when reading female characters, which can be irritating if the character is not that way. Some of the female narrators sound like old men in their attempts to deepen their voice. My favorite narrators create the mood of a scene just with the cadence, tempo and volume of their voice.

    I enjoyed OGB and finally got around to writing my review for you on Amazon. I’m looking forward to Book 2! Whatever you decide about narrating yourself or hiring it out, it will do well because it is a great story and Magali a great character. Keep her coming!

  6. Thanks for that comment, Lauri. I’ve hardly listened to any myself – I didn’t even know there were some that had both male and female readers. Sounds like a good idea! Actually, Aaron Meizius sent me a sample reading by a woman and I think her reading was much better than mine so we’ll no doubt go for that.
    Thanks also for the Amazon review and for your encouraging words. It’s wonderful to get such feedback. Not everyone thinks of doing it, which is understandable, so when people do, it’s all the more appreciated. Thank you!

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