Stuntboy, in the Meantime Audie Award 2023 Middle Grade
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The Bangalore Detectives Club AudioFile Best of 2022 Mystery & Suspense
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Talking with Soneela Nankani
In June 2021, Soneela Nankani 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?
I guess I’ve been the most surprised by the number of genres in which I’ve been able to work. I used to think of myself as having the type of voice that was really best for young adult books. And while I still narrate those, it’s been amazing, as my skill has improved and my experience deepened and as producers have become familiar with my work, to be able to work in many other genres as well. One of my favorite genres to work in, nonfiction, was one which I never thought would be open to me.
The other thing I would mention is how I’ve developed some wonderful relationships with authors. There are quite a few authors for whom I’ve narrated multiple books, to the extent that their characters now feel like old friends. The writing community, I have found (much like the audiobook community), is incredibly kind, supportive. That’s been lovely to discover and engage with.
How do you approach issues of cultural authenticity when you’re narrating?
I really think you can glean most of what you need to know from the text. I’m always looking for clues about relationships, speech patterns, and areas of origin and staying 100% faithful to that. If I still have questions, I’ll contact the author. It’s the author’s words I’ve been entrusted to bring to life, so it’s important to me that I stay as faithful to that as possible. After that, I’ll do some of my own research, sometimes reach out to friends about pronunciations or cultural references and then add in a dollop of my own intuition and experience. Cultural authenticity is really important to me, which means my prep is usually quite involved!
What’s your favorite genre to narrate?
Any genre in which I can learn something. Which, let’s face it, is pretty much every genre. I’m an incredibly curious person and a collector of random facts, so there are not many books I don’t get excited about. When I started narrating, I’d never read a sci-fi book in my life. At some point, I got cast in a few of them and now, I’m a big fan.
Have you ever done anything outrageous to get into character for an audiobook?
I wouldn’t call it outrageous, but sometimes it helps me to get in character physically when voicing characters. I have no idea what I look like when I’m voicing, say, an imposing 60-year-old male politician. I imagine it’s pretty silly, but it really works! And when I’m working on fantasy or sci-fi books, it can really get wild.
Photo by Jody Christopherson
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