RW: Anne, Fitness Video Queen, Vocal Diva, Comedic Legend and author. Is there anything you can’t do?
ANNE: Haha. Well, Diva maybe… but Legend? Not so much. Actually, everything I do is “performance” related, so you could say I really DO just one thing… a lot!
RW: Okay, I’ll behave and we can get down to the serious questions. Your name came up while I was interviewing Becky Due. How did you get into the audio book line of the Lit World?
ANNE: It’s a rather impersonal business, audio book narration. I actually never met Becky. In fact, with most of my authors, we rarely speak after the first email. Of course, I always ask for information about their expectations as to character voices, but after that, it’s all on me. I got into audio book narration only after becoming a professional actor. I was working on a show with Ted Lange (you probably know him best as Isaac Washington of Love Boat fame). Anyway, one of my co-actors was working in the audio book narration business and recommended I get into it. The next day, I had three contracts and the rest is history. I’ve done over 60 projects as of this interview, and last year Audible gave me the wonderful distinction of Best Female Audiobook Narrator. I was overwhelmed!
RW: Wow! Okay, geeked moment there. But I’ve heard THE VOICE so I understand the why the honor bestowed upon you. I would think you have to develop a certain mood for reading a book aloud for others, to be able to convey the levels of emotions and set a scene with your voice. How many times do you read a book before you do the audio for it? What kind of preparation goes into it? I would think it would be like any other acting performance in a way.
ANNE: Every narrator has their “method.” I shock people when I tell them that I never read the books ahead of time. I am one of those “in-the-moment” actors, who simply cannot know what is about to happen or else my performance is compromised. Since I get all the information I need from the author ahead of time regarding vocal qualities for the main characters, I need no other information in order to start the project. Occasionally, I will find that there was a piece of information the author failed to give me that is contradicted later by a choice I made for the character, but in those cases, I just mark for edit and re-do those parts later. It’s really worth that risk to me, since I know my process and what works best for me.
RW: How does one connect with you to do audio book work? For example if I ever needed someone, what all would I need to do to convince you to do it? Money? Pizza? New kick boxing gloves?
ANNE: Actually, I just got some new gloves for Christmas, so that wouldn’t impress me much, and I’m gluten-free, so pizza is out… money, however, always talks! Haha. Seriously, to book me for a project, you would simply go to my ACX.com profile page (by searching my name) and let me know you’re interested. I’m very quick to respond. Narrators have their price range, so it’s important to evaluate how much you are willing to spend on narration before contacting a narrator. For instance, I never do royalty work; my rate is $300.00 per finished hour. However, I often get offers from authors who think they can convince me to do their projects on royalty anyway. That just won’t happen. If I didn’t have rent to pay, maybe so, but as it is….
RW: I think that’s actually pretty fair. You do more than audio books in the Lit World, you’ve actually written several books and that’s one of the main reasons I begged you to be here today. Tell us about your newest book.
ANNE: I’ve actually written several books in several different genres. I have a children’s book that I self-published in 2007, entitled The Chronicles of Pleasant Grove. I also self-published a mainstream fiction piece, entitled The Lives of Lyman Liri, which follows several life scenarios of a man as he makes life-altering choices and how those choices impact his destiny. It was inspired by my father and his experience in Viet Nam. But it is my theatre arts work with Smith & Kraus Publishers that has been the most successful. They published my book, The 10 Commandments of Theater, and it is now a required text in dozens of theatre arts universities. Theatre Topics Magazine gave it a great review, which I wasn’t expecting… It’s just a little theatre arts handbook, taking the actor from casting to curtain and specializing in method acting. My latest work, True to archeType: A Guide to Characterization in Comedy, is due out in the spring of 2015. We are currently in the editing process. I’m really excited about this one! I wrote my master’s thesis on comedy, and as I’ve been working with Fred Willard for over 10 years as a member of his sketch-comedy group, The MoHos, this book is long overdue. I’ll send you a copy when it comes out, of course!
RW: Okay, geeking again. Books are always welcomed. And from a celebrity as well. And yes you are a celebrity so no arguing. Tell our readers about your acting/theater background.
ANNE: I didn’t start acting until I was in my late 20s. I was raised in… I guess you could call it a cult… so when I left home and started “living,” I realized I had a knack for theatre. But instead of just diving into Hollywood without training, I went straight to college and majored in theatre. I got my master’s degree and started my acting career immediately upon leaving school. I’ve worked with some great actors, toured and taught as a Theatre Arts Professor at several Southern California universities, as well as The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. My favorite theatre experience was playing the Narrator at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. We performed to sold-out houses… absolutely the most exciting time of my life!
RW: How did you get into comedy?
ANNE: I didn’t start “doing” comedy until I met Fred (Willard). His wife, Mary, had cast me in one of her plays (she is a fabulous playwright), and the minute Fred and I met, it was magic! He invited me to join his comedy group, and from there, I wrote my one-woman show, The Wicked Fairytales, and recorded my album of song parodies, Touched in the Head. I still perform with the group, but with writing, acting and audiobook narration, I’m not as faithful as I once was.
RW: I think acting does a lot more for authors than they realize. An example is there is always a purpose for movement on stage. I use that in my books. What other techniques in acting would help authors with storytelling?
ANNE: Public Solitude!!! Thanks to Stanislavski, we as actors are encouraged to shrink our circle of attention down to its smallest point, only allowing in that which encompasses the world of the scene. As authors, we usually work in solitude and must create out of nothing more than our imaginations… in other words, we are not necessarily reflecting back anything we have actually seen. An actor who chooses to write usually has a greater benefit of drawing from their creative imagination, since that is how we find truth on stage. We merely extrapolate and assimilate those skills over into our writing process… if we can!
RW: What is your creative/writing process for something like this type of book as opposed to a work of fiction?
ANNE: Non-fiction is infinitely easier to write than fiction! With non-fiction, I just write of which I know and in my own words. With fiction, I must first create the “life” of the character and then write in his/her words. Before I wrote Lyman Liri, I had had an encounter with a transient who resembled my Papa (grandfather). I thought, “Wow! What if my Papa had made one change in choice? Would the direction of his life led to this?” Then, on inspiration, I decided to make the main character a person who lived (at least in one of his life scenarios) the same life as my father. Every time he made a different choice than the one before, his life went off in a strange direction. It basically shows how every choice we make is capable of determining the direction of our lives and dramatically altering our destinies.
RW: Are there any upcoming dates where people could possibly go and see you, meet you, get an autograph, bow down and kiss the ground your talent has walked upon?
ANNE: Well, I could tell you where I shop and you’re welcome to follow me around there… But I think there will be some autograph signings with this new book, so stay tuned to my website: www.annejohnstonbrown.com. If you’re in Los Angeles, my comedy group, The MoHos, performs once a month at the Second City theatre on Hollwood Blvd. I’m usually in the show.
RW: As an actor, give us the one piece of advice you would give a young actor, let’s say in New York right now trying to break into the business? (I ask because there is an incredibly wonderful young lady that has moved from small town USA to NYC and is doing that now.)
ANNE: Since I teach up-and-coming actors every day at the Academy, I am asked this question often! When parents of young children ask me this question, my first and most definitive response is: “Get them into dance school!!!!!!” I can’t stress this enough. Dance will not only help them become the triple threat we hope they can potentially become, but is enhances rhythm and coordination – two things so desperately needed by the actor! For adults branching off into their acting careers, my response is twofold: “Network and Hone.” This means, as soon as you get to New York or Hollywood, join a theatre group or an acting class or an improv group, etc. And I mean do this immediately. Don’t put this off until you feel inspired… it is a MUST! This is because you will not only be able to keep training and get feedback from classmates and teachers (known as “honing”), but you will also be in an atmosphere to begin the most crucial part of an actor’s process: networking. Get out there and meet people, get noticed, make a name for yourself. When you hone and network (especially if you can do both at the same time), you will be well on your way to “making it.”
RW: When can we expect your next work of fiction?
ANNE: Fiction? Hmmm… that’s a good question. I would say that I’m not planning on writing any more fiction, but if history has proven anything, it is the minute you say something like that, you immediately get inspired to write a book, and BOOM, there it is!
RW: When is Anne The Album coming out?
ANNE: Anne has released several albums over the years. I started recording as a teenager and haven’t stopped. However, much of my work has been archived. I used to record a lot of gospel music, and I may have a few boxes of cassette tapes leftover in the garage. But they would be pretty dusty by now! As for a new album, I can honestly say nothing is planned. But if you want to hear some of my cover work, go to my ReverbNation page: www.reverbnation.com/annejohnstonbrown.
RW: Whoa. Just went and listened. Awesome. Little Anne Wonder going on with Superstition. What has been your favorite musical role to date?
ANNE: Again, playing the Narrator at the Kodak Theatre was an amazing experience. However, my favorite musical role would definitely be a tie: Annie in Annie Get Your Gun and Fanny Brice in Funny Girl.
RW: I have to ask this, as I have a 10 year old son and well, even I love a bit of the Disney life. Tell us about your Goofy friend.
ANNE: Ahhhh…. the wonderful Bill Farmer. Again, networking is the key. I met Bill Farmer through Fred Willard. In fact, Bill is a member of the MoHos. He is the most gentle, kind, delightful man I have ever met! So often, actors play characters they “wish” they could be, but their true nature’s are indeed the antitheses of those characters. Well, Bill IS Goofy! He is so sweet and kind, just like Goofy, and is so versatile on stage. He plays so many characters, all of which are unique and equally devine!
RW: Where can people purchase your books now?
ANNE: Amazon – the go-to bookstore! My theatre arts books used to be at some of the main bookstore chains, but now they are exclusively sold online.
RW: What are your hobbies?
ANNE: Well, of course, I teach kickboxing, so I guess you could say that is a hobby. I love to do karaoke. I was a contestant on ABC’s Karaoke Battle USA a few years ago, and I just got the itch! Now, I can’t get enough of it!
This was a fun interview. As you can see there were a lot of different things to talk about and learn about. I really enjoyed this. Some of the pictures above will take you to videos of her work, including her work with “Goofy” himself.
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