Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Voice Behind the Words. With GIVEAWAY!

As many have seen, I've found my way to audio books. And I'm loving it. I do believe the narrator can make or break an audio book. I have found audio book narrators that I love listening to, and they make the books all the better by bringing it into a fourth dimension for us.

One of those voices I've grown fond of and love her work is Kristin James. Kristin has done many great voices for authors. She's voiced Melanie Karsak's books for The Harvesting series and Stormy Smith's Bound series along with several others!

I'm thrilled to have Kristin by for an interview about audio work along with a giveaway at the end for you.

Please give a huge warm welcome to Kristin!

M:  Hi Kristin. Thank you for joining us today.

KJ:  Thanks so much for having me!

M:  I've noted in several of your narrations that you do different accents and voice tones for characters. Did you, or do you still, do research on voice sounds, accents, and personalities of people to add to your audio works?

KJ:  Always! Sometimes the research is more traditional, like looking up a vocal coach or native speaker on youtube if I need a specific accent. Other times it’s in the moment. If I hear a voice or sound that I like I’ll try to emulate it on the spot. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten in this area came from one of my voice coaches, Joe Loesch. He said, “Remember, even if you fail at perfectly mimicking a particular voice- you’ve still created a new voice in the process.”

M:  Have you always been a master at vocal changes and voices?

KJ:  You are very kind to call me a master; I think I’ll always think of myself as a student. I’ve often had people comment on my voice and how much they liked it, but I didn’t really take acting seriously until college. There, I trained for the stage and learned invaluable vocal warm ups and care. After graduating I decided to take what I’d been hearing from others about my voice seriously, and signed up for several voice-over specific classes. I fell in love and have never looked back.

M:  Have you ever played a trick on people in public with your many voices? Pretending to be someone else or anything with strangers?

KJ:  Not yet, but you’re giving me ideas. ;)

M:  You have a talent for getting into character. What does it take to get into the brain of the characters? Do you read the whole book first?

KJ:  I always read fiction cover to cover before starting the recording process. I think it’s important to know the journeys the characters embark upon and the ways in which they deal with things before committing to “their” voice. I use the process to experiment along the way. I’ll read aloud to myself to try out a voice on a character to see if it fits. If it does that’s how I’ll hear them in my head as I continue. If it still makes sense by the end of the book I know I’ve found a winner.

Non-fiction is different and I’ve found that listeners prefer consistency on those projects. I tend to just stay one chapter ahead in that field.

M:  Do you talk in detail with the author about the characters before or during the recording of their book?

KJ:  Sometimes I ask for a one or two sentence descriptor for the major characters, just to make sure we’re on the same page. But most of the time those descriptors come out in the writing within the novel. After I’ve read the book I’ll send any questions I’ve got their way. I’ve also worked together with authors on voices before I begin recording. I’ll send a few sentences of dialogue a few different ways and they pick their favorite version.

M:  When you record a number of voices, do you read in pieces by character or read straight through switching characters as you come to them? Your work sounds seamless as if you read straight through with adjusting as you go.

KJ:  On one of my earliest projects, I tried doing each character’s dialogue individually and then Frankensteined everything together after the fact. I thought it would keep the consistency of the characters more intact. After one of the most arduous editing jobs I’ve ever given myself, I knew there had to be a better way. Then I realized that I'd already been doing this at home. All my dogs have voices and have full "conversations" with each other and me and my family. If I could switch between them without issue, why couldn't I do the same in an audiobook? I practiced switching from one audiobook voice to another and found that it wasn’t as daunting as I’d made myself believe. Self-doubt had caused me to second-guess my abilities. Once I proved to myself that I was capable of switching between characters on the fly, I’ve read my projects straight through. My advice to anyone reading is to trust yourself. You are likely far better than you are giving yourself credit for.

M:  Would you like to share what your latest or next available narration novel will be?

KJ:  Absolutely! My most recent release is Damned if I Do by Erin Hayes. You can find it here:

My next title is Reflections in Psychotherapy and Paths for Wellbeing by Veis Djalali PHD. It should be out later this month.
The next project I’ll be starting is The Girls from Alcyone by Cary Caffrey.

Kristin's inspiration to get into voice acting:
A question I get asked a lot is, "You're a voice actor? How do you even get into something like that?" Rather than give the standard, "went to school for theater, continued taking voice specific classes after graduating, ect" answer, I thought I'd get a little more personal.

When I was ten years old I had a heart attack. Thankfully, I was in the hospital when it happened. I was receiving treatment for ‪‎Kawasaki Disease‬, which Wikipedia defines as, "an autoimmune disease in which the medium-sized blood vessels throughout the body become inflamed. It is largely seen in children under five years of age. It affects many organ systems, mainly those including the blood vessels, skin, mucous membranes, and lymph nodes. Its rarest but most serious effect is on the heart, where it can cause fatal coronary artery aneurysms in untreated children. Without treatment, mortality may approach 1%, usually within six weeks of onset. With treatment, the mortality rate is 0.17% in the U.S."

It turns out I was in that unlucky "rarest but most serious" category and had 2 aneurysms on the arteries in my heart. (Don't worry, as seen in the before/after photo they're gone now and have been for some time.)

During the attack I was rushed to the ICU where I spent about 5 and a half days of my 11 total days in the hospital. I don't know how much experience you all have with the ICU, but patients aren't really allowed to do much of anything except to rest and focus on getting better.

Fortunately, I had some very good friends who not only visited me, but also brought me a very influential present. I was given Lois Lowry's "The Giver" in audiobook form (on cassette!) performed by Ron Rifkin.

Listening to that story I was able to forget for a little while that I couldn't play soccer or softball anymore, that my days would be dominated by a medication schedule, or that I didn't know when or if I would be able to go back to school. I was able to just get lost in the world that Lowry created and Rifkin brought to life.

I still have that copy.

That experience has always stuck with me. I don't remember that time as blood tests and IVs, but rather as the first time Jonas ever saw color.

If Lowry and Rifkin could do it for me, then maybe, just maybe, I could do it for someone else.

About Kristin James:
Kristin “KJ” James was born and raised in the Nashville, TN area. Acting has always been a passion of hers. Starting on the stage as early as preschool, KJ pursued her passion into college where she received a BA in Communication with a double emphasis in Theatre and Public Relations from Mississippi State University. After college she found herself more and more drawn to voice overs. Several classes, coaching sessions, seminars, research, and a closet-turned-studio later, and she now records and produces audiobooks on a regular basis. She has also done several radio commercials for clients such as Advance Financial, TriStar Health, and GAC.

When she’s not in her booth, you can find her crocheting, playing video games, or running agility with her dog, Zeus. If you’re unfamiliar with the sport, check out the video!

Follow Kristin James to keep up with her latest works:
Facebook:  KJ the Voice Actor
Twitter:  @KJtheVoiceActor
Her Site:  KJ the Voice Actor
Her works on Audible (you can listen to samples there as well!)

Kristin has offered up one of her audio books as a prize.
That's right, you get to pick which book you'd like from Kristin's narrations on Audible.
Fiction or Non-fiction. Urban Fantasy with Romance, Fantasy, Scifi Romance, and more to pick from!
Whether you are old hat and want to try a new voice, or new to audio books and would like to try Kristin. We are sharing with you all.
Please make sure you are able to listen to Audible in your country.


  1. What an interesting interview! I'm on the verge of getting into audio books, so this came at a great time. It's was fun to hear everything from a voice actors point of view. And Kristin's reasons for getting into such a career are very touching.

    1. Thank you T. Drecker. So glad you found this interview interesting. :) Best to you with getting into audio books. :)

  2. Great interview. Oh I love how you become enamored with voice acting and I also hated it. I hated that you had to go through that at such a young age. Glad you are doing well now... and I used to do dog agility with my pups too. :D

    1. Thank you for visiting Melissa (B&T). So glad you liked the interview. :)

  3. I love Audiobooks and I love that Kristin reads the books cover to cover to get into character. Thank you

    1. Thank you Linda Romer! So glad you stopped by. She does amazing at switching characters. Some people are amazingly talented that way. :) Good Luck!

  4. I'm an audiobook zombie. Love them! This post caught my eye because Kristin has narrated multiple Melanie Karsak novels and I follow her blog.

    1. Nice to meet you nrlymrtl. :) Hope to share many great audio books with you then. :)


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