Monday, 21 July 2014 13:46

Bringing Audio Books to Life: An interview with Donna Postel

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Question:  What do an 80-year-old Korean grandmother, a hunky Australian and an 18-year-old girl-turned-demon

have in common?

  Answer:  Donna Postel.




Donna Postel gets paid to bring an author’s cast of characters to life.

She spends her workdays in the basement audio studio of her Kirkwood home, creating an entire world as imagined by an author. She easily slips in and out of dialect and character. She’s brought books to life by authors such as Wendy Hornsby, Joyce Carol Oates and Dashiell Hammett.

St. Louisans will recognize Donna’s voice. She’s been a voice actress for over 20 years. She’s been with you on rides to the top of the Arch, she’s told you where to find the best bargains on countless commercials and she’s been the voice of a St. Louis grocery chain. 

She began performing audio books in 2011 by auditioning for Audible, the audio book division of Amazon. Authors and publishers alike rave about her exceptional talent.

Here’s an interview with Donna:

Recently you re-tweeted a post about how audio books make you smart, sexy and suave. Why is that?

It was a tongue-in-cheek way of saying that listening to audio books can expand your horizons in much the same way as reading the printed word. When you're immersed in a juicy novel, or a well-written biography, self-help, how-to, or what-have-you book, you gain insight into new ways of seeing the world, making you a more interesting human being.

And if you listen to audio books - which you can do while driving, exercising, knitting, walking the dog – you can read even more, and therefore be even more interesting, and interesting is the new smart, sexy and suave, right?



B1502 HappyDay L              evil eye joyce carol oates        Bad intent Hornsby         Hear more from Donna:


For people who don't know, what's the difference between a voice actress and an audio book narrator?

There's really no difference. A voice actor is an actor who specializes in using his or her voice to bring life to everything from talking toys to video games to animation to movie trailers to commercials to corporate videos and yes, even to audio books. An audio book narrator is a voice actor who specializes in that particular niche. I have chosen to specialize in audio books, but I am a voice actor too, and I love it all!

I was at your studio recently.  It seems that you spend your days in a tiny room in front of a microphone, all alone, channeling different characters. What's fun about what you do?

It would seem to be an odd way to spend the day, wouldn't it? Recording an unabridged book is a painstaking process technically, and from a voice actor's standpoint it's a marathon. It's a discipline that does not appeal to everybody. But I've spent most of my life performing, whether on stage, in front of a camera, on radio, or in a recording studio, and while I enjoy the heck out of working with other actors on stage (and wish I had more time to do so), when I'm in the studio, totally lost in whatever world is represented by the words on the screen in front of me, I am at home. I have finally found my home as a performer.

I love telling stories. I love books. And I really love being able to say that reading books, immersing myself in giving voice to the world created by the author, is my day job.

You juggle characters with multiple accents--Korean, Australian, East Coast, to name a few. How do you make sure that the accents ring true?

I do a lot of research online (YouTube is my friend!), and will consult with a dialect coach if needed. But a really satisfying listen depends less on a pitch-perfect accent than on a story well told. Have you ever heard a news reporter in the field talking about the latest development in, let's say Guatemala, and when they get to the word Guatemala, they pronounce it the way a native Guatemalan would say it, and you totally lose the thread of the story because that perfectly correct word just sounded jarring? It's like that with audio books too. I want to give the listener the flavor of the character's accent, but not drown them with it.

What's most important is telling the story, and getting a feel for the truth of the characters in that story. I invest a great deal of time and effort to get the characters right, and to tease out the thread of the narrative.

What is the most challenging accent you had to master?

I've always been kind of a natural mimic, so the accents themselves actually come easily to me. What can be tricky sometimes is when there are several characters in a scene, and they're all from different places, keeping them separate can be, let's say, challenging.

And the hula hoop in the corner?

My microphone is so sensitive it can pick up a gnat sneezing in the next room, so I've learned to stay pretty still while recording. And when I keep blowing the same line over and over, or catch myself going a little stale during a narrative passage, it's my body's way of saying it's time to leave the booth for a minute or two and shake it out! A few minutes with the hoop and I'm refreshed and ready to get back in the scene.