My first experience listening to Justine’s narrations was Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. I was fascinated by not only the world Singh created but by Justine’s beautiful delivery. There are a good number of male characters in this series and she provided each with a separate convincing voice but her depiction of Raphael was completely swoon-worthy. The sixth in the series, Archangel’s Storm, is set for release September 17th with Justine once again narrating. You better believe I’m planning an immediate listen along with Brenda who introduced me to the series.
Justine’s list of romance titles continues to increase. She’s narrated series for authors such as Eloisa James, Sabrina Jeffries, Jillian Hunter, and Julia London. And I can’t forget her recent narration of Kristan Higgins’ Somebody to Love – a particular favorite. A full list of Justine’s romance titles, visit her AudioGals page.
Lea: Welcome to AudioGals Justine!
Justine: Hi Lea – I’m thrilled to be here, honoring all things romance!
Lea: Although you have been recording audiobooks since 2006, it looks like you really picked up your pace in 2010, especially in the romance genre. Can you tell us about your first years in audio narration and a typical workday in your life now?
Justine: I first started out in audiobooks when the narrator pool was a small, select group and home studios hadn’t yet come on the market in the way that they have now. Books On Tape was my sole employer – I’d get a call from Dan Musselman about a new project and it felt like Christmas when the new manuscript arrived! Everything I recorded was at the BOT studios so I was able to work with a range of wonderful directors. The lunch room was social hour and I got to know my fellow narrators well, many of whom are at the top of the field. A typical day would be to arrive at 10am and work through til 4, Monday through Friday, with lunch/snack breaks built in. I think I became known as ‘the permanent girl in the booth’ as I never wanted to come out, so my director and I would pull much longer hours than the standard workday. I’ve always loved getting on a recording roll and just going… Otherwise it is rather like halting a good movie – forget getting more popcorn and needing a bathroom break, there is a tale being told here!
I built a home studio in 2009 (okay, I should say my husband built it, as he was the guy wearing the tool belt :) ) and then my work opportunities exploded, as I was able to start working for a variety of clients across the country. My typical day now is completely atypical. I am in the studio seven days a week and can be found in the chair from morning through night, with no fixed recording timeframe. Working on my own time lets me have unorthodox hours, and now, I don’t have to worry about tiring out my director, as I am that director.
Lea: Listeners sometimes fail to realize they are listening to one grand acting performance when their audiobook is playing. After all, you are performing multiple characters that are interacting with one another – sometimes rapidly! What is your acting background?
Justine: I grew up overseas with no television and so my sister and I had to act out our entertainment. The bug bit early! My parents also had an eclectic group of friends from all around the world and, eavesdroppers that my sister and I were, we would imitate accents for the fun of it. That still stands me in good stead now! When we moved back to North America, I studied at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama for 5 years which truly is still the cornerstone for my breathing and vocal stamina in the booth. From the age of 10 on up, I was performing in theatre every year. I covered the classics and Shakespeare in my teens through university. I also trained with the Toronto Institute of Broadcast. I have also starred in a number of films and TV shows ala Mad Men and Two and a Half Men… hm, that ‘men’ theme may explain my being prolific in the romance world! So, that would encompass my professional training though I have to give a shout out to my family who are fabulous characters indeed and still give me a lot to draw upon!
Lea: I wonder how many of our readers are now jumping over to IMBD (as I did). More about that on Justine’s bio page…
Do you find narrating romance particularly challenging? Does your preparation for a romance performance differ from other genres?
Justine: The interesting thing about narrating romance is that it encompasses so many different genres, from thriller to comedy to historical drama with romance being the unifying theme. So, it is an exciting field, in that you never know what world you are about to immerse yourself in, the one universal factor being romance. My prep doesn’t necessarily change but there is a level of honesty that needs to come through, that flushed first love feel. The booth can get awfully steamy! (My husband wanted to add commentary here, but I wouldn’t let him!! :) )
Lea: Well, I must say that more than a few romance listeners have wondered about that steam level!
As a narrator, do you choose your projects? Can you do so and how does it work?
I am usually offered a project and then asked whether it fits in with my recording schedule – sometimes there have been some tight squeezes where the studio is then kept hopping at all hours. I’ll get an email with a synopsis of the book, the deadline required, and then take it from there. I will read something for pleasure on my own time and think, ooh, I wish I had done the audio! Now, with audiobooks being so prolific, I think most books are recorded simultaneous with the print release date so unless the book is vanity project or something older that has yet to be done, the chance to raise my hand and say, I would like that one, is small. Hm, having written that, there is a book I would love to record, author Syrie James’ upcoming novel, due in January. Now I need to figure out who I should stalk down for that…
Lea: What are some of your current or upcoming projects?
Justine: I just completed Nalini Singh’s Archangel’s Storm and had a lot of fun with it. Ms. Singh gave me a YouTube link for a name pronunciation of a new character – the link was to a Bollywood music video that had me both captivated and in stitches, you never know what the working day will bring!
I am now recording The Good Woman by Jane Porter, which offers up romance and a moral conundrum… her characters are a treat to slip into as they are so fleshed out, they just jump off the page. The second of Tracy Anne Warren’s Princess Brides tales is waiting in the wings and I am about to jump into another of the Hemlock Falls mysteries, which are just priceless. It is a treat to work on a series and vocally be twinned with characters as they evolve.
Lea: As I’ll be listening to Archangel’s Storm soon, I can already foresee my mind playing the game of “What name required a Bollywood music video?!”
Thanks Justine for spending time with us today. It’s been a real delight talking with you!
Note: For those who, like me, are wondering just what a vanity project is, Justine provided the definition to me after we completed her interview.
Justine: A vanity project is something that a narrator has had his/heart set on, whether it is a book wherein the narrator took over the rights and then recorded, or was a childhood favorite book, or a project that the narrator hounded down the author to work on (see my notes re Syrie James, haha). A passion project, in other words.