Imogen Church Interview
Hello! Welcome to my second audiobook narrator interview, with actor Imogen Church.
Here’s the story (and I’ll repeat this throughout April). On the last Tuesday of the month, I’m participating in Top Ten Tuesday’s favorite narrators. With that in mind, I decided to do a little hunting and try something new: Narrator Interviews. So, buckle up buttercup! This is going to be a ride.
Throughout April interviews will also be posted with Karissa Vacker, Hillary Huber, Amy Landon, and Angela Dawe (not in any specific order). Then for Top Ten Tuesday, they will be a part of the round-up post, as well as a few others.
What Are You?
Yes. Let’s all do it together, every post! Shall we?
I gave a list of general titles- narrator, actor, voice-over, etc… to find out exactly what narrators are (they aren’t cartographers or Sun Summoners, sorry, Darkling).
Do you have somewhere to go to record or do you record in your home?
What was that like during the pandemic?
Pre-pandemic I already worked from home a lot, but also went to studios in person, mostly in London. Obviously, that went away during the pandemic, and even now, 95% of my work is from my home studio, which I love. My booth is a soundproofed room in my garage, full of sound blankets, foam squares, carpet, and a combination fan/heater for all temperatures!
Within that room, my microphone, tablet, and head are within a soundproofed box called an Isovox (see below)for an extra layer of sound protection, although even all that can’t defeat a fighter jet or a motorbike outside my house. But in general, it works brilliantly.
Isovox- Pre-built, Portable vocal booth, pro sound at home, eliminates unwanted room sound. Also, that is not Imogen Church
I don’t live in London, so working from home means a vast amount less travel, which means more family time, and a calmer quieter life; the pandemic gave me a greater work/life balance! I even do full-cast dramas from my home studio, where some actors will be in the studio in London, but a fair few dial in from homes all over the place.
On an important note, this ability to work from other cities (not London, New York, LA, etc…) enables actors to move out to smaller hubs, where there can hopefully afford to buy a home and live a more productive, creative life as an artist because they can afford to live, so I’m all for it! I mean… have you SEEN property prices in London!?
No. But I did live in Brooklyn for 32 years and Colorado for 3. I’m back in St. Louis, partially because I can afford to do so… you know afford to live.
Otherwise, I would just breathe and pay rent.
What Your Friends Think You Do, What Your Friends Think You Do, What You Actually Do
The life of a narrator is a dream life, for me, but I suspect a lot of people would struggle. It is (especially now) very isolated, quiet, creative, and exhausting. Most of my days consist of walking the dog, then sitting in my tiny black box sound booth and reading stories out loud for hours and hours. After which, I re-emerge and have to exercise the stress and tension out of my body before, often, reading for work in the evening. Obviously, I do see my family somewhere in there, but my job is fairly all-consuming, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
I expect my friends and family think I read books in a state of child-like bliss all day, romping in a metaphorical mind meadow. However, the toll on your whole body is intense, due to the insane levels of concentration required for an audiobook (totally different from an audio drama) and the extraordinarily taxing nature of fully committing to a story and the characters. If someone told you to sit in a windowless room and read, out loud, the trials of women being abused, assaulted, and murdered all day, including you having to act out those scenes as though you were living them… well, you get the idea. I jump for joy when I get booked for comedy!
Thank you to the actor, Imogen Church, for agreeing to this interview.
Funniest or biggest recording- you or equipment or anything?
I mean, I’d love to meet the home studio narrator who HASN’T gotten partway through a chapter before noticing they forgot to press record… so that’s just basic. Often, I make quite rude misspeaks that I try to put on Twitter because they make me laugh, which brings me to one of my biggest failings as an actor… I make myself corpse ALL THE TIME! ‘Corpsing’ is when you or a fellow actor does something so funny that it makes you laugh, not in-character-laugh, but just laugh as yourself, the actor, taking you completely out of the performance. I do this to myself all the time, mostly (but not always) when I’m narrating comedy and coming up with outrageously silly voices for characters.
I’ve been doing this for so long that I like to push myself to find new and inventively daft character voices that I can commit to fully and get away with. For example, I once managed to shoe-horn in the voice of Miss Poogy from The Moopets (not Miss Piggy, Miss Poogy – watch the 2011 The Muppets movie if you need help here) into a book and I really struggled to get through the lines without howling with laughter.
Also, one time, in the middle of recording an actual butterfly came out of hibernation from within my booth and flew into my face. I screamed and then hooted with laughter. So, that.
Preparation And Routines
Preparation is definitely the key to doing good work. There’s no way you can narrate a book well without prepping it first, so each book gets one thorough read-through with notes, annotations and character ideas. There are almost always words you need to check the pronunciation of, and I always err on the side of ignorance, even with words I think I know how to pronounce. I still, even now, regularly learn that I’ve been mispronouncing words my whole life!
Also, if there are character or word questions you need to ask the author, then you need to give some time for that because everyone’s busy, but taking the time to do all this will definitely make a better audiobook, so it’s worth it. Also, it will minimize your mistakes, which will make everyone happy and lead to more jobs!
In a very practical way, I used to do more in-depth warm-ups to protect my voice from damage, but I work so much now, that I’m constantly warm. Having said that, if I have a week or two off for school holidays with my son, I will then do some in-depth humming on my first day back, usually while walking the dog, which can earn you some looks/amusement/respect, but that’s all part of the job.
Imogen Church Sample From Stay Awake By Megan Goldin
Thank you to Macmillan Audio For Providing This Clip of Imogen Church Reading Stay Awake By Megan Goldin (which won’t center to save my life).
Favorite Books And Characters?
That question is TOO HARD! I’ve recorded hundreds of books and there have been some standouts, but too many to mention by far! Because I’m so busy and a parent too, my brain can be like a sieve most days.
So, I’m going to take the easy way out and say that I just finished narrating the new Ruth Ware book ‘Zero Days’ and it blew my TINY MIND!!!! I mean, it was like narrating an actual fireball, and by the end of my three days in the studio, I needed intravenous alcohol, a week of sleep, and probably some therapy. It is going to knock everyone sideways, so GET ON THAT!
There is something very personally cathartic and exciting about narrating crime, but my most joyful days are always narrating comedy. I love to narrate non-fiction because I love to learn, but non-fiction is the hardest stuff to work on, it’s so dense and you don’t skip along with drama and dialogue. I’ve worked on so many different genres, I feel very lucky in that respect, and in turn, I always try to respect the genre, in terms of tone, characterizations, pace, and emphasis. I’m not going to narrate dark fantasy like it’s Bridget Jones…
Who Are Your Favorite Contemporaries? What Would You Ask Them?
I listen to audiobooks, but often it will be non-fiction and biography/memoir, which (bizarrely) is something I never read on paper, but love on audio. Having said that, Edoardo Ballerini reading the Robert McCammon books is a legend, and Bahni Turpin reading The Hate U Give and On The Come Up by Angie Thomas are phenomenal.
If I were you, I would ask them which book did they loathe narrating so much that it felt like pulling their own teeth out, because I KNOW I’ve had those…. and how did they get to the end without breaking down in tears? Again, I often follow those experiences with a celebratory glass of wine or cocktail. Also, chocolate.
About Imogen Church
I’m an award-winning actor and writer who narrates audiobooks like an absolute boss!!!!
Me: No lies detected.
4 thoughts on “Part Two In My Narrator Series Profiles Actor Imogen Church- Who Has Been Attacked By A Butterfly”