Talking with Adjoa Andoh
In June 2022, Adjoa Andoh was inducted as a Golden Voice, AudioFile's lifetime achievement honor for audiobook narrators.
How did you get started with narrating?
I started working in radio drama at the BBC in the ’80s and, as a consequence, was asked to record audiobooks. In those days, audiobooks were on cassette!
What helps you achieve an emotional connection to a book and the characters?
Empathy and a technical clarity around the different narrative drives of the characters, including the narrator, paying particular attention to the stakes in every encounter. In order to empathize, the audiobook narrator must make themselves emotionally available, lose themselves in the character’s dilemma, and speak into the listener’s ear.
What can you do through narrating audiobooks that you can’t do with your other acting work?
Recognize what an intimate medium it is. It’s your voice, the writer’s imagination, and the listener’s attention. Technically, everything you want to communicate is poured into your voice. It’s detailed, specific work, and you have to surrender to the story.
What’s your favorite genre to narrate?
Speculative fiction. It can encompass all genres of storytelling and allow us to reflect on aspects of this world, through the prism of other worlds. Great exponents of this form are Octavia E. Butler, Alastair Reynolds, and Ann Leckie. With Ben Aaronovitch, I co-fund a speculative fiction award for new writers of color, the Future Worlds Prize.
What has surprised you most about your work in audiobooks?
I have always loved telling and listening to stories. I am often asked to record books with a variety of accents. I am surprised at how few research resources are available for non-European languages and am disappointed sometimes by a “just give it a go” approach. All accents, like stories, need to be valued equally.
Photo by Suki Dhanda
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