Audiobook Q&A: Valerie Gilbert


Valerie Gilbert has definitely practiced what she now preaches: Trust the process of life.

The writer, audiobook narrator, and spiritual teacher always wanted to be an actress, and she spent years in soulless corporate jobs trying to support that dream.

Yet it has been all of those other careers — writing, being published, producing audiobooks — that came to fruition for her, in the form of 100 audiobooks now produced and three books being published.

We spoke with Gilbert about her creative process and philosophies recently; here’s what she had to say.

SADYE: How do you prepare to record an audiobook?

VALERIE: I have to be in the mood to tell a story, create, and focus when I sit down to record, so time of day and my energy level must be taken into consideration.

One must read the book, of course, to familiarize yourself with the characters and plot, but there must also be an element of freshness when you give the read, so that you’re truly animating the story and its characters, and not regurgitating or droning. 

The performance has got to be dynamic, and that comes from the narrator’s energy, insight, and intelligence (as well as how well-written the book is).

SADYE: I always hear how important it is to find the right “fit” for the service you’re hiring out. In the case of audiobook narrators, what’s your advice for doing just that?

VALERIE: It’s clear to me, having been hired many times (I have 100 titles out), that it’s really a gut instinct on the author’s part. The same with all casting. They either like you or they don’t. If they like you, they make up reasons why they like you, and if they don’t, the same applies. It’s chemistry or personal taste, just like when you’re dating.

In terms of pragmatics, an author should get clear when auditioning/negotiating with a narrator regarding how the narrator works: Do they load one chapter at a time, or the whole book? What’s their estimated completion time?

… Personally, I like a friendly author since I’m a friendly narrator. I’m responsive to emails. Some authors don’t reach out and get involved, and this is not helpful — then I’m recording into a vacuum. I invite author feedback from the get-go, not to micromanage (this is totally counterproductive) but to make sure that I’m getting off on the right foot.

SADYE: How do you balance audiobook work with your own writing?

VALERIE: (In addition to recording and writing), I also teach psychic and spiritual development, so it’s a juggling act.

The energy of recording, editing, and mastering audio is very different from the energy of writing, and I find they don’t overlap, so I go in phases — recording, then writing, back and forth as jobs materialize. And then a teaching opportunity will pop up.

I’ve learned to be flexible, and that I’m not just one thing. I wear many hats.

SADYE: Is there a certain kind of book you tend to specialize in?

VALERIE: I’m particularly good with the nuances of human emotion, having experienced plenty of drama and traumas myself. Grief, sadness, anger, humor, and snark all come easily to me.

I love the paranormal (it’s what I write about), and that is why author Jessica McBrayer and I have had such a wonderful collaboration. We understand death and loss from personal experience. In addition, she has a great sense of fun and humor, as I do, and we appreciate that about each other.

In terms of genre, I’ve done a lot of romance, nonfiction, and science fiction. I’m great with accents, dialects, and a broad range of character voices, so that gives me room to play. I have to feel a connection with the material and the author’s voice. If I don’t, I can’t audition or accept an offer.

SADYE: In a different interview, you described how you went to great lengths in order to find a career with meaning. With hindsight 20/20, what would you tell your younger self?

VALERIE: Nothing! The first thing about this game of life is that we’re not supposed to “know”; we’re supposed to figure stuff out as we go. Just like in a book or movie, the heroine never knows the outcome — she has to rely on intuition, smarts, guts and learn from experience. This is the mysterious process of life that forges a wise human being. 

The second thing would be: Try not to cling too hard to the specifics of your dreams. Create the feelings you want to experience as a result of your goals (feeling loved, confident, successful) without needing to know the format they will show up in, because life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans.

If you feel good and confident, without needing to know or control the outcome, you will attract good and fun things. Go with the flow, while dreaming away. 

… My advice to everyone, my younger self included, is: Trust the process of life. It may not offer you what you want, but trust that there is meaning in the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It’s like a great novel. Life takes you on a ride. 

If it was all lollipops and rainbows, it wouldn’t be very interesting, would it? How you choose to behave when the chips are down, or when you’re flying high, determines your character. Not how big your bank account is, nor how great your hair and makeup are. Your character, what you’re made of, is what matters at the end of the day, and your life. Who do you want to be? 

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Learn more about and contact Valerie Gilbert on her website, where you can also purchase her books, and like her author page on Facebook.