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Rational Creature – a Jane Austen inspired anthology edited by Christina Boyd and narrated by Victoria Riley and Meet the Narrator

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Rational Creature – a Jane Austen inspired anthology is a collection edited by Christina Boyd and narrated by Victoria Riley.

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Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels are timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary – because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.

In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, 16 celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s heroines, brave adventuresses, shy maidens, talkative spinsters, and naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.

Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.

“Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; – that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” (Mary Wollstonecraft)

Stories by: Elizabeth Adams, Nicole Clarkston, Karen M Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Jessie Lewis, KaraLynne Mackrory, Lona Manning, Christina Morland, Beau North, Sophia Rose, Anngela Schroeder, Joana Starnes, Brooke West, and Caitlin Williams

About the Editor: Christina Boyd

CHRISTINA BOYD wears many hats as she is an editor under her own banner, The Quill Ink, a contributor to Austenprose, and a commercial ceramicist. A life member of Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two busy teenagers, and a retriever named BiBi. Visiting Jane Austen’s England was made possible by actor Henry Cavill when she won the Omaze experience to meet him in the spring of 2017 on the London Eye. True story. You can Google it.

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About the Narrator: Victoria Riley

Victoria Riley is a British voiceover artist and audiobook narrator.  Originally trained as a theatre actor, she gradually moved into voice work and is now happiest behind the mic.  She loves classic literature and travelling the world. If she isn’t recording, she’s probably lying in a hammock in some far-flung place, reading book after book after book.

Hi Victoria, and thank you for being here!

When did you know you wanted to be an audiobook narrator? 

Well, I’ve always said that I’d be happy to just sit in a cupboard all day reading books.  I didn’t know that I could actually do that and get paid for it. Dreams do come true, folks.

How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?

I’m actually a classically trained actress and was originally interested in theatre.  When I started out, audiobooks weren’t really a big thing and it didn’t occur to me as a career.  I gradually veered into voiceover and my first audiobook was through my VO agent. I then set up my own studio at home and audiobooks are just one of the things I work on.

A lot of narrators seem to have a background in theatre. Is that something you think is essential to a successful narration career? 

I wouldn’t say it’s essential, but it really, really helps.  We’ve been trained to analyse scripts and characters, to convey nuance and emotion.  With audiobooks, you have to do it all with your voice, though, so it is an added skill.  However, I do think that some people are natural storytellers. My Mum worked as a primary school teacher and I still remember the way she read books to me before bed.

What about this title compelled you to audition as narrator? 

I LOVE Jane Austen.  I love her female characters with their fire and intelligence.  To have such strong minds, but be so restricted with their options in life.  For marriage to be your only way forward when you have so much to offer the world.  It makes me feel claustrophobic just thinking about it. From a working perspective, this is also my first collection of short stories.  Short stories are a real art form. You have to draw the reader (or listener!) into the tale very quickly and make them care about the characters without the luxury of a whole novel in which to do it.  I really enjoyed each one being a separate little project, so I had a sense of closure and achievement after each one.

What types of things are harmful to your voice? 

I wouldn’t say I’m that careful with it to be honest.  I’ve had vocal training drummed into me for decades, so I think it really comes naturally to me to support my voice well and to speak from the diaphragm.  I’ve been trained to project to the back of a theatre, without a microphone, night after night after night. Some narrators get tired voices, but you can’t shut me up!

Who are your “accent inspirations”? 

Absolutely everybody!  I love accents. I have a broad Lancashire accent myself.  I hope you can’t tell from ‘Rational Creatures’! If I hear a good accent, someone on TV or in real life, I’ll be there mouthing the words, fascinated by how they’re forming the sounds.  Penelope Keith is a good one for very upper class ladies. Pam Ayres for West Country. Some elude me, though. My Cockney wanders all over the place, though you get a snippet of it in ‘Rational Creatures’.  My boyfriend has a London accent and sometimes he helps me with pronunciations. I’ll be texting him asking things like ‘Transport or traaaahnsport??’.

How did you decide how each character should sound in this title?  

Well, a lot of the characters are very well-known anyway, which helps.  I didn’t feel as though I was creating them from scratch. Most of them just jump off the page too.  There are simple things like class to consider. Also character traits, like arrogance, pomposity, shyness or humility, which affect voice and delivery.  I love a character that you can really embody. When it’s so obvious how they should sound that you don’t even really have to think about it. 

How does audiobook narration differ from other types of voiceover work you’ve done? 

It takes a REALLY long time, especially if you’re fully producing the work yourself.  It takes around six hours to produce one hour of finished audio, sometimes longer. That doesn’t even include all the prep work you have to do first, reading the work in full, researching characters and pronunciations, deciding on voices.  Editing takes forever, combing through the recording, editing out little sounds like mouth clicks or any particular noisy breaths. I also regularly do radio jingles, which is a good comparison, because it takes no time at all! Audiobooks are not for the faint-hearted.

If you could narrate one book from your youth what would it be and why?  

Apart from absolutely everything by Jane Austen?  I have so many author heroes! However, if it’s from my youth, then I’m going to plump for Roald Dahl’s ‘The Witches’.  His stories are so evocative and he doesn’t shy away from darker themes. I was born in Pendle Witch country, so this one struck a particular chord with me.

Any funny anecdotes from inside the recording studio? 

We’ve all done silly things.  Giving an Oscar-worthy performance, then realising you haven’t pressed record.  Stuffing a cushion up your jumper to stop tummy rumbles reaching the mic. Gradually getting more naked as you stifle in the booth in summer.  We’ve all done it.

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