Jenna Lamia's life is a happy juggle of narrating audiobooks, acting, and writing for the television show "90210." She's sure that all three came from growing up in a "storytelling home." Jenna, who recently won an Audie for Solo Narration--Female, began her path to success when her parents read aloud to her nightly. "My father actually made up stories and shared installments of ongoing serials he invented."
Jenna recently realized the influence of these early experiences when she recorded a story as a baby gift. "As I recorded it, I could remember the exact sound of my mom's voice reading the book, and I recognized how much my parents' reading has contributed to my audiobook narration. People say that smell is the strongest memory trigger, but for me it's hearing."
Jenna prepares for an audio performance with an immersion similar to those of her childhood. She allows herself to become completely absorbed as she reads the book, withholding judgment and allowing it to make an impression. "I don't want to decide anything until I've had the entire experience the author intended. Most of the time, once I've finished the book, my choices have become clear."
As she begins the narration, Jenna has one major thought: "to bring the characters to life for the author who's spent years on the work." But as soon as she enters the recording booth, she says, "I think about the characters and about making sure they get their due."
Obviously, her approach is working. From the opening of THE CHOSEN ONE, the audiobook for which she won her recent Audie, listeners will identify with Jenna's well-rounded portrayal of the protagonist, Kyra, a young woman trapped in a cult. Kyra's coming-of-age may be scarier than most people's, but Jenna says, "I found the heart of her issue to be universal--the world tells you who you are while you're figuring out from the inside how to be your authentic self." Jenna aids listeners' identification with her clear connection to character and theme.
Her youthful voice also adds realism to the Young Adult audiobooks she's read. Jenna finds her narration of those novels has informed her writing. She's currently working on her own YA, which she says she wouldn't have had the confidence to write without having narrated novels that helped her understand the pacing required by the genre.
Perhaps one day, Jenna Lamia will narrate a book she's written, but she'll never hear it once it's been recorded. Though she listens to the work of other reader-writers--like favorites David Sedaris, Rebecca Wells, and Augusten Burroughs--she won't listen to her own work. "I'm way too critical," she says. She wanted to listen to the THE HELP, a book that won two Audies. "But because I was a member of the cast, I had to fast-forward past my parts."--Susie Wilde August/September 2010
Jenna Lamia brings a fresh, captivating voice to the audiobook world, and with only a few audiobooks under her belt, she has had amazing success. Her performance of THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES was a 2003 Audie Award Finalist in the prestigious category of Best Female Narrator. Director Paul Ruben shared his excitement about their work on the audiobook, saying, "Only good actors make good directors, and she's one of them. A natural." GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING was her first audiobook, and an Earphones Award Winner. We celebrate HOPE WAS HERE with another Earphones. She has an attentive ear for the nuances of speech patterns and regional inflections, yet makes an effort not to overprepare. "I let the characters grow and take care not to be too knowing," she says. "I come to the story as the listener does, allowing it to unfold." Jenna's success is not just in audiobooks; a big break came with her 1998 performance in Ah, Wilderness on Broadway, and recently she starred in Bed Bound Off Broadway. She's now in Los Angeles where she had a role in HBO's Oz. Movies on the way include Audrey Tautou's Nowhere to Go But Up. Jenna's interest in audiobooks will likely keep open some time for narration in the coming months.--2003 Narrator Yearbook