Friday, October 16, 2015

Eight Questions for Audiobook Narrator Hollis McCarthy

Hollis McCarthy has received rave reviews for her acting performances in many theatrical, television, and film productions. I feel incredibly fortunate to have her as the narrator of the Royal Scandals audiobooks. The first book in the series, Scandal With a Prince, is now available from Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. As I post this, Hollis has finished principal recording on Honeymoon With a Prince.

I found Hollis after hearing the audiobook of Anthea Lawson’s Sonata for a Scoundrel. I was amazed by the way Hollis brought the characters to life. Because I know you’ll love her work on Scandal With a Prince as much as I do and will want to know more about her, I asked Hollis if she’d agree to be interviewed. 
Hollis McCarthy, photo by Yvonne Marchese

Q: Hi Hollis!  I’m thrilled to have you here. What can you tell my readers about your background?

I grew up in rural Northwest Ohio, and literally went to school surrounded by cornfields.  I got my BFA and MFA degrees in acting and have been acting professionally around the country in stage, film, tv and voice-over for twenty some years.  I specialize in plays of complex language – Shakespeare, Pinter, Friel, and so on – and have worked off-Broadway and in regional theatres like The Old Globe, Alabama Shakespeare, Chicago Shakespeare, Portland CenterStage, and so on. 

Q:  When you aren’t in the studio recording audiobooks, what do you do?

I live in NJ, just across the river from NYC now, so I spend a lot of time auditioning for plays, TV shows, commercials and so on.  I did an episode of The Good Wife, and one of House of Cards recently.  I love to ride my bike and run with my husband, Mark, an actor/playwright, along the Hudson River with a view of the city.  We also do stage combat, so we get our swords out in the park sometimes and practice our broadsword and rapier/dagger fights.  We’re about to be in a play together, playing husband and wife, at a small local professional theatre right in our neighborhood.

Q:  How did you get started as an audiobook narrator? What is it about audiobooks that you find appealing?

My husband, Mark McCarthy, who is a terrific narrator, took an audiobook workshop a few years ago from Paul Ruben, a wonderful producer and coach, and shared all the great stuff he learned from Paul with me.  So we cut our first audiobook demos and started sending links to producers, I did some books for Audible, hooked up with an engineer friend who has a studio near me, and it built slowly from there.

Mom taught us all to read before we started school, and used to read Tolkien aloud to us when we were cleaning up from dinner, to keep the five of us kids from arguing.  I’m a voracious reader, and have loved reading out loud since I would read to my little brother, and do the voices of the Sesame Street characters for him.  I do a killer Grover.  Getting to play ALL the characters in books is great fun.  I’ve played a lot of ingenues and leading ladies, and it’s so fun not to be constricted by physical type in audiobook work – to play old, young, English, Egyptian, and everything in between!   Telling stories is a wonderful way to make a living, and I feel lucky every time I go into the recording booth to bring an author’s words to audio life.

Q:  What kind of preparation do you do? What challenges have you faced narrating the Royal Scandals series?

I spend a lot of time on prep.  I always start reading the book through just for fun, like a regular reader, because you get a real feel for the book that way.  Then I go back and work through slowly, using my IAnnotate app on my tablet, assigning different vocal qualities to each character, marking “beats” into the text, looking up words/names that I don’t know how to pronounce, and so on.  I also sketch in a few acting cues for myself, here and there. 

One of the big challenges of the RS series is the dialects!  I’m very English/Scottish/Irish looking, and am great with all those dialects and pretty much any American dialects you can imagine, because I’ve played them on stage.  But I’ve never played Italian or Spanish, for obvious reasons, so I had to learn those.  I use my husband, who is a great dialect coach, a lot, and also listen to online coaching and the cds of David Allan Stern.  Of course, once you learn the dialect, you have to reduce how much of it you use, because less is truly more with dialects in this genre. 

Q:  Which Royal Scandals character has been the most fun to narrate?

I’d pick TWO so far:  Anna, the young daughter in Scandal With a Prince, and Fabrizia, the Queen of Sarcaccia, who is in both of the books I’ve done so far.  I love voicing kids, and Anna was a treat.  Her Majesty is so well written – a lot of emotional depth hidden beneath her regal, formal exterior. 

Q:  What are your current projects?

In addition to the play I start rehearsing with Mark on Monday at Hudson Theatre Works, I have a bunch of audiobooks done and in post-production, including your lovely Honeymoon With a Prince, a great non-fiction book by Lauren Kessler called Raising the Barre, another fun cozy mystery in the series I’m narrating for Leighann Dobbs, and a psychological thriller called Lucidity by C.J. Lyons.  I have four more lined up to record between now and year’s end, including two more Royal Scandals books I can’t wait to read!

Thanks so much for joining me, Hollis!  I've posted an audio sample of your work on Scandal With a Prince on my website, and look forward to the release of Honeymoon With a Prince in audio in the coming weeks.

For more about Hollis McCarthy, visit her website at  You can also search for Hollis by name on your favorite audiobook platform to hear her other great performances.

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