Soneela Nankani on the Path That Led Her to Audiobook Narration
In Conversation with Jo Reed on Behind the Mic
Every Monday through Friday, AudioFile’s editors recommend the best in audiobook listening. We keep our daily episodes short and sweet, with audiobook clips to give you a sample of our featured listens.
AudioFile welcomes Soneela Nankani as one of AudioFile’s 2021 Golden Voice narrators. Her lively performances are a joy to listen to, and she helps listeners make emotional connections with the characters, whether they are in rollicking fantasy adventures for young listeners or intense nonfiction audiobooks. Soneela’s skills with accents and her ability to narrate humor and drama make for compelling listening. Her narrations have garnered her numerous Earphones Awards, and she’s landed on AudioFile’s annual Best Audiobooks lists for titles including The Trouble with Hating You and There’s Something About Sweetie.
In today’s special bonus edition of Behind the Mic, host Jo Reed interviews Soneela Nankani, and they discuss how both Soneela’s training in acting and her family’s storytelling traditions influence her narration, what surprised her about narrating audiobooks, and the fun of collaborating with other narrators in multicast projects.
From the episode:
Jo Reed: I’m curious about how you think your training in theater helps you with narration.
Soneela Nankani: I think it helps a lot. I was lucky enough to study with Kristin Linklater for several years, and I am always drawing on her work and the training that I did with her figuring out voices for characters, and it’s really fun for me to always be finding new voices, using my different resonators and that sort of thing. That I would say has been really, really helpful to me. And then all of the character work that I did in grad school, looking at what the author is trying to communicate, all the clues in the text about who the people are, what they believe, what other people believe about them, was really helpful when I started to work in audiobooks.
JR: I wonder if anything could prepare you for the stamina you need not only to be able to do a close reading and embody all these characters, but you’re also that narrative voice, that drive that has to set the pace, and it has to be—no matter what else is going on—a forward motion. I can imagine that could be really exhausting.
SN: Yeah. I would say nothing prepares you for that. I very much remember the first time I did I think it was a six-hour session, I came home and I just passed out for a couple of hours. So that portion of it for me was very much about practicing and figuring out okay, how do I need to take care of myself before a session; how do I need to take care of myself during a session? That was a surprise for me.
JR: You bring a lot of focus and attention to titles by South Asian writers, African and African American writers, and I’m assuming this is by design.
SN: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean those very much are stories and characters that speak to me, that speak to my experience, and that I am just really passionate and excited about sharing with other people.
JR: And I think happily we’re seeing more and more titles by South Asian, African, and African American writers.
SN: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I did my first book in 2009, and the landscape has completely changed in terms of more writers working on South Asian stories, Black stories, African stories, and then also what’s getting published has really changed, and that’s just been so exciting to witness and be a teeny part of.
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Discover more audiobooks narrated by Soneela Nankani in her audiography. Photo by Jody Christopherson.