Conversation with Therese Plummer, Audiobook Narrator

therese plummer

I first “met” Therese Plummer in 2017 when I downloaded an audiobook copy of “Virgin River” by Robyn Carr.

I fell in love with the book and the whole series (all 18 books of them). And as I become acquainted with the denizens of Virgin River, Therese Plummer also became my commute companion for two months as I parceled out 186 hours of listening to my daily drive to and from work.

Fast forward three years. Bouchercon World Mystery Convention comes to Dallas. Described as the “world’s premier annual crime fiction event,” it has Peter Lovesy, Hank Phillippi Ryan and James Patterson as the crowd drawers.

But as a veteran convention attendee, I know that the top billed names are just the tip of the iceberg. The meat of any convention whether it’s a book con or a comic con are the panel discussions.

And going through the schedule, I found this little nugget:

Unlocking the Mystery of Audiobooks
Friday, November 1, 2:30-3:30 PM
Landmark D

A panel of authors, narrators and audiobook publishers discuss the challenges of writing and publishing in the mystery genre for not just the reader, but also the listener.
Panelists: Laura Gachko (M), Ron Formica, Felix Francis, Charlaine Harris, Laurie R. King, Therese Plummer

People should expect a behind-the-curtain look at audiobooks, seeing how publishers acquire the books, how professional actors approach the craft of audiobook narration, and how authors react to hearing their words interpreted in the audio medium.

Three authors – Felix Francis, Charlaine Harris, Laurie R. King; a book executive – Laura Gachko; an acquisition executive- Ron Formica and an audiobook narrator – Therese Plummer make up the six-member panel.

Being an avid audiobook listener, I wanted to know more but did not know where to begin and who to approach.

Well… as it turned out, an audiobook decided. That time, I was listening to “Shattered Lies,” by Kathleen Brooks and Therese Plummer was the narrator.

Because I have listened to Therese so many times, I felt like a fan girl reaching out to her hero when I scheduled an interview through her publicist.

And when I interviewed her, I found Therese as very down to earth and a woman who is so relatable as she is beautiful inside and out.

Therese Plummer Photo by Jody Christopherson-255px

Therese Plummer Photo by Jody Christopherson-255px

Question: Audible lists 411 books that you have narrated. That’s an impressive body of work. How did you become an audiobook narrator? How long have you been a narrator?

Therese Plummer: It was unexpected actually. *laughs* I was asked to audition for Audible by producer Mike Charzuck, who happened to be in the same studio where I auditioned for something else. And when you’re an actor, you always say yes to an audition. So, I said yes and from that, I was offered 2 contracts to narrate. That was 15 years ago!

Marienela: Wow! Talk about fate. Or is it destiny? Nevertheless, those 2 books had turned into 411. Doing the math, you average narrating 2.3 books a month! To borrow from Millennials, that’s dope!

Question: Among the over 400 books you have narrated, do you have a favorite?

Therese Plummer: That’s a tough question. *pauses and thinks* I have narrated so many good books, it is hard to choose. But, if I have to choose, it will be The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

Marienela: I haven’t heard of it, but I will definitely read/listen to it next month. *goes to Amazon.* Here’s a short synopsis of the book: In this magical debut – set in 1920s Alaska, a couple’s lives are changed forever by the arrival of a little girl, wild and secretive, on their snowy doorstep.

Thanks for the recommendation. And I’m so glad that you actually told me. *grins* Nevertheless, I would have listened to it when I run across it because you narrated it. You’re an auto-buy for me.

Therese Plummer asks the Question: “Auto-buy?” What’s that?

Marienela: Oh, that’s a term that audiobook listeners use when they like a certain narrator. It does not matter who the author is or even it is outside their favorite genre. If a narrator we like is narrating, we “auto-buy” or “auto-download,” that’s another term we use.

Therese Plummer: That’s the first time I have heard of it.

Marienela: Oh, I think it’s because there is no official list for auto-buy narrators. Every audiobook listener has their own list. Aside from you, I have three others in my list – two male narrators and another female. I have discovered authors simply because I’m following narrators. Case in point, I have to thank you for finding Kathleen Brooks. I saw that you were narrating her Web of Lies series so I downloaded the books. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Question: Now, back to the over 400 books under your belt. How do you keep your narration fresh?

Therese Plummer: It’s a combination of several things.

First, my mother who is a librarian and from whom I learned to love books always tell me that a narrator can make or break a book. So, I always keep that advice in my mind.

Second, I listen closely to the author(s) on how they see the characters.

Third, as a trained actor, I always prepare for the role. So, I read the book, internalize the characters and the voice comes. In short, the characters tell me how to voice them.

Marienela: *speechless* So, it’s like a one-man show or in this case, a one-woman show. I understand that there are a lot of things that goes with narrating a book. I just did not realize it to be this intense.

Question: I was listening to Shattered Lies, the third and final book of Kathleen Brooks’ Web of Lies series. In this three-book series, you seamlessly changed accent from American to Scottish to Hispanic to English, even the lilting Southern accent. How do you do that?

Therese Plummer: Oh, I learned that from my father who is an actor and would use accents while cooking in the kitchen. I was so fascinated. He used to tell me that for accents, you just need a hint and the ear will do the rest.

So, when I need help with an accent I go to a website called IDEA,  and search for native speakers of that dialect.  I listen closely. Pick up several key phrases, mouth formations, enunciate and then have it.  Many times I will work with a director who will help me with the pronunciations.  Thank God for directors!!

Marienela: You make it sound so easy. *sounding envious, then resigned* But, I guess that is the reason why I’m a listener and you’re a narrator. *laughs*

Question: Listening to you, I can always tell if it is a male character or a female character. Aside from the obvious, is there a difference in voicing male vs. female?

Therese Plummer: Oh yes, there is a difference! Robin Miles, a narrator whom I admire taught me during the early days of my career that men speak slower than women. And when you speak slow, the low tone follows. Women speak faster and their tone is higher.

Marienela: *tries it* You’re right! And yes, women speak faster than men. And when we speak so fast, I guess that’s when we shriek! *laughs*

Question: Speaking of male and female voices, Virgin River has 18 books in the series – you voiced all those varied characters. What’s your secret in keeping them unique?

Therese Plummer: Again, it’s a combination of several things, but on top of the list is author Robyn Carr. The characters are so well written it is easy to visualize them. And she also shared with me how she viewed each character.

I am also a physical actor. So, I might be narrating it but I also act out scenes that I can with hand gestures and facial expressions and such. That helps keep each character unique.

Marienela: Wow! I learned something new today. I have always assumed that narrators just read. Then again, I have seen clips of singers and musicians in recording studios and they do move, even dance when they are recording.

Question: Who is your favorite character in Virgin River? I keep on going back to it because Netflix just made it into a series and has ordered 9 episodes. And, by the way, did you get a part in the series?

Therese Plummer: Oh yes, I play Caroline and I am in one episode. We filmed in Vancouver. As for my favorite characters, I love Mel and Jack. They are well-written and well-thought out.

Marienela: Yes, they are. And they are in all of the 18 books. Their love story is the main plotline of all 18 books. I am so looking forward to binging on it.

Question: Alright, one final question. I just started listening to “Crew Princess” by Tijan. You also narrated the first book in the series, “Crew.” The main character Bren Monroe is a teenager. In fact, all the characters are high schoolers. The whole time I was listening to it, I “see” high school students. How do you do it?

Therese Plummer: Again, it is characterization. I think of the time when I was 15 and full of teenage angst. Over confidence and uncertainty merged into one. With that at the forefront, the voice of a teenager comes out.

Marienela: Incredible! Your range of voices is on a wide spectrum. I guess that’s the reason why you have won so many awards like the 2019 Audie Award for your work on the multicast, Sadie by Courtney Summers for Macmillan Audio.

And of course, let us not forget that the American Library Association (ALA) has placed your work on Sourdough by Robin Sloan as part of the 2018 Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration for Adult Listeners.

*Looks at the time* Oh my, time really flies when you’re having fun. Thank you, Therese, for sharing with us the sublime world of audiobook narrating.

Therese Plummer: You’re welcome and thank you also. It’s been a blast!

Marienela: Yes! It’s the bomb, as Millennials will say. Also, let me be the first to welcome you to our home city of Dallas.

For those of you who have not registered yet for Bouchercon 2019, you can still buy tickets HERE.  Convention dates are from October 31 – November 3, 2019.

Therese Plummer will be a panelist at “Unlocking the Mystery of Audiobooks” scheduled on Friday, November 1, 2019 at 2:30 – 3:30 PM at Landmark D.

See you there!