One of the unexpected benefits I’ve found that comes with the craft of narrating is the opportunity to meet and build a relationship with the Author of the books you’re narrating. Janith Hooper is the author of the “Quaking Heart” series; “Ride With Me”, “Stay With Me” and “Fight For Me”, and the Cooper Bar-6 Ranch series: “A Breath Without Life” Novels; “Let Your Heart Beat Again”, “Let Yourself Run Free Again”, “Let Your Love Flow Again” and “Let Yourself Heal Once Again”.
I had the great pleasure of voicing four of her fine novels to date and am anxious to voice the rest.
We had the opportunity to Zoom meet and chat. She’s smart, funny, and a very accomplished writer. Her work is filled with colorful three-dimensional characters, chock full of conflict and romance.
Below is just bit of our Q & A
Dannul – What got you started in writing?
Janith – Raising our four sons to be honorable, godly men was the first important task I felt God wanted me to accomplish in this life. Having fulfilled that when our youngest was the last to move out, I went to God in prayer and asked him what he wanted me to do next. It took me checking different paths only to find closed doors, until I eventually found the open door to writing. Other than making up romance stories for the entertainment of myself and my friends, growing up, I had never pursued writing beyond the occasional newsletter. So, this path surprised me even more than it did my husband, friends, and family. But, one thing I have learned in this life, and that is to trust the Lord. So, I began, and astonished myself even more when I wrote my first very long book in only four months. I had a lot to learn, so my journey began by taking this first book I’d written and using it to learn the ‘craft of writing’. Five years later that book, Ride With Me, was the first one I published.
Dannul – All your books are set in the Western genre. Did you grow up in that kind of environment? On a ranch?
Janith – Yes, I grew up on a 702-acre ranch on the western edge of the central valley, California, on the Delta. It was mostly a farm, but also a ranch with horses, cattle, sheep, and other random critters; and of course, lots and lots of row crops.
Dannul – You’re a very skilled writer. Smart. Creative. After having narrated four of your books I liken them to 50’s and 60’s movies. I see Gary Cooper and June Allyson, Rock Hudson, and Doris Day in the characters you create. They’re very cinematic and structured very much like a screenplay. Is that a conscious thought or choice? Or is that just me?
Janith – Ah, maybe. I hadn’t thought of the old movies, but you’re right that my books are sweet romance, so they probably are a lot like the movies of the 50’s and 60’s. Good observation.
Dannul – Being an artist myself, I’m very aware and respectful of craft. What it takes. The discipline and hard work behind what an artist does. Artists make what they do seem like the easiest thing in the world. If you’ve ever seen professional ballet dancers their movement looks effortless, as it should, but having been a professional dancer myself, I know how hard it is to make it look that easy. With writing, can you talk a little bit about the hard work behind writing the story? Like what your daily routine is. How long it takes to write a book. What exercises, if any, do you do to jog your creative mind?
Janith – First of all, I am a voracious reader. All the books I read are in the romance genre. So, I’m always learning from other authors. Secondly, I try to write everyday, even if it is for only a few minutes. I do this less from a desire to be disciplined, and more from passion. Though it was a unique way God brought me to writing, he also gave me the passion to want to write. I love it, and I want to do it. If I miss too many days, I miss it, and worry just a tad that I might forget how. I am a SOTP writer (seat of the pants), which is, I have a loose idea about what I want the story to look like, and then I let the characters take me where they want to go. It’s all about them. I do research for every little thing along the way. I always begin with prayer, so that God is with me on this journey; that he will empower me, give me ideas, guide me so that I can make a difference in people’s lives concerning their faith, and the honorable way to live.
Janith – Okay, now it’s my turn, Dannul. When did you get started in the entertainment business? And, why?
Dannul – I’ve been a performer since I was 19. I got into the theater by hap’n stance. I had a friend who was in theater and my first year in college he was in a show. He said to me one day, some guy who had a part in the play quit and they needed someone. He said why don’t you do it. So I did. And from that experience, I felt like I’d found my place. My tribe if you will.
Janith – What brought you to the art of narrating novels?
Dannul – I’m curious by nature and I think all art, the creative arts, are interrelated. It’s all about telling a story, whether it’s through dance, literature, fine art, music, it’s all about the process of self-exploration and finding a voice. Our unique voice and mastering the tools to express it. So I’ve bounced around a bit. Got my degree in theater, was a stage performer, went into dance, I was a brief member of the Milwaukee Ballet, musicals in NY, acting in film and video, writing screenplays, editing. I’m interested in all of it. I’ve made my own films. A documentary. I’ve written half a dozen screenplays. I paint. I play piano, badly. So narrating, for me, is just a logical extension of the art form. And for me I love being able to, hopefully, transport the listener into the very visual world the author creates. I want them, the listeners, to see in their mind’s eye the “movie” of the story. And in your case, with your stories, a bonus for me is being able to play incredibly, rugged handsome cowboys.
Janith – I remember seeing a video of you warming up to read one of my novels. It was very unique…and entertaining. But, beyond that, I’m sure there is a very real reason for doing it. What do you do to warm up, and why?
Dannul – I don’t do much. Take a shower. Get coffee. I do an audible “oooooo” up and down the scale just to warm up my vocal cords. Then I “burrr” my lips to wake them up. And a tongue twister or two like “The lips, the tongue, and the teeth” just to get my tongue involved. Then I read a page or two allowed before I actually record to get into the feel of the chapter or whatever I’m recording.
Janith – What do you enjoy most about narrating?
Dannul – I like the emotional scenes. Whether it’s a female character or male. Something about being in this little booth alone, no one watching, just listening, I can just get into it and not feel self conscious about anything.
Janith – Is there a particular voice you like performing the most?
Dannul – That’s tough. I did a fantasy book where the main character was the Grimm Reaper. I used a slightly higher tone than my own and made it raspy. I channeled my best Voldimort from Harry Potter.
Janith – During a dialogue, how do you figure out who is talking next and how they have to sound quick enough to make the conversation sound natural?
Dannul – With character voices I build the character in my head. If it’s an older man, petite woman, Death, whatever I try make up what they look like to me in my head. So when I’m reading I’m seeing the two character talking to each other. That seems to work pretty well.
Janith – Do you read a book ahead of time, and figure out your voices? Or just wing it?
Dannul – I will always read the whole book first if at all possible. If I have a couple of books I’m working on I at least read three-quarters of it to get a feel for the tone, and the characters. And if really pushed I’ll at least read the chapter first before I record it to see who’s in it and all that.
You can find more about Janith Hooper at www.JanithHooper.com. Check out her audiobooks on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.