Actress Mil Nicholson has given voice to the people of Thornethorpe in the audio book of Mighty Like a Rose. Here she tells us about her acting career, favourite reads and what goes into making a successful audiobook.
Tell us a little about yourself
I was born in Wallsend, the name taken from the town lying at the end of the Roman Wall in Northern England. Many famous ships were built on the Tyne river at Wallsend port. My Mum and I were great pals, she was a force to be reckoned with, and still full of fun and energy in the last months of her 96 years. My work began in the business world after getting my degree. I acted in any plays I could, whilst apprenticed to a Solicitor. Then work as a Mum with three big bouncing boys, a year apart. After arriving in the United States when my lads were one, two and three, I realised the USA was where I was meant to be. Years later, I found my real soul mate, and we moved to Hollywood to follow our acting careers. ‘Twas a great fifteen years, working in Movies, TV and Stage. Now I live in North Carolina up in the mountains, very isolated, with my wonderful second husband. We are a team in most everything we do, which now includes audio book performing, his part being editor, producer and lover, all in one.
How long have you been an actor?
I began acting at age seven, found the stage to be my second home. While acting in several musicals in England, I was coached for a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Arts in London. After winning the scholarship, unfortunately I couldn’t attend. However, I continued stage acting, and to date have performed in over 100 plays in England and the USA. Some of my favorite roles were Nurse Ratchet in ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” Doris Wilgus in “The Owl and the Pussycat” and Meg in “The Hostage” musical version. While in Hollywood I played several roles in movies and TV, but by far the most satisfying were the stage plays.
When did you start doing audio books?
Audio books came into my life after I left Hollywood for NC. I had done voice over work in Hollywood, most notably the life story of JRR Tolkien on the Lord of the Rings DVD. I began being part of a team on Librivox, a wonderful free site, then decided to perform a solo of Charles Dickens Dombey and Son, with around fifty characters all self created. I’ve continued to record Mr. Dickens’ work, and now have eight books available for free, with about half a million downloads. I also recorded 17 books for Audible.com, a SciFi series of 9 books by Dave Duncan and a Western Series of 8 books by Janet Dailey. Then on joining ACX, have performed such great books as Mighty Like a Rose.
Do you have a favorite type of character you like to read?
Captain Cuttle in Dombey and Son was a favorite voice of mine, I’d always wanted to do an Arrrrgh! pirate, and he’s perfect for the job, and childrens’ voices are always a fun challenge. However, there are just so many varied voices, and each has its place, some I have to work harder to maintain, and others just flow out. I particularly love accents, and have most of the British Isles covered, also now Texas, Montana, Massachusetts, Maine. Minnesota, South Africa, and Australia. I intend to add to my repertoire as I go along.
Tell us a bit about what goes into making an audio book.
Audio books are quite an involved process. From the initial choosing a book among the many available, auditioning if it’s ACX [Audiobook Creation Exchange – Amazon’s audio book creation site], then working out a timeline and agreeing contracts. The downloading of the text, reading the full story, sorting into separate chapters, paginating, marking characters and mood, and then dividing into recording segments. After the author has given me a description of the characters, I begin matching a voice to each character, and making a file of each voice to refer to throughout the book. If there are several characters talking to each other, I will rehearse that scene so I can switch evenly from one to another, because the recording isn’t stopped for a change in voice. When the performance is begun, if any errors occur, the recording is stopped and the place marked, then re-recorded. At the end of the session, the session is edited for the corrections. I then listen to the whole recording again to make absolutely sure all is right. Any new corrections if any are then made. Finally the mastering process takes place, removing any extraneous noises, sound levels checked, the whole changed to MP3s. When the book is complete it is uploaded to ACX for approval by the author. If any corrections are agreed, they are done, and when all is in order the book is checked by ACX’s technicians. If they are satisfied, the book goes to the market. Five hours work for one hour of finished recording is the industry standard.
What do you read for fun?
Ah! reading for fun. Right now I’m reading Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, just wonderful, I’m fond of Stephen King, David Baldacci, Jeffrey Archer, Isaac Azimov, Jonathan Kellerman, and in between I go back to my Dickens for a good laugh and cry.
Does your work make you read books you normally wouldn’t?
Yes, I do record books I would not normally have chosen to read. If the story is interesting and well written, then it is helpful for performance work. I have recorded some self help books, and tried to make them really interesting, but it makes for hard work as the text is not exciting or has any characters to break things up. Thrillers can get quite dramatically heavy, and romances can raise the emotional levels, in some of Dickens I actually had to stop recording in order to either stop laughing or crying, even though I’d rehearsed some of these scenes ahead to keep under control. I may be just a softy at heart!
I love my work, it is a wonderful replacement for stage work. When I enter the sound booth, it’s like stepping onto the stage, my audience at the outset is my mate, then who knows after that. What a joy to look forward to work!
Thank you Cathy for letting me voice your “baby” it was a real pleasure.
Thank you Mil, for all your hard work in making the Audiobook so great!
You can download the audiobook from Amazon here
You can visit Mil’s website at http://milnicholson.com/