Novelist Natasha Bowen’s YA mermaid fantasy novel Skin of the Sea made a huge splash when it debuted, instantly landing on the New York Times bestseller list. The book’s heroine is Simi, a brave mermaid who saves a living boy and in so doing must battle with the forces of the sea itself. Needless to say, when it came to recording the audiobook, finding an equally fearless narrator was key.
Actor and audibook narrator Yetide Badaki is no stranger to adventure. Known for her acting work in This Is Us, American Gods, and Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, she has also narrated numerous audiobooks, and fully embodies the voice of Simi in both Skin of the Sea and its sequel, Soul of the Deep. We sat down with Yetide to learn more about her experience narrating these immersive, edge-of-your-seat (or cusp-of-a-wave?) audiobooks.
PRH Audio: Thank you so much for sitting down with us to talk about narrating Skin of the Sea and Soul of the Deep! Before we dive in (no pun intended), could you tell us a little about the Skin of the Sea series?
Yetide: Thank you for having me and I have to say, I love a good pun. So letâ€™s take the plunge? The Skin of the Sea series by Natasha Bowen follows the epic tale of Simi the Mami Wata and her adventures in a fantasy-filled historic West Africa. As listeners, we are gifted the opportunity to experience African Mermaids in a beautifully woven, immensely moving narrative.
PRH Audio: As a narrator, how did you prepare for reading these audiobooks?
Yetide: As a narrator I like to have the materials early so that I can map through the different characters and chart the storytelling beats. Our wonderful director Joseph Ward was incredible in making sure that I had any pertinent notes sent my way. I also found so much joy in being able to reach out to my mother for her insights on certain pronunciations and mythical beats.
PRH Audio: Okay now we’re tempted to ask about your cool mom, but we also want to know: what is it like to read a sequel and return to characters youâ€™ve read before? How did you get back into Simiâ€™s voice?
Yetide: Reading a sequel is very much like revisiting old friends. There is something deeply comforting about reentering a familiar world while also anticipating the excitement of a thrilling new adventure. Thankfully, we had the same team going into recording on both books so there was a lovely shorthand that had been developed. To get back into Simiâ€™s voice it was incredibly helpful to be able to literally listen back to the previous audiobook.
PRH Audio: Itâ€™s summer, the perfect season for a splashy mermaid tale. Is there a scene in either Skin of the Sea or Soul of the Deep that youâ€™re especially excited for audiobook listeners to hear, or that was particularly fun to record?
Yetide: I would be loathe to give any spoilers, but I can say that there are some beautifully epic action sequences that I canâ€™t wait for audiences to experience. In addition, there were quite a few moments where even I as a narrator was literally on the edge of my seat.
PRH Audio: We canâ€™t help but ask: if you were a mermaid for a day, what would you do? How would you spend that day?
Yetide: If I was a mermaid for a day, I would explore the depths of the ocean and investigate old sunken ships and forgotten treasures. Iâ€™d assume I could communicate with the creatures of the deep and so I would take the opportunity to learn what a day in the life of an octopus looks like or that of a swordfish. And then Iâ€™d find some untouched crop of land in a far off place and listen to the waves while watching a brilliant sunset over the sea.
PRH Audio: That sounds, quite frankly, awesome. And now, last but not least—since weâ€™re all listening fanatics here—what is the last great thing you listened to?
Yetide: I actually just did another audiobook written by Nnedi Okorafor called Who Fears Death. Nnedi is among many things, a terrific African Futurist writer. And just this morning I had the beautiful melodies of “La Vie en Rose” wafting through my window as a French street artist accompanied his lone accordian. As far as Tuesday mornings go, that moment offered some pretty great listening.
Listen to a clip of Skin of the Sea:
Listen to a clip of Soul of the Deep:
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