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Talking with Narrator Susan Duerden

Susan Duerden first came to my attention with Lisa Kleypas’ Prince of Dreams. I raved about her fully fleshed out narration and her highly effective depictions of both Russian and English characters. With that one performance, Susan earned my loyalty and shortly thereafter, I followed her lead to a new-to-me author, Eloisa James. James’ tale, When Beauty Tamed the Beast is certainly above average but Susan’s delivery is brilliant, making it a solid A listen for me while earning her an Audie nomination in 2012. For a full listing of Susan’s titles, take a look at her AudioGals page.

Lea: Welcome to AudioGals Susan! We’re so happy to have you with us today.

Susan: Thank you so much!  I’m so happy to be here.  And congratulations on the launch of your brilliant website – I know I’ll be a very frequent visitor.

Lea: Thank you – the Gals are excited!

Looking at your recordings, I see your first audiobook performance was in 2007 with a total of 14 in those first few years. But since 2011, I see at least 30 additional titles to your name. Can you share with us how your career as a narrator has evolved over the past five years?

Susan: When I first began narrating, I was hired by the producer via my agent.  It was one of the most challenging yet rewarding jobs I’d ever done.  I was doing a lot TV and film work at the time, including “Lost”, which involved lots of traveling and that didn’t leave much time for recording – although I loved the work and was keen to narrate again.

When I was pregnant I had the time to work more on audiobooks (Hollywood is still so squeamish about an expanding belly!) and ‘re-fell’ in love with the process.   Shortly thereafter, I moved into a new house, built a studio and am now recording at home – which has opened the door to a lot more work.  I love it.

Lea: Can you share your acting background with us including any awards or nominations?

Susan: I’ve been performing since I was five years old.  I started as a ballet dancer. I broke my foot at age 16, just as I was about to join a ballet company and was devastated at the time, but soon after I trained to be an actress and never looked back.  I’ve worked a lot in TV and Film, both in the UK and the US, and several plays on London’s West End and Off Broadway. I’ve been fortunate to win acting awards for stage and TV work in the UK, but my Audie and Earphone awards for narrating have a particularly special place on my shelf!

Lea: When conducting research for our talk today, I discovered you on IMBD. I think many of our readers will be interested  in seeing that side of your work.

Do you find narrating romance particularly challenging? Does your preparation for a romance performance differ from other genres?

Susan: I love narrating romance novels.  I love books that are character driven with great plots and I’ve been lucky with the romance books I’ve been asked to narrate.  Eloisa James and Lisa Kleypas, for example, write wonderful, strong characters with excellent dialogue – great for an actor.  Their books also have fun and complex plots with, of course, a captivating love story.  I don’t prepare for a romance performance any differently really.  Each book has its own particular ‘voice’ and, as a narrator, you have to understand the writing style of the author and match her/his delivery and tone and think about pacing, rhythm and delivery – so I treat each book individually.  I prepare characters in the same way for each book, though. I really try to get underneath their skin and breathe life into them.  The two writers I mentioned earlier write wonderful, rich characters and I want to live and breathe those characters as I record, so I spend a lot of time preparing each of them before I start.

Many of the romance novels I narrate take place in and around the Houses of Parliament in London and coincidentally, my mother-in-law is Lady Massey, Baroness of Darwen.  When I’m back in the UK I often visit Parliament with her and so, I suppose, where my preparation might be slightly different for romance novels compared to other genres is that a lot of my inspiration for the voices of my characters comes from the Houses of Parliament and, specifically, the House of Lords itself.   Many of Eloisa’s characters’ voices are based on Lords or Ladies I either know or have observed – but let that be our secret!  It’s actually an incredibly romantic place – in fact, my husband and I were married in a 400 year old chapel there, deep in the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster.

Lea: Okay, I have to say that is one of the most incredible pieces of information I have ever heard when interviewing a narrator. As a fan of European Historical Romance audio, I am thoroughly impressed! No wonder I’m completely caught up in your performances.

As a narrator, do you choose your projects? Can you do so and how does it work?

Susan: A producer calls and asks if I would like to narrate a particular novel.  Eloisa James has requested me to narrate her novels in the past and I’m always honored.  Mostly, I’ll get a call if the producer thinks I’m a good ‘fit’ for the book.

Lea: What are some of your current or upcoming projects?

Susan: I’ve just finished Eloisa James’s new book, ‘The Ugly Duchess’. I’m soon to start work on ‘Park Lane’ by Frances Osbourne, a glamorous turn of the century novel about how the outbreak of war in 1914 and the changing attitudes towards women affected social relationships.  I’m also working on an animated feature for DreamWorks with Rupert Grint and Jim Broadbent from the ‘Harry Potter’ films.

More romance coming my way too, I hope!

Lea: Many thanks Susan for talking with us today. We’re also hoping those additional romances come your way soon! 

 

Lea Hensley