Hi everyone, I am honored to have a visit today from Wendy Tremont King – Wendy is the narrator for my collection of short stories The Many Faces of Chelle Cordero coming SOON in audio…
Wendy Tremont King is the self-proclaimed Chief of Laugh at Studiotozzi, her sound studio near the Giants ballpark in San Francisco, where she produces audiobooks and corporate/medical long format narration. Wendy is a proud dues-paying member of the Screen Actors Guild and a reader for the SAG Foundation BookPals literacy program. Wendy enjoys listening to audiobooks while sewing, knitting or riding her road bike on the fabulous hills of the San Francisco Bay Area. She is currently stitching hand puppets for the Allentown Art Festival in Buffalo NY next summer and listening to GRAMERCY PARK by Paula Cohen narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan.
1) What made you decide to become a voice-over actress? What special training did it take?
I was transitioning from working as a puppeteer to a stage actor. It was a tough transition working from behind a puppet to being a human on stage so voice acting fit more comfortably. I spent some time in London studying voice and after I returned, continued to study with a voice coach and took commercial voice acting classes. As a sort of vocal workout I volunteered at The Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco, broadcasting three times weekly including a live audiobook program. For the next 7 years, I narrated books for the blind, joined the Audio Publishers Association and attended their annual conferences and workshops and most important, listened to award winning book narrators… until I felt ready. I’m not exactly what you would call ‘a quick study’.
2) What did you want to be growing up? Do you work at another career as well and was that career your original plans? How are the 2 careers/goals alike or connected?
When I was a girl I loved needlework and sewing. I made kookie clothes for myself and wanted to be a fashion designer. But I was also good at math and science and went on to get a degree in electrical and computer engineering. I worked as an engineer in Silicon Valley in the 80s and in the 90s started freelancing as a database developer which gave me time to work as a puppeteer and later as a voice actor. The engineering background made it quite easy for me to learn the ropes with audio production equipment and software as well as project management. So I’m grateful for that background. But now I happily work full time as a narrator and spend my free time sewing while listening to audiobooks.
3) At a party, how do you answer folks who ask what you do for a living? What is the most common reaction?
I say I’m a book narrator and most often someone will say, “Oh, you mean like books on tape?” quickly followed by a sympathetic look the likes you might give to someone who still types on a manual typewriter and has to hand crank their car windows up and down.
4) Do you do your voice overs in a home office/studio? If so, what kind of equipment and special provisions does it take? Did you always work out of a home studio?
When I first started out in voice over, I recorded medical transcription and books for the blind in my closet at my apartment which was ridiculous considering the number of hours required for that type of “long format narration”. I had to work around all sorts of noise including the extra-curricular activities of my neighbors downstairs. It took a great deal of searching to find the right place but finally, luck came my way and I had a modest studio built in an artist’s collective in a converted warehouse near the newly built San Francisco Giants ballpark. I had the floor floated to cut down vibration and contracted a custom-built sound booth. It’s a very comfortable place to work and I’ve been lucky to have it. Unfortunately, the location has become increasingly desirable and the collective is losing its lease at the end of 2015. So it’s time to start looking for my next location and I’m thinking more along the lines of a rural setting.
5) Do you live in a city – suburbs – rural community? Which do you prefer? Have you traveled and visited any far-away places you would love to live in now?
In the last year I have spent time in western New York, where I grew up, helping to take care of my mother, who has been ill. It’s been a difficult time but after 30 years in California, I’m enjoying the seasons and a slower pace. Sweet corn and apples direct from the farm. Housing prices that don’t make you snort organic grass fed milk out your nose. I love California, don’t get me wrong, but I’m enchanted with western New York and thinking seriously about quieting things down in my life and returning to my roots. I have visions of a studio with a view of the lake or maybe the Hudson River, a train ride away from NYC… wherever it will be, the main criteria is a peaceful place to work. Once it’s built I hope you will come and visit!
6) Do you sing in the shower? What is your favorite song to sing? What is your favorite kind of music to listen to?
My mother’s sister was an opera singer and my mother herself sang in some impressive choirs including one for David Brubeck. My Dad remembers the lyrics to an encyclopedia of songs and sings them shamelessly whenever he hears the slightest reference. Several people have endorsed me on Linked-In for Singing which, to me, is amusing because I absolutely did not receive the singing gene. Whenever I have to sing a verse in an audiobook, I have to spend a great deal of time on it and cringe to have to hear it.
7) When you are reading just for reading enjoyment, do you find yourself reading out loud? When you watch movies or TV shows do you try to mimic the voices your hear?
I’ve always been a slow reader. I think it is because I read out loud in my head. I hear the words as I read them silently to myself. I imagine this has something to do with auditory learning or some such thing. With regard to dialect and vocal traits… I listen to people in airports and other crowded places. I even carry around a little hand held recorder and catch snippets. I studied the transcription of dialects and that helps a great deal as well as the many dialect resources online. Dialects and vocal variety is a handy arsenal for a narrator but the voice for a character comes from the writer. I take careful notes about each character; what they look like, their age, where they are from and under what circumstances they appear in the book, what motivates them and very telling… what they say about themselves. The actor’s job is to get to know the characters as true to the author’s intent as possible. There are a lot of characters in Many Faces but I didn’t have to worry so much about them all being in the same scene together so it was a little bit more forgiving than a novel full of characters.
8) How do you feel about public speaking, especially if it is impromptu? Do family or friends often ask you to do public readings for a group, make toasts, or give a speech?
I love public speaking so much that I participated in the SFMOMA special program titled SCULPTURE L.A. in conjunction with the Muistardeaux Collective. It involved training at the Marina Abromavic Institute West, in the delivery of improvisational lectures. The performances were given on Thursday evenings for a series of weeks. Each of us was given the title of a future exhibition one minute before standing up before a roaming audience. Standing on a small platform without props or supporting materials each of us, in our designated locations of the museum, delivered a 45 minute improvised fictional lecture on the subject followed by a 15 minute Q&A. You can read about it here. http://www.sfmoma.org/about/press/press_events/releases/854
9) I know that you’ve read all kinds of works – novels, short stories, documents… How did you feel about reading the variety of stories in Many Faces? Did you have a favorite story?
The variety of voices in Many Faces made it a really fun project filled with heartbreak and joy. The Vacation even steamed up the window in the sound booth! Each story resonated with some memory or part of my life. I Swear That Raccoon Just Knocked on my Door reminded me of my own girl-time camping experiences at Letchworth State Park. I don’t recall a raccoon knocking on the cabin door but they sure did visit. A Mother’s Love really touched me because I had been taking care of my mother while working on the stories. But my favorite story to narrate was The Meeting because I’m a sucker for true romance.
10) Giving Thanks…
I know that writing can be a very solitary activity, as is narration. I love working on books because it connects me collaboratively with another artist and his/her work. Thank you for trusting me with your stories. I know it sounds cliché but it really it is an honor to work with you.
Wendy, thanks so much for joining me today AND for working on Many Faces – From what I’ve heard so far you’ve really made my stories sound great!
For a sample of Wendy’s work on The Many Faces of Chelle Cordero,
link here: http://bit.ly/1eBobKC
AUDIOBOOKS AVAILABLE ON audible.com