Between The Sheets With Andi Arndt
Romance Narrators: Tell us all about Lyric Audiobooks.
Andi: You might be surprised to hear that the road to romance detoured through Nashville. Around the time I was still learning the ropes as a narrator, I was getting to be friends with a talented musician and music writer named Peter Cooper, who was music editor for the Nashville Tennessean at the time and is now the senior editor for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (and wryly refers to himself as a Grammy-losing singer-songwriter, but that's another story). We met through mutual friends, get along really well. I was interested in his extensive knowledge of the Nashville music scene and its history, and he was interested in audiobooks. I have great respect for musicians, and I love hearing the salmon-swimming-upstream stories of people who go to the hub of any art or enterprise and test themselves among the best.
As it happens, Peter had worked with country legend Tom T. Hall on a new edition of his autobiography The Storyteller's Nashville. We decided to produce an audiobook version together and even sent a crew out to Mr. Hall's farm to record him reading previously unreleased poems and lyrics that begin the chapters. You can hear a few peacock squawks in the background if you listen closely. Peter narrated, I directed, and an amazing musician-recording engineer named Thomm Jutz (yoots) let us work in his studio outside of Nashville, and we released it through Blackstone Publishing.
That was 2014.
Peter, Thomm and I went on to produce four more Nashville-connected titles: Legend of the Road Mangler, a raucous oral history of Nashville's most notorious road manager (sex, drugs and rock n roll, baby); Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Music by Barry Mazor; In it for the Long Run by legendary producer Jim Rooney; and Whisperin Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music by Bill Anderson and Peter Cooper. We have more titles we'd like to work on together but we've both been pretty busy these days!
All that time, my work narrating romance began to gather momentum. At first all of my romance titles were coming to me through publishers, but the rise of the indie author meant that there was suddenly a demand for indie producer-narrators, and my production experience started to really come in handy. Around 2016, everything just seemed to coalesce around producing and narrating romance audiobooks for indie authors.
Lyric Audiobooks became a SAG-AFTRA producer in 2017, and that year our production of Marriage Games by CD Reiss, co-narrated with Sebastian York, won the Audie Award for Erotica and our production of The Hot One by Lauren Blakely, co-narrated by Zachary Webber, won the Voice Arts Award for Romance. My team and I are so proud of our portfolio and we love our author clients!
Romance Narrators: We’re proud of you too. For many reasons! One reason being… you are about to be inducted into the Narrator Hall of Fame. What an honor! How does that feel? Word on the street is there is going to be a ceremony of sorts soon?
Andi: Yes, May 10th Audible is flying us all to their HQ for a swanky celebration, and I'm excited to attend with my husband, who has always supported me in this endeavor. We'll be touring their new studios and then going on to a beautiful venue for a dinner and reception. I am so excited to see everyone, especially Outlander narrator Davina Porter, since we've never met.
As far as how it feels...I still have a hard time coming up with a way to express that. I feel unworthy in a lot of ways, like I still have so much to learn. Scott Brick was one of my first teachers when I was learning the craft. Simon Vance is just a master of the form. The late Katherine Kellgren, who will be sorely missed that night, won the Audie for Best Female Narrator, beating out Meryl Streep! I think man, how in the world did I make that list? But I am certainly grateful to those at Audible who selected me. When I got the call, I had one of those sort of out-of-body experiences, took me a minute to connect to what I was being told. Unreal.
Romance Narrators: Well deserved, lady. It’s no surprise that you're also a highly recommended narration coach. What is it like guiding narrators who are new to the business?
Andi: I love working with actors, no matter the stage of their career. I taught acting and voice at James Madison University for 12 years, so I am very comfortable talking about both performance and business topics, and the one-on-one format is great, really getting to know each narrator and their strengths, their goals, their challenges. I just worked with a new student last week who is so naturally gifted, honestly she just needs to build her network and learn the business side of things and she's going to take off, people are going to love her work and I think she'll be able to work as much as she likes. Right now I only coach one day a week because of my other responsibilities, but they're inspiring, those coaching days. Good energy!
Romance Narrators: You've studied your fair share of languages. Spanish, Dutch, Italian, French, and Chinese (Mandarin)? How proficient would you say you are in them all? How does this deep dive inform your work as a narrator?
Andi: My strongest language is Spanish for sure. My high school Spanish classes were usually 10 students or fewer and we weren't allowed to speak English in class past 10th grade, so by the time I got to college I tested into the 300 level. I've kept it up over the years though entiendo más que puedo decir.
I have cursory French, learned basic Italian and Dutch for two study-abroad-chaperoning assignments my husband and I took on through JMU's study abroad program, and took Chinese 101 before our first of two adoption trips to China. I can say a very very few things in Chinese (including "Sorry, I don't speak Chinese") but I do understand the tones, and have narrated a couple of books that required a bit of Chinese here and there, including one by Anchee Min about Madame Mao, what a great book!
Zooming out from individual languages though, I just get fascinated by the way ideas are expressed in a particular language, and the fact that you can translate words but not always meaning, not fully. In Chinese, the word "tolerance" is written by combining the characters for "knife" and "heart." The way it was explained to me, it's like saying you can have a knife very close to your heart and not be afraid. My Cuban high school Spanish teacher taught us that the word for "shot" is "palo" which means "stick" and there's a Cuban expression for "I'm going to go get drunk" that literally translates to "I'm going to go hit myself with sticks until I fall down." In Italy when you answer the phone you say "Pronto," which always made me feel rushed! Anyway, it's fun and fascinating to learn about people and cultures through the playfulness of language, and that goes for regions of the US as well. Southern is always fun when the author has the rhythms down.
Romance Narrators: You and Kylie Scott won the Audie Award for Romance last year for DIRTY. You have worked on quite a few of Kylie's books. There are actually many authors with whom you collaborate over and over again. Can you talk to us a bit about some of these serial-collaborations? Do you find a sort of shorthand after several books together? Does the work deepen over time?
Andi: I am very lucky to have an ongoing working relationship with some kick-ass authors who are as formidable in their businesses as they are in their art, and I have learned so much from observing their drive, their energy, their willingness to try new things, and their attention to detail.
There is a shorthand in terms of the flow of production over time, and I do get to know the way they tell a story, even though each story and its characters are of course unique.
The work does deepen over time, especially when authors bring me into the process while they're still writing, and the plans for the audio actually change the text.
At Apollycon this year, I was surprised and (there has to be a word in some language somewhere that means "levitated by delight") to hear that Emma Chase explored certain supporting characters in the Royally series because listening to their voices in audio got her interested to know more about them. What a cool thought. And to have an author say they heard my voice in their head as they wrote? I mean it just doesn't get any better than that.
Romance Narrators: Tell us about CAKE: A LOVE STORY. You, Joe Arden and J. Bengtsson are up for the 2018 Audie Award in Romance for this one. Did you know this was a special book while you were recording it?
Andi: It was already a phenomenon in print by the time Jill Bengtsson brought the book to Lyric to produce. I'll never forget that first email. She said her book had been doing "surprisingly well" (it was her first book) and an audiobook lover who'd read Cake said that she heard the character Casey in my voice as she was reading. I accepted the project, we were lucky enough to have Joe Arden (who is up for FIVE Audie Awards this year, ahem) say yes to co-narrating, and the audiobook took off just as the print did. She really has a fresh, unique voice as a writer. Her characters have this groundedness and warm humor, and I can't wait to meet her at the Audies this year.
Romance Narrators: Here's a fun bit of trivia your romance listeners may not know. What well-loved narrator lent her voice to the audiobook version of Disney's FROZEN? That's right: Andi Arndt! What was that experience like? Did you listen to "Let it Go" on loop as inspiration?
Andi: I absolutely loved narrating Frozen! I got the opportunity through Blackstone, had to send a sample to see if Disney thought I was a good fit (that was a nervous few days waiting to hear back) and I didn't even tell my family I was being considered because I didn't think I'd get the gig.
We had taken our girls to see the movie so I knew Anna was pronounced AH-na, always a plus to get those details right.
Disney specified that they did not want me to imitate the movie in any way, and the songs are only alluded to in the junior novelization. The only exception I made, and was willing to...ahem...let it go if they flagged it, was my favorite Olaf line right before the song "In Summer" - I love the way he says "Summer...and sunnnn" in this dreamy way. It made the final cut, so there's my homage to Olaf.
Romance Narrators: You do a good bit of traveling to conferences throughout the year: RT Book Lovers, Apollycon... and aren't you about to hop a 92-hour flight to AUSTRALIA??? What keeps you hopping the globe for these events?
Andi: Travel is the most amazing gift you can give yourself. As the budget allows of course, I would advise anyone trying to make headway in this industry to set aside time and funds to Show Up For Stuff.
Travel also forces me to get things done and get my butt out of the studio once in a while.
You know how it is, you could hole up in there for weeks and still not get everything done, and meanwhile there's a whole world out there to explore.
The organizers of Romancing the Coast Author Event in Gold Coast, Australia invited me to be a special guest at their event this September, and after discussing it with my family, I decided to say sure, why the hell not? I have a travel buddy, a formidable businesswoman in the audiobook world, and we are going to spend some time in Sydney first, where I'm going to be teaching some narrator workshops and seeing the sights. Then possibly Melbourne, and then: I'll finally get to meet Kylie Scott (making a detour just for her) on my way to the author event at Surfers Paradise. Not bad, as tax-deductible work expenses go! Just booked my ticket last week and I'm really excited.
Romance Narrators: Speaking of travel, you're heading to NYC next month for APAC/Audies week. Are you excited? Can you explain what it's like when hordes of narrators are released from their isolated booths and run amok in New York City?
Andi: I call it Narrator Beach Week. It's insane! I love it but you definitely have to gird your loins and rest up before you dive into the whirlwind. Hotel room wise, all you really need is a storage locker, a cot, and a shower because we are NEVER in our rooms. Every day it's like 8am-2am and then do it all over again.
Even though we all know better than to talk talk talk, so many narrators shred their voices during APAC week because we're just so darned excited to be with people who get what we do and want to talk about it for hours on end. And it's a bit like a family reunion, too, seeing these dear colleagues year after year, many of whom have become friends. This year I'm going to BEA (Book Expo America) for the first time too, definitely looking forward to seeing what that's like.
Romance Narrators: You just narrated AMERICAN PRINCESS: THE LOVE STORY OF MEGHAN MARKLE AND PRINCE HARRY. That must have been a quick process! Seems like their engagement was just announced and... boom there's a book. Are you someone who enjoys following the royals? Do you feel particularly invested in the royal wedding after working on this title?
Andi: I was still a kid when Charles and Diana's big wedding happened, and my mom and I got up at 4 in the morning or something like that to watch the royal wedding. Years later when Diana died, I got up at 4 in the morning to watch her funeral. I'm a huge fan of Netflix's The Crown series. I'm not really into the day-to-day People magazine kind of royal watching but I do find it interesting, the fact that you've got this antiquated institution still functioning and trying to be relevant in the modern age.
After reading the book, I would say I am a fan of these two people, as they seem to have their feet firmly on the ground and have accomplished some things on their own before putting their lives together. It'll be interesting to see how their generation changes things, and what traditions they choose to preserve, because they didn't come off as at all stuffy or snobby, quite the opposite. So yeah, I'll probably tune in for the wedding, maybe not live at 4am but I definitely want to see the dresses and the hats and all that. They are a good-looking couple!
Romance Narrators: We know you've narrated hundreds of books, so we wouldn't dream of asking you your favorite, but... is there a book you feel especially proud of?
Andi: I am proud to be associated with The Notorious RBG about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Narrating that book reminded me how far we have come in such a short time (still trying to wrap my head around women not being able to apply for their own credit cards without a husband or father co-signing...as recently as the 1970's!). I keep saying I'm going to send her a copy of that book for her signature--really need to get on that.
Romance Narrators: What exciting projects do you have coming up?
Andi: I've been cast in several Audible Originals in the coming months, always fun to do something that comes out in audio before print, and production-wise, Lyric is now producing for two very prolific authors: Melissa Foster and Carrie Ann Ryan, so watch for multiple series rollouts in the months to come. I have further plans for my work as a coach that I'll be unveiling later this year. The last thing I was going to mention...I'm not going to mention, except that there's something I could mention that I'm just going to keep under my hat for now.
Keep up with Andi online:
Andi’s Audible catalog: https://adbl.co/2KkSVqd
facebook: VOAndi and LyricAudiobooks