The Discombobulated Decipherers is finally out in Audiobook form. What a perfect time for a winter mystery and lots of fun. I feel privileged to have had Darla Middlebrook narrate and produce my book. She is an excellent voice person and adds many surprises to the narration. Wait until you hear her singing voice. I thought it was only fitting to introduce you to Darla and for all of us to get to know a little about her. After reading her interview I know I want to become better friends. Thank you, Darla, for taking us into the story of Jezabelle and Brilliant and leave us wanting more.
Who is Darla Middlebrook in real life behind the voice and the acting?
Darla is a 68 years “young” retiree who works on audiobook recording 3 or 4 days a week and does volunteer readings at the local hospital and some of the local nursing homes. When did you realize you wanted to enter the world of acting and voice work or was it something you always knew and began as a child?
Audiobooks, audiobook narration and voice acting, in general, were not things I had heard of when I was a child. I began to be interested in doing this right after I retired in 2009. I thought it would be easy because “it’s just reading, heck I can do that!” (quoting my uninformed, July 2009 self)
How do you choose the projects you accept?
Most of us have heard that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, that’s usually the first thing that grabs my attention. Then I read the author’s take on the book, read the audition clip and go from there. If I don’t like one or the other of these, I don’t audition for the book. I have occasionally, been asked to audition because an author likes my voice.
The Discombobulated Decipherers has many characters. Is it hard to switch voices and how do you decide what inflection to put into each character?
I, usually, skim the entire manuscript to get a “feel” for the characters. Then I have them talk to each other (in my mind). I decide right away which characters are “villains” and why they are “villains”. I do this by indulging in my “bad habit” of reading the last couple of chapters first. I always make recordings of each character when s/he first occurs in the story and when s/he has emotional moments. This way I can refer back to the recording to refresh my memory of how I made the character sound. This has helped me to keep the characters consistent if I end up being asked to do a series.
You previously were a Speech Pathologist. How does that career work into your career as an actor and voice professional?
I have more insight into the care of my instrument (voice). I know what muscles to use and have a decent ear for vocalization. I am more aware (I believe) of what types of voice(s) can be used when I work because I do not want to pick something that is going to tire or damage my instrument in the long run. I can refer back to speech errors/problems that I can imitate which actually work as characterizations for voices. I have also worked with a professional singing coach since 1975. This has helped me to use a wide pitch range when building character voices. Often, a ¼ to ½ tone change in pitch can make all the difference in a character’s voice.
Tell us a little bit about AIRS-LA and why you chose to be a part of that venue?
AIRS-LA has a website which explains their goals and vision much better than I can. I became involved with them through my first voice-over acting coach, Vanessa Hart (deceased). She advised me to do as much reading as possible to improve my skills. After I started with AIRS-LA, I was approached at a conference by Joe Jurca (who is heavily involved with AIRS-LA). He thanked me for my contribution and praised my reading skills (made me glow, I tell you). So, I have continued on with them. Originally, I read CAT FANCY (now called CATSTER) magazine. Then I suggested that I read the Canadian version of Reader’s Digest. So, now I read from two magazines. (Did you know that Reader’s Digest is different in each country in which it is published? Stories are related to the particular country, so Canada’s version has stories that you may not see in the US, British, or Australian editions)
In the Discombobulated Decipherers, you use your beautiful singing voice to add to the story. Do you have other releases or music that you have produced?
No, I do not have any professional music releases. I have, however, sung in several musicals, operas, and operettas with a couple of semi-professional theatre group in Regina, Saskatchewan. Regina is the capital of the province and is just up the road about 45 minutes from Moose Jaw, where I live.
Please tell us about some of your other projects. What was your favorite and what was the hardest one and why?
My favorite project is always the one on which I am, currently, working. The hardest one I have worked on required that I pronounce several Aztec and Mayan words. But, in some ways that particular project was easy. It happened to be a story based on an actual archeological dig in South American. One of the things that I often do is refer to YouTube for pronunciations. Well, when I was working on this project, I Googled the “The red Queen dig”. Up popped a 2-hour National Geographic special about that particular dig! Words were pronounced and spelled out on the screen!! All I had to do was listen to them, repeat after the speaker and voila, I sounded like a genius!! ☺ ☺
What advice would you give to authors or those wanting to go into your profession?
My best advice to authors would be to “read your manuscript aloud to someone” so that you know whether or not it “flows”. I think authors should do this even if they do not plan to have the book converted to audiobook format. For those who want to go into Voice Over work, find a good, reputable coach. DO NOT fall for any of the internet scams that tell you that you can become a voice-over actor in (pick a number) easy online quick lessons. YOU CAN NOT! I am lucky that I have had several very good coaches. I met my coaches at valid Voice Over conferences, not online. I have singing, acting and speech pathology background that has stood me in good stead, but even after doing this for 10 years, I still consider myself to be a newbie.
Is there anything you would like us to know about you that I haven’t asked?
I am (almost) a crazy cat lady. Lots of cat-related clothing and knickknacks, but only one cat. My cat can be a little monster at times and lets me know when (she feels) I have been in my studio for too long ☺
I always ask my guest for their favorite quote? What is yours?
This changes every day, but today’s quotes would be: “No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot” – Mark Twain OR “Highly Illogical” – Mr. Spock (Star Trek)
Thank you Darla for taking the time to be here and answer my questions. Make sure you visit Darla’s site and links to see and hear her other work.
Darla’s Website: https://www.darlasvoice.net/
Darlas’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/199095733771188/
Darla’s Voice Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Darlas-Voice-246840192020028/
You can find the Discombobulated Decipherer’s Audiobook here along with the others from the series.
It is also available in print and e-book form from Amazon and also available at these ebook retailers.
Comment on this blog as I am giving away two free copies of the audiobook The Discombobulated Decipherers. Invite people over and let them sign up too. I can’t wait for your comments.