Interview with Audiobook Narrator Maria Marquis
Maria Marquis is a theatre and voice actor working in San Francisco. She earned her BA in Theatre Performance and Anthropology at Lawrence University and has worked with various companies including: Dragon Productions, City Lights Theatre Company, The Pear Avenue Theatre, and Impact Theatre. Excelling in her craft, she earned a 2011 nomination for the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Award – Best Principal Actress for her role in The Chalk Boy. This high honor was only to be outdone when she won the 2013 San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Award – Best Principal Actress for her performance in As You Like It!
This award-winning actress does not set boundaries for herself. Outside of acting, she works as a corporate software trainer and instructional designer “committed to making work less boring.” It’s hard to imagine that work could get dull with Maria on the job, with her background in comedy, drama, and classical theatre.
It is a pleasure to welcome Maria Marquis to Jots Beyond The Margin. Before we dive into the Q & A, I would like to thank Maria for her wonderful work narrating and producing The Taking. This is the first novel in the Tales of Malstria series, and after having poured my heart into this story over a period of several years, it’s exciting to hear it come alive with a voice that was made for storytelling.
Q & A with Maria Marquis
When did the acting bug first bite you? And, is there any cure?
I was always that kid that wanted to play pretend all day. And, I think the bug really hit me when I was in 2nd grade at Busch Gardens, and I got pulled up to be the pea in “The Princess and the Pea” – people started laughing at something silly I did and I was hooked. As for a cure, I think I’m probably beyond hope!
How does it feel to step out on stage or to get lost in a character?
There’s really nothing like it. The best analogy I have is that it’s similar to doing something you love and realizing that 4 hours have gone by. Or magic 🙂
Sometimes things just click. What’s the most fun you’ve had with a role?
This is a tough one…I always like when I get to play multiple characters in the same piece. Something about the snapping back and forth is super gratifying and gets my brain excited. I’ve gotten to do this a few times on stage (and every time with an audiobook!). A favorite time was when I got to play an overbearing mom, an uppity teen, a creepy truck driver, and a ghost all in the same night.
Kind of like squeezing into a pair of skinny jeans, sometimes being pushed to our limits can have wonderful or unexpected outcomes. What is the most challenging role you’ve had?
My most challenging role was Rosalind in As You Like It. Not only does she talk A LOT (hence lots of lines to memorize), but she is also in drag throughout the play. There’s also a lot of lovely moments where her heart is on her sleeve, and being so vulnerable took a lot of time to master. It was totally worth it though!
Your work ethic as a narrator really impressed me. You asked great questions and tenaciously worked toward the finished product. You are so well-organized and committed to your work. Do you ever sleep, or do you have a method of organizing your time the President would envy?
What is sleep? I am a super busy person so my time management came out of not having much of it. I wanted to make sure that the time I do have is well spent so I try and get as much information up front as possible. After my first audiobook, I sat down and thought about all the things I wish I knew up front and built my process around that. I also schedule everything in my calendar – it’s a simple thing – but just having a “meeting with myself” and a goal keeps me on track. It’s also easy to make time for something you love!
LeMerle was ridiculously fun, too, and he’s a “not-so-all-around-stand-up-guy.” The baddies are always fun to step into.
My husband and I have become two of your “biggest fans” (promise we won’t go all Annie Wilkes on you!). You’ve done such an excellent job narrating not only the text of The Taking, but you really do capture the emotion behind each character. Speaking of fans, have you had any memorable fan reactions to any of your performances you’d like to share?
My favorite one was “Narration – Maria Marquis – Kick A$$!” – they went on to say lots of other lovely things, but that immediate reaction made me laugh. The best part of narrating though is seeing people respond to the story and the author’s words. In many ways, a good narrator should be invisible because the story is so alive.
I live a simple life, but I must say I love to write about complicated characters. Did you have any favorite scenes or characters you’d like to share from your time narrating The Taking?
I absolutely love Aldrid. His voice was so much fun to do, but he’s an all-around stand-up guy. That being said, LeMerle was ridiculously fun, too, and he’s a “not-so-all-around-stand-up-guy.” The baddies are always fun to step into.
Would you talk a little about what you do as an ACX audiobook producer? There’s much more to the process than reading the text, isn’t there? What part of the process do you enjoy the most?
For me, I follow this process:
- Read the book and note the important characters
- Work with the rights holder to determine the right voices
- Start telling that story!
- Edit chapters
- Make corrections to any mispronounced words, etc.
I have two favorite parts – the discovery of characters and the storytelling itself. That being said, there’s something very zen about the editing process, too.
Athletes might not wash their socks for an entire season as a good luck charm. Do you have any, preferably less disgusting, rituals or methods of preparing for a role?
I wish I had something more interesting on this, but all I do is grab a big bottle of water, shoo my cat out of my studio, and imagine the world I’m stepping into. Maybe I should start the sock thing!
How do you create voices for all the characters in a book? Where do you draw your inspiration, and how do you keep in character in the midst of dialogue?
When it comes to character voices, I start with the text in the book. For example, you describe LeMerle’s voice as “oozing” – what a great clue and jumping off point! I also take note of class and background – this was a huge part of the work we did together on The Taking. Quin, the stable-hand, will have a very different way of speaking than Mallory and his courtly cronies. Keeping the characters in dialogue is still challenging – sometimes I’ll realize I’ve got the wrong person. Luckily, there’s editing and always an opportunity for a “take 2”.
As a producer, how do you choose which books you’re interested in working on?
I choose books based on my moods, and my rule of thumb is to ask myself “Is this a book I would buy for myself or a friend?” If the answer is yes, I’ll audition. After all, I’m going to spend a lot of time with the book!
What tips can you offer authors who are working with narrators?
The best advice I have is to be clear with direction. A good narrator will give you everything they’ve got, and the clearer you can be with what you want, the better. It’s also super important to communicate a lot and turn around items quickly to stay on schedule. You were, of course, awesome at both of these things!
If you’re anything like me, there’s always a something cooking on the back burner. What projects have been keeping you busy of late?
I have been performing on stage a lot lately, and I’m trying to learn basic computer programming too.
You have such a dynamic life! What else you’d like readers to know about you, your career, or your experience working on The Taking?
I think the biggest thing for me to say is thank you! The readers and listeners are the most important part of what I do, and without them the magic doesn’t happen.
The Taking unabridged audio version, narrated by Maria Marquis, will be released in late December 2015. Until then, visit tracirobison.com for book descriptions, excerpts, and to join in on Q & A for the series and the author Traci Robison. And, you can find the latest information on Maria Marquis’ projects at mariagmarquis.com.