Narrative Undertones: My Interview With Piper Goodeve

7 06 2011

Piper Goodeve may be new to the field of narration, but listening to her audible.com debut Allison Hewitt is Trapped: A Zombie Novel by Madeleine Roux, you would never know it. Piper took some time out of her busy schedule and answered some questions from me.

Bob: As I understand it, Allison Hewitt is Trapped was your first time narrating an audiobook. How did you become interested in audiobook narration? How did your job with Audible come about?

Piper: Allison Hewitt was my first audiobook, it’s true.  I met Kat Lambrix from Audible last fall at the studio where I teach acting and she teaches a voiceover class.  She let me sit in on her classes and I fell in love with the work.  I had never listened to an audiobook before!  But once I started I found I really loved what the actors were doing/were able to do with their voices and with the characters. I have always loved reading and telling stories; I was a Dramatic Literature major in undergrad, my mom is a librarian, and my dad is always reading, so I think a passion for books and stories has always just be in me.  My mom told me recently that when I was little she would find me up in my room, sitting on a cushion, reading out loud to myself (or some stuffed animals).  It seems a logical transition from that to narration! Kat brought me into Audible to meet Mike Charzuk and I read about 6 short pieces for him in the studio. He called me the very next morning with a book offer, but I had to pass on that one because I was doing a show at the McCarter and couldn’t find time to get into the studio with my schedule.  Thankfully he called again in January with Allison Hewitt. He told me it was a big book with lots of characters so to bring my A game.  I wanted to say, "This is my first book!  I don’t have a game at all!"  I was very honored he trusted me with such a book on my first project. 

Bob:  Before becoming a narrator for

Audible.com you have appeared in multiple plays in New York and other regional theatres. Tell me about some of your favorite roles.

Piper: Favorites are hard because each character has to be your favorite while you are playing it or you will be miserable, at least in my experience.  But some recent roles I loved are Shelia in Hair at the Hangar Theater, and Anne in Anne of Green Gables that I did Off-Broadway a few years ago.  That role is so special to me.  It isn’t often in this business that you get to create a role from scratch.  I did the first workshop of the show in 2006, the world premiere in 2007, the cast recording in 2008 and just last month went up with some other cast members to see a production of it at a theater in Westchester and give a talk back to the kids.  It is a show that this very special to me in many ways.  I met some amazing people and lifelong friends while doing it.. 

Bob: Unlike stage acting, there is no audience to feed off of when narrating an audiobook. Is that something you missed when recording and if so, how did you overcome it?

Piper: I love the energy and the relationship of actor and audience in live theater, and though it is true that there is no direct audience in the booth with me while recording, I do imagine what it would sound like to hear it, what it would be like to be sitting in my living room listening or driving in a car while hearing the story.  I try to imagine that clearly, and I feel that that is, though different, a kind of relationship with the audience in its own way.  You’re creating an experience for them in the way you tell the story.

 
Bob: What was your feeling when you found out your first audiobook project would involve zombies? Are you a horror/zombie fan?

Piper: I was excited but also very out of my element.  I had never read a zombie or horror book before at all.  I gravitate more to classics like The Great Gatsby or to memoirs. However, I am a very curious person and I think one major reason I became an actress (and now narrator) is that I love all the possibilities for learning new things I would never have learned about otherwise.  I did a lot of research for Allison, prowled the internet, watched Youtube videos of zombies and stuff like that.  I wanted to know as much as possible about that genre before going in, especially because it was so foreign to me. 

    
Bob: You really seemed to embrace the character of Allison Hewitt in your reading, but what really impressed me was your handling of the peripheral characters. How difficult was it to find voices for characters a female actress normally wouldn’t play?

Piper: Thank you!  I loved Allison.  I felt a connection to her immediately, partly because of her love of books and language.  She was just a cool woman! The peripheral characters (and there were a lot of them!) were interesting and challenging.  They were challenging for lots of reasons but mostly because of how many there were.  I had to come up with many distinct voices that weren’t fake or foolish.  I had some great help from Madeleine in that she wrote certain characters with dialects.  That made it easier to be specific and different.  I really spent a lot of time thinking about how different people speak, and not just in terms of pitch, but often more in terms of rhythm and cadence.  I have found it very helpful for me to imagine clearly a person I know in real life (or a celebrity whose work I am very familiar with) and match them to characters.  I just did a character in a recent book that I pictured as my history teacher from high school!  He had a specific way of speaking that suited this character perfectly.  That type of specific imagery I find essential when narrating.  I do think it is challenging for women to do male voices and that is something I am trying to get better at.. 

Bob: If someone wrote the story of your life, who would you like to narrate it?

Piper: Great question!  Well, I love a lot of people’s voices, but I think maybe Glenn Close or Rachel Griffiths. Strong women with a sort of twinkle of mischief in their voices. 🙂

  
Bob: Tell me about your upcoming projects for audible.com.

Piper: I am in the midst of recording three books in a series by Kalayna Price.  It is a vampire/shape shifter series.  The first two books are complete now and should be out in early summer.  I’ll record the third book sometime in the beginning of July.  It’s a lot different doing a series than just a single book.  Tracking all the characters (and there are about 25-30 in this one just in the first two books) throughout the books takes time and focus.  Also, you have to read the whole series before you start recording the first one because there is no telling if a small character in book one will come back as the lead in book two or three!  I have fallen totally in love with this work, and I look forward to more projects in the future. 

Allison Hewitt is Trapped: A Zombie Novel by Madeleine Roux is available for download from Audible.com

Check out my review of Allison Hewitt is Trapped.

Learn more about Piper Goodeve at her site: PiperGoodeve.com





Audiobook Review: Allison Hewitt is Trapped: A Zombie Novel by Madeleine Roux

13 05 2011

Allison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux

Read by Piper Goodeve and a Full Cast

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: A highly entertaining look at the search for safety and happiness in a brutal world, performed wonderfully by the narrator.

Grade: B+

I expect to be reviewing a lot of Zombie based audiobooks over the next few weeks. With the Audible Frontiers association with Permuted press, 5 novels based on the undead were just released this week. Joe McKinney’s Dead City trilogy is being release the end of this month, and Mira Grant’s follow-up to her Hugo nominated Feed, titled Deadline is also on its way. So, I have declared May to be Zombie Appreciation Month. The first entry in my Zombie reviewing extravaganza is Allison Hewitt is Trapped: A Zombie Novel by Madeleine Roux. As we are beginning to see more frequently, Allison Hewitt is Trapped got its start as an internet serial, whose success lead to a book deal. Personally, I like this trend, this unorthodox path to publishing.  I know there are probably those out there that feel the internet has lead to the bastardization of the publishing industry, yet, those people probably don’t enjoy stories of a brain eating undead apocalypse, so who cares what they say. For me, the most important thing is not what the origin of the novel is, but whether or not it is any good.

Zombies have become such an entertainment staple, with a multitude of movie, books, comics and even a hit series, that there seems to be push with horror writers to give there zombies a twist. For example, Brian Keene’s Zombies are actually corpses possessed by demons. Then there are Stephen King’s hive mind zombies in Cell. Madeleine Roux sticks with tradition Zombies and I am glad she did. Without having to spend time explaining the twits and turns of her version of zombies we can get right to what shines brightest in her tale, the characters. Roux’s story is structured like a series of blog entries, like JL Boune’s Day by Day Armageddon, but they read as a solid narrative detailing the struggles of the changing Zombified world. Allison Hewitt is quite a compelling character, she is in no way the superhero flawless protagonist, but a flawed human living is an increasingly inhuman world. You can feel her shocked horror as she is forced to do things she would never have considered herself able to do. It’s not a surprise that the majority of the males, whether her companions, or the commenters on her blog seem to be in love with her on some level. For those worried that this is a cutesy take on the post apocalyptic zombie genre, no need to worry, while the gore isn’t overwhelming there are plenty of brutal moments for the zombie enthusiast. What I liked most about Allison Hewitt is Trapped is it seems an everyman/women approach to the genre, not full of gun toting Special Ops types and brilliant scientist trying to save the world, but a group of normal yet endearing characters trying to find safety, and a home.

Piper Goodeve is the main narrator for this tale, and I sort of feel like I may have a crush on her voice. For someone relatively new to the industry she reads the story like a veteran. Her voice is perfect for Allison, not the sultry seductress, or the stoic stateswomen, but just a solid everywoman. Her characterizations are strong as well, whether it is the soft English tones on the radio, or an ornery horny doctor, she finds the right tone for them, without making them into caricatures. The production used a multitude of unaccredited voice actors to handle the blog commentors. While I liked this, I wasn’t a huge fan of the sound of typing in the background, it just seemed unnecessary. My favorite commentors where the fiery Reverend, Brooklyn Girl, and the strong, yet soft spoken Isaac who seemed to serve as almost a stabilizing force for Allison. If you are looking for a bloody gory Zombie kill fest were chopping of heads is more important the overall story, you may not enjoy Allison Hewitt is Trapped, but if you want a highly entertaining look at the search for safety and happiness in a brutal world, I recommend you check it out.