Meet Xe Sands, Narrator in VINTAGE LOVE STORIES
Blunder Woman Productions, with the help of eight talented authors and nine equally talented narrators, released a remarkable volume of short tales set before the age of the internet and cell phones. Vintage Love Stories features Xe Sands’ narration of Purple Roses written by Christina Thompson.
We were able to chat with Xe and learn about her process as well as exactly what happens when a spider-phobic narrator is faced with a spider in the recording booth!
Have you had any funny or interesting things happen while recording?
Oh gosh yes. I think my favorite was finding a spider ON ME while recording a bit of sexy times (only the build up, but still…) one day. A little background: I’m an arachnophobe. So even though it was a wee little thing, I was still floored at finding it ON ME. Hilariously, since I was recording, I captured the whole thing on tape (well, digital “tape”) and I must say that I was surprised that I didn’t swear! And I was even quite composed! Er, well, until the end - after the spider had been shook off...then there was screaming and stomping (to be sure it was off me - NOT to squish it). But hey - I was totally composed while getting out of my booth! It was years back, so the performance quality is a bit rough (ahem), but if folks want to listen, they can find the clip here.
How do you get into a book/story?
I just let the “movie” of the book play in my mind as I read. I’m a highly visual person, so as I read (and as I narrate), the book plays out visually in my head, creating a bit of a visceral connection with the plot and the characters.
How do you prepare for all the different characters and their tones/vocal ranges?
They just happen organically as I’m working them for the first time. If something just isn’t coming out well or feels forced or doesn’t align with the character, then I stop and try to figure out why whatever I’m doing is off the mark. Sometimes, I can hear the character very clearly, but can’t seem to make that sound come out of my mouth! Those are the times I have to get more creative and find a way to capture the essence of what I’m hearing in my head, even if I can’t capture the actual sound of it.
How many books have you narrated and do they have a common thread or theme?
Oh boy...nearing 300 now, I think. They do seem to have several common threads, or a common feel about them, perhaps. I like to say that my favorite books to read and to narrate are the “messy fiction,” you know - those books that shred you internally, transform you, slip in under your defenses and take you for an emotional dark ride. And while I don’t necessarily choose such books intentionally, books with that sort of feel - even in the romance genre - seem to choose me. It gets expressed in characters who go through (or have been through) traumatic abuse or loss...and while that can be extremely difficult for me to process and narrate, I try to remember that by giving those characters my full heart and carrying them with the grace and dignity they deserve, perhaps listeners who need to hear their particular journey will also feel supported.
On the nonfiction side, because I tend to narrate even nonfiction as naturally and conversationally, as accessibly as I can, I tend to be cast to narrate very personalized nonfiction and personal development - tales of the author’s journey through an issue - the facts and the emotional impact of them, such as The Poisoned City, by Anna Clark, or the forthcoming Vaquita, by Brooke Bessesen, or The Listening Life, by Adam McHugh.
What do you like most about narrating audiobooks?
Living someone else’s life.
What do you like least about narrating audiobooks?
How quickly we have to shift from one project to the next.
And...how freaking hot it gets while recording in the booth in the summer.
During your downtime, do you prefer to read in print or listen to stories in audio?
Oooo - good question. At this point, I prefer to listen, as long as the narration is compelling and engaging ;)
Do you prefer a specific genre or types of characters?
Absolutely. First person POV, please! The messier and more tormented, the better. Er, perhaps we shall not now engage in speculation about why that might be...nothing to see here! Move along! Ahem.
Is there an audiobook you just loved listening to? What about that narration makes it special?
There are a couple that stand out in my memory, but the one that always immediately pops into my head when asked this question is: Code Name: Verity. Seriously, if you haven’t listened to that - DO SO. Not only is the book itself compelling, but the two narrators are just flat-out amazing. Their characterizations and performance were absolutely perfect for their roles and I couldn’t have gotten through the content without them. I wouldn’t even have bothered with a YA historical fiction, but I had heard the narration was phenomenal...and that was 100% accurate. I especially love it when the narration is so good that I listen to books I wouldn’t otherwise read.
ABOUT XE SANDS
Xe Sands/ Jo Raylan is an Audie and Voice Arts Award-winning narrator based in the Pacific Northwest, known for her authentic, engaging and intimate delivery of nearly 300 audiobooks in various genres, specializing in first person, literary and epistolary fiction, memoirs, and captivating performance of romantic fiction. She has been recognized for her work by Salon, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and AudioFile Magazine and Audible Editors for titles such as The Wife, Now That You Mention It, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, Blood Water Paint, and The Submission Series.