I’ve been a fan of British television for years. Due to the wonderful service provided by PBS, my eyes (and ears) were opened early in life to shows like Mystery, Masterpiece Theater, Doctor Who, and (because my Dad had a good sense of humor) Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Dave Allen at Large, and Fawlty Towers. As a 6 year old I spent equal amounts of time with Big Bird and Mr. Rogers as I did with the Daleks and Miss Marple.
At college I studied Shakespeare and Victorian Literature. I watched (and listened to) hundreds of hours of plays and films produced by some of the greatest British directors and filled with British actors/actresses. And, of course, on my college radio station I heard the serialized version of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for the first time.
Fast forward a few years. I publish my first steampunk mystery novel, Unquiet Dead. I naturally want to include an audio book version. I determine that Audible, which is associated with Amazon, is the place to go. And since it is set in a neo-Victorian society, I want a British voice actor.
Let me first state that I know there are different dialects in Britain, just as there are in the U.S. Listening to a speaker and being able to identify if he/she is from New York, Chicago, Austin, New Orleans, and so forth is something that we pick up just from living in this country. I assume that a native of the British Isles would have a similar type of cultural knowledge.
When I start setting up the request form, I am faced with the following choices:
Conversely the American version looks like this:
What’s an American author to do? When I think of voices, of style of speech, I think of characters. Joan Hickson (from the Miss Marple series) sounds completely different than Brian Glover (from the Campion mysteries). Do I want someone who sounds like Benedict Cumberbatch, Sean Bean, or Gary Oldman? (And since Gary Oldman uses a different accent in every movie, which version would that be?)
In addition, all of the characters do not “sound” the same, coming from different areas and levels in my fictional society. Some of them aren’t even human. (But we can leave that for a different post!) And what is the appropriate terminology for the style of speech after I make the choice?
Fortunately for me (and for my listeners) I found a wonderful narrator in Penny Scott-Andrews. Pen is a regular narrator for Curio.io, and voices the daily news with Cover Media for Yahoo, AOL and Google. She is currently recording Audiobooks with White House Sound, and narrating for The No Sleep Podcast, and Joosr. Learn more about her HERE.
Pen took my notes and created a wonderful performance. You can hear a short clip HERE. I’m still not certain what each character’s dialect should be called, but I do know that it sounds just right.