Blunderwoman Productions

we create awesome audiobooks.

Blunder Woman Productions publishes and produces awesome audiobooks.

Meet Becca Ballenger, Narrator in Vintage Love Stories

Blunder Woman Productions, with the help of eight talented authors and nine equally talented narrators, will be releasing a remarkable volume of short tales set before the age of the internet and cell phones. Vintage Love Stories features Becca Ballenger’s narration of Didn’t It Rain by Kathryn Burns

We were able to chat with Becca, and we’d love for you to get to know a bit more about her, too!  

 Becca Ballenger, Narrator

Becca Ballenger, Narrator

 

Have you had any funny or interesting things happen while recording?

 

My home studio is in a closet in my New York City apartment. I usually record when my fiancé is at the office, so it’s just me and our cat, Franny. If I don’t make a point to place her on the upper shelves of the closet while I record, I can guarantee that there will be a paw coming in under the doorframe within a few minutes of shutting the door. Usually when she’s in the closet, she stays quiet and still, but on occasion, I’ve nearly jumped out of my chair as the door opens, as if by magic, and I see a cat face staring down at me from the shelves above my head. It’s both adorable and terrifying.

 

How do you get into a book/story?

The best way I’ve found to get into a book and to find the characterizations is to simply read aloud. It’s the same way I prepare for an audition (for a play, movie, or audiobook!), as it helps me discover the rhythm and tone the writing. I can get a sense of the characters’ vibe and vocal presence based on the way they talk and act. The best books make it easy to develop characterization— it’s like Prego tomato sauce, where all the ingredients are already there and all I have to do is heat them up.

 

How many books have you narrated and do they have a common thread or theme?

I’ve narrated around 25 audiobooks (I’ve kinda lost count!) and they’ve really run the gamut. Most of my work has been in the YA or new adult genres, as my vocal energy is very youthful. My favorite characters to bring to life are the ones whose layers are revealed over the course of a book. Building in the tension of what’s to come within the voice of each character is one of the great challenges and thrills of narration— we get to create surprises by manufacturing them vocally. 

On a sort of fun note, the first book I ever narrated was a collection of romantic short stories by the British author Tanith Lee, who recently passed away. Now, I’m narrating another British romantic short story for my first project with Blunder Woman! It’s a great full circle kind of feeling.

ABOUT BECCA BALLENGER

Becca Ballenger is an actor based in New York City, and the narrator of over 25 audiobooks. Off-Broadway: Pussy Sludge (HERE Arts Center, 2017 American Playwriting Foundation Relentless Award Winner), A Midsummer Nights Dream (Masterworks, NY Times Critic’s Pick), Absolution (St. Lukes Theatre), The Hero (Metropolitan Playhouse) Regional: Steel Magnolias (Geva Theatre Center), A Midsummer Night’s Dream and White Lightning (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), Steel Magnolias and The Tempest (Idaho Shakespeare Fest), American Stare (New Jersey Rep). Extensive readings and workshops with luminary directors like Shirley Knight, Pam MacKinnon, Moritz Von Stuelpnagel, and others. Graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and Fordham University. Proud member of Actors’ Equity.

 

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Meet Erin Bennett, Performer in Vintage Love Stories

 Erin Bennett, Narrator

Erin Bennett, Narrator

Blunder Woman Productions, with the help of eight talented authors and nine equally talented narrators, release a remarkable volume of short tales set before the age of the internet and cell phones. Vintage Love Stories features Erin Bennett’s narration of The Painted World by writer (and narrator also) Cassandra Campbell. 

We were able to chat with Erin, and we’d love for you to get to know a bit more about her, too!  

 

 

What has been your favorite book to narrate?

That's a hard one to answer! I love narrating fiction but recently, a nonfiction book took my breath away. It was Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O'Brien. Incredible story about the women, including Amelia Earhart, who were pilots during the golden age of aviation. Their stories just leapt off the page for me.

 

Have you had any funny or interesting things happen while recording?

One time we were recording along and all of a sudden, the recording program my engineer was using went haywire. It kept repeating the same two words over and over on a loop....so I sounded like I was either completely off my rocker or else turned into a robot! We had a pretty good laugh while he restarted the system. 

 

How do you get into a book/story?

I always start curled up in my favorite chair, my iPad in my lap, and I delve right in. I make notes on characters, setting, anything that strikes me....and before I know it, the world outside blurs and I'm absorbed in the story. 

 

How do you prepare for all the different characters and their tones/vocal ranges?

Real life gives me a terrific supply of inspiration. I live in Los Angeles, and I have met some CHARACTERS here. But inspiration comes from movies and TV too. People from my past whose voices have left their imprint…memories...and sometimes, a character just zings from the text completely new. 

 

How many books have you narrated and do they have a common thread or theme?

I've narrated about 350 and so far I have been extremely lucky not to be typecast. I have a pretty good range of fiction, nonfiction, mystery, memoir, science fiction, fantasy, biography, you name it. 

 

What do you like most about narrating audiobooks?

Playing every character - it's like being inside and outside the story at the same time. I love "talking" directly to a listener. Sharing a story that's just for them. 

 

What do you like least about narrating audiobooks?

Sometimes when I have a lot of words to look up it I wish I knew the pronunciation of every word in the dictionary! 

 

During your downtime, do you prefer to read in print or listen to stories in audio?

Listening to podcasts, reading an old paperback in the bathtub...

 

How do you select a book to narrate? 

 It usually finds me via an offer from a publisher. 

 

Do you prefer a specific genre or types of characters?  

 I like a mishmash of styles and genres. It keeps me on my toes! Last week it was romance, this week it's fiction; variety is the spice of my audiobook life!

 

Do you read a book several times before you record the audio? 

I read it carefully once. Then I step into the studio and we're off. 

 

How do you decide on the specific voice and tone to do for each character?

It's mostly instinctive. Authors give me so many great clues in the character descriptions. It's not something I necessarily have to work out beforehand as the author sketches that person for me! 

 

Do you have a ritual or routine you do before sitting down to record the audio (such as vocal exercises or warm-ups to strengthen your vocal cords)?

Tea, tea, tea!  

 

Is there an audiobook you just loved listening to? What about that narration makes it special?

I loved Sissy Spacek's narration of To Kill A Mockingbird. I felt like I was sitting around a campfire listening to her expressive voice and I was captivated. 

 

What qualities make a great narrator? If you like, share some tips for aspiring voice actors.

Great actors make great narrators. Passion for communicating to an audience and good vocal technique too. 

 

Is there a scene you just loved to narrate? 

In Fly Girls, I got to narrate the story of Amelia Earhart's final flight when she disappeared in the South Pacific. The radio operator's communications, their earnest messages trying to find her...and her messages back to the crew. They were heartbreaking - and to get the tone right, where there's a sense of the world holding its breath - those are such exciting scenes to be in.

 

Is there a scene that was especially difficult to narrate?

The rewarding scenes can also be the difficult ones. Right after the scene I just described in Fly Girls, I had to narrate the aftermath of Amelia Earhart's disappearance. It was a national tragedy - and fighting back tears in the studio is just a part of the job, but it can wring you out sometimes. 

 

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents? If so, what are they? 

I sing with a trio and a Big Band - I know a heck of a lot of Andrews Sisters music. And I can swing dance!

 

 ABOUT ERIN BENNETT

“...a truly superb, sensitive performance by Erin Bennett… you will wish it went on forever.” - The Washington Post, Best New Audiobooks 2017.  Bennett is a Los Angeles-based voice and stage actress whose passion for storytelling makes her a natural fit for audiobooks. Winner of multiple Earphones and Audie nominated, she narrated one of AudioFile’s “Best Audiobooks of 2016,” and has recorded over 250 titles for major publishers, including Penguin Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, Harper, Blackstone, Recorded Books/Tantor, Brilliance, Dreamscape,and Audible.  Her genres vary widely, from literary fiction to mysteries to science fiction to memoir, as well as nonfiction, multicast recordings and romance. Her on-camera work includes Grandfatheredon FOX and Children’s Hospital on Adult Swim, and her voice-over work spans animation, radio plays for the BBC, video games, and commercials for radio & television.

 

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Meet K. E. White, Author in Vintage Love Stories

Blunder Woman Productions, with the help of eight talented authors and nine equally talented narrators, will be releasing a remarkable volume of short tales set before the age of the internet and cell phones. Vintage Love Stories features K.E. White’s story, Can’t Get Used to Losing You

 K. E. White, Author

K. E. White, Author

We were able to chat with Karen, and we’d love for you to get to know her, too! 

What inspired Can’t Gt Used to Losing You?

For the past couple years, I’ve been working on a romance series based in Boston in the 1980’s. The books are connected by a theater company, and I was a young actor there in that decade. On a deeper level, though, something about the recent presidential election had me hankering for an earlier time in my history, when things seemed simpler. Seemed is operative here, of course. Nostalgia had me looking at the time with rose-colored glasses. At first. As I actually delved into what was going on back then in career opportunities for women, in workplace expectations (#MeToo started somewhere, you know) and gender norms in relationships, I find that we’ve “come a long way, baby” in some ways. In other ways, it’s like we’ve circled back around to the beginning.

Specific to this collection: the second book in my series takes on the “best friend’s sister” trope and explores a relationship after a tragedy disrupts the original family dynamics. Working on the novel I couldn’t stop writing the backstory of the two main characters: how they’d met as kids, when he first saw her as a sexual being, how they first got together as a couple. These stories don’t really fit in the book, though they helped me get to know the characters. When I saw the posting from Blunderwoman for Vintage Love Stories, my first reaction was, “Huzzah! Someone besides me is interested in stories that exist in the limbo between historical and contemporary romance!” My second thought was, “Hey, I wonder if I could turn those backstory scenes into a short story?” Then I did.

 

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

It’s okay to be “wrong”! Or, as I used to say in my improv classes, ‘there is no right answer because there is no wrong answer.” 

 

What books have most influenced your life?

In no particular order and there are so many but these jump to my mind in this moment: 

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume – the first book I read that went “viral”, that is, it got passed all around my sixth grade classroom. The buzz was amazing but it lived up to it.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf – the concept of this book blew my mind.

Impro by Keith Johnstone – an amazing book about creating

Chuck Amuck by Chuck Jones – another amazing book about creating from the guy who brought us Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote and Pepe le Pew, among others.

The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley and the Misty of Chincoteague books by Marguerite Henry – I have always been an animal lover and these (and many other books obtained from Scholastic when I was in school) hooked me on reading

Princess Daisy by Judith Kranz – I have a very strong memory of reading the sexy bits aloud during breaks from play rehearsals when I was in high school, which may have led me to where I am now.

 

Can you tell us about your current project(s)?

I am working on a series based in Boston in 1988, centered around a theatre company. The first book is about a young woman who works in finance and an actor who is struggling with balancing art and career. The second book is about the main characters from this short story, Anna and Ben, five years later (and a dog). I have vague ideas about two more books. 

With the series, I’m hoping to share with reader/listeners what it was like to be a young career woman and sexual being in the late eighties as First Wave feminism was waning, as well as what it’s like to be a journeyman actor. I’ve enjoyed playing with the themes from various Shakespeare plays, 80’s music and just the nuts and bolts of dating pre-internet and pre-cell phone.

 

How do you develop your plots and characters? 

Writing fiction is all pretty new to me. But so far, my process seems to start with a problem – a conflict. Two people who are on a collision path for some reason. In my first book, these people who seem to have nothing in common keep getting thrust together. They end up fitting because their deeper needs are met in relationship with this seemingly opposite person. I’ve learned a lot from conferences, taking workshops and from the women in my writing group but the thing that I keep going back to is from my training in improvisation: 1) Say “Yes, And” to any idea and 2) keep getting in trouble. 

 

Do your characters seem to hijack the story. or do you feel like you hold the reins of the story?

I’m a plantster (planner vs. seat-of-the-pantser) – evenly split, I think, between planning and letting the characters take me on a ride. Before I started formally writing books (I’ve always been a storyteller and have created a lot of theater in various ways), I always thought that thing of the characters having their own voices was a load of horse poop, but it actually happens for me! I tend to plan out a general structure/plot, which gets tweaked after I write each scene because I do actually hear the characters talking in my head and I’m just taking dictation. They often surprise me and then I adjust the outline from there.

 

Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day? 

I am an audiobook narrator and have been a professional actor on stage and on screen as well as a stage and audiobook director in the past. Telling stories in various formats has been my vocation and this is the newest chapter.

 

 ABOUT K. E. WHITE

K.E. White is the pen name for Karen White (adopted because a bazillion people share this name including an already-established best-selling fiction author). This Karen White is an award-winning audiobook narrator and professional actress who began writing when a magazine editor told her he could tell she had stories inside. She’d been telling tales and creating theater for years, but her first published piece appeared in his magazine, Salt. She also has an essay and poem in Nevertheless, We Persisted from Blunderwoman Productions. This is her first short story.

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