The Sound of a Story, Pt. 2

Good evening! Only three more days until The Mime Order is out. I'm so incredibly excited for you all to read it. It's already out in some bookshops around the world, so if you've been able to have an early read, do let me know what you thought. Thank you to all of you for being so patient during the extra months of waiting for the book – I'm already hard at work on Book 3...

Last year, just after the publication of The Bone Season, I did an interview with Alana Kerr, who narrated the audiobook version of the book and provides the voices for not only Paige, but for all of my characters. Today, I'm delighted to have her back at A Book from the Beginning to talk about her experience narrating The Mime Order, and what she's been doing since I last spoke to her. Here are her answers to both my questions and those that some of you asked on social media.


Alana Kerr is originally from Belfast, Ireland. She graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with a joint 2:1 in Drama and English. She has trained in Meisner technique at the Impulse Company, London and takes weekly classes at the Margie Haber Studio, Los Angeles. She is also an alumnus of the National Youth Theatre (NYT) and the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) and is an accomplished actress, singer and voiceover artist.


Alana, it's been over a year since I did my last interview with you on the blog. Welcome back! What have you been up to since 2013? 

Thanks, I’m absolutely delighted to be voicing the next instalment of the Bone Season series. I’m such a fan! 2014 was a really varied for me. I voiced my second audiobook, shot a few commercials and my first US TV show, Murder Book, and travelled to Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Easter Island! 

How was your experience narrating The Mime Order in comparison to The Bone Season? Was there anything you set out to do differently? 

Thankfully with The Mime Order I had more time to prepare before recording than I did with The Bone Season, although it takes a surprisingly long time to do. I think I averaged 100 pages a day and there were approximately 450 pages. I’m a naturally slow reader but prepping a book isn’t just about reading it. I have to manually highlight each line of dialogue and make notes on character and tone. This all then helps tremendously when in the studio and hopefully makes for a more consistent read.

In terms of setting myself a new challenge for The Mime Order, I really wanted to up the ante in the action sequences and you certainly gave me plenty to work with! In particular, the final few chapters proved to be pretty exhausting but were so much fun to read. I felt like I was right there in the middle of the action. 

You did a stellar job with all the accents in the first book. Did you have to learn any new ones for The Mime Order

Thank you! I think the only one that threw me slightly off course this time around was Ognena Maria’s “light Bulgarian”. I hadn’t seen that one coming! For her, I decided to do a slight variation on Russian and mainly focus on clarity. There is a fine line between getting an accent 100% spot on and making it accessible to the audience, who might hail from anywhere from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Lancaster, England. As a narrator, it is of utmost importance to be clear and understood and often that can mean softening an accent a little.

The Bone Season was the first audiobook you narrated. Aside from this series, have you narrated any others? 

Yes, I also narrated The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazol Gaynor and am in the middle of prepping for Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner. 

There are invented songs in both books: An Ember Morning in The Bone Season and Five Ravens in The Mime Order. You didn't sing An Ember Morning, as I didn't provide the tune at the time, but you did sing Five Ravens. How did you find the experience of singing for an audiobook? 

I loved it! I was disappointed I didn’t get the chance to sing the first song so I was delighted to get your guidance for a tune for the second. I found Five Ravens so evocative and it really brought the streets of Scion London to life for me. It’s also fun to throw something in that and audiobook listener can experience above and beyond what’s written on the page. 

Who was your favourite character to speak for this time? 

This is a hard one as there are so many great characters to choose from. I did enjoy getting to know Paige a bit better though, I do have a soft spot for her! 

Did knowing more of everyone's story change the way that you voiced the characters?

I think it definitely helps to understand the character on a deeper level and that inevitably helps to shape your portrayal of them. 

I should tell you that my dad listened to the audiobook every day on his way to work, and has yet to read the paper version... Do you listen to many audiobooks yourself? Any you recommend, if so? 

This made me laugh out loud as my dad is such a fan too! He’s a big walker and loves to listen to audiobooks when he’s out and about. He loved The Bone Season and has pre-ordered The Mime Order in anticipation of its release. Audiobooks such a great way to experience a story and I often listen to them myself in the car. I find that living in LA doesn’t give me the same opportunity to read as London where I used to spend hours on the tube reading almost every day. Now I like to listen as I drive and in LA you do a lot of that! I’ve just finished listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point which is actually a social study rather than a novel but I absolutely loved it. I’m love being able to learn new things on the go. It’s funny how we often think of audiobooks as a new medium but it really harks back to the origin of storytelling. It is quite literally that, telling a story, and I think it’s a wonderful way to be swept away. 

Did you peek at any reviews of your narration online? 

Peek is the perfect word! Because The Bone Season was my first ever audiobook I felt not only a natural curiosity at how people received it but I was interested to learn what I could do to improve my narration. So yes, I did peek from behind my fingers once or twice but I didn’t dwell on it too much. I’m not sure to what extent I’d check on them in the future. 

When reading a second book in a series, do you go back and listen to your recording of the first to remember how you did different voices or does it just all come back to you? 

It seems strange but somehow I seemed to remember most of the voices. I tend to picture them in my mind and the voice comes with the image and the line. As with all good writing, each character speaks in a particular rhythm and this helps keep them separate and individual. We do, nevertheless, have a snippet of each voice available at the studio should I need a refresher which was very helpful. It was harder to remember smaller, more incidental characters but all of the major ones I was able to replicate fairly accurately just by conjuring that image and reading the given line of dialogue.

How much research do you do of the book before you read it out loud or is it the first time that you read it when you are recording it? 

It’s usually best to read the whole book before stepping into the studio although sometimes that isn’t always possible, as was the case with The Bone Season. Not only does it give you a better sense of the overall arc of the story but also gives you further insight into the characters. For example, something might be referenced quite late on in the novel that helps you better understand a character and how they approach certain situations. Or on a more basic level, you might only know where a character grew up, and therefore what accent they have, until you meet them for the second or third time. This happened to me with The Bone Season when I discovered Liss’ Scottish upbringing after I had decided in my head to make her Mancunian! Thankfully, I hadn’t started to record her dialogue yet and there was no need to go back and correct it. 

There's a big action scene towards the end of The Mime Order. It was one of the tougher scenes for me to write, as it's movement-heavy, involves a large number of characters, and spread over several chapters. Without spoilers, how did you tackle narrating it?

It’s really interesting to hear about your experience writing it. It’s such a wonderfully descriptive scene and it definitely proved to be one of the toughest, but most enjoyable sequences to record. As I already mentioned, I was keen to develop the action throughout The Mime Order and I felt as though I was really building to this moment. I found myself narrating from the edge of my seat with much of my energy focused on my core. It can be very draining to not only voice characters who are engaged in high energy action but to also accurately describe how something “whacked” me over the head or “thumped” into my back. It’s not enough to simply read those words but instead you have to find a way to describe not only the action but the impact it has on the character. The audience has to feel just how painful that thump was or how tired her aching arms are as she pulls herself up. I was pretty exhausted myself after that one! 

Thanks to Alana for taking the time to answer these in such detail! It's always so interesting to hear about the process of narrating an audiobook. You can pre-order The Mime Order in audiobook format from Audible here, and here's a sample of Alana's wonderful narration.