Nicole Gose has done everything from voicing national and international commercial and radio spots, to voicing political campaigns, to mixing and producing jingles and scoring music for commercials, movies and theatrical plays. She is the voice talent for The Musubi Murder audiobook, where she inhabits characters ranging from diplomatic inkeeper Mercedes Yamashiro to anarchist newsblogger Patrick Flanagan to outspoken biology professor Emma Leilani Kano’opomaika’i Nakamura.
And of course Nicole voices the first-person protagonist, Professor Molly Barda, the unwilling amateur sleuth who just wants to stay out of trouble until she gets tenure.
In Part II of this interview, we discuss the production of The Musubi Murder, popular misconceptions about Hawaii, and more!
The Musubi Murder
Q: Did you find the character table with photos helpful? (If not that’s OK!)
A: Yes! I always find it easier to get into character when I know what the character I’ll be portraying looks like. You can really imagine how someone sounds when you see what they look like because you start making comparisons to that character with someone else that you may know of who sounds a certain way. You can also make assumptions as to what kind of a voice someone might have. For instance, if they’re smaller they may have a higher voice.
Character descriptions are also helpful because once you’ve established their physical form and develop the overall “genetics” of a character’s voice, you can then learn from the character description what kind of tone they may have, or how they may speak. If someone is more timid, they may speak softly or they may stutter and you can hear the lack of confidence in that person’s voice. If someone comes from a ‘school of hard knocks’ kind of background, you can imagine that they might sound tough, confident in their speech, and maybe aggressive.
Q: Which character was your favorite to narrate?
Ahh, I got rather attached to Pat and Emma. They make great sidekicks to Molly, and while Molly’s voice was right in my natural mid-range, Pat was in my lower register and Emma was in my higher. It was nice to be able to play around in the different ranges and have fun with that.
Q: Which character was the most challenging?
A: Not any one character in particular per se, but it was a little difficult at times juggling all of the different pidgin speaking characters because they can kind of blend in together.
Q: The Musubi Murder was your first audiobook. Would you do it again?
A: Definitely, although ideally, I would like to just narrate the story and not have to worry about listening back to it, editing and engineering the audio.
Q: Hawaii has had a high profile in the media lately–Hawaii 5-0 continues to be popular and the movie Aloha has stirred up some discussion. Before that, we had The Descendents, Dog the Bounty Hunter, and American Jungle. What do you think about the way Hawaii is portrayed versus what it’s really like to live here?
A: I think Hollywood likes portraying many of the “tropey” aspects of Hawaii and play up the fact that it’s an island setting, and very foreign and different from the rest of the country. But in reality, living there, or at least in Honolulu, was like living in almost any other mid-sized city. I’ve lived in Portland, Oregon for six years and have been living in Los Angeles for the past six months, and I’ve got to say that I’ve seen so many similarities between Los Angeles and Honolulu. The attitude in the people I’ve met is very similar, the traffic is about the same (but LA has more lanes so I actually prefer driving here!) and both cities are filled with skyscrapers. In movies about Hawaii, you rarely get to see that Honolulu has a thriving business community and city life. It isn’t all about Waikiki and tourism.
Q: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about living in Hawaii?
A: Going back to the last question, I think most people, when I tell them that I’m from Hawaii, they think of it as basically being America’s island playground, with nothing but endless days of relaxing on the beach.
The Nuts and Bolts
Q: Do you have a studio in your home?
A: Yes, it includes a nice Mac set up with huge monitor speakers and a recording booth I built in my closet.
Q: How did you learn the technical aspects of audio production?
A: I taught myself how to record and mix audio using Garageband a little over ten years ago when I was first recording myself singing and playing guitar and piano. I became much more skilled when I started charging people money to write songs for them.
Q: How many hours a day can you narrate? How do you keep your vocal cords in good condition?
A: I was narrating on average 3-5 chapters a day. I’m not sure how that translated into hours, because I would take breaks all of the time. I would record one chapter all at once, take a break, record another, and take another, longer break..So on and so forth. Taking many breaks is crucial to keeping your vocal cords in good condition. Thankfully, there weren’t really any screaming scenes, but when it comes to those, drinking tea and some herbal supplements like “nin jiom pei pa koa” is good.
Q: Do you have any advice for people who want to become audiobook narrators?
A: Read! Every day! Read out loud! Also, check out acx.com. It’s a free service for narrators. A lot of voiceover websites are “pay to play” which can work out for some people, but for most, it doesn’t. ACX does not charge a monthly fee to allow you to audition for books, so it’s a great place for someone to get their feet wet in the audiobook world.
I would also recommend for those interested to have taken a few voice over classes or acting classes in general. A huge part of voice acting is the acting part. That’s, really, well 99% of it. Audiobooks are no different. They’re often more acting, since you’d need to be able to portray all characters in a story.
Q: What skills are required to be a good audiobook narrator?
A: Have the patience and stamina to work on a long project. Be able to voice a number of different people. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have a wide vocal range. With your natural vocal tone, you could still create hundreds of characters by adding some grit to your voice or adding some attitude or swagger, changing up the pacing of your words, and take on different personality traits. How would you say something if you were a perfectionist and “neat freak”? How would you say the same line if you were an out-of-work couch potato? If you are able to create many believable characters, I’d say that’s a great start.
Q: Do you have any advice for authors in hiring and working with audiobook narrators?
A: I had the pleasure of working with Frankie Bow for my first audiobook and it was awesome! I really appreciate her friendliness and positive attitude and feedback and certainly her patience and understanding! ;) I would say that all authors looking to hire a narrator for their book should possess these qualities. It definitely made the job more enjoyable. [*blush* –ed.]
Q: What other projects are you working on now?
A: I just wrapped up a project where I lent my vocals to an amazing album called “All In” with DJ $crilla, and I’ve provided vocals for a few other albums that cannot be mentioned at this time. I’m also working on some other music projects and a bunch of commercial voiceovers and have been working on more videogames lately.
Q: Where can readers follow you?