Have you ever heard a voice and sworn you’ve heard it somewhere before? With more than 100 books under her belt, audiobook lovers are sure to recognize the voice of Jorjeana Marie. Named one of AudioFile’s Best Voices of 2014 for her reading of Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar, Marie continues to wow both readers and authors with her realistic and passionate narrators. She was even selected by young adult author Gayle Forman to narrator Forman’s latest: I Was Here.
Listen to an excerpt of the book here and then check out our interview with the woman behind the voice below.
Bookish: What first brought you into audiobooks?
Jorjeana Marie: The love of books, stories, and storytelling!
Bookish: You’ve cited “observation” as being intricately important to your work as an actress and comedienne. How does observation play into your work with audiobooks?
JM: I think “observation” is the starting point for all who wish to attain awareness. I also consider it my job to bring awareness to the listener, so, if I am constantly observing in life, I can translate the essential, the ephemeral from the black and white of the page. At least, I do my best.
Bookish: What advice do you have for anyone who is interested in recording audiobooks?
JM: If someone is interested in the wonderful world of narrating, I would say go for it! It’s becoming more popular than ever. I think the key is to practice on books that you love reading and, when ready, make demos.
I also really enjoyed taking Scott Brick‘s class in LA. I had already been narrating for a while, but wanted to learn whatever I could. At the same time, I worked with Scott on my own project, NY, I Love, an audiobook and love letter to New York City.
Bookish: What’s your process like once you are given a new book to narrate? Do you work with the authors at all?
JM: I love hearing what the author is thinking, but I also feel the tone is set in the hundreds of pages some of these artists, poets, and geniuses have spent years on. I want to do my best to stay present every moment and speak to anyone leaning in to listen.
Bookish: What went into developing Cody’s voice for I Was Here?
JM: Cody is sarcastic. And real. And hurting. And confused. I did my best to embody her and share what she went through in that journey in as real a way as I could. I was sometimes rather affected by her thoughts as suicide has touched my life in so many ways through loved ones. It was overwhelming, compelling, and an important story that I got to tell, not just because Gayle selected me, but because life took me that way. I sometimes don’t feel there are any mistakes in life. This book came to me. And I brought my best self to rise up, meet it, and honor the gripping reality of loss and its aftermath.
Bookish: You recently narrated I Was Here and Belzhar, which are both young adult books about grief. Do you prefer reading for one genre or age group over another?
JM: I adore reading, narrating, living in the YA world. I am a big, big, big fan of teenagers. They are just the coolest! And yeah, kids’ books too. I recently voiced a toy. I was a child for hours. Life doesn’t get any better than deciding to look at the world with wonder and awe and with happiness in your heart.
Bookish: Are there any books or authors you’d love to work on or with?
JM: I don’t know how likely this would ever be to come to pass, but certainly Stephen King. I read a lot of his books when I was in grade school.
Bookish: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from recording books?
JM: Everyone has a story. Everyone.
Bookish: What’s the biggest challenge you face as a narrator and how do you overcome it?
JM: My challenge in narrating, as in life, is not to get ahead of myself and to always do my best to stay real and in the moment. I have relaxation techniques including meditation, yoga, and breath work that not only help with my respiratory system but also keep me focused and in the moment. And really, there’s nowhere better to be, is there?
Jorjeana Marie has narrated more than 100 audiobooks, including Gayle Forman’s I Was Here (Listening Library), which earned an Earphones Award from AudioFile Magazine. She was named one of AudioFile’s Best Voices of 2014 for her narration of Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar, which Publishers Weekly called “adept…[an] excellent performance.” Her voice can also be heard in such video games as Final Fantasy, Crackdown 2, and Star Guardians. Jorjeana has toured nationally as a stand-up comic, opening for Richard Lewis, Louis Anderson, and Kathleen Madigan.