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Quick, what do you call a closet that contains clothes and a microphone? A recording booth, of course, says Alyssa Bresnahan. Makeshift but soundproof, it belonged to an independent producer without a studio, and it was one of the places you could find her in 2002.
Bresnahan began her career in audiobook performance just after college in the early 1990s when a friend at Recorded Books suggested that she call Executive Producer Claudia Howard. Soon after auditioning, Bresnahan received her first book to record, Helen Keller’s THE STORY OF MY LIFE. “After that, it just kept going,” she says, attributing her steady success to her young voice and a lack of competition. “There weren’t a lot of people recording then.”
Reviews for Bresnahan’s work point less modestly to a talent for characterization, pacing, and a chameleon-like ability to match emotion to plot. “Why thank you,” she says when complimented, and adds, “Finding audiobooks so early enabled me not to have to waitress. Right from the beginning, I was working full-time as a performer. How lucky is that?”
In addition to young adult books, which she still records— “they’re some of the best literature out there”—Bresnahan performs a range of literary and popular adult fiction, mysteries, romance, and fantasy. “Reading is a gift of this job,” she says. “I just finished Rene Denfeld’s beautiful book THE CHILD FINDER, which soulfully brought home the point that abuse and cruelty can take on a life of their own if not stopped and healed. I’m also exposed to writing that I wouldn’t otherwise encounter, such as fantasy. Now it’s a whole world that has opened up to me.” She laughs. “When I drop my daughter off at school, other parents will ask, ‘You going to work?’ I’ll say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to read!’”
Bresnahan has chosen not to have her own recording booth. “Everywhere I go, there always seems to be somebody with a book and a microphone,” she jokes. “Actually, I enjoy the social contact of going into a studio and getting feedback from the producer and sound engineer. You see, when you record a book, it’s gone. You don’t know who’s listening.”
Occasionally, though, she has a hint. At Lincoln Center a few years ago, she found fans waiting at the stage door. “They’d say, ‘I loved you tonight, and I love your books!’ That means a lot.
“Audiobooks have been such a large part of my life,” says Bresnahan. “They’ve been my bread and butter, and still are. In many instances, I don’t know what I would have done without them. But it’s more than that. They’ve been a very good partner throughout my acting career and have helped define who I am as a performer.”—Aurelia C. Scott
[December 2017/January 2018]
December 2006: Alyssa added another to her Laurie R. King titles, THE ART OF DETECTION . Characters from two of the author's series meet within the story, so Robert Ian Mackenzie shares the credits. Alyssa also continued with the YA fantasy series by John Dickinson with THE WIDOW AND THE KING , and the next in Charlaine Harris's series of supernatural mysteries, GRAVE SURPRISE. She is in New York City once more, and we hope to hear a new crop of audios from her soon.
December 2005: CALIFIA'S DAUGHTERS. WINTER HOUSE by Carol O'Connor was also a great showcase of her skills. In January, Alyssa will star in O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten" at the Hartford Stage.
December 2004: Turning in her usual “memorable performance,” Alyssa has treated listeners this year to Katherine Paterson’s THE SAME STUFF AS STARS , which joins a string of recent children’s and young adult title readings, such as THE PRESENCE by Eve Bunting, THE SILVER CROWN by Robert O’Brien, and WALK SOFTLY, RACHEL by Kate Banks. We have missed hearing Alyssa read psychological thrillers and hope some may be on the horizon for her audiobook fans.
December 2003: Alyssa has treated listeners to gritty, psychological thrillers presented with cool command; among them this year, TOUCHING EVIL and COLD BLOODED . The latest is Carol O’Connor’s DEAD FAMOUS . Her recording of THE LOVELY BONES continues to be a top choice for listening. Between audiobooks, Alyssa was in the Off Broadway run of Eve Ensler’s Necessary Targets, and appeared in Chicago in The Rose Tattoo by Tennessee Williams.
December 2002: Returning to audiobook work in 2002, Alyssa treated listeners to readings of THE LOVELY BONES and THE AGE OF INNOCENCE . Upcoming in 2003, she says, is GRAMERCY PARK , a first novel by Paula Cohen, "a great Victorian story with descriptions of New York City that touch the heart."
December 2001 : Alyssa's engagment with the English tour of TANTALUS took her away from audiobooks for much of 2001. She did record her fourth title in Laurie King's Kate Martinelli series, NIGHT WORK which is included above in Alyssa's audiography. In young adult titles, Alyssa recorded WHAT JANIE FOUND by Carolyn Cooney and ELLA IN BLOOM by Shelby Hearon. In late 2001, Alyssa had just begun work on Eve Ensler's new play, NECESSARY TARGETS. We hope we'll hear more from Alyssa in 2002.
December 2000 : Alyssa is just completing a six-month engagement in Denver as a principal actress in the Royal Shakespeare Company's world premier of TANTALUS, an epic drama—a 10-hour performance—based on the Trojan War. Audiobooks were on Alyssa's mind before heading west, so she completed a half-dozen books before leaving New York. They included DARKNESS PEERING , CRIME IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD , and NIGHT WORK , the newest Kate Martinelli mystery by Laurie King. She balanced these suspense titles with some young adult titles, JUST ELLA , DON'T DIE MY LOVE , and Alyssa's particular favorite, NOWHERE TO CALL HOME . Several of these are reviewed in this issue, in addition to Earphones-winner Olivia Goldsmith's YOUNG WIVES . Alyssa looks forward to her return to regular narrating and the simplicity of an audiobook production.
December 1999 : A young actress who always makes time for audiobooks in her acting life, Alyssa Bresnahan is a new addition to AudioFile's Golden Voices. Whether the work is contemporary fiction or young adult literature, Alyssa Bresnahan's performances sing with a vibrancy reflecting her keen understanding of the text. For the seven years she has been working in audiobooks, she has delivered some difficult works, like Carol Shields's Pulitzer Prize-winning THE STONE DIARIES , with consummate skill. She can tease out textual nuances and give listeners a clear window to the author's vision.
In preparing to record a book, Alyssa tries to understand the rhythm of each author. Using an analogy that reflects her dancer's training, she says, "I want to figure out the choreography of each author's sound." Recorded Books producer Claudia Howard remarks on Alyssa's success with young adult titles. "She has a great comedic sense and an ability to convey a wide-eyed discovery of the world that just connects with that audience." Narrating the recent recording of WHITE OLEANDER , Alyssa marveled at author Janet Fitch's ability to paint a whole picture with one sentence. Alyssa sees herself—her voice—as a paintbrush delivering a picture to the listener. Good writing always gives the narrator more to work with, but Alyssa notes a paradox: "The better the writing is, the more you can leave it alone."
Photo courtesy of the narrator
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