By Mark McNease
I recently had the pleasure of working with audiobook narrator and voiceover artist Daniela Acitelli on my book Death in the Headlights. Daniela was my first and immediate choice, with a voice as rich and clear as her personality is engaging. We’ve since become friends, and she’s been kind enough to give me a glimpse into the life of a professional book narrator. A Californian now living in London, Daniela follows her passions and inspires others to do the same. Enjoy her answers to ‘6 Questions’ below.
MM: You’re an expat living in London, originally from California. Why London, and how did that come about?
DA: I moved for love… well almost. I grew up with a father from Italy and a mother from America travelling back and forth so as a little girl I always assumed I’d move to some exotic country. London had everything and appealed to the ‘city girl’ in me. I’m married to a Glaswegian. I’m working on convincing him to move to Glasgow someday.
MM: You’re among my inspirations when it comes to following one’s dreams and goals (I’m doing the same thing right now in my life). Please talk some about taking that plunge from a job you weren’t happy with, to following your passion.
DA: It’s just in the last two years that I’ve reclaimed the ten-year-old, ambitious, happy girl I used to be. I was obsessed with acting from the age of 7 and although I always found a way to do it I also bought all the societal messages telling me that I had to get a job and just accept that ‘no one really enjoys their lives. They just do what they have to do’. Being an actress I guess I should be proud of the fact that I perfected the act. I became ‘Corporate Girl’ and managed a large team in a very large company and the 9 years I stayed at that job almost killed me. I still tried to live ‘the dream life’ and acted, did voice overs and narrated at a professional level for years maintaining a crazy schedule while I tried to effectively live two lives.
I guess at the end of the day you can try your hardest to be ‘appropriate’ but in the end you have to be yourself. There’s no way to cheat. You can’t choose a ‘safe life’ because you’ll never fit, you’ll just keep trying to do everything right but if you’re not being yourself you won’t succeed. Finally, for me the price of staying outweighed the price of leaving. In the beginning there were a few too many months wasted eating Lucky Charms straight from the box and watching re-runs of Murder She Wrote but I’m happy to say I have officially been a full time audiobook narrator for a year now. Being self-employed is scary, a bit like staring over a precipice but I wouldn’t go back to the old ‘security’ for anything in the world. I’m truly happy now the way I was when I was that ten-year-old girl dreaming away.
MM: You’re a voiceover artist as well as an audiobook narrator. What are some of the differences between these disciplines and what attracted you to narration?
DA: I love narration for the same reasons most people prefer voiceover. Narration requires hours of complete focus and it’s a real challenge to me. It also requires self-direction and crazy technical skills to produce the book. I love that you get to act and you play all the parts and there’s no one there to interrupt you. I love that I can just lose myself in the characters. It sounds cheesy but I love narrating because the writer hands me a world and I can bring it to life.
Voiceover can be exciting. It’s often in a studio and the clients are there directing you and the pay is generally much, much better. There is a satisfaction to nailing the script perfectly and knowing the clients are happy but if I have my choice I will always choose narration over anything else.
MM: The process: I’m hugely interested in knowing HOW one goes about narrating an audiobook. Having several of my own out there, I’m very curious about the mechanics of it: do you record a few sentences at a time? What are the stages you go through from first read to post-production?
DA: I read the book first to get to know the characters then I go through it a second time checking for sentence flow and marking each character’s lines in different colors and highlighting any words/ names places I’m not 100% sure of the pronunciation. I then try to create the characters and record a sound clip of each character. Then I go in to the booth and record about 1.5 finished hours. This normally takes at least 4 hours. Then I spend the next day editing and proofing that 1.5 finished hour, then I do the same all over again until I’ve finished and send the whole thing off to a professional proofer. Once I receive it from the proofer I make any necessary corrections then master it and upload it. It is a very time intensive process because no matter how good or fast you become at editing it still takes a tremendous amount of time.
MM: Yours is a career a lot of people may not be familiar with. What are the best things about it, and what would you say to anyone who reads this and thinks, “Oh, I’d like to narrate audiobooks, too …”
DA: I love that I can choose my colleagues. I don’t miss the office at all. My colleagues are writers and narrators and artists from all over the world who are passionate about their work and generally very brave people that took a chance to do something they love. I love my studio. It’s professional with all the best specs sound quality etc. At the same time it’s in my home so I’m surrounded by beautiful things. I have a Cabaret, Circus and Vaudeville background and my studio is filled with my gorgeous costumes and colors. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be surrounded by glamour rather than the beige I was becoming used to in the Corporate environment. I love that I can spend my days reading and acting my two favorite things.
If someone tells me they’d like to become a narrator I direct them to this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPzPi-_0Xi8
by Sean Pratt who is a narration coach who has almost a thousand books out now. In the video he has a test you can give yourself to see if you’re cut out for it. It’s a job you really have to love because you won’t make much money at all and it’s definitely a marathon. It takes years to become established. You have to be willing to wait it out and continue to have faith in yourself and not be easily discouraged.
MM: Daniela in the years ahead: what do you see and want for your future? Will you stay in the U.K.? Is audiobook narration and voice work your dream job(s) for years to come?
DA: Yes, I want to narrate and get better with every book I do and be able to support myself so that I can narrate more. I love it so much it’s all I want to do (forget work life balance)
MM: Part 2: bonus question – If you could narrate any book ever written, what book would it be and why?
DA: The Unbearable Lightness of Being is my favorite book but any new thriller. I love narrating Thrillers.
More About Daniela
Daniela Acitelli is a professional Audiobook Narrator with an Theatre, Film, Cabaret and Circus background. You can find her on Audible, Itunes and Amazon and she is also an official narrator for the RNIB and Listen2aBook publishing.
She is first and foremost an actress with years of stage training. She’s studied the Meisner technique and Psychological Realism (Lee Strasberg’s “Method” acting). She has a background in and a great love of Cabaret and Vaudeville including the old time concert saloon, minstrelsy, circus acts, dime museums, and literary American burlesque shows.