Q&A with Brittany Pressley, Narrator of American Royals and Well Met

Brittany Pressley is on a roll: on September 3rd alone three audiobooks that she narrated for Penguin Random House published, and it doesn’t seem like she has any plans to slow down. We caught up with the Earphones Award–winning narrator to learn more about some of her recent projects, and what keeps her motivated when the going–and the subject matter–gets tough.

Tell us a little about American Royals and Well Met
American Royals is a historical re-imagining that answers the question, “What if George Washington had accepted the position of King of America?” and imagines a whole line of American monarchy. It’s the first in a series and follows the lives of the royal family and the challenges of being a teen under the microscope of fame and power.

Well Met is a quirky rom-com book that takes place primarily at a renaissance faire. For fans of Ren Faire culture it is delightfully accurate and detailed. The protagonist is a reluctant participant who only joins to be a chaperone for her niece but ultimately finds the home, community, and love she’s been searching for.

What were some key differences between narrating those two titles?
The key difference is that American Royals is third person and Well Met is first. I actually approach third and first person pretty much the same, in that I’m trying to get into the emotional headspace of whoever’s perspective we’re currently living in. The main difference in first person is that I’m consistently in one point of view so my tone, pace, and cadence is consistent. For third person I’ll make subtle shifts to my tone and cadence in order to capture the character through whose eyes were currently viewing the world. I even adapt a different posture and pitch for each character’s POV so the listener will know that we are in a different character’s head now.

Where & when do you get most of your book reading/audiobook listening done?
For prepping I do most of that either on the train while commuting or walking on the treadmill for cardio. I’m always trying to multitask as much as possible. When listening for pleasure I like to listen while I’m walking my dog. He gets longer walks that way because I don’t want to stop listening!

What helps you power through when narrating a particularly difficult book/part of a book?
Having friends in the industry is a game changer. When I’m really struggling with something or I’m just plain exhausted, being able to lean on my narrator friends for their support and encouragement is what really gets me through. It’s such a solitary profession so building a strong support network of colleagues who “get it” is so important for navigating the challenges that arise. People who aren’t in the industry might roll their eyes like, “oh please, you’re just reading aloud,” Not realizing that I really put my heart and soul in a book and act it out fully for long days. It can be really emotionally draining!

Is there a motivational person, book, or audiobook you turn to when you feel in need of support or a boost?
Director Paul Ruben has been an incredible mentor to me. He’s had profound impact on my career. When I have an emotionally challenging book I request him because I know he will really push me to go as far as I can with my acting. His style also clicks well with my personality because I’m motivated by positive reinforcement. He might ask me to redo something 4 or 5 times, but it’s always rooted in positive language. He’ll say: “that was great! But I think you can you go further or do more.” I trust him implicitly and I know he’s only hard on me because he believes in my abilities. At the end of the project I always leave with an extra sense of accomplishment.

What’s your favorite treat yourself reward after you finish a project?
I love to travel. Obviously I can’t treat myself like this after every project, but I try to take a few trips a year. Some people procrastinate by going on Facebook, but I browse travel deal sites! I love to explore so I’ll pretty much go anywhere if I find a cheap flight. I’ll pack my schedule full for 3-4 months straight and work weekends and nights if necessary. What gets me through it is thinking about the light at the end of the tunnel, or in this case, at the end of the airport runway!

Any motivating tip or advice for an aspiring narrator?
The best advice I can give to an aspiring narrator is: be prepared to hustle and advocate for yourself. I’ll talk with someone who maybe did a book or two, and they liked it, but then they’ll say sadly, “I haven’t heard from anyone in months/years.” I’ll ask them if they have contacted anyone and they say no! The narrators who have the most success are the ones who put themselves out there. They network and make friends with other narrators. They go to coaching and take classes. They email industry contacts regularly (but not too regularly— I’d say quarterly is a good frequency). Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t respond. Don’t assume it’s because you’re not good. People are busy and there are a lot of narrators to keep track of (I have to remind myself this too!) Keep working on your craft and find your niche. I think this is extra important in the beginning. Try to hone in on what you can specifically offer or excel at. (Maybe an accent or foreign language?). That special skill will make you memorable and help open more doors.

Hear Brittany read American Royals by Katharine McGee and Well Met by Jen DeLuca!

Want to learn more about American Royals? Check our author Katharine McGee’s guest post HERE!