Friday, 27 January 2012

Audiobook Special: An interview with Clare Corbett, courtesy of Quercus Books

CC director Ali Muirden has been producing the wonderful Ruth Galloway series of audio books for Quercus Books. Here are some highlights from their fantastic interview with the narrator, Clare Corbett. (You can see the whole interview here). 

Clare Corbett is the reader for three Quercus Audiobooks in the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. Rose Tomaszewska met her at Strathmore recording studios to find out more about an actor’s role in the creation of audiobooks.

Rose Tomaszewska: Not many people know what your job is like. Would you tell us how you came to be a reader?

Clare Corbett: I won the Carlton Hobbs audition in 2001 after studying at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, and was chosen to be on the BBC Radio Rep. At first, I was asked to do various smaller readings, and then I got my first chance to do ‘A Book at Bedtime’. That got me into the flow of reading and being a part of that world.

After I left I got a voiceover agent who introduced me to new companies like the BBC audio books, Chivers, who got me into reading children’s books, and now I’ve progressed to reading adult books.


Rose Tomaszewska: We’ve just finished doing ‘A Room Full of Bones’, the fourth title in the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. Have you enjoyed reading her books?

Clare Corbett: This is the third one I’ve done, and they’re really exciting books. It’s all about a forensic archaeologist, Ruth, she’s always digging up bones and of course her findings lead to further investigations.

Then there’s a guy called Harry Nelson, who’s the police detective inspector, with whom she’s having a kind of relationship, and it’s a really lovely relationship. It’s nice to do a series of books, because you get to explore those characters.


Rose Tomaszewska: There are a lot of different characters, how do you bring across their personalities in their voices, where do you get your inspiration?

Clare Corbett: You find it from the text, which will explain what the characters are like, and then you’ve got license to go anywhere you want – the producer guides you in that. So Harry Nelson is quite a brusque guy, forthright and thinks that men should be in control, and because of those descriptions you know what to do, naturally. As anyone would, I imagine, when reading a book; because when you read a book in your head, you’re kind of playing the characters.

Rose Tomaszewska: There are a lot of accents in the series, from Norfolk to Australia to the Philippines! How do you get the hang of them?

Clare Corbett: Norfolk I had never done before I came to these books, which was a bit scary! I thought it was going to be in first person with a Norfolk accent. I’m from Bristol originally, and the accent is very similar to Norfolk, so I had to work on it quite a lot.

I go on a website which has people talking in different accents, and I listen and make notes phonetically on the page. In the book there are often Northern and Norfolk characters speaking to each other, and I find I have to switch accents quickly, which is quite difficult! But it’s just a matter of working hard, and listening, and having a good ear for accents, which I now have because of all the work I’ve done.

Rose Tomaszewska: Is that one of the hardest things about reading audio books?

Clare Corbett: No, the hardest thing is the long time spent in a studio. Normally with a voiceover, you only do an hour and sustain just one character. But with a book there are so many characters, and you’ve got to sustain the through-line of the story – you can make a book very bland if you just read it, deadpan – you’ve got to hook the reader in.
That’s where a producer and a sound engineer come in handy, they can say, “can you make this a little quicker,” or “bring up the intensity of the situation.” But you naturally have an instinct for that if you’re a good reader, and I hope I have.

It’s sustaining that concentration when you’re in the studio from 10am – 6pm with 3 breaks that can be hard. With a good producer, and with enough preparation- which is the key to doing audio books, you’re ok. And with enough cups of tea and coffee!


Rose Tomaszewska: Would you ever want to do something really difficult like Virginia Woolf?

Clare Corbett: I’d love to! I’d love to give it a go. I did a book called Poppy Shakespeare, by Clare Allen, which is in the first person. There were so many different characters, and she was in a mental home, it was brilliant to play.
Because I’m an actor, the first person sits more happily with me than narration, because it allows you to be completely in the book: not flicking between characters. You’re in someone else’s head and their way of speaking, so you naturally start to physicalise it as well.

Rose Tomaszewska: Do you ever do that, gesticulate?

Clare Corbett: Yes. Too much! And get told by the engineer to stop moving, because as soon as you move, your face in moving towards or further away from the microphone, which is not conducive to a good reading, and you can bang the table as well, which is not good for a reader!


Rose Tomaszewska: Do you have any tips for someone wanting to be a voice actor?

Clare Corbett: Everyone wants to be a voice actor! What I always say is practise reading out loud, even record yourself, because you may think you can read, but you have to have a lot of support and breath- and as an actor you have to train in that- and you need to sustain a lot of characters. So practise practise practise!

Find out more about Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series at

Friday, 20 January 2012

2011 - that was the eYear that was!

Ali Muirden gives us Creative Content's year in review:

I've just been looking back at our publishing programme for 2011 and it was certainly the year of the eBook.  We decided to concentrate our energies and resources into publishing a brilliant collection of crime novels, previously published by Creme de la Crime in print editions.   With the eBook sector continuing to grow exponentially, this certainly proved very timely and we're really proud to have added this wide and varied collection to our list.

We continued our collaboration with military publishing specialist Osprey with the addition of 'Henry V', another from their "Command" series, being added to our audio collection.  It was beautifully  read by Jamie Glover, who was the perfect reader, having appeared in many RSC productions.

Jamie is also the voice behind one of our best-selling backlist titles: Improve Your Speech - British English.  He has many fans who have left comments on our YouTube page for this book including one who commented "I want HIS voice!"

This brings me neatly to our next publication which was the lyrical and moving memoir by Isla Blair (who just happens to be Jamie's mum!).  In a 'Tiger's Wedding - my childhood in Exile' Isla writes beautifully and movingly about her extraordinary childhood.  Born  in Kerala in India, Isla was sent to boarding school in cold gloomy post-war Scotland in the 1950s when she was only five years old and spent the next 10 years or so living apart from her beloved parents at school in the UK.  On release the book received fantastic reviews in the media, all of which were hugely deserved.

Isla also reads the audio edition which is available on download from all good retailers.  She brings such warmth and charm to this version of her book and it is very emotional listening.  Well worth a look and listen!

Next up was another biography but this was in a completely different sphere.  Chris Nickson's  detailed biography of John Martyn,  'Solid Air - the life of John Martyn', concentrates on John's music and is everything a fan of this highly respected musician could want.  It was published simultaneously with the tribute album of John's best known tracks which featured artists such as Phil Collins, Paolo Nutini, David Gray and Judi Tzuke!

We continued our military theme in July with the publication of "The Lowdown - A short history of the origins of the Vietnam War" written by Dr David Anderson of the University of California at Monterey (surely he must win the "who has the best office location" competition hands down?).

David is an authority on this subject and his account of how the Vietnam War came about is a master-class for anyone who wants to understand more about world changing events in modern history. You can impress your friends next time you're out for dinner, with your concise and expert knowledge of this fascinating subject!

In November and December we moved into a totally new area with the addition of the audio versions from top CBeebies show "Grandpa in My Pocket" to our audio list.  The show is the top children's programme on the BBC and was deservedly nominated for another BAFTA. We published two audio titles, "A Garden Full of Beasts" and "No Ordinary Pig", in conjunction with the programme makers Adastra at the end of 2011.  Watch this space for news of other titles from this series in 2012.

The other development in 2011 was the publication of text and speech synchronised editions of a variety of our backlist titles including the best-selling "Improve Your Speech" series.  We had long wanted to get eBook editions of these popular titles published and they are now available via iScroll who have launched an App which enables the speech to be synchronised to the text so that you can read and listen at the same time.  

So all in all, 2011 was another very busy year and it's now onwards and upwards for the new publications forthcoming in 2012.  Come back and visit our blog for more information on that soon! - Ali Muirden

Photo by Plushev

Friday, 13 January 2012

Viva Mexico!

165 years ago today, the Treaty of Cahuenga ended the Mexican-American war in California. These days, Mexico is a great place to do business! Christopher west talks about the different types of business culture there:

There are at least three types of business culture in Mexico, and behavior differs in each.

Firstly, there are the subsidiaries of foreign multinationals.  The United States and Spain perhaps have the largest number of subsidiaries in Mexico, but there are companies belonging to multinationals from all over the globe. Here, the culture of the HQ of the multinational usually prevails, so a subsidiary of a US company will tend to do its management accounts following US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices), and follow US habits, perhaps starting and finishing relatively early in the day by Mexican standards and taking a buttoned-down no-nonsense approach to negotiations. A subsidiary of a Spanish company will do its management accounts following European IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) and may well work later and longer hours, with a longer break at lunch time.  Senior staff will usually speak English fluently, as well as the language spoken in their corporate HQ, if it’s not English.

Secondly, there are the Mexican multinationals and larger Mexican national companies.  Some of the largest cement and glass manufacturing groups in the world are headquartered in Mexico.  These companies will typically lean toward a US way of doing business and it’s likely some of the senior executives will have postgraduate degrees from US universities.   Most senior staff will speak English fluently.

Thirdly, there are the Mexican family companies.  “Family” should not be taken to mean “small,” as there are some very large companies run by two or even three generations of the same family. Such companies vary widely in culture, with some having the characteristics of multinationals, while others exhibit the traditional traits of the Mexican family-held company, such as excessive deference to family members and all important decisions (and perhaps even some that aren’t very important) being passed up the line to the head of the family.

There are two other cultural differences the visitor should be aware of:   

Firstly, salary spreads between the highest- and lowest-paid employees are much greater than is normally the case in the US or western Europe, and either because of this, or perhaps for unrelated reasons, there tends to be a greater sense of hierarchy in many Mexican companies. Senior executives will tend to have private offices and many will have several support staff.   In the second and third business categories we talked about, don’t be surprised if the most senior people never take notes and correspond intermittently, if at all: they will want to understand the big picture and will ultimately take the decisions, but you may need to spend a considerable amount of time working on the detail with more junior people, either before gaining access to senior executives, or in parallel with your meetings with them.

Secondly, the culture varies to some degree with geographical location. The north of Mexico, bordering on the US, adopts US business practices more widely than the south, which borders on Guatemala. Not surprisingly, Mexico City, in the geographical center of the country, reflects a mid-way practice. Broadly speaking, the further north your business takes you, the more appointments you are likely to be able to fit into your working day, and the more likely you are to be negotiating with a fluent speaker of (American) English. Your visit may be squeezed in to the busy schedule of a senior executive in Monterrey, the industrial capital of Mexico, located just 100 miles from the US border, while it may be the highlight of the day of a senior executive in Mérida, in the southeast, and he may well take the trouble to show you something of the city and take you to a leisurely lunch. - Christopher West

Taken from "The Lowdown: Doing Business in Mexico", by Christopher West. Available in eBook and audio.

Friday, 6 January 2012

New year, new you!

It’s that time of year! Everyone’s resolving to be ... well, better! Why not let your ears take the strain, and try some self-help audio? Here are a few suggestions from our list:

If you want to get ahead in business, now’s the time to brush up on your international business etiquette – China’s going to be big!

Business Etiquette China

Mexico is ranked 13th among the world’s economies – and its proximity to the United States makes it a key market. Is this the year you’ll do business there? 
Doing Business in Mexico

Or why not learn to communicate like a great leader during difficult situations: 

Risk Communication Skills
And speaking of communication, maybe this is the year you’ve decided to improve your speech:
Improve Your Speech

New addition to the family, but you still ‘want it all’? Sara Lloyd has some advice for baby juggling:
Baby Juggler
Richard Charkin, head of Bloomsbury, has some tips for climbing the corporate ladder:
Top Tips for Wannabe CEOs

Have you resolved to become more educated? Try something from our bite-sized Short Histories series:
Try a Short History...

Or maybe your resolution is to kick back a bit. Learn how to prioritise and get A Simpler Life:
Keep it simple...
Or simply treat yourself to some gorgeous guided imagery with something from the Dreamcatching series:

Whatever your resolutions and plans, we hope that 2012 brings you everything you desire!