Narration, in short
My long-lost audiobook narration career was rediscovered (by me) in 2019, when I produced and narrated The Second Goodbye by the wonderful Patricia Smiley. Stay tuned: my list of titles as narrator expands monthly.
Audiobook Narration, the Unabridged Version
I’ve always loved reading aloud, turning words on pages into sounds, which I’m guessing is an actor thing. A version of stories around a campfire, some kind of magical alchemical thing. When I arrived in LA back in the 80’s, I volunteered at the Braille Institute, making “books on tape,” the ancestor of today’s audiobook. I sat alone in a tiny booth, recording into a microphone and doing my own editing. I read everything from election ballots to cheesy romances to astrology textbooks, for 13 years, stopping only when I had my first baby and couldn’t lug her down to Vermont Avenue every week. It was pure fun.
In the middle of that, my talent agent once or twice called me up and sent me to a recording studio where I recorded various fiction projects, only one of which I remember: Honky Tonk Kat, by Karen Kijewski, a rollicking mystery. Honky Tonk Kat won an Audie award in 1997 but as I didn’t know what an Audie award was back then, I pretty much forgot about it.
But that’s also when I listened to my first book-on-tape: John le Carré narrating his own The Little Drummer Girl. And found myself doing what every avid listener has done at one time or another: I sat in my car in my garage after a long trip, because I couldn’t bear to stop listening, even long enough to pop the cassette tape out of the tape player.
Fast forward to the 2010’s. (Twenty-teens?) I developed a veritable addiction to audiobooks, and once my friend Nancie Hays turned me on to Audible, I was sunk. I have around 200 books in my Audible library.
Fast forward again to 2019, when I was wandering the interwebs and stumbled onto a “how to produce and narrate for Audible” course. Within a week I’d turned my closet into a recording studio and was off to the races.
The Kozak family motto being “How hard can it be?” (the answer to which is nearly always “harder than it looks”) I dove recklessly into my narration career/comeback. The bad news is there’s a steep learning curve, because I knew pretty much nothing about editing, proofing, mastering, uploading, but the good news it’s all fun and my closet has good sound quality. (which is to say, it’s very quiet.)
I have projects lined up for weeks (okay, maybe months) due to the fact that I know and love a large number of mystery writers, some of whom own their own audio rights and desperately want to hear their books recorded.
If you are a rights-holder to a book you wrote or one you bought, or if you’re just an avid listener, you can hear my narration samples here.
My first narrated book is the fabulous The Second Goodbye by the very talented Patricia Smiley, which you can find here.
"As mysteries go, it was a great listening experience. The story engaged me right from the beginning and kept my interest up to the end...What impressed me most was the narration. Truthfully, I’m usually a little skittish about listening to books with a female narrator. I want to become engrossed in a story without being distracted by the voice and, for me, male voices are generally more “neutral” than female voices. Harley Jane Kozak’s narration is an exception. Her reading of the book is excellent, and her characterizations are superb. Her voice has the just the right balance of animation and control. Far from distracting from the story, she brought it to life....this one's a keeper."
"Patricia Smiley's The Second Goodbye has everything you want in a cop mystery—a winning but flawed protagonist, deep knowledge of police procedures, rising dramatic tension, and a supporting cast that piques interest and propels the plot. Others have remarked that Smiley's books remind them of early books in the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly. That's high praise indeed. As Smokey Robinson once sang, "I second that emotion." Eight of those Bosch books were narrated on audio by Broadway star Len Cariou in a perfect match of an author's written words with a narrator's spoken ones. Sadly, Mr. Cariou is no longer doing the Bosch narrations. Happily, with The Second Goodbye I've found a pairing that equals the Connelly-Cariou partnership in Patricia Smiley and Harley Jane Kozak. Kozak, a veteran actor and novelist herself, captures every nuance of Smiley's words adding to the depth of characters and the drive of the story. She's so good that it tempts me to write a book with a female protagonist just to get Kozak to do the narration. The bottom line? A terrific crime novel made even better by the narration. Bravissima!”
—Author Keith Raffel
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