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March 2, 2024

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Book Reviews, And Author Interviews

Bring Hillary Huber Thrillers And Women Rising From The Ashes Of Self-Destruction- Fourth Interview In My Narrator Series

Hillary Huber Interview

Hello, book lovers! Welcome to my fourth Audiobook Narrator interview, with Hillary Huber. Coincidentally, it is also my second phone interview.

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 Imogen Church, 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.

Hillary Huber, What Are You?

Yes. Let’s all do it together, every post! Shall we?

Audiobooks

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).

I prefer to call myself a narrator. I understand people feeling that that is less than what I do, but that’s the term I use.

What Your Friends Think You Do, What Your Friends Think You Do, What You Actually Do

What my friends think I do is kick back with a cup of tea and read really well-written, beautiful stories at my leisure. And what I really do is lock myself in a lonely little booth and often read books that I don’t like. I read many outstanding books, too, but it’s very hard work. It’s physically and mentally exhausting. It’s not just kicking back with a cup of tea and reading a book. The commitment it takes to the text is unwavering. And that is mentally and physically exhausting. It’s a marathon. I just think people who don’t do this can’t begin to understand that. There’s this romantic vision of us laying around reading a kid a story, but it’s a job. It’s a lot of work.

I am pretty disciplined in the way I approach this job. I actually was kind of undisciplined and was forced to become disciplined. So, I had to move my studio out of my house, and I like to think that I did that just because I 100% just wanted to, but it was a bit of a necessity, too. Because when the studio is in the house, you can work at any time of the day and night. I don’t want to work any time of the day or night. I want a separation of church of state.

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Hillary Huber’s Favorite Couch

I say undisciplined because something was always waiting to get my attention. Oh, I wonder if I should see if the mail came. I wonder if I should start my laundry now. You are always looking for something else to do. For almost ten years now, I’ve had an office, so I generally work between 10-4. I get to work by ten, record, take breaks, and have lunch. I have my little sofa, and I love it. Then I come home, and I’m done. I have to prep and read, but there’s no opportunity to just hop in the booth and do a little bit more. Because I don’t want that. I don’t want to record after dinner, everyone is like, you’re so disciplined. You go to work from 10-4. And I’m like, that’s because I’m not disciplined.

Full-Cast Recordings

Those are very, very seldom. I’ve only done that a few times in my 700 books. Usually, when we do a multi-cast book like that, you do your part yourself. It is very seldom that it is done like a play, line by line. It’s weird because you aren’t playing off anything. How do you know the inflection of your answer is going to match their question? It’s prohibitive to put us in the studio because you have to pay us by the hour.

Pandemic

I did miss the interaction. I think about that for the kids. One of my kids works strictly at home, and the other one now goes into the office four days a week. And I just think that is really important for them. And I just feel that it is really important for them to interact with people and the social aspect, meeting up for happy hours and stuff like that. If I were a kid, I would hate working at home.

I’m a social creature, and I love where my office is. It’s an old warehouse that was a ceramic company in the 50s. The previous tenants built within this 30-foot ceiling space these 10X10 offices all around the perimeter and then a grouping of them in the center. There is a kitchen and bathroom. The most significant change in the audiobook realm occurred because of covid. Prior to covid, you didn’t have access to publishers and producers unless you went to APAC or you went to a mixer. Since the pandemic and the rise in social media platforms like Zoom, Clubhouse, and Instagram, they are everywhere. I am really grateful that I started when I did and built a strong enough foundation. But there is no sitting back on my laurels ever. I am constantly learning, constantly trying to improve, constantly realizing that I need to stay relevant, do excellent work, and be kind and communicative.

Interview

Preparation

Read the book first. I read it once.  I want to keep it fresh and never have anything sound over-rehearsed. So you read it once, to know who the characters are, to know the red herrings, to know if there are any accents, to know where it is going, or if there is an unreliable narrator. There are all kinds of things you are looking for. Otherwise, you can get caught. So I read it once, and take a lot of notes, on all the characters, and words I need to look up. This way, when I do get in the booth I can just be a performer and not be a researcher, or director. I can just be the performer.

Narrating January 6th report

It was insane because we didn’t know when the report was going to drop and it was right before Christmas. And my mother was out here to visit and I had all these plans. Then the producers said, “We’ve got word it is coming on Tuesday”, Tuesday before Christmas, and it didn’t come on Tuesday. Then they said Wednesday and they kept doing this. So, I couldn’t go anywhere because the minute it dropped <not dropped in stores but with the narrators>, they sent me my pages and I had to run into the booth and do it. So, it kind of felt like we were under house arrest for a while. And then finally it dropped. And they said here are your pages… GO! There was something really exciting about being a part of that. You would record one section, upload it, and then record your next section. Meanwhile, your editor was editing and finding any errors you made in < that first section>. Then you went back and made those corrections before starting another section.

I didn’t feel any <extra responsibility re: January 6th report>. I always feel a huge sense of responsibility for the author and their book. There is no greater responsibility, as far as I’m concerned. You are taking this baby that someone spent however long to write and it is my job to interpret the words, get out of the way, and bring the story to life. I felt a great sense of pride being a part of it and a sense of importance in being a part of  The January 6th Report. But not  the same kind of responsibility I feel toward an individual author. That is a great question.

The first of a few times Hillary Huber was very kind to me and I blushed and even lost my train of thought!

Bloopers

Audiobooks

Well the greatest one is an email from a listener who said ‘I am listening to this book you narrated’ and it is really great but in Chapter 7, about 2.5 minutes in? All of a sudden you go ‘ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING, FUCK ME’. She said I don’t think that is apart of the text. I obviously made the same mistake four times because that’s when I do when that happens, I say ‘Are you fucking kidding me’? So, I went to the publisher and was like guys? You better go fix this.

Recently my computer has begun going AWOL and just erasing things and that is no fun, at all.

Author Relationships

That’s a great question too.

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It really varies. When I first started I loved to be in touch with the author. There is a selfish reason for it and a non-selfish reason for it. The non-selfish reason is I want their input and they can often provide you with insight that really helps your performance. Selfishly, I want them to know I’m invested and for them to like me. I think that goes a long way in making them happy if they know how invested I am.

I am always sure to tell them that my job is to get out of the way. If a friend is listening to one of my audiobooks I want them to forget it’s me after a few chapters. I am a vehicle for the author’s words and it’s important to me that I get out of the way and let their work shine.

We’re not always allowed to talk to the authors. Every publisher is different but often times it doesn’t even come from the publisher. It comes from the agent. I think from the publisher’s standpoint they have been burned by authors that get too involved in the process and direct and critique. So it is protection for us as the performer and for them as the author. In case they all of a sudden get a narrator that is hounding them.

Sometimes they don’t even get to choose their narrators. In the old days, they never chose the narrators. We were just given books. They would sell the rights to their books and that was it. Whoever bought the rights, could turn around and sell the audio rights. And they have no control over that. But once audiobooks started getting traction, authors were like ‘Wait. What the hell is going on here’? So they started putting it in their contract that when the audio rights were sold, they get a say in who read it. Sometimes they get presented with five narrators with audible clips, sometimes we do auditions, and sometimes I get requested by an author who has already heard me and likes my work, which is always nice.

Hillary Huber’s Favorites

My favorite character is Frankie Elkin from her series by Lisa Gardner. I love Frankie Elkin because she’s damaged. She’s a recovering alcoholic and she is a damaged protagonist. I love her sarcasm. She is a vagrant that travels around the country, finding missing people. She’s so well-written. I can do the sarcasm all day. I’m so happy Lisa Gardner is working on a new one right now.

I didn’t know there was a third Frankie Elkin novel in the works. I am with Hillary on this, the first two books were BRILLIANT.

The book that was the biggest surprise that I narrated was The Library of Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. I would never have picked this book up. It is kind of a fantasy book about this man who gathers his seven children and gives them all the world’s knowledge, on every single topic, and the most outrageous book I’ve ever narrated and outrageously violent. It is very polarizing. People either love it or hate it. And I would like to re-narrate that actually because I’m much better now. That book I was so immersed in it because it is just so outrageous.

Thrillers and memoirs are my favorite genres.

Some of my other favorite books to narrate have been books about women being abused, or compromised in some way. Give me a book about a girl who has gone off the rails and risen like a phoenix.

Give me your thrillers, your HistFic, your women rising from the ashes of self-destruction.

Are You Not Entertained?

I LOVE <narrating audiobooks). Moreover, I love the community. I love the people. They are my best friends at this point. We are all book lovers. What could be better than that? And when I’m doing a good book? I love it. Then when I do books I don’t like, it is hard. So you know it changes. Every day is something different.

Your Colleagues Would Like To Know…

Amy Landon: What inspired you to become an Audiobook Narrator?

How interesting. I see what you are doing.

I’m not stealthy. LOL

I can tell you exactly. I was in commercial voiceovers for ten years and two things happen.

First, I started asking myself, what am I doing all day? What beauty am I leaving on the planet? I never wanted to be an on-camera actor, but I always enjoyed acting. So I was like, is this what I’m acting? Commercials? It just wasn’t fulfilling at the end of the day.

Second, and more practically, I used to go to my agency every day and do auditions. I would see these older women come in and there would be an aura of desperation about them. They would sit there with one piece of copy, while I was sitting there with eleven pieces of copy.

It was a very palpable moment. And I thought, you know what? You gotta diversify. You will not be able to do the commercial thing forever. Not only is it aging. But it’s just, styles change, many things change in the commercial world. So I put those two together and thought about what could I do forever, what would be fulfilling and that was audiobooks. That was 18-19 years ago.

Imogen Church Wants To Know What You Do When Finishing A Book You Hate

A nice fat bourbon. I narrated the book A Very Stable Genius a few years ago about our self-proclaimed very Stable Genius, written by Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post. It was very disturbing and every day I’d come home and my husband would meet me at the door with a bourbon.

Hillary Huber: Say Anything

Don’t read audible reviews. I think that they are unworthy. Either they love it or hate it. One review will say I hated her, she’s the worst narrator I’ve ever heard and the next review wills say I thought she was an awesome narrator. So I don’t think that is the best way to judge the value of a book. A lot of times they are uninformed. And I’m thinking about that because I try not to read them but I did look recently. And it was for the second <Frankie Elkin> Lisa Gardner book and someone wrote that ‘I’m really offended by the way she did Haitian accents That isn’t how Haitians speak. I was instructed to give no accents in that book. I wasn’t allowed to do Boston or Haitian accents. And so you read that and think… hm, ok well thank you. We do the best we can with books that aren’t good.

A Very Generous Thank You From Hillary Huber

Thank you for this and for raising awareness for what we do. I’m grateful for that. It’s really important to us. We’re hard workers so thank you.

This has been all my pleasure!


About Hillary Huber

From her website, which is linked, below

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Hillary has recorded close to 700 audiobooks spanning many genres.  She is a multiple Audie Award finalist, multiple Earphone Award winner, Voice Arts Awards winner, and one of Audiofile Magazine’s best voices.  Hillary has a BA in English Literature and is a voracious reader and listener.  Likes: yoga, hip hop dancing, baking sourdough, bourbon. Dislikes: liver. Raised in conservative Connecticut and hippy Hawaii, Hillary now splits her time between Santa Monica and New York.  Most of that time is in a 4×4 padded room. Er…booth. Her superpower is reciting the alphabet backward.

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