Read­ers, I’m delight­ed to intro­duce you to Eliz­a­beth Klett, the pro­lif­ic and excep­tion­al­ly tal­ent­ed voice actress who nar­rat­ed the audio­book of With This Curse. Eliz­a­beth has been record­ing audio­books pro­fes­sion­al­ly since 2011 and has also con­tributed to more than 400 audio projects for Lib­riVox, a won­der­ful source of free audio­books. Today she talks with me about bring­ing books to life and about what it was like record­ing With This Curse.

Aman­da: With a B.A. in the­ater, you clear­ly have a strong back­ground in per­form­ing. How did you make the leap from stage per­form­ing to audio only, and was it dif­fi­cult to make the adjust­ment?

Eliz­a­beth: I actu­al­ly stopped per­form­ing on stage when my hus­band and I moved to Hous­ton in 2002. I was fin­ish­ing up my doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion and look­ing for an aca­d­e­m­ic job and felt the need to focus my ener­gies toward those rather daunt­ing tasks. So it was won­der­ful to find audio­book nar­ra­tion when I start­ed vol­un­teer­ing for Lib­riVox in 2007, since it helped to scratch the per­for­mance itch. I actu­al­ly find it eas­i­er, in some ways, than per­form­ing on stage, since I don’t have to wor­ry about what I look like, or what my body is doing while I’m nar­rat­ing (as long as I keep still!). I’m free to do what I think I’ve always done best: relate to char­ac­ters, and com­mu­ni­cate emo­tion through my voice.

Aman­da: You’ve gra­cious­ly giv­en a lot of your time to the record­ing of free audio­books at Lib­riVox. What led you to do that? Had you always intend­ed to go pro?

Eliz­a­beth: I found Lib­riVox through knit­ting pod­casts: specif­i­cal­ly, Bren­da Dayne’s Cast On, and Heather Ordover’s CraftLit. Both did some vol­un­teer work for Lib­riVox and would some­times fea­ture Lib­riVox record­ings on their pod­casts. Once I start­ed explor­ing the site, I was hooked: I start­ed lis­ten­ing to and record­ing audio­books reg­u­lar­ly. I was on the admin­is­tra­tive team from 2009 to 2014, and can’t say enough good things about the amaz­ing com­mu­ni­ty they have over there. I hadn’t con­sid­ered going pro until Hugh McGuire, LibriVox’s founder, asked me to join his new com­pa­ny Iambik Audio, which pro­duces pro­fes­sion­al record­ings. I did six titles for them and then tran­si­tioned to work­ing for ACX, Bee Audio, and oth­er com­pa­nies.

Aman­da: What has sur­prised you most about being an audio­book nar­ra­tor or been most chal­leng­ing?

Eliz­a­beth: Although I love audio­book nar­ra­tion, it can be quite iso­lat­ing; it’s just you, the mic, and the book, for the most part, on a dai­ly basis. The thing I miss the most about doing the­atre is the human inter­ac­tion: the being in the moment onstage with oth­er peo­ple that’s so mag­i­cal about live the­atre. That’s the rea­son I will prob­a­bly nev­er quit vol­un­teer­ing for Lib­riVox, since it part­ly repli­cates the col­lab­o­ra­tive feel­ing of the­atre, par­tic­u­lar­ly the dra­mat­ic projects that we do, which are edit­ed togeth­er from many dif­fer­ent people’s record­ings. I also real­ly enjoy inter­act­ing with the authors, in par­tic­u­lar, for pro­fes­sion­al nar­ra­tion projects, and get­ting their input on bring­ing the char­ac­ters and plots to life. Oth­er than that, audio­book nar­ra­tion is a con­tin­u­al sur­prise and delight, as I take on new projects, meet new writ­ers, and get to read their books. I can get quite emo­tion­al about books, and have a hard time con­trol­ling my emo­tions if the mate­r­i­al is mov­ing or fun­ny enough. I also love work­ing on projects that I know my mom will love lis­ten­ing to; I part­ly did my Lib­riVox record­ing of Jane Eyre as a trib­ute to her, since she loves that book so much. I’ve already sent her a copy of With This Curse, as I know she’ll love it!

Aman­da: I sure hope she does! It is so excit­ing for me to hear the char­ac­ters in With This Curse come to life through your per­for­mance. I know that audio read­ers will love hear­ing Clara, Atti­cus, Genevieve, and all the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters come alive in your read­ing. Was there any­thing about this project that par­tic­u­lar­ly appealed to you? Any­thing that was tricky or chal­leng­ing?

Eliz­a­beth: I was very keen to nar­rate With This Curse, because it’s total­ly my kind of book! I love nar­rat­ing nov­els in a British accent (although it takes more time and effort than using my nat­ur­al Amer­i­can accent), and I par­tic­u­lar­ly love his­tor­i­cal fic­tion. The fact that With This Curse is a Vic­to­ri­an Goth­ic nov­el, with shades of Char­lotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, just makes it all the more appeal­ing. I real­ly like Clara as a lead­ing char­ac­ter and loved voic­ing her: she’s strong, resource­ful, and plucky, but hasn’t lost her vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty or her com­pas­sion, despite all she’s been through. Plus she’s a seam­stress and loves clothes, and I’ve been sewing my own clothes since I was thir­teen; so there you go: a per­fect fit!

Aman­da: I love how your per­for­mance brings out all those qual­i­ties in Clara. Anoth­er won­der­ful thing about your nar­rat­ing With This Curse is your exten­sive expe­ri­ence with 19th-cen­tu­ry Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture, since Curse is set in 1873 Eng­land and has a sim­i­lar fla­vor and rhythm to its Vic­to­ri­an goth­ic fore­bears. You have both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture, and your audio­book ver­sion of Jane Eyre has been a phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess, with near­ly one mil­lion down­loads (wow!), mak­ing it one of the most-down­loaded solo projects at Lib­riVox. Can you com­ment on your back­ground in that area of lit­er­a­ture and how you drew on it in your per­for­mance?

Eliz­a­beth: The cur­rent down­load count for Jane Eyre is 976,000, which still blows my mind! It’s def­i­nite­ly the one that peo­ple write to me about the most and tell me that they enjoyed, although my record­ing of Pride and Prej­u­dice is a pret­ty close sec­ond at near­ly 880,000 down­loads. My doc­tor­al work—and my cur­rent teaching—is most­ly in the area of Shake­speare and Renais­sance lit­er­a­ture, but I’ve always loved 19th-cen­tu­ry nov­els, par­tic­u­lar­ly by women, such as Austen, the Bron­tës, George Eliot, and Eliz­a­beth Gaskell. I teach women’s lit­er­a­ture quite a lot, so I get to read and teach many of the won­der­ful books from that era, and oth­ers. Since I’m so famil­iar with the writ­ing of that time peri­od, I under­stand not only the ways in which the authors tend­ed to write but also many of the cus­toms and ide­olo­gies of the Roman­tic and Vic­to­ri­an peri­ods. At this point, hav­ing nar­rat­ed many of the books for Lib­riVox, it feels com­plete­ly nat­ur­al for me to work on a book like With This Curse, par­tic­u­lar­ly as you get the peri­od detail and prose style so per­fect­ly.

Aman­da: That’s so kind of you to say! Look­ing ahead, what are your dreams and ambi­tions as far as your future career in audio­book nar­ra­tion and per­form­ing in gen­er­al?

Eliz­a­beth: Since audio­book nar­ra­tion is my part-time job, I can’t devote myself to it as much as I’d like, and I don’t think I could han­dle any more work than I cur­rent­ly take on in a year. As a pro­fes­sor, I’m not only teach­ing in the fall and spring, but I’m also writ­ing aca­d­e­m­ic essays and books in the sum­mer and vaca­tion peri­ods. It’s a full and hap­py sched­ule, for the most part! I would love, though, to even­tu­al­ly nar­rate a book by a favorite author, either one whose work is not real­ly avail­able in audio (such as Angela Carter, one of my absolute top 20th-cen­tu­ry British nov­el­ists) or one who is cur­rent­ly writ­ing (such as Mar­garet Atwood, Kate Atkin­son, or Sarah Waters).

Aman­da: I hope you’ll get the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do so! In the mean­time, it’s for­tu­nate for audio­book lovers that there are so many won­der­ful audio per­for­mances of yours avail­able. I’m thrilled that With This Curse is one of them.

Read­ers, would you like a free down­load of the With This Curse audio­book? I have a lim­it­ed num­ber to give away. Sign up for my newslet­ter for a chance to win one!