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Recording an Audio Book: Interview with Sarah Suzuk

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Sarah Suzuk is the voice actor for the recently published book “A Stone is Most Precious Where it Belongs” by Gulchehra Hoja. We had recently posted a call-out for voice actors for this role, so we are excited to see this come to fruition! The book is now available to buy and listen to online and in stores.

We decided to interview Sarah on her experience as a first-time audiobook reader. She is based in a small town in Canada, where she works in the only hospital there as a clinical dietitian on the surgical unit. We asked her why she decided to audition, considering her academic background in biological sciences and nutrition.

“Firstly, I have always been one to dive headfirst into new experiences and environments. As the age old saying goes, growth and learning happens on the other side of the comfort zone. Or something like that.

“As my career and daily life revolves around mostly scientific and clinical environments, I am constantly looking for ways to stay in touch with my creative side that deeply values arts and culture.

“Last, and most importantly, I knew that this memoir by Gulchehra Hoja was going to beautifully articulate her experience as an Uyghur woman in a way that would captivate many different audiences. Some of the settings and even characters described in the book were also familiar to both my family and I, which added an additional layer of meaning for me.”

As there was so much interest in audio book recording, we asked Sarah how she gained this role. She told us that to record her audition tape, she read through the sample chapter a few times, then used the Voice Memos app to record as she read in a quiet space. Her focus was to communicate the story with the intent of the author intact, and believes subtlety is important in the audiobook medium. “The more connected you feel with the characters, the more you are invested in the emotional performance naturally. Of course, there is also the technical side such as clearly articulating words and pacing yourself in a way the audience can follow along, but also not lose interest.”

We were curious to ask Sarah about recording with a publishing company. “The actual process of recording was thoroughly enjoyable, though not without its challenges,” she said. The publishing company, Hachette Book Group, had first reached out for an interview to get to know her better. She was then provided with a few options for recording: driving 5-7 hours to the closest city with a recording studio; flying to New York to record at Hachette’s own studio; or finding a studio in her town, where options seemed slim to none.

Due to her intensive work schedule, staying local made the most sense. Sarah took the initiative and managed to find a local recording studio via Facebook. The page had not been updated for years, so she was surprised to receive a reply from them. She then connected Hachette to the recording studio and planned out a schedule that worked for everyone.

The studio, she discovered, was really a room inside of a portable building that was not very soundproof. As such, they had to re-record several parts of the book, which extended the process. Nevertheless, Sarah tells us that everyone involved were lovely to work with. The director of the production tuned in via Zoom to give her live feedback and the local sound engineer operated the equipment. They recorded mostly on weekends anywhere between 4-8 hours.

“Looking back, I find it slightly funny that I took on this project because my least favourite thing in grade school was being picked on to read aloud in class, I was so terrified. However, I am beyond grateful to have gotten the opportunity.”

Regarding the book itself, Sarah says, “This is a story that is near and dear to my heart, as it will be for many, if not all Uyghurs. The book elegantly weaves together Uyghur history, our current political situation, as well as the more personal details of the author’s life that will make it captivating for a broader audience, who may not be as familiar with the Uyghur people. I very much look forward to hearing how it all came together.”

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us and good luck with all your future endeavors, both in the sciences and the arts!

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