When Iambik picked up the contract to do an audiobook of Outer Diverse (Book 1 of The Splintered Universe Trilogy by Starfire), I was already excited. I had no idea how fun and fulfilling the experience was going to be.
Iambik provided me with a few voice artists to narrate Outer Diverse. Something about Dawn’s voice—how she spoke as Rhea Hawke—resonated with me. I was vindicated a thousand fold in selecting her to be the “voice” for Outer Diverse. Working with Dawn was a pleasure. Dawn is a dedicated professional; she created unique and consistent voices for the book’s thirty-odd mostly alien characters. She ensured that each character had the appropriate vernacular, tone, accent and cadence. Then she did proofs and confirmed them with me. She also tackled the “alien” vocabulary; Rhea’s universe is full of strange and foreign terms. Dawn sent me a list to make sure she was pronouncing everything correctly—mostly made-up words. This lady is dedicated to her craft and her art!
I recently invited her to my sentient ship for a pockta nectar and a chat about her world. Here’s a snippet of the interview (she’s also a lawyer so I had to condense the 30-odd pages into these; I’m sure you appreciate that. For a small fee I will send you a full version of the interview.)
SF Girl: Outer Diverse is the first book in The Splintered Universe Trilogy. What was the first thing you thought of when you read Outer Diverse? What do you think of Rhea Hawke? She’s had quite a ride already in Book 1. Will she make it to Book 3? (cheeky grin)
Dawn: Outer Diverse is the first full-length novel I have ever voiced. When I auditioned for it, I had only a page or two of the book to review so imagine my shock and surprise upon reading the book and realizing that I was going to be voicing over 30 different characters from over 20 different species! So, my first thought upon completing my first read was, OMG—what have I gotten myself into!?! I love Rhea. She is so strong yet also so fragile; like many of us. She is also headstrong, determined and fearless. I guess I can relate to her as I am also all of those things. People don’t usually see the fragile in either of us but it is certainly there. And yes, she will make it to Book 3. At least she’d better!
SF Girl: How do you prepare yourself for a reading? Do you have a protocol that you follow?
Dawn: Most of my training has been with Pat Fraley and Vanessa Hart but I have also trained with Scott Brick, Jeffrey Kafer, Kathy Garver and many others. In the end, you have to come up with the process that works best for you. I’m a real spreadsheet girl. The first thing I do is read the book, cover to cover, to get a feel for the characters and the story. I then go through the book again and start making my spreadsheets which set out information about the characters including any personal characteristics described in the book by the narrator, the character himself and anyone else in the book that interacts with or talks about the character. When I have all of that information gathered, I then complete a matrix on each character that addresses voice characteristics for each. From those characteristics, I come up with each character’s voice. Then, I’m ready to begin actually recording
SF Girl: How long can you read for any stretch? What are the best things about readings? What are the worst things?
Dawn: When I was a kid, all of my report cards said “Dawn is a good student but she talks too much” so I guess I’ve always been in training. So far, I haven’t hit the limit of how long I can read. I take my laptop down into my booth and start working…I get totally lost in the reading. I’ve always loved reading out loud. I have absolutely no idea why it took me so long to figure out I could do this for a living as I’ve been listening to audiobooks for years. They’re great for long car trips with kids.
SF Girl: What equipment do you use for narration?
Dawn: My recording software is Twisted Wave and I record on an Apple lap top. My audio interface is an Apogee One and my mic an MXL-990. Been thinking about upgrading that lately. I read the text using my iPad. I edit on a desktop Mac using Rokit 5 speakers. Yes, I have drunk all of the Apple kool-aid. It is better than a PC for doing audio and video work and so it has taken over my world.
SF Girl: You did at least twenty distinctive voices in Outer Diverse. Voices ranged from a New Jersey-like accent for a Xhix to a multi-timbral resonance for a Venik trader. How did you decide on which one to use and how do you keep it all consistent in your head?
Dawn: I take my character clues from the script. I felt the need to run my final decision for the characters by the author; as this is part of a three book series, and I didn’t know what was coming in books 2 and 3, I felt it was very important to do this. I’d hate to get to book three and then find out that character XYZ was supposed to have a lisp! In the case of this book, I grouped the characters by species. I felt it was important to have a “sameness” to the voices of the species and then could vary each character within the confines of their particular species. The easiest way for me to keep consistency for each character is to give each a “representational” character. So, for example, the voice of Rhea’s boss, is my version of Lou Grant from the old Mary Tyler Moore series. He may not sound like Lou Grant to anybody else, and it’s probably better if he doesn’t, but when I do MY impersonation of Lou Grant, the voice comes out the same every time. So, that really works for me. The hard part is coming up with the representational character to go with the description I have of the character. So, sometimes, I have to modify it somehow like maybe a character would be Lou Grant if he talked out of the right side of his mouth or in a higher pitch, for example. Every time you add a little twist like that, you get a new character voice. I had a multi-tabbed spreadsheet to help me as well. One tab listed all of the characters and the chapters they were in with color-coding to remind me of what species they were. Another tab had each character’s voice description and representational character. So, when I went into the studio with a plan of which chapters I would be reading, I could quickly see which characters were in those chapters and then familiarize myself with their voices before I started. If one had spoken several chapters ago, I could also go back to that earlier chapter and just refresh my memory of that voice. Don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t a lot of work!
SF Girl: What was the most challenging voice in Outer Diverse and why?
Dawn: The most challenging voice for me was Shlsh Shle She. He was described as having a squealing, slobbery, mushy voice like he had a mouth full of wet food. His speaking apparatus was made up of a number of wet folds resembling female genitalia. It was a real challenge to honour his physical characteristics while still being understood. Not much point in speaking if the listener can’t understand what I’m saying. I cringed when I did my character analysis and realized how many lines he had! Apparently it all worked out ok in the end but that was scary!
Sf Girl: What is your favorite voice in Outer Diverse and why?
Dawn: My favorite voice is Benny, Rhea’s ship. He’s my version of C3PO from Star Wars. I just love his character and he has the same name as my youngest son who, though named Benjamin, decided he was to be called Benny when he was 5 years old. At 15, he’s still Benny! I just loved the coincidence.
SF Girl: Tell us a little about the process with Iambik from receiving the book in your hands to the final proofs and edits.
Dawn: Iambik sends me the book, we agree on a delivery deadline and sign a contract. Iambik loads the book up into a shared Dropbox folder and I download it and start my review. After I have recorded and edited a chapter, I upload it to the same Dropbox folder. A proof listener reviews the file and sends me any corrections required. I do the corrections and upload it again. They check it again. This continues until all is well and is repeated for each chapter. We work from a shared spreadsheet (see, spreadsheets are my life) so we can keep track of where we are with each chapter. Once all of the chapters are complete, Iambik compiles them into one document to be ready for download and releases then to the public.
SF Girl: Have you ever turned down a narration job and why?
Dawn: Yes, but so far only because I didn’t have time to fit it into my schedule.
SF Girl: Tell us about Poker Girls…
Dawn: Poker Girls is a 1/2 hour crime drama whose central character is Summer, an undercover cop, who uses the game of poker to catch unsuspecting criminals. I play Theresa, an alcoholic judge who was just recently kicked off of the bench by her boss, Sophia, played by Judy Norton (Mary Ellen from the Waltons). Poker Girls began as a film making apprenticeship assignment and morphed into a webseries and now a TV series. The creator, writer and executive producer, Jewelle Colwell, who also plays the lead role of Summer, has put her heart, soul and a lot of money into making this happen billion! You can find us on Facebook if you’d like to make contact with Jewelle (Poker Girls, TV Series).
SF Girl: Dawn, you are BOSS! Are there any awards or accolades out there for voice artist? If so, can you name them so I can vote you in. Also, how can we help promote Dawn Harvey? How can people show their appreciation for your fantastic voice and dedicated artistry?
Dawn: There are awards. Those I know of are the Audies (the academy awards of Audiobooks), the Audiophile Earphone awards and you can become a Golden Voice. I think the latter requires a few more books in the “amazing” category than I have so far – LOL. Someday. I looked in Wikipedia and it lists five awards, the Audies, Galaxy National Book Awards, Odyssey Award, Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album, and TDK Australian Audio Book Awards. I don’t know about all of the other awards but I do know that for the Audies, the 2012 deadline for books released by the end of July is Aug 31 but the submission has to be made by the publisher. That’s about all I know.
As far as helping me, the best you can do is download the book, listen to it, love it, tell all of your friends about it. You can contribute reviews to the Iambik site and you can contribute reviews there as well. You could also put comments on my website, DawnofVoice.com.
SF Girl: Thanks so much for joining me here on my ship and answering all my annoying questions.
Dawn: Thanks for giving me this opportunity to spew forth ad nauseum.
SF Girl: No problem. I’ve been having some issues with parking my ship lately—orbit taxes and such—so, I might be coming to you for advice…
Dawn: Sure. I’d be happy to help.
You can read the interview in its entirety on The Alien Next Door (all 60 pages–I told you she was a lawyer!–just joking.)
You can hear a sample of Dawn’s work on “Outer Diverse”: Chapter 17, where Rhea meets up with Zec, her old partner in crime, is showcased at the end of my interview on Vancouver COOP Radio. You can also listen to the Prologue, on my Tumblr site, SF Girl.
To get your copy of the audiobook go to the Iambik Audiobook site. Purchase your copy for $6.99 and enjoy some pure entertainment. Thanks, Dawn.