My medieval romance, The Beauty Bride, is now available in an audio edition, and once
again, we’re going to slip behind the scenes and talk to the narrator. This audiobook was
narrated by Saskia Maarleveld, who does the most awesome job with accents. I’m sure
you’ll love her performance of Madeline and Rhys’s story as much as I do.
Hi Saskia and welcome!
One of the things that amazed me in listening to the recording of The Beauty Bride was your dexterity with voices. Not only did you portray a wide variety of accents, but the
characters all sound distinct from each other. I also was amazed by how many characters made an appearance in this book. Some scenes are really ensemble pieces, which must make extra demands upon you. This makes me wonder about a few things: How do you
prepare for recording an audio book?
The question people ask me most often when I tell them that I am an audiobook narrator
is “do you have to read the book before you record it?”. YES! Absolutely the most
important thing to do in narrator prep is to read the book before you begin work on it. I
have heard nightmare stories of people beginning to record a book before they finished
reading it, only to find that on page 350 that the hero actually has a French accent….you
never know when new information will be given to you. So I read the book and do some
light research on the author and their other books, and I will also make a character list,
especially when working on a series. This helps me when I go back to the series after a
break and need some reminders. I personally don’t do a lot of marking of the manuscript
because I find that it distracts me from being as present in what is happening as I need to
How do you keep the various characters, their voices and accents straight?
I find that once I voice a character and ‘know them’ I can automatically find their voice
and where it lies in my body. Seeing them in my head helps with this. I do still try to add
vocal clues into my character list, especially on a series I will have to return to.
Sometimes their are certain characters that are more difficult than others to keep constant.
In The Beauty Bride I had stop from time to time and find Rhys’s accent, or remind
myself what accent I had chosen for a secondary character. I find it nice to either have a
celebrity, tv character or acquaintance who’s voice I can refer to, and also certain
sentences or words that can get me straight into a particular accent or dialect if I feel
confused. Once I get into the flow of the scene, whether it’s Rhys telling a story, or
dialogue between 2 or more people, it becomes a natural conversation that I have to lead
and be a part of.
When we record The Rose Red Bride, the next book in the series, will you use the same
accent and inflection for each character, or will that change with each book? This sounds
odd, but a friend of mine is a big fan of audio books and of a certain narrator. Regardless
of the book, she says this narrator has a “heroine voice” and a “hero voice”. My friend
likes that, because she likes those voices, but I’m curious what happens when Madeline
(the heroine of The Beauty Bride) becomes a secondary character in The Rose Red
Bride and Vivienne (who is a secondary character in The Beauty Bride) becomes the
heroine in The Rose Red Bride. Is there an established pattern, or is that something we’ll
have to decide?
I would say that yes, there is often a ‘hero and heroine’ voice that we narrators can pull
out of our pockets. Especially useful when working on books where characters are not as
full and well developed as yours! Rule of thumb is usually that the main female character
should be the closest to your natural voice, since they will be speaking the most
frequently (for male narrators it would obviously be the male character). Because I ‘know’
my characters so well I do find that different heroines will end up with a different sound
depending on their attitude and personality. I like to think that they can all ‘live’ on their
own, even though they all originate from my voice! For a series I do make the effort to
keep the characters sounding the same as they did in previous books. I feel lucky with
these books because the next hero has a Scottish accent (I believe), so will automatically
sound different from Rhys. Vivienne has been introduced already in The Beauty Bride, so
I would likely keep Madeline’s voice the same, and then as I get to know Vivienne better
build on what I developed for her in the last book. Of course I love to have close contact
with the author, and being able to get your ideas and opinions is very helpful!
(Note from Deborah – yes, Erik does have a Scottish accent!)
Do you prefer to narrate a story with many voices and characters, or is it more fun to
work with a single storyteller and few other characters?
I love stories with lots of characters. I have been lucky to work on many books that do
allow me to play around and use tons of different voices and accents. It keeps things fresh
and keeps me focused during those long sessions!
One of the challenges in this book (at least from my perspective) was that Rhys is Welsh
and there were several phrases included in the story in Welsh. How did you prepare for
Oh boy, Welsh! Yes that was certainly a challenge for me as it was one of the few accents
I had never done before. I listened to a bunch of YouTube videos, from Catherine Zeta
Jones to Daffyd in Little Britain, and also some radio clips. I do a lot of accents in my
work and the big thing I have found is that for main characters you need to be careful
with how far into the accent you go. A lot of my accented books are listened to by mainly
North Americans, and it can be distracting or even hard to listen to if the accent is too
strong. I don’t feel like I totally perfected the Welsh accent, as it’s a hard one, but my goal
was to make him understandable over long period of time while still keeping the
authenticity. Hopefully I achieved that!
(Note from Deborah – yes, I worried about this, too. Once when I was in Edinburgh, there wer some Welsh guys staying at the same B&B as me. One was determined to chat me up at breakfast, and I had absolutely no clue what he was saying to me, even though I could guess. So I worried about Rhys having too strong of an accent, too.)
As a writer, I find it impossible to work on multiple projects simultaneously. I need to be
lost in the world of the book to write the next part of it. Can you record multiple projects,
or do you need a similar focus?
Audiobooks is my full time job, so while I have other side projects, I do record 5+ days a
week. Because of this I do often work on multiple projects at a time. I actually enjoy
working like that because it keeps me fresh! It helps me to switch up the worlds I spend
time in and then go back feeling fresh. I can honestly say that if I was asked about any of
the books I have done over the years, I could still pull up clear picture of the story and
characters in my mind. I never forget the stories I work on.
How exactly is an audiobook recorded?
It does depend on the studio. At Brick Shop Audio I self-record, which means I am in the
booth by myself, with a microphone, computer and keyboard in front of me – I just have
to record and tidy up my tracks on the computer. Then it’s edited, quality controlled and
all that good stuff by the engineers who work there. I schedule my own hours, which is
I saw an interview with Helena Bonham-Carter once about her role in voicing a character
in an animated film. She was pregnant at the time (I think it might have been Corpse
Bride) and she commented on how much she enjoyed being able to perform without any
concern for her appearance. Do you dress down to record audio? Or do you dress in a
way that helps your performance?
I love having a job where I don’t have to worry about how I look! I don’t turn up in pj
pants or completely disheveled or anything, but as we all know, life is busy! I like being
able to go to the gym before I work and not worrying about bringing along nice clothes or
taking extra time to shower. It’s also important for me to be comfortable. Wearing clothes
that restrict your breathing or make noise or make you fidget is never a good idea. It also
gets hot in those little booths!
Are there particular kinds of books that you prefer to record in audio?
I really like narrating fantasy and it usually allows me the most fun with characters.
Anything where I can play with accents/dialects and creating voices is so enjoyable. But I
must say have done all sorts of genres and there is nothing I wouldn’t do again.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I grew up in California, New Zealand and France. My mother is a kiwi and my father is
Dutch American. They both traveled a lot and met abroad, and because of this they
enjoyed moving us around. I started life with an American accent, but moved to New
Zealand as a child and picked up a strong kiwi accent. When we moved to Paris I went to
an American school and was still young enough for my accent to change, yet again. All
this gave me a really well developed ear for accents, and I spent a lot of time with people
who spoke differently than I did. I was always very into drama and eventually I went to
NYU Tisch School of the Arts to study acting. I’ve lived in New York ever since and
these days I spend the majority of my time working on audiobooks with the occasional
animation or commercial side gig.
What drew you to audiobooks?
I listened to audiobooks a lot as a child. I am the eldest of 5 girls, and we listened in the
car to keep us all quiet. Some of my favorites were Greek Myths narrated by Andrew
Sachs, the old BBC version of the Beatrix Potter stories and a wonderful collection of
Celtic Fairy Tales. I suppose this subconsciously gave me an appreciation and ear for the
craft. I also have always loved reading and I was lucky that both parents read to me from
a young age. I remember my father reading The Hobbit to me dozens of times, and I will
never forget his Gollem voice. My accent work has really helped me get my foot in the
door at a lot of places. I never thought that this would be something I could do as a
career, and then one day I was able to audition for a New Zealand novel being produced
by Recorded Books in Manhattan. I got that project and realized I wanted to try making
this my career.
Do you have any new audio projects in the works?
Yes, I am lucky to have some great stuff lined up for the fall. I’m working on a new
fantasy series by Helen Harper, whom I did a series for earlier this year, an ongoing series
by Australian author Keri Arthur, a new Anne Perry mystery novel, and also a couple of
romance series. I love to stay busy!
Where can people find out more about you and your recordings?
I have a website that desperately needs an update…I guess this will push me to finally do
that! The site is www.saskiamaarleveld.com. I also recommend audible.com as a great
place to go to listen to samples and explore different narrators. And you can always
follow me on twitter – I am very new at it but slowly learning! Find me there
And finally, the inevitable question for all guests on my blog. I’m an avid knitter, so I
need to know—do you have any hobbies or pastimes? Could you tell us about them?
I love to read, which is lucky considering my job, but unlucky because most days when I
get home from working I either have stuff I have to read for work, or can’t even think
about reading because it’s what I was doing all day! I have a dark side that enjoys
mysteries, so for pleasure I just started a new Danish series called Keeper of Lost Causes. I also love fantasy, non fiction and historical fiction. On evenings when I can’t read another word I have started to enjoy watching good tv series…it helps my brain relax a little. I love to cook and to go out to eat. Living in New York there is an endless supply of
wonderful culinary experiences so it is hard to resist the pull, and often going out to eat
wins the battle. I am an avid hiker as it was always a large part of my childhood. As I
type I am actually in the Sierra Nevada’s spending some time hiking and relaxing away
from the big city. I do try to get out of NYC and travel as much as possible. I think that’s
a necessity when living in such a large city and I am lucky that my family is back in New
Zealand, so I get over there usually once a year.
Thanks, Saskia, for taking the time to answer my questions.
If you’d like to hear a sample of The Beauty Bride as narrated by Saskia, you can listen to it now at Amazon, Audible and Apple.
I can’t wait to her Saskia’s voice! I believe it’s a true art being able to create different characters and accents, as well as to voice the characters’ personalities. What an interesting article too. I learned so much about how a narrator records audiobooks, something about which I’ve always wondered.
Pingback: My Chat with Saskia Maarleveld | seelkfireice