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7/12/2016 9:26:09 PM
Interview with Actress Susannah Jones
From becoming an actress in the Big Apple to love with her leading man.
I'm sooo jazzed about my new audio books, mostly because I found awesome actress-narrator Susannah Jones. It's no easy task for a narrator to interpret characters in a way that satisfies the author. After all, we've often lived with these characters in our heads for years. Yet, Susannah made them come to life in a way that's even better than I imagined.
In fact, I was so impressed by her, I asked her to do an interview for my blog, mostly so I'd have an excuse to ask her questions that would have been none of my beeswax otherwise. (See how crafty I am? Shhh... Don't tell her about my ulterior motives. I'm sure she'll never see this.)
Okay, Susannah, I'm trying to figure out how an awesome narrator is made so the scientists I keep tied up in my basement can do some reverse engineering and clone you. What's your origin story?
I was born in St. Petersburg, FL. My mom was a copy-writer at an award winning ad agency she ran with three other women. My dad is a book critic, previously of the St. Petersburg Times, then Newsweek, which morphed into what is now The Daily Beast.
Raised by two literary parents and surrounded by books, I developed a love of literature early on. I also have a younger brother who is sort of my polar opposite—he was the athlete in the family. I was always interested in performing arts—first ballet, then musical, then Shakespeare, and now pretty much anything and everything I can get my hands on. Although I will say that I don’t dance very much anymore!
Any relationship tidbits you want to share with us? Is there a guy/girl in the picture? (We romance writers are required by law to ask that question.)
I am with a great guy that I met last summer performing in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. He’s an actor and a poet. He played Sebastian and I played Olivia, who are lovers in the play. It's my first “show-mance”!
Okay, that's really romantic. How did you find out you were into each other in real life?
You know when you start talking to someone and the repartee is electric and natural and exciting? And then the person is really handsome on top of that? That's how it was when I met Jay Ben at the beginning of our contract for Mainestage Shakespeare last summer. He was so smart and witty and it didn't hurt that I got to watch him lift a lot of wood beams while he was helping build our set.
I was dating someone else at the time, but that came to an abrupt stop about three weeks in. A week later, all the actors were having one of our regular Saturday night parties and a friend of ours (who, it turned out, we had both confessed our crushes on each other to), orchestrated an opportune meeting on the driveway of our actor house. Because we were a little tipsy, we ended up lying down on the driveway (it's a miracle we didn't get run over).
We were next to each other, looking up at the glittering Maine night sky, talking about everything but the fact that we liked each other and were physically closer than we had been all summer, when he confessed that he really liked me. I looked over at him and smiled and we kissed (but that was it!) and the next day decided to start dating. It was one of the most romantic summers I've ever had, and it's still wonderful now a year later!
I understand you live in New York, home of Sex and the City. I guess before "Sebastian" came along, you led a swinging single life, just like we see on TV?
I’m certainly no swinging single!! But I am a sucker for “meet-cutes”. I met my first love in the library at NYU (my alma mater). I like telling that story because I’ve always thought of the library as a super-romantic place! And of course, performing opposite my current boyfriend in a Shakespeare play was a pretty ideal way to fall in love too!
Have you had any non-acting jobs that you were weird, quirky, or that almost drove you crazy for some reason?
Well, I had the requisite hostess job, which I hated. I lasted six months and then had to quit because those hours and that lifestyle just weren’t for me. I always tip at least 20% because I respect people who are in the service industry immensely.
I had a year when I thought I wanted to be a personal organizer (I LOVE to sort things—it really soothes me), but I realized it’s not as fun to organize other people’s stuff as it is your own. And then that ended around the time that I got into recording audiobooks fulltime! I also had a side job writing thank you notes for an office supply company that paid $.75/card. Lots of writer’s cramp with that one!
Darn, for a second there, I thought I'd have that narrator-slash-organizer I always wanted, until you said the part about only wanting ot sort your own stuff. Bummer. Anyway, how did you decide to become an actress? How did you get into narration/voice overs?
When I was three, I begged my mom to sign me up for ballet class. I always had a huge urge to perform. I took serious dance classes til eighth grade, when I realized I would rather dedicate my extracurricular hours to being in plays. I was a member of the Lullaby League in an elementary school production of The Wizard Of Oz and basically didn’t stop performing after that. In fifth grade I got to play Rosalind in As You Like It. And then I was in all the musicals and plays in school from there on out!
Voiceover wise, I actually recorded my first professional voice-over gig in second grade when my mom needed someone to voice a baby in one of her commercials! I didn’t do much else until after college when I wrote to Audible asking to audition for them. Soon after that, I started getting more and more work, and now I do it almost full time.
Do you have a favorite moment or high point for you as an actress?
One shining moment was being cast as Mother in the national tour of A Christmas Story-The Musical. I remember when we were rehearsing the bows. They were set to music, and when it was time for me to come out, it changed from sort of peppy and quick, to this sweeping, emotional strain, and I got to bow to an enormous theater in Kentucky and I thought, “Wow, this is actually how I dreamt it would be when I was ten.” That was a reallyspecial moment for me because I felt like I had “made it”.
I noticed when I say someone "whispers-sings childishly" in my books, you actually sing, just as I imagined it. (I totally got a thrill down my spine the first time I heard it.) Tell us something about your singing experience.
Singing was truly my first love. I grew up listening to my mom play the piano and I used to sing the songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with her. It’s something I’ve always done and felt right doing. I can’t imagine my life without it. In fact, I’ve always been very confident about my answer to that silly question, “Would you rather be deaf or blind?” I would absolutely rather be blind, because then I could still experience music.
Hmm...deaf or blind? I'm rooting for none of the above for you because I need you to read my books, which involves seeing, and I would guess hearing yourself helps when you're narrating (because your deaf and/or blindness is all about me, of course).
Anyway...is there anyone who was a special influence in your life or career?
My mom was always supremely supportive of me. She comes to all my performances multiple times to this day. But she never pushed me into anything I didn’t want. I was always dragging her around to dance lessons and rehearsals. But, even though she had a full time job, she always took me because she knew I loved it and believed in me. So, she’s been a great influence in my life. I hope I can be half the mom she is someday.
As an experienced mom myself, I'd advise you not to shoot for that "half a mom" thing. It can freak little kids out, especially if the other half is a werewolf. Or a clown. Actually, the only thing creepier than a clown is half a clown. (I know because my neighbors actually had half a clown on their lawn as a Halloween decoration. Not pretty.)
So, you seem to be pretty busy, but do you have any hobbies?
I play guitar! And I write a lot. And I love yoga.
Hey, we have a lot in common! I used to sing and play guitar when I was younger. Then my daughter came along and wanted to slap at the strings randomly while I played. (Kids are rough on hobbies in general. They seem convinced they should be your only hobby.) And I write a lot, too! Oh, I guess you know that, since we only know each other because you're narrating my books.
Well, I'm really glad you took the time to answer all these questions, Susannah. Maybe I'll come to New York to meet you someday. I don't love New York, but can't recommend you coming down to Houston. Maybe we could split the difference and meet in L.A.? Regardless, thanks for stopping by!
Hear a sample of Susannah narrating No More Mr. Nice Girl.
Note: If you are an author interested in making audiobooks, I'd suggest you read my other post: Audiobook Narration-Interview with Susannah Jones.