Finding the Perfect Voice for My Book

Usually when I talk about voice, I am talking about the “voice” in the writing — the tone, the cadence, the language. But when it comes to audiobooks, there really is nothing more important than the actual voice that comes out of an actual throat. (I will not be listening to AI narrations anytime soon if I can help it!)

I have absolutely had to stop listening to certain audiobooks (which I’m sure were good books) because I couldn’t stand the pretentious sound of the narrator. I won’t name specific books because, well, that’s mean, and other people might not mind them. It’s definitely a matter of personal taste.

On the other hand a narrator like Saskia Maarleveld who narrates books for fave authors Kate Quinn and Madeline Martin can keep me listening to a story way past my bedtime! And Morven Christie’s narration of Burial Rites was positively mesmerizing.

So when we decided to make an audiobook of my memoir The Hummingbird Kiss I knew I had to find a voice that could translate my inner voice. I also knew there was only person for the job — my daughter’s best friend from high school at the NC School of the Arts, Kerri van Kirk.

I’ve been a fan of Kerri’s since I first met her as a teenager. In addition to being an actor (hence her attendance at NC School of the Arts), she was also a singer/songwriter, performing under the name Kerri Lowe. I remember fondly attending a house party for her first album, Truth. I wore that CD paper-thin I listened to it so much. Her lyrics were literate and feisty and everything I hoped I had been as a younger self. The fact she mentioned author Carson McCullers in one of her songs forever endeared me to her.

Kerri evolved over the years, of course. When she began her work helping young women find their “gumption,” I hired her to do a workshop for students at the university where I taught. They loved it as I knew they would.

Kerri moved to New York, found the man of her dreams — a sound engineer (how convenient that would turn out for yours truly) and then moved to Maine by way of Brooklyn. For the past few years, she has been doing her own creative work and also helping creative women through workshops and on-going classes. As I struggled with learning how to market my books, I found Kerri’s sessions practical with a spiritual twist.

And one thing I kept noticing: Kerri not only had a great singing voice; she also had a lovely speaking voice. A native of North Carolina, she has a subtle southern lilt that speaks to my own roots as a southerner. So I asked her to do a test run, using one of my short stories, Floating on the Darkness. As soon as I heard the recording that she and Charlie made I knew I’d made the right choice. Her voice has a quiet power that can convey despair and pain as well as hope and humor.

After listening to the full recording of The Hummingbird Kiss, I wept. She had somehow taken my words and embodied them in a way I don’t think anyone else could have. It didn’t hurt that Charlie really knows what he is doing.

Here are their official bios and links so you can learn more.

Kerri Van Kirk is a multidisciplinary creative as well as a coach, teacher and healing facilitator for creative professionals. Bouncing between creative projects, 1:1 coaching and group programs, she follows the call of her own creative and spiritual evolution and helps her clients do the same in career, writing, creativity & most recently, love.

Charlie is a sound engineer and composer who specializes in using sounds with a sense of place, as he creates music that celebrates the natural world and brings awareness to stories about climate change. Charlie engineered and edited The Hummingbird

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