Khristine Hvam has told me stories about Zombies, fallen angels, Post Apocalyptic Wastelands and Tree Cats. She is one of the most consistent performers in the industry and whenever I see her name attached to a project I know I will be in good hands. All her hard work has recently paid off in an Audio Award for Hachette Audios production of Laini Taylor’s The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Khristine was kid enough to answer some of my questions today.
So, we’ll start off easy. Could you tell me how you got started in the audiobook industry, and give me a bit of an overview of your career?
Khristine Hvam: Like so many of us, I started off on one road and somehow took a turn that landed me right where I never knew I wanted to be. Kind of like getting lost on a country road and finding an beautiful vineyard, where they just happen to be having an amazing wine tasting, and today its free and open to the public. That’s sort of how I found audio books. I was on the road to a career in voice over and a director friend of mine said, “I gave your information to Audible, expect a call.” Next thing I knew… I’m an audio book narrator.
I’ve also been blessed to work all over the entertainment world. I’ve worked in documentaries, I produced morning radio, of course as most actors… I bartended (lol), and now voice over, where I seem to be having the most success. You’ll find my voice in video games (WOW and Motion Explosion), Animations (Poke’mon), and TV and Radio commercials. I’m a very lucky lady!
Besides audiobooks, you have voiced characters in animation and video games, and done commercial voice over work. How much of your voice talent is natural, and how much is it hard work and training?
Khristine Hvam: Hmmmmmmm… I don’t know. I always fear this question. Truth is… In the beginning I was kind of winging it (don’t tell anyone). I had taken a few years of acting in college, and then some coaching in voice over when it became obvious that’s what I wanted to do… but really, I’m just a goofy girl that likes to play, so I found the one career path that would let me do that. The only real answer to this question is… ALL of the above. Natural talent molded and shaped with training and brought to life with hard work. “Success happens when preparation meets opportunity” Don’t know who said it… but they were right.
Recently you narrated Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, which went on to win the Audie for Fantasy. Now, I have to admit of the three Audie categories I listened to and predicted this was the one I missed. *sadface* Yet, it was a beautifully story full of strange creatures, stunning visuals and exotic settings. Tell us a little bit about working on this book, and the challenges you faced bringing it to life.
Khristine Hvam: There were no challenges to this project in all honesty. It was one of those perfect storm situations, where everything just sort of came together. The team of people at Hachette that I was fortunate enough to work with were amazing, we all loved the material, and our visions for the characters were all on the same page. It was a great project to work on and I’m very much looking forward to the next in the series.
My first experience with your narration was with Peter Cline’s Ex-series, which was a multi-narrator production, where you handled POV’s but also isolated dialogue from the female characters. While this style has some drawbacks, it also gave it an interesting comic book feel that fit the story. When you work on multi-narrator productions, how often do you actually get to interact with the other narrators? Would you actually prefer more interaction, or working in isolation for the other narrators?
Khristine Hvam: It’s always better when we work together. The performances are more authentic this way. You’re listening and reacting to the other performer, how could this not be great?! During this project we were able to do just that. At one point we had four narrators in the booth at once, it was nuts! I think we spent more time cracking each other up than actually recording. Unfortunately, for many multi-cast reads you’re on your own. It’s hard to get all those schedules to line up. When this is the case there’s just a bit more prep, like listening to the others performances, chatting with them ahead of time to make sure everyone is on the same page. And of course, great direction is key!
You have performed a variety of different genres, both in YA and adult, but speculative fiction (science fiction/fantasy) seems to be the genre you work in the most. Are you a Science Fiction or Fantasy fan yourself? Do you have a favorite genre to work in?
Khristine Hvam: I would say the YA/Fantasy mix is my favorite to work with. In the last several years, some amazing writing is happening in this genre. It has been filled with strong female characters, interesting and well thought out plots, and loads of creepy and bizarre sidekicks that make this voice over chick giddy. So I’d say, yup, this is my favorite.
As for what I choose to read in my spare time… I’m all over the map. Right now I’m reading the Stieg Larsson books. But, truth be told there’s not much time for casual reading in my world. When you read 6-8 hours a day… well, you get the point.
One of my favorite titles you worked on was David Weber’s A Beautiful Friendship, which was a spin-off of the popular Honor Harrington series and notable for it being the first time anyone voiced Treecats. With human characters, you can use things like ethnicity, physical descriptions and personality to come up with a voice, how do you go about developing voices for a fictional species?
Khristine Hvam: Yes, this was a good one. Often times the author tells you what these kinds of characters sound like. Perhaps not specifically, but the same way in which they tell you how human characters sound. It’s how they choose to phrase things, the way in which the characters handle themselves and behave. All these things contribute to their “sound”. Often times, as I am prepping the material, I “hear” what that character sounds like in my mind, and then try to create that same sound in the booth. I suppose these types of voices really come from my imagination. Can you remember being a child and playing pretend? “I’m a mermaid! With flowing blue hair and a shiny green and gold tail!” … I guess I just never grew out of it.
What are some surprising facts about the audiobook industry and recording audiobooks that causal listeners may not realize?
Khristine Hvam: This is a tough question Bob! I can only tell you what I didn’t realize when I first started in audio books. 1. Its’ the hardest Voice Over work there is. It takes extreme focus, dozens of hours of preparation, and forces you to pull from all your creative juices. Like marathon running for VO. 2. People really love it and they are very loyal when they discover they like you as a narrator. (and we as narrators are honored and humbled because of this) 3. The actual recording of a book is pretty short. Just double the length of your audio book and that’s how long it took to record it. 4. Most importantly, that there are many people involved in making an audio book. It’s not just the narrator. It’s directors, producers, engineers, editors, QC people, acquisitions people, publishers, THE AUTHOR, and of course the listener that make the audio book experience a great one. So when you review a book, keep all those people (and the many more who aren’t mentioned) in your thoughts as you love it or leave it.
What is the strangest character or creature that you have been asked to voice?
Khristine Hvam: OH MY… there are so many to choose from! My experience in the audio book world has provided me with a wealth of strange characters, so many of which stand out in my mind. Razgut from “Daughter of Smoke and Bone,” really stands out the most I think. A fallen angel who was once beautiful, now mangled and lame, slithering and crawling and doing anything he can to survive… he was pretty creepy. As a matter of fact I can remember when we were recording his sections in the studio, I had looked up at some point after reading him and the producer/director and engineer were making these cheeped out “ick” faces while shaking their heads… and I KNEW I had found Razgut’s voice. Anytime you elicit a physical reaction from someone… you’ve gotta be on the right track.
Is there any one book that you would consider the highlight of your career?
Khristine Hvam: “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” has really been the highlight. Great material, wonderful author, amazing production team, and I won my very first Audie with this one… how could it not be the highlight?!
When not bringing stories to life for our listening pleasure, what kinds of things do you enjoy doing?
Khristine Hvam: All sorts of things! I’m all about my family and friends and love spending my time with them. I’m a big fan of the outdoors so you might find me hiking and biking. I’m recently married (a year and a half now) and my hubby and I love to travel and see the world together. As a matter of fact we are in the process of planning our next trip! Any suggestions??
If someone wrote the story of you life, who would you want to read the audiobook version?
Khristine Hvam: If someone wrote the story of my life I think I’d be so psyched that my life was interesting enough to write about that I wouldn’t even think about who would read it. But, you know what might be interesting… having each of my close friends and family members take a section, and get their take on things… they do know me best. And who better to tell the tales than the people who lived it with me?
Finally, do you have any upcoming projects, audiobooks or otherwise, that you are particularly excited about?
Khristine Hvam: I get pretty excited about all the projects I work on and right now I’m prepping a good one called “Osiris”… looks pretty interesting so far… keep a look out!
Bob, I’d like to take a moment to say something to you and the rest of the listeners…
Thank you. Really thank you. So many times I’ve woken up to a strange name in my inbox. A listener, so moved by one of my projects that they took the time to find me and tell me so. I want you to know that I spend the rest of my day with a smile on my face. And when hubby comes home, I share it with him, and I put that email in a special saved folder so I’ll always have it. It’s like my very own rock star moment and it means a great deal to me. Also, Thank you… sincerely thank you to those of you who might NOT like a performance. Your critiques help me discover areas to improve and change and make me a stronger performer and person. Much love.