May 21, 2018
Romance Narrators: Ok, we’re going to come out and say it. Sometimes… people give Romance books a bad rap (no one we care to spend time with, but you know what I mean). Why do you think that is? And how do you approach your romance titles? Any differently than your work in other genres?
Christa: I think it's due in part to the uneasy relationship we have - culturally - with our bodies and our sexuality. So - maybe - any art that is focused on arousal, sexual empowerment and the freedom to express pleasure or personality through our bodies, is going to be thrown varying degrees of shade. I mean, when was sex or sexy stuff EVER easy to talk about? I can't speak for what men or people working through gender identity issues experience, but as a straight woman who finds both men and women attractive on different levels - it's not exactly something I can talk about with ANYONE in my family... also, I had a lot of pre-conceived notions - that romance books were merely simplistic and salacious - until I started narrating them. Color me converted!
The storylines are sooo cool and funny sometimes -and, poignant - people really working their stuff out - people from all walks of life. Truly relatable stuff that we all deal with - now, I have nothing but respect, love and gratitude for Romance authors - how they view the quirks and foibles of our everyday humanity and transform it into funny, poignant, entertaining and truly wonderful books.
For example - Kate Meader's Chicago Rebels Series - Book 2 was chockablock full with stuff I grappled with in my childhood - tough stuff with Mom and working stuff out with a relationship that matters but setting priorities - all the while Kate Meader does it with such a loving eye and such humor - and when the poignant moments happened I was legit in tears. And, yes- supersexy Russian Ice Hockey players. I mean COME. ON!!! And Red Phoenix and the Brie series changed my life - Red gave my avatar Pippa Jayne her start and taught me everything - I now literally ask myself "What would Brie do" (yes, I do know how that sounds ;-) because Brie is much calmer than I am - softer, more thoughtful and willing to THINK about what's happening and why it's happening - unlike me. I get all emotional and react-ey and defensive. Not so much anymore - thanks to Red Phoenix and her gorgeous and funny writing, gorgeous spirit and generosity.
Now, instead of just trying to get my sexy on, I approach narrating a romance title with the same respect and thoughtful care I would give any other genre - what is the story? What is the arc of the main character - who is she at the beginning of her journey - when we meet her - and who does she become? Then I relax and try to let the author's voice come through - in all the brilliant, funny, sexy and emotional moments.
Romance Narrators: Hell to the yes. Next week is a big one. You are heading to the Audie Awards in NYC with the cast of NEVERTHELESS WE PERSISTED, which is nominated for Best Original Work. Congrats! What pieces did you narrate and how was the experience for you?
Christa: Oh, thanks Erin - it is so incredibly exciting. And such a thrill to share that with you as well - I am seriously your biggest fan after hearing your work in that book. You are utterly brilliant! This Audie nomination is the honor of a lifetime. Tanya Eby - our editor and co-author and co-narrator - had me read 2 pieces - the opening work - POEMS, by Sahana Kumar and also, unbelievably, she included me as an author and had me read my poem called THE DAY YOUR JEKYLL ATE MY HYDE. Sahana Kumar's POEMS speak to preconceptions based on the color of skin, childhood loneliness and the burden/joy inherent to the act of writing and the importance of story and of being a storyteller - goose bumps. My poem was the result of me trying to make something meaningful out of a 7 year relationship that lasted 6.7 years too long...
Romance Narrators: Speaking of relationships… you are in a long distance 12-year relationship with a European wind turbine technician. Your life actually sounds like it holds the premise of a good romance novel! Any tips on how to keep love alive when the miles keep you apart?
Christa: Skype, text, sexy lingerie, stubbornness (is that a word?), refusal to fail and when all else fails, be kind first, be right, second. Oh - and, Thank God for romance novels! Yep, they keep me sane and keep me company when the days stretch into weeks stretch into ... you get the picture :-) Fun Fact - I did try and you know, "teach" my guy some of the cooler things I was learning in my sexy new books... and he looked at me (Skype) saw the glint in my eye and was all "hey - NOWAYNOHOW - I am too old for that s**t" HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! In hindsight, maybe I shouldn't have led with the stuff I was learning from Red Phoenix... #BDSM #bluechrystalbuttplugs
Romance Narrators: Haha! That is one hell of a hashtag, girl! You are a well-loved narration coach and run a workshop called “Train Like a Pro.” What’s your approach to coaching narrators? What’s the best way for them to work with you?
Christa: Most of us think "hey, I talk all the time - can it be so hard to talk into a microphone?"
(My sister has told me on numerous occasions it's NOT brain surgery) Nevertheless - the best of the best are as good as they are, because they make it SEEM easy. I train all the time. Trends change - vocal styles go in and out of fashion. You have to know your market and your medium... so, we train. I try and work with my students by listening to them - not by imposing some set idea of perfection on them - and by being patient - we can't figure everything out all at once - improvement can be incremental - so, I make sure people have the basics - mic technique, that they're working with their bodies and not against them and only then do I try and instill process and principles... Because no matter what you're facing in an audition, if you have a process, a "way" of approaching the copy, then you will figure out what is needed to fulfill the writer's intention and bring the words to life.
I teach all levels of voice acting in a very small class - and I also teach privates online or in person. Anyone can reach me at email@example.com
Romance Narrators: You are also the German language producer at Deyan Audio. How cool is that? Talk to us about narrating in two different languages.
Christa: My mom was German and insisted we learn the language - so, my sister and I grew up speaking German at home and also attended German school on Saturdays. Yeah - my mom was not super popular with us. But, thanks to her, errm .... strength of character ... I speak German fluently and spent 20 years living and working in Germany... Fast forward to today and when Deyan Audio needed a director for their Berlitz German language program, they reached out and now I work for them when there are German language projects on deck. Did you know there are A. Lot of Germans in LA - this was news to me. After 3 casting calls, I feel like I've met everybody. Brilliant! I have actually even narrated one book in German - whoa - super scary JAAAAA! I've done around 100 audiobooks in English but trying to "port" those skills into another language seriously rewired all my synapses. Painfully rewired them.
Romance Narrators: You recently narrated THE WOMEN WHO FLEW FOR HITLER. What was that experience like for you?
Christa: Being fluent in German is a blessing in that clients offer me riveting projects that involve a lot of German names or accents. The rough part is, that more often than not, many of those stories revolve around WWll history and the Nazis. Despite the heinous context, THE WOMEN WHO FLEW FOR HITLER is an epic story of adventure and survival. In a world where there were NO women at all doing the kind of test flights that left many male aviators dead on the airfield, these 2 ladies were fiercely brave. The case made by the author, Clare Mulley was that one was pro-Nazi and willfully blind to the crimes perpetrated by the regime and the other, while a patriot, had her doubts and was fighting to save her family from the concentration camps... it is an astonishing and unique look "behind the scenes" of the Nazi era - one pilot literally flew Hitler to the bunker (and tried to fly him out) - and the other moved heaven and earth to fly her family out of the SS camps. Everyone - the wonderful women at Tantor Media, the author and I were absolutely delighted the audiobook was awarded an Earphones in Biographies and Memoirs.
Romance Narrators: In 2015, the audio planets aligned in your favor and you received three Earphones Awards in the span of two weeks. Wowza. That must have been fun! Tell us about those three projects.
Christa: That was C.R.A.Z.Y. My phone Blew. Up. with people texting - at first "hey, girl - you got an EARPHONES!!! and then (like almost the next day... "Whoa!!! Guess who GOT ANOTHER EARPHONES" and then, crazypants NUTS "HEY. WHATS UP WITH THAT THIRD EARPHONES?!?!" The Earphones awards are given for excellence in narration by the lovely listeners of AudioFile Magazine, which was started 25 years ago by Robin Whitten. AudioFile Magazine is THE industry publication dedicated to the promotion and review of audiobooks. Robin has 400 reviewers and they literally choose whatever they want, whenever they want ... so, it's pretty much a shift in the space/time continuum that 3 books I narrated were reviewed and those reviews were published within a 1 week period and they were all awarded an Earphones. I mean, insane. The first, was INFINITE HOME by Kathleen Alcott - an exquisite, intimate story about the tenants of a Brooklyn brownstone coping as their landlady's memory dissolves. The second was WOLF BY WOLF by Ryan Graudin - a completely hold on to your hats, YA, alternate history where Hitler had won the war and a 17 year old skin shifter sets out on a cross continent motorcycle race to assassinate him. HOOYEAH. That was EPIC fast-paced drama fun. The third was THE MARE by Mary Gaitskill - a gorgeous, edgy multi-cast narration - with the luminous Kyla Garcia, unforgettable Nicol Zanzarella and the brilliant Sean Pratt. Mary Gaitskill had initially wanted to narrate the part I was ultimately cast in, and the compromise was to have her talk about the character with me. It was profound. She called and read me the first chapter. I learned so much from that. Such an honor.
Romance Narrators: How was your experience working on Sasha Grey’s THE MISMADE GIRL? Word on the street is Ms. Grey has quite a wide fan base, huh?
Christa: She really does - 1.2 Million followers on the Twitter. Sasha Grey has remade herself several times. She is extremely smart. After a few years working in the film industry as an Erotica actress (which she left at the age of 21 after winning the top award in her field), she now works as a DJ - but in between Steven Soderbergh discovered her and made her a movie star. I have no idea when she finds the time to write! I got to narrate the third in her Juliette Society trilogy –THE MISMADE GIRL. It's a fast paced, brainy book - a dark BDSM whodunit with a healthy portion of life philosophy thrown in.
Romance Narrators: Tell us about an audiobook of which you are particularly proud.
Christa: FORTY ROOMS by Olga Grushin. I literally felt I knew the song of this book as I read the first chapter. So many things came together that helped me get inside the author's lyrical expression and use of magical realism. FORTY ROOMS is an exquisite novel about a woman's conflicting currents - how she must choose and potentially become subsumed by her longings to create as an artist and as a mother. I wish I had had this book to read at important junctures in my life. The fact that the author reached out and thanked me for the narration is something I will never forget. I have Blackstone Audio to thank for casting me - seriously. The people who cast audiobooks are magicians. The unsung heroes and heroines of our craft.
Romance Narrators: What exciting projects do you have on the horizon?
Christa: I just got cast to narrate Jeremy Robinson's THE DIVIDE- a super snazzy title I am absolutely stoked to get into. It's an edgy sci-fi action-adventure set in a dystopian future - there will be all the cool things. Creatures, battles for the survival of the clan, of humanity, of our heroine - gaaaaah!!!
KEEP UP WITH CHRISTA LEWIS ONLINE:
Christa’s Audible catalog: adbl.co/2IoLaCn
Pippa Jayne’s Audible catalog: adbl.co/2IMrF5W
LINKS TO PEOPLE MENTIONED
IN THE INTERVIEW:
AudioFile Magazine audiofilemagazine.com
Train Like a Pro calendly.com/cglewis
Erin Mallon facebook.com/ErinMuffyNarration/
Christa Lewis christalewisaudiobooks.com
Pippa Jayne pippajaynestories.com
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart). e e cummings