This blog is for those 18 and older.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Interview with Wendy Anne Darling

This is my first post on HEAT and I’m so excited to be included in on this fabulous site! Before I jump in, I just want to thank Dawn Kunda for her awesome introduction. I’m blushing! Thank you, Dawn.

And now, I have the honor of introducing Wendy Anne Darling. She’s a narrator specializing in audio books. I was lucky enough to get an interview with her, so let’s dive in!

NP: Wendy, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. Before I bombard you with questions, please tell us a little about yourself.

WD: I was born and grew up until I was twelve in the south of England and then my family moved to South Africa where we lived for five years before returning to England. I got married when I was eighteen and have two wonderful daughters who were eight and six when we moved to America, where we’ve lived ever since.

I have degrees in Visual Communications and Paralegal Studies and live in Longmont, Colorado with my oldest daughter, son-in-law and two rambunctious grandkids.

NP: What led you to a career in narrating?

WD: I’ve always loved reading aloud and read a lot to my sisters growing up. I’ve read the entire Lord of the Rings and Hobbit books twice aloud, once for my sisters and once for my daughters.

English was my favorite subject and I was always the first in class to finish reading assignments. One day our teacher started having us all read a paragraph of our latest designated homework book outloud to the class. As usual, I was quietly in my desk; stressing out more and more as my turn loomed closer (I was a painfully shy girl!). When it got to my turn, I started reading, stopped at the end of the paragraph and there was perfect silence and finally when I looked around at the rest of the class they were just sitting there, staring at me! “Carry on,” my teacher said, so I read the next one. “Keep going.” I ended up sitting on top of my desk and reading until the bell went off for the end of class! It was at that point that I really realized the power of storytelling.

When I decided that I was never going to be happy and fulfilled doing a regular 9 to 5 job working for someone else, and was fortunate enough to be in a position to ‘go for my dream,’ I started writing my first book and also researched narration. I found Amazon ACX and started sending out auditions and was thrilled to be chosen by Nicolette Pierce to be the voice of Nadia Wolf after only five auditions were sent out! Nicolette took a chance on an unknown and I will forever be so grateful to her.

Note from NP: I am shamelessly using this interview to self promote, aren’t I? Lol. But let’s continue. There’s some great info still ahead.

NP: How much work is involved producing a title?

WD: Way more work goes into producing an audio book than most people think. Every finished hour of audio I upload to ACX for an audio book takes me around six hours to complete. I’ve read that this is a pretty normal amount of time. Learning how to use the software was a very steep learning curve for me and I’m still honing my process.

NP: Take us through some of the steps.

WD: First, I read the book through, looking out for things like strange word pronunciations and whether there might be any characters with accents that I might need to brush up on. I mark up the script when I find these.

I have changed my process a little lately and now record one or two chapters at a time and go through the rest of my process on each one separately so that each chapter is fully edited and mastered before moving onto the next. I record any time of the day when my daughter and the grandkids are out of the house so I don’t have to deal with the crash of small feet and raucous chattering coming through the ceiling! :D

I do the first sweep through the chapter I’m working on by going through it and taking out sections that I messed up on and then I go through again with the manuscript to check that I read everything correctly, marking down time points and the corresponding page number in the script in order to find those points easily.

Next, I rerecord those sections and edit them into the audio and then go through the chapter one last time to ‘tweak’ timing so that it flows as perfectly as it can.

The final stage is mastering the audio. I take out ‘spikes’ where the audio has come out too loud and then run it through a series of editing functions in the software that prepares it for Amazon’s QC phase.

NP: Do you have to use special equipment?

WD: Amazon ACX suggests some pretty expensive equipment and software programs but, being the researcher that I am, I did a lot of reading to find out what was really necessary, as well as, affordable.

Apart from a decent microphone and free recording software, I built a recording ‘chamber’ that is 14” by 14” and lined with the best acoustic lining I could find. My mic sits in there, with a pop guard in front of it, and that’s all I need. I am fortunate that my room is in the basement, which is the quietest place in the house, and the house is on a fairly quiet residential street. One day I’d love to have a purpose built booth to record in so that I don’t have to worry about the noise from the kids but that’s a major expense so I just work around their schedules.

NP: What are some of the great things about narrating?

WD: Being a narrator with my own equipment means I can work from home, which I love! I get to read books that I probably wouldn’t have run across had I not been doing this, which is a plus, and I love reading aloud so that’s another positive.

NP: What are some of the pitfalls?

WD: Firstly, I’d say that actually making money from being an audio book narrator can take a long time to occur. As a relatively new narrator, my name is slowly becoming known and eventually I should have been able to add enough projects to my list to be receiving royalties that cover my expenses.

Other weird things I’d never thought about before embarking on narration include things like not being able to record from anywhere else as the sound changes too much when you change location (I had to cut short a recent trip to visit a friend in Arizona and return to Colorado because the sound quality I got in her house was so totally different that it didn’t match the audio I’d already recorded in Colorado and I’m too much of a perfectionist to send out work like that!).

I rarely eat anything until after I’ve completed my recording for the day because many things, especially dairy products, cause me challenges that affect my vocal chords. Also, if my voice is affected by illness, as happened recently, I can’t record either.

NP: What advice would you give to those interested in pursuing a career in narrating?

WD: If, like me, you already love to read aloud and people like your voice, I’d say “go for it!” Auditioning through ACX is really easy and you won’t know if you’ll like it until you try!

NP: What are you working on now?

WD: I’m currently working on my fifth audio book project, Nicolette Pierce’s ‘Cashing Out,’ the third in her great Nadia Wolf series! Such fun books to narrate!

Note from NP: Teehee! Thanks! :)

NP: What are your future plans or goals?

WD: After I get twenty audio book projects done I can request to get onto ACX’s ‘preferred narrator’ list. Within the next couple of months I should have at least eight books recorded so I’m working towards that goal.

I’d like to do other vocal projects too, such as voice overs.

NP: I know you are also a writer, tell us a little about your work.

WD: I wrote and published my mid-grade kid’s book, ‘Silver Lightning’ last year and have a sequel started. I’ll also narrate ‘Silver Lightning’ as soon as I have a break between projects. ‘Silver Lightning’ is a fantasy book in which young Alex Bascolme has a prophetic dream about a motorcycle with magical powers that changes his life, and the lives of people who need his help. If you’d like to take a look you can find it at

As I’m also a graphic designer, I did the cover for ‘Silver Lightning’ and am writing and illustrating a children’s picture book. The story is complete but the artwork will take some time!

My most exciting project is to complete a book my mum wrote before her death. It’s an adult fantasy about dragons, my favorite magical creatures, and it looks set to become a series as Mum had already written 25,000 words and left copious notes and a great synopsis. My sister and I have our work cut out filling in the blanks!

NP: That sounds like such a great project! Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. It was fascinating to hear about your life and work. Good luck with both your writing and narrations!

WD: Thanks for letting me tell you some of my story! If you’d like to connect with me on social media, here is a list of my links. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about narration so feel free to email me as well.

Twitter: @authorwdarling




  1. Love to hear about the background on narrators and/or authors.

  2. First, your very welcome, Nicolette, and thank you for sharing a whole new sphere of information to our bloggers!
    Wendy, what a fabulous profession! Are there certain genres you prefer to narrate? I've hadany readers ask about audio books, so do you think it's a blooming new business adventure?

  3. Hi Dawn and thanks for the question!

    My 'drug of choice', as far as genres go, is sci fi/fantasy, which is one of the reasons why I'm looking forward so much to completing my mum's book in concert with my sister. Throw in dragons and magic and I'm hooked. :D That being said, I also love humor and mystery so Nicolette's Nadia Wolf really appealed to me as well. I've recently finished recording a Victorian era erotic romance too, which is a bit of change for me but my accent does work well for the genre.

    I do a lot of research (nosing around on Google, basically!) and audio book 'consumption' is on the rise. Not only that, but I've read that audio book listeners can often retain and understand more of the story by listening than they may do by reading so that's a huge positive for the profession.My daughters both love audio books as they can listen while traveling or doing housework too. Literacy is extremely important to me so anything that can draw people to read is a good deal. Maybe if kids who say they don't like to read started with audio it could draw them into reading as well. That's my hope!

    Wendy Anne Darling

  4. First, I want to welcome Nicolette to HEAT! How great to have you. Second, what an interesting interview. I listened to Lord of the Rings on tape and loved it. A good voice for a story makes all the difference, but I didn't know how much work was involved. Very interesting :-)

    1. I've got the complete 13 cassette boxed set of the BBC radio presentation of LOTR, Alexis! And nothing to play it on. I was Andy Sirkis long before Andy Sirkis was Andy Sirkis... :D
      "What has it got in its pocketses, my precious?"

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  6. Thanks Wendy and Nicolette for this great post about the process of making audiobooks! I found this really interesting for two reasons. Firstly, as an avid reader who lost the use of her shoulders for over a year, I love listening to audiobooks - in fact they were something of a salvation for me at a time when the usual process of reading was too difficult. Secondly, as an author who has now published four books, I have been wondering how and when they should be issued as audiobooks. Lots to think about!