Talking with Marin Ireland
In June 2023, Marin Ireland was inducted as a Golden Voice, AudioFile's lifetime achievement honor for audiobook narrators.
What’s your favorite thing about narrating audiobooks?
Books were my whole world as a kid. I used to think maybe I’d be a novelist because all I ever did was read. I was so shy, I never would have thought I’d become an actor, but once I did that for the first time at 11, the revelation was that I got to submerge myself fully inside a story and disappear. And with audiobooks, I’m not just one element of the story, I get to be everyone. And also I have the honor of speaking the whole text, which is awe-inspiring to me. To enter into the writer’s mind fully. I find it a truly sacred thing that for many people, my speaking the story will be the only way they will encounter a book. It’s a profound responsibility. Time goes away for me when I record. It’s just pure joy. And pure escape into the brand-new world. I just love writers. I’m so grateful to them.
Tell us about a memorable character you’ve given voice to. And please name a couple of your favorite performances.
I loved doing those two kids in NOTHING TO SEE HERE, they were so vivid to me. And they cracked me up. I love doing teenagers, the freedom in that. The BEARTOWN series let me splash around in a bunch of teenage brains, and that was pretty delightful, especially some doofy dudes. Getting to play boys and men is fun, since I don’t get to do that in the rest of my career! I really got a kick out of Angel and Eve in SLEEPING BEAUTIES—both of those voices felt like full physical performances and I had a blast. Eve was right up on the mic and I felt so powerful. Angel was kind of a big swing but I just heard her immediately. I’m very instinctual and (almost) never plan a voice, I see who they sound like in my head when I’m reading the text to myself. Most writers give you so many clues, the characters just start talking in my head and I just let them out.
Where do you find inspiration for accents or other aspects of your performance?
The boring answer is dialectsarchive.com—the best, exhaustive, and totally fascinating collection of real people from all over the world. That’s if I need a brush up or some help. But honestly in the moment, usually whoever pops into my head first, whether it’s a friend or a well-known actor or personality—that’s the best bet for keeping it consistent for me. And like a fun little secret that only I know!
What is the funniest moment you’ve encountered in narrating audiobook?
A common and hilarious thing when I was recording at home in my closet during the height of Covid was having to pause . . . repeatedly . . . for my cat. She did not enjoy being on the other side of the closet door and listening to me, so she insisted on well-timed yowls to get back at me. There are a few editors out there who I’m sure have enjoyed some high-quality operatic feline underscoring.
See also: 5 Questions with Narrator Marin Ireland | Interview with Candace Levy | MAY 19, 2021
Actress Marin Ireland likes recording audiobooks because instead of playing one part in a film or television series or onstage, she gets to play all of the roles in the story. Ireland is best known for the Amazon Prime series “Sneaky Pete,” the movie Hell or High Water, and, on the Broadway stage, her Tony Award-nominated role in Neil LaBute’s “reasons to be pretty.”
Ireland’s reviewers note the nuance and pacing in her performances, even when she’s delivering the action and description in the novels she narrates. “In television and film, the final performance and the tone and pacing are dictated by the editor and the director after my work is done,” she says. Her audiobook recording experiences have given her the most pleasure when she feels the flow of the words and focuses on serving what’s on the page. She says she’s drawing on all her instincts as an actress to portray all the parts, and she likes that. Ireland says she tries to “give over to” the sounds of the words as they form in her mind while she’s reading and reproduce that in her performance. “I remember the first one I ever did, and I said, ‘I don’t know how far to take the characterizations of these people,’ and my director said, ‘Just go with your instincts.’”
Trusting those instincts has produced well-reviewed productions of SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Stephen and Owen King, THE RULES OF MAGIC by Alice Hoffman, and BEARTOWN and US AGAINST YOU by Fredrik Backman.
Ireland says that adding audiobook narration to her toolbox of acting skills draws on all the styles of acting on stage, film, and television. “When I was a kid, about 11 years old, before I knew I wanted to be an actor, I read voraciously. I thought I might be a writer when I grew up because that’s all I did. I was shy, and I needed books as an escape.” Stepping into a small recording booth reminds her how books took her to imaginary worlds when she was young. “I like being privy to telling every element of that story.” She says audiobooks are an extension of her interest in storytelling as an actress and her fascination with words and language. “For me, it all comes down to the writing. If the writing inspires me, I’m in. Some of the best times in recording are when I disappear, and they won’t stop me for a little while, and I find myself lost in it just as I imagine a listener would be.”
However, she knows from her acting experience that as a performer, she must stay in control and keep her own emotions in check. “It’s not about me crying; it’s about making listeners cry.”—Randy O’Brien
©AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine
This Time Tomorrow AudioFile Best of 2022 Fiction
Cloud Cuckoo Land AudioFile Best of 2021 Fiction
Leave the World Behind AudioFile Best of 2020 Fiction
Nothing to See Here Audie Award 2020 Best Female Narrator
Beartown AudioFile Best of 2017 Fiction
The Rules of Magic AudioFile Best of 2017 Fiction
Sleeping Beauties AudioFile Best of 2017 Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror
Photo by Corey Nickols / Getty
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