Narrator Interview: Kyla Garcia

Kyla Garcia is an actress and audiobook narrator, known for her work on There, There by Tommy Orange, Love, Sugar, Magic by Anna Meriano, Evening in Paradise by Lucia Berlin, We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia, and Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. Her latest audiobook is Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones is out now!

Kyla told us about how she got into audiobook narrating, the key to her success, and following the dream she’s had since she was a child.

Please tell us a little bit about your path to becoming an audiobook narrator.

I didn’t even know you could make a living reading books aloud until I was on set at a print shoot in LA in 2012. I was supposed to be modeling with outdoor office equipment and posing in front of a laptop in the forest. I couldn’t just sit there and smile….and we didn’t have wifi out there in the woods…so I read the dictionary aloud while the photographer snapped photos and as I did, one of the other models enthusiastically complimented my reading. I responded with “Thanks, I love reading! Reading’s my favorite thing in the whole world to do!” And a fellow actress on set, Mandy Williams, immediately said, ‘Really’? Are you interested in becoming an audiobook narrator?’ Mandy was so kind and offered to make a virtual introduction to the late, great Bob Deyan of Deyan Audio. I followed up with him and had the chance to audition for Bob, which was a true highlight of my career. Even just working with him for 20 minutes on the text I had brought in was so eye opening for me. He was a wonderful director and made me look at the words in a whole new way. He was incredibly supportive and told me he thought I had a bright future in audiobooks. I took that encouragement to heart and trusted how everything began to unfold. I’ve now been narrating for the past six years and have worked on over 200 audiobooks. I feel like the lesson in that experience is, be open about sharing what you love to do with the people you meet, and never stop saying thank you to the people who hear you, believe in you, and help push you forward.

What is your process for preparing to narrate an audiobook?

Most of my narration process is very intuitive. And with truly good writing, it almost feels effortless even before getting into the technical preparation. I read from the heart and let the words guide me. On the technical side, to prepare for a new title, I read the book at least twice. I use iAnnotate and highlight the script accordingly to distinguish different characters and set aside words I may not know or words in foreign languages. I then write down my work in a notebook, and I also record some of my character voices beforehand to remember what my initial instincts for the characters were. IDEA Dialects of English Archive website is a treasure of a resource for research. It’s a website with recordings of people from all over the world narrating the same piece of text that has all of the major vowel and consonant sounds in it. (These are real recordings of people who are from those specific areas, not actors giving tutorials on the dialect). If any of my characters have a dialect that’s mentioned by the author, I listen to it on the IDEA website, study, and practice it until I feel comfortable. I also like to look at photos or videos of the places the book takes place, to get a feel for the world we are living in, as well as watching any films or listening to any songs mentioned in the book. If a main character loves a song I’ve never heard of, listening to that song can help me dive into their psyche more than anything else. It immediately takes me to the place where that character resonates the deepest. I also make sure to get plenty of sleep, vocal rest, and drink lots of tea and water before starting a new book.

What do you think is the key to your success in narrating audiobooks?

I think the key to my success is my community: Deb Deyan at Deyan Audio, Amy Rubinate at Mosaic Audio, Bryan Barney and Jesse Bickford at Blackstone, Caitlin Garing at Harper, Dan Musselman at Penguin Random House. Not to mention all of the incredible supportive storyteller friends I admire in this field; Nicol Zanzarella, PJ Ochlan, Julia Whelan, Vikas Adam, to name a few! I had a teacher once say “Your network is your networth” and it always stuck with me. Getting to work with and learn from these incredible masters in the audiobook industry has helped shape me into the narrator I am today. In addition to feeling like community is the key to any level of success in this field, I also think my theatre background has been vital to my development as a narrator. Theatre prepares you for everything. I consider it the Olympics of acting. And although audiobooks are closer to film than theatre in performance, they require the stamina of theatre. So being a theatre nerd from the age of 7 till now has built up a lifetime of stamina that keeps me grounded and prepared in the booth when I’m recording for hours on end.

What is your favorite line from an audiobook you’ve narrated?

“The happiness inside me becomes luminescent, my skin no barrier to it…I glow like moonlight through pale glass, my soul separating into beautiful pieces like a blooming lily, petals folding away from the center.” – Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?

I am! My favorite genre to listen to is poetry, fiction, and self-help. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield immediately come to mind.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Yes!! My earliest childhood memories are of pretending to read before I actually knew how to. I’d pick up books and newspapers, look at the letters, and speak gibberish aloud…but I dreamt of a day when I’d be able to truly understand the magic held within. When I finally learned how to, I’d hide paperback books I was reading in my textbooks at school and would read every chance I got. Reading convinced me there were other worlds to explore and I wanted to be a part of them. I share all this because it supports one of my core philosophies in life: The dreams you have as a child MATTER. If you stay focused and keep those early dreams in your heart, they WILL come true. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

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