Between the Sheets with Suzanne Elise Freeman
Romance Narrators: You and fellow narrator PJ Ochlan just hosted the first ever red carpet at the Audie Awards. It was so much fun! Tell us about that experience. Will you be doing it again next year?
Suzanne: Yes, it was fun! I started thinking about an Audies red carpet show at the end of 2017 (I mean, it is an awards show, and there’s a red carpet, so it makes sense, right?), and once PJ was on board – he’s such a great partner and almost never says no to my crazy ideas – we pitched the APA board and they approved the idea! Being a woman who’s crazy about red carpet dresses, I spent quite a bit of time deciding what to wear, but I also had to find the equipment, test it, find volunteers, decide on a makeup look… it was a ton of work and a ton of fun. I met a few people for the first time during their interviews, and of course talked to lots of good friends who were nominated this year. PJ and I ALWAYS have a great time together – we bicker and somehow people are entertained by it – and the red carpet show was no different. The show flew by and I was so surprised when it was time to end it, then it was into the theater for the Audies and it was all over! I don’t think I remember a single thing I said during the show – it was all such a blur.
As to whether or not we’re doing it again next year… if you shook a Magic 8-Ball it would say “All Signs Point to Yes.” I’m not sure if we can make an official announcement right now, but it’s safe to say it’s in the works.
Romance Narrators: All signs point to us being excited about that. Now, tell us about the APA Webcasts you host. It's such a wonderful thing so many of us look forward to. Was this your brainchild? What can we expect in the future?
Suzanne: Thank you! It was indeed my brainchild. I’m a huge fan of podcasts, and I’d had the idea of doing an APA podcast since the end of 2016 (I’m beginning to see a pattern of end-of-the-year ideas), and a couple of months later Tavia Gilbert announced that she was stepping down from being head of the APA Webinar program. I just about sprinted to the computer to tell her I wanted the gig. I’d been thinking that if I ever had the opportunity, I’d make them more like podcasts in that they’d be entertaining while still being educational. To my utter and complete surprise, I got the job! I changed the name to Webcast (webinar + podcast=webcast), and I was off and running and cornering people at APAC to promise to come on the show.
My favorite podcasts have likeable hosts who have a healthy amount of snark and respect between them (most especially The West Wing Weekly), and the only person (literally) that I’d have wanted to be my co-host was PJ Ochlan. If he said no (which I was heartily convinced he would), I’d have gone it alone. But he didn’t, and here we are! We just did our 10th monthly episode (if you don’t count the Red Carpet show), and I think we’ve finally gotten people used to the new format; I might even say they’re enjoying it. Steven Jay Cohen (the third member of our crew) said our bickering is so entertaining he could watch us for hours – apparently he’s not the only one who’s entertained.
We’ve had some amazing guests and many of them have told us that it’s just like being on a live podcast, so mission accomplished! We have title music, graphics, segments, two hosts who take friendly swipes at each other, giveaways… what more could you want!
As far as the future, we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing. Our next show will be an “Origin Story” episode, which is sort of an “Inside the Actors Studio” for narrators. Simon Vance, who hosted the Audies this year, and who’s won every award in the history of awards, will be our guest.
Romance Narrators: Alright, you knew we'd ask. You were on Season Two of The Bachelor! Please please please give us the inside scoop. What's it really like being on that show?
Suzanne: Well, as you say, it was season 2, so it was a while ago, but I don’t think things have changed dramatically. People think it’s scripted, but it’s not. The producers are definitely trying to manipulate situations to get a storyline that makes good TV, but it’s entirely up to each person whether to play along with it, if they even recognize what’s happening. If you give them enough to make you the villain (or whatever character type they can use to make things more interesting), they’ll use it. People who go on the show just need to keep in mind that they can’t use what you say against you if you just don’t say it. With me, they were trying to pit me against another girl and I truly didn’t know why. I even warned the girl that they were trying to get me to talk smack about her. Turns out, of course, she was talking about me the whole time. Wanting to get rid of me because she thought I was the main competition. Which I definitely was not. Fortunately, I came out of it as the “mature” one who was sort of above all the drama, so my goal of not embarrassing my parents was met. For a while, they got to smile and nod when someone said, “oh - you’re Suzanne from The Bachelor’s mom/dad!” (I’m not sure they appreciated the whole making-out-with-a-guy-on-national-television thing though.)
The show’s producers will bring you anything you want, including lots and lots of alcohol, and place you in stressful situations to get the most dramatic responses possible. A drunk girl is a talkative girl. Plus, you’re not allowed to listen to music or watch TV or talk to anyone from home. Basically anything that could give you an outlet for all that stress. People think they know what they’re getting into when they go on that show, but you just can’t know how much pressure there is until you’re there. And everything seems SO much more stressful when you’re in the middle of it.
It’s a very long story of how I ended up on the show, but the ironic thing is that I really didn’t want to be on it. So, during the entire interview process I was completely relaxed and maybe even dismissive, which apparently works with producers as well as it works with men. Ha! I wanted to follow the process through because, I mean, who knows what will happen with anything in life, and they ended up picking me. We had the biggest ratings of any Bachelor ever – 26 million people! Which is pretty insane. It had its fun moments, and I most definitely had my 15 minutes of fame where people recognized me everywhere I went. Of course no one has a clue who I am now. I always get a little half grin on my face when someone starts talking about their addiction to the show or their weekly watch parties with friends.
I can’t say it’s something I’d do again, but to have taken part is still a rare and unique experience. I know lots of girls would have loved to have been in my place, so I have to appreciate it for that at least.
Romance Narrators: Wow! Now we need to go back in time and see you in action. You have also have worked extensively as a host. Tell us about some of your favorite hosting gigs.
Suzanne: I hosted a competition series for Indy Cars that never aired, and I got to try racing cars – I do love to drive fast so I was quite pleased I was actually decent at it – and I sang the national anthem a cappella before the championship race. It probably wouldn’t have been great TV if it aired, but it would’ve been fun for me to watch!
I also hosted a series of promotional segments for a land developer, and my small crew and I got to travel all around the country shooting gorgeous natural views and exploring places I’d probably never visit otherwise. I got to do all sort of fun activities like rock climbing, horseback riding, skiing, fishing, and snowboarding – and I got paid to do it! Snowboarding, sadly, will not be a future hobby. The number of times I fell is comical. Truly. If you want a laugh, watch me fall.
Other than that, I was one of the hosts for a poker show that aired on Fox Sports Net, which we shot in Las Vegas. Whenever I told someone I worked weekends in Vegas they had some very imaginative reactions. But I was able to really get to know Vegas in a way I never would have otherwise, with all the fine dining, night clubs and hotel rooms that smelled soooo good. It changed my opinion about Vegas being all neon lights and losing your shirt at poker or the slots.
Romance Narrators: You seem to excel at every sport and physical activity ever created. Rock climbing, figure skating, pole dancing, even scuba diving! The list goes on! What drives you to be so active? And how does it feel to sit still for hours on end inside the recording booth?
Suzanne: I’ve always been an athlete, and I just love learning new things. I’m usually pretty quick to pick up new sports/activities, with the notable exception of snowboarding (see answer above). As for the number of activities you listed, I tend to try something new and see how far I can get with it and then move on to something else. That doesn’t only apply to physical activities. I’m like a hobby serial monogamist; I pick up a hobby, dive into it and research it to death and buy every supply I could ever need, then do it for a while and get bored then move on to the next thing. For instance, I just took up candle making. I have almost 100 fragrances to test out and every ingredient I could think of needing, and I only started last week. You can’t say I don’t throw myself into things 100%! I just designed some labels, and I’m calling myself the Lazy Girl Candle Co., because I’m usually doing these things to procrastinate doing actual work. (Also, do you want a candle? I have no idea what to do with all these candles.)
As far as sitting in a booth all day, my mom always tells the story that when I was little I’d be running around outside all the time, but then when she looked for me she’d find me asleep in bed because I’d worn myself out. So I was either going at full speed, or completely stopped. Very little in between. I’m still pretty much the same way - I get my workout in in the morning and then sit in a box for the rest of the day after I’ve tuckered myself out.
Romance Narrators: In addition to your work in audio and on onscreen, you are a fitness model! Where can we see you in print?
Suzanne: It’s more accurate to say I was a fitness model. It’s been a while since I’ve done a shoot. I mainly shot editorials for Oxygen, a women’s fitness magazine, and a few commercials for treadmills and the like. Funnily enough I was at PJ’s house last week and his wife, Camilla, brought out one of those workout DVD sets (Brazil Butt Lift), and I was on the cover. The story of how I found out I was even involved with said DVDs involves some insomnia-induced infomercial watching in a Honolulu hotel. (Also, fitness/bodybuilding was another of those hobbies I took up to see how good I could get at it. This one has lasted for a couple decades though. It was pure luck that my parents gave me the genes I needed in order to do it well.)
Romance Narrators: Tell us about an audiobook of which you are particularly proud.
Suzanne: Wow that’s tough to answer. If you asked me to name a book on which I had a particularly good time, I’d say Made for Love by Alyssa Nutting. The author has an incredibly wacky sense of humor, and I just couldn’t stop laughing throughout the recording. Like, that high-pitched almost-crying kind of laughing that would burst out every time I even attempted a take.
The books of which I’m the most proud are probably the ones I narrate with a large cast. I’m always so honored to be asked to narrate alongside some of my narrator heroes, like R. C. Bray, Cassandra Campbell, Will Damron and Hillary Huber… I could go on and on.
Romance Narrators: What exciting projects do you have on the horizon?
Suzanne: Right now I’m prepping another of those multi-cast books; in this one my character is a snarky architect. It’s called We the Jury, by Robert Rotstein, with Suzanne Toren, Adenrele Ojo, and fellow RN members Tanya Eby and Erin Bennett, just to name a few. Humorous snark is my absolute favorite character trait to portray. The kind of character where my right eyebrow is arched for the entire session. They’re the characters to whom I most relate, if that’s not obvious.
Keep up with Suzanne online:
Suzanne’s Audible catalog: https://adbl.co/2JKRlMK
Samantha’s Audible catalog: https://adbl.co/2O7Cxv3
Links to people mentioned in the interview:
2018 Audies Red Carpet Show