Behind the Scenes Interview with Narrator Stevie Zimmerman
How did you get started as a narrator?
Quite by chance. I took an evening class called “So you want to get into voiceovers?” just for fun, and at the end of it thought maybe I could do the occasional short project. I started getting a few commercials and then some longer form narration which I realized I preferred doing. At about the same time, authors were starting to be able to self-publish in greater numbers with the arrival of e-readers and kindles, etc., so there was a new market opening up. I stumbled upon it and auditioned for a romance set in England, and I got it! Since then, it’s become my main source of employment.
What's the most challenging part of narrating an audiobook?
There’s a limit to how many hours you can talk every day. It is surprisingly tiring and sometimes I have to take a break because I’m worried that the tiredness, or sometimes even boredom! seep into my voice. Other than that, sometimes an author will surprise me with an unexpected nationality or pronunciation. Most recently I had to sing a full song in the voice of a 10-year-old American boy. I’m not a singer, at all, as my family will attest, and I’m not a boy or an American! That was a challenge.
How did you learn so many accents? Which accent did you enjoy the most in performing Diana, A Spencer in Love?
I’m lucky to have a reasonably good ear and so if it is an accent I haven’t done before, I can usually just listen to a little on Youtube and go from there, but there are some that I still find almost impossible. The Newcastle (England) accent, called Geordie, is a nightmare for me, even though I LOVE the sound of it. With Diana, most of the accents were high class “Queen’s English,” so the trick there was differentiating between all the different people who would otherwise sound the same. I always enjoy doing some of the regional and other class accents. But for Diana, A Spencer in Love, I attempted to capture some of what we know about Charles and Diana, without trying to imitate them. I think Diana herself was the most enjoyable.
What surprised you most about Diana, after reading the book?
How strongly you portrayed her, how much more independently-minded she was. On TV those early years made her seem so shy and awkward it was almost painful. Of course, her story is painful.
What was the most memorable part of Diana's story for you?
I was in London during the whole part of their courtship and marriage and I remember a lot of romance and frills associated with the story, but seeing it through the lens of hindsight is very poignant. I particularly remembered the photo opportunity when the press caught Diana in a see-through skirt. I had had a photo taken just like that at about the same time so that was strange to remember.
What would you like people to know about audiobooks?
Narrators can make or break an audiobook. I’ve started many myself that I knew were excellent books but I couldn’t press on because of the narrator. And a great narrator can elevate an ordinary book. Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey is someone I would listen to no matter what he was reading - pretty much. And they’re a lot of work! Fun, but hard work.