The Voices Behind Audiobooks: Ally Blake and Noah Michael Levine on Character Voices and Walk-In Closets

Audiobooks are all the rage, but have you ever wondered just who's behind that voice? Author Ally Blake was curious about the man behind the, er, curtain, and so she befriended voice artist Noah Michael Levine. Then she coerced him into telling us everything! He even recorded a sample of the RT Top Pick! anthology, which Ally has a story in, When Honey Got MarriedTake it away, Ally.

When I told my writing friends that I'd met this guy on Twitter … there was a telling silence in response. When I explained that Noah Michael Levine was a Voice Over Artist who'd worked on cartoons, commercials and audiobooks, well, then they understood what the excitement was all about!

Super curious as to how audiobooks come to be I cornered him, insisted he tell me everything, and here's how the conversation went:

ALLY: Hey Noah! So tell me, was it always your dream to be a Voice Over Artist?

NOAH: Hey Ally! Well, I grew up in Nyack, NY — just outside New York City — which is a very cool, artsy, eclectic town, so acting and music have always been an integral part of my life. Right after Hurricane Sandy I ran into an old friend who does editing work for — the largest audiobook producers in the world. He connected me with Audible and I've been working steadily since.

ALLY: You've given voice to books from young adult, romance, thrillers with some pretty varied nonfiction thrown in as well. What’s your favorite type of story to narrate?

NOAH: For me it's not a particular genre as much as the writer's ability to move me in some way. If I can feel the writing, it makes it so much easier (and more fun) to perform, as the material tends to roll off my tongue much more smoothly. When I get in "the zone" it's a blast.

ALLY: Gotta love "the zone." Along the way have you found that you approach the voicing of a story differently if written from a female perspective?

NOAH: Not really, though the female-authored books tend to have a more in-depth range of emotions. Liliana Hart's Kill Shot is every bit as much a page-turner as anything I've read before. With super well-defined characters, great action-driven narrative and off-the-chart-hot sex scenes, it was a great book to perform.

ALLY: I'll bet. Now, I personally could listen to a New York accent day in day out, but I am assuming that you need to be a master of many accents.

NOAH: I have a good ear for accents and voices, but if I can't make it at least plausible, I don't do it. One of my first projects, The Myth Adventures by Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye, included around 500 different characters. So sometimes it's not so much doing an accent as a voice that will differentiate itself from others. That can come from changing pitch, adding a throaty growl or specific enunciation or invoking my 88-year-old Aunt Edith.

ALLY: What about female characters? What's the trick there since you're, well, a guy?

NOAH: I raise the pitch of my voice so it's evocative of a woman or girl. But unless I’m doing comedy, I don't think I actually sound like a woman. I try to picture the character and hope it works.

ALLY: Now to some nitty gritty; how long does it take to record an audiobook?  

NOAH: The average completed audiobook is about 10 hours long, and it can take anywhere from 90 to 120 minutes to record 60 minutes of book time. Depends on how the work is flowing.

ALLY: What does a real live audiobook recording studio look like?

NOAH: I catch a lot of guff for this, but my "studio" is a walk-in closet. It's the perfect place to record; a room big enough for my gear and buffered by my clothing. My closet also typically contains my cat, Max, hanging out on the shelf behind me, making sure I'm not hamming it up too much. And I can roll out of bed and record in my underwear.

Noah's recording studio

ALLY: Working in your underwear within ten steps of a fridge and a cat … you sound like a writer! Now, any chance you'd record a little something, perhaps something of mine, to give people a taste of what you can do?

NOAH: Ally, it would be my pleasure.

ALLY: Fabulous! And here for your listening pleasure is Noah Michael Levine with a little taste of When Honey Got Married ... 

Are you clamboring for more of Noah's voice? Or just want to know what happens in the story? When Honey Got Married is available online now. And for more romantic musings, head on over to our Everything Romance page.