In June 2019, January was inducted as a Golden Voice, AudioFile's lifetime achievement honor for audiobook narrators.
What has surprised you the most about your work in audiobooks?
The first big surprise is that I never expected to become a full-time narrator and make my living doing it and love it. I thought when I auditioned for the first book it was just going to be a one-off, like a commercial that I do occasionally, or an advertising campaign--I th�ought I was just going to do “an audiobook,” which sounds hilarious now. 200 titles later, I’m very grateful that didn’t end up being my first and last. The thing that has surprised me the most in doing the work for the past decade or so is the eloquence and passion of the people who listen to audiobooks and how kind and generous they are. I’m used to being onstage, and when I don’t have an audience to react to my work, it’s a very different feeling, and so when people reach out on Twitter or email me, when authors respond and write and say, “Listening to my own book as you read it was a whole different experience and I loved it,” that’s really, really meaningful, and it’s been a wonderful surprise.
Tell us about any interactions with authors.
I’ve gotten a couple of books because authors were avid listeners of audiobooks, and they discovered me that way, and that’s really thrilling. It feels like a different kind of audition--an audition I didn’t know I was giving, which is actually really nice, because there’s no pressure involved! Probably about six months ago, I got one of the nicest emails I’ve ever gotten from a fan. She wrote to me and she told me a story about how she had to change jobs, and she has this much longer commute now, and it was the Diviners series--so many of my stories about fan interactions go back to that Diviners series by Libba Bray--and she said she had been listening to it, and it had made this transition that she’s really feared making so much easier for her. And then she said, “I’m just writing to you because you’ve made so many of my days so much easier, and I hope by telling you a nice story in a world that’s really hard and complicated for so many people right now, I’m making your day better.” And I just thought that was the nicest thing, and I was so grateful to her for taking the time to do that.
Have you ever done anything outrageous to get into character for an audiobook?
I wouldn’t say necessarily outrageous, although when I started working on the Star Wars books, it’s the hardest thing in the world to find clips of those, especially the old movies, because they just don’t allow them to be online. So before I did the first book that was set in the universe of the first three movies, when I was doing familiar characters like Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, I sat down for four hours and watched the whole first original trilogy of movies, and I was laughing and crying, and I completely forgot that I was doing any sort of research. So then I had to go back and pull out all of the specific things that I was looking for, because I was just enjoying the experience of reliving my childhood and watching those movies again.
Interview, August 2015—January LaVoy manages to straddle the worlds of stage, film, and television and somehow squeezes in recording 20 audiobooks a year, which is good news for audiobook fans.
LaVoy, named the 2013 Audiobook Narrator of the Year by Publishers Weekly , is making quite a name for herself in the field. In the past five years she has recorded dozens of mainstream mystery books by many authors, including James Patterson and Harlan Coben.
LaVoy only recently realized how important audiobooks are. “I used to think audiobooks were for commuters,” she says. “Recently, a war photographer presented me with three flags that flew over his camp in Afghanistan. He said audiobooks allowed them to shut out the war for several hours.”
She also learned how important audiobooks are to America’s prisons. “An announcer at this year’s Audie Awards said that audiobooks are piped into entire cell blocks. Everyone just listens; the whole block is quiet. Many prisoners are illiterate, and this is the only way they can get access to great literature.”
Like many performers, LaVoy reads a book at least twice before recording it. “I read it once straight through. Then I go through and underline important parts, like when it says the character ‘spat’ the words. I play with the voices until they feel right to me. As the narrator, I feel it’s my job to heighten the parts of the story that impacted me.”
LaVoy recorded her first audiobook in 2008 under a pseudonym because she feared her association with a sexy vampire novel might affect her job as an actress on a soap opera. Her most popular work is THE DIVINERS, for which she won the Publishers Weekly award, a raucous novel by Libba Bray set in the Roaring ’20s in which she gave voice to a large number of characters. “They were all trying to make it in New York,” she says. “My favorite was called the Ziegfield girl, who talked like Mae West.”
Her next project will be LAIR OF DREAMS, the sequel to THE DIVINERS. As for what book she’d like to record someday, she says, “I’d love to record Jacqueline Susann’s second novel, ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH.”
What’s the attraction of a racy 1973 novel? “My mother named me after the main character in the novel, January Wayne. When I was old enough to understand such things, I asked my mother if I could read it. She said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I still think it would be fun to record.”--Michael Sangiacomo[AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015]
�© AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine
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Photo by Todd Cerveri
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