Between the Sheets with Sarah Mollo-Christensen
Romance Narrators: Let’s get right to the fancy stuff. You are a part of the Audie nominated project for Best Original Work, NEVERTHELESS WE PERSISTED. Congrats! Tell us about the pieces you narrated and what this project means to you.
Sarah: I’m so proud of this project. I narrated A FIRST KISS by Tamara Hansen and LEARNING THE HARD WAY by Laura Schmidt, both of which were wonderful, and spoke to different types of realizations about what love is and isn’t. To me, this project is important and empowering in two big ways. First, it empowers us as individuals to tell our stories, and tell each other's stories—it’s a celebration of our voices (er...not our actual voices, though of course that too, but our selves and messages and power) during a pretty dark time in our country. Second, it empowers us as artists to collaborate and create our own work. The Audie nom is a huge deal for an independent, collaborative, original project like this. A career as a freelance artist can feel kind of desperate at times, and Tanya Eby/Blunder Woman Productions is teaching a master class in how to start a party yourself rather than relying solely on the powers that be to invite you to theirs. (She will maybe laugh/snort/sigh/roll her eyes at this, but too bad Tanya, you're a BOSS. It's just the truth ❤.)
Romance Narrators: A boss indeed. We love you Tanya Eby! Tanya is also one of the masterminds behind our collective of Romance Narrators. What draws you to this genre?
Sarah: There are so many things I love about narrating (and reading) romance—the escapism of it, the chance to put my already-very-low voice to use on those gravelly alpha men, the way the genre has room for both humor and drama, silliness and tragedy—but honestly, the best part about narrating romance is the fans. Narrating is a weird job in some ways—we make art alone in a tiny box and hope someone somewhere listens to it someday. The romance fan community is so passionate, engaged, and supportive, and that connection is really special and unique for me as a narrator.
Romance Narrators: Agreed! We’re very lucky to have such amazing listeners. So let’s help those listeners get to know you a bit better by firing some questions your way. Cool?
Romance Narrators: Great. You’re a trained stage actor with a lot of experience with classical texts, particularly with Willy Shakes himself. How does that background affect your work as a narrator?
Sarah: So much! I could not do this work without a background in acting and script/text analysis, and the years of voice and speech training I had in school. I do have to remind myself to tone down the diction and just talk sometimes—I can get too precise and precious with the sounds I’m making sometimes and when I do that I need to remind myself to ease up and just talk like a human being. I love Shakespeare, and would give anything to do it again (if anyone wants to hire me for a multicast Shakespeare recording, I’m available, and make a great Beatrice or Lady M—just putting that out into the world), but the parts for women are so limited. Playing all the parts is definitely a bonus when it comes to audiobooks :)
Romance: You’re known for having a wonderful facility with accents. Is this something that comes naturally to you? What are some of your favorites dialects to inhabit? Is there an audiobook people should listen to if they really wanna hear you go to town with accents?
Sarah: It does come somewhat naturally to me, but it’s also something acting school really helped me with. I took two years of speech, and a big part of that was learning how to use and read IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet), which allows you to write out how something sounds, and note down the sound changes for any particular accent/dialect—it’s a great tool. Through the luck of the draw, I’ve ended up doing a lot of Australian and New Zealand accents (I have romance writers—Rosalind James in particular—to thank for most of those sexy Kiwis and Aussies), and I really do love those accents. They’re so bouncy and twangy and sexy and fun. The biggest accent challenge I’ve had is THE WEIGHT OF NIGHT, a dual POV suspense/thriller in which my POV was entirely in a Norwegian accent. Part of my family is Norwegian, so it wasn’t so farfetched, but it was definitely slightly terrifying at first. I’m from outside Boston and my mom is from North Carolina, so I’ve been dying for a chance to use those, but I’m still waiting for those two to come up.
Romance Narrators: We suppose this isn’t exactly a sexy or romantic question to ask, but while we’re on the subject of thrillers and suspense: you recently narrated LADY KILLERS, a book about 14 female serial killers. That’s not a topic one dives into every day! What was that experience like?
Sarah: That book is fantastic. For a book about serial killers driven to murder by either mental illness, horrible, repressive lives, or a combination of the two, it is amazingly...light isn’t the right word. Listenable/readable, I suppose. (Although those words always remind me of when people say wines are “drinkable,” which is singularly unhelpful. Any liquid is drinkable. Lighter fluid is drinkable. Do we say food is “edible”?? Faint praise. Anyway.) It’s a fascinating book. The author, Tori Telfer, approaches each mini biography from a perspective that’s feminist, empathetic but unsentimental, and at times funny, or at least ironic. I was a history major, so this was right up my alley, and it was one of those books where I felt like I really clicked with the author’s sensibility and writing style—it was just a pleasure to read.
Romance Narrators: You speak French, which some may argue is “the language of love.” Do you get to exercise this skill much in your work? Have you spent time in France?
Sarah: My French is getting really rusty—a trip to Paris and Provence is in order, I think. Could I write that off as “research”? Here’s a story for you—the last time I was in Paris, it was as the guest of an aging Russian millionaire playboy with a glass eye who likes fast cars, big boats, and beautiful women, and who may or may not have a scary soviet past. THIS IS A TRUE STORY. If that doesn’t sound like the setup for a romantic thriller/Bond movie, what does?? (I won’t tell you the background here because it would totally spoil the effect. Nothing untoward was going on, I’m both glad and somewhat sorry to say. Ask me about it at a party sometime and I will tell you the unprintable details.)
Romance Narrators: What a woman of mystery you are! (We will definitely be circling back for more details on this). Ok. Word on the street is that you play the saxophone? Will your listeners ever get the great gift of seeing/hearing you play?
Sarah: I do! I mean, I did, and if someone wanted me to do it in a show, I totally could, but it’s been a while. Like...20 years. I was good, though. My high school concert band toured Japan. For real. We won major awards!
Romance Narrators: Here’s a somewhat hot topic to throw at you: To use a pseudonym or not to use a pseudonym? Many listeners express confusion as to why a narrator might need one. Care to tackle this topic for us?
Sarah: Sure. Like many narrators, I do use one, and most of my romance is under that name, including some of the titles I’m mentioning here. I’m a pretty outspoken, non-shy, hard-to-embarrass person, so it isn’t about protecting my good name (hah) or anything like that, but when I started out, I was still tutoring kids a lot (I did standardized test prep and college admissions counseling on the side for a while), so it seemed wise, given the boundless curiosity and googling skills of your average teenager. I’m not super secretive about it anymore—both names are listed on my Romance Narrators profile—but I’ve kept it somewhat separate, as a brand. I think it’s kind of like how some authors have pen names for different genres—it helps listeners know what they’re getting, and it’s kind of freeing to have that alter ego to inhabit when I’m narrating a steamy book. Plus, at this point, my alter ego is way more popular than I am, so she’s here to stay.
Romance Narrators: Speaking of popular, you narrate for This American Life? Whaaat? Tell us more about that!
Sarah: Yes! It’s clearly the coolest thing I’ll ever do, so I should probably just retire now while I’m ahead. How that came about is kind of one of those “only in New York...” stories—my day job, for the decade or so that I was pursuing acting before I got into audiobooks, was training dogs for a small and fantastic company, and one of our clients was Ira Glass, hero to NPR geeks (like myself) everywhere. I got to know Ira fairly well through working with him and his wife and their dog, and when one of his producers needed someone to voice a piece on short notice, he suggested me. They brought me back a few years later to narrate a short story, and that was actually what got me interested in narration as a career. It was amazing to be a part of something I’d been a fan of for so long. Basically, I peaked *very* early :)
Romance Narrators: Lets talk dogs. You’re a big fan, huh? You train them? Love them? Walk them? Raise them?
Sarah: I am a big fan. I grew up with animals—horses, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, etc—and when I moved to the city after college, I was feeling a little lost and lonely, so I adopted a dog, an extremely sweet and soulful one-year-old pit bull who I named Sophie. She’d had a rough start in life, and ended up having issues when it came to other dogs that were much more serious than I knew how to handle. I found a great trainer, and when I quit my publishing job to go to an acting conservatory a year later, I decided to apprentice to that trainer at the same time. When that apprenticeship was over I kept working with the company, and I still do—I’ve cut back to two days a week, since I’m now narrating pretty much full time, but I have some long time training clients I can’t bring myself to leave. It’s pretty serious stuff—there are some adorable puppies who need to learn to sit and give paw, but it’s largely dogs with major behavioral problems like fear and aggression, so escaping into the booth to read about fantasy romances is a nice respite.
Sophie lived to be 14, and passed away last spring after a long and beautiful life. I’m still figuring out how to be an adult without her by my side, but in the meantime I’ve been coping by going full cat lady. (I’m not allowed to get any more cats. I’m maxed out on cats. Ok maybe one more.)
Romance Narrators: What’s the most romantic date you’ve ever experienced?
Sarah: Oh jeez. Yikes. I don’t know. There are just so many to choose from. Thai food and watching John Oliver, or Mexican food and trying to tire out the kitten so he stops harassing the older cats? HOW CAN I CHOOSE??
Just kidding. Kind of. I’ve had lots of wonderful and romantic experiences with my boyfriend, like hiking in Peru, or camping on the beach, but I’ve never been swept off my feet by a wildly romantic date. Neither of us are great date planners. I’ll just have to live out my fantasies in my romance narration career, and maybe pick up some tips. Feel free to send him tips, too…
Romance Narrators: If you had to be stranded on a deserted island with only one of your fellow Romance Narrators, who would it be and why?
Sarah: Ooh, this is a tough one. I’m going to kind of cheat, and pick two narrators who end up narrating together a lot—Maxine Mitchell and Joe Arden. I know from experience that Joe is an amazing and generous host and tour guide when you’re new in town, so I feel like he’d take his role in this survivor team experience very seriously, and Maxine is sweet and funny and smart and kind but then will sometimes remind you that she is also like, made entirely of fire and steel when the occasion calls for it. I would definitely be more likely to survive and enjoy myself if they were both there. Also if we could have a tiki bar that would be great. But then we’d definitely want to bring Tanya Eby along too. Actually, can everyone just come?
Romance Narrators: What exciting projects do you have on the horizon?
Sarah: On 4/3 I have a thriller called ALL THE BEAUTIFUL LIES coming out. It’s set on the Maine coast. I thought was fantastic. Super dark though, so be warned.
Romance Narrators: Tell us about book you’re particularly proud of, why don’t ya.
Sarah: I had a blast narrating Sarina Bowen and Sarah Mayberry’s TEMPORARY with Shane East this winter, and for non-romance books, I’m really proud of the accent and acting work I did in THE WEIGHT OF NIGHT, the Norwegian accent book I mentioned above, which is a co-narration with RC Bray.
This interview was conducted by Erin Mallon.
Connect with Sarah online:
Sarah Mollo-Christensen’s Audible Catalog: http://adbl.co/2DKFBa5
Emma Wilder’s Audible Catalog: http://adbl.co/2DLfmjL
Twitter: @sarahmollo, @akaemmawilder
Sarah mentioned the following people in her interview. Feel free to check them out:
Tanya Eby - http://www.tanyaeby.com
Blunder Woman Productions - https://www.blunderwomanproductions.com
Tori Telfer - https://www.toritelfer.com
Maxine Mitchell - https://adbl.co/2I5tUxn
Joe Arden - https://adbl.co/2ui8wmp
Sarina Bowen - https://www.sarinabowen.com
Sarah Mayberry - http://www.sarahmayberry.com
Shane East - https://adbl.co/2DTUruV
RC Bray - https://adbl.co/2DTV33H