Insight Into Audio: Part Two

Have you ever wondered what goes into making an audiobook? Read on, once again…

Following my Q&A with Australian actor Ulli Birve, I’m very happy to welcome another narrator of my audiobooks, Catie Milte, to my page today. I also have a personal connection with Catie – I not only went to Clare High School in South Australia with her, but we lived on the same road in Clare, where her father was the postmaster and my dad was the railway stationmaster.


I also have very fond memories of Catie’s mother, Margaret Milte, who was the librarian at my primary school, St Joseph’s, in Clare. As an eight year old, I wrote a book for a school project, and after I spent a week showing and reading it to everyone I knew in town, Mrs Milte did a wonderful thing. She took my book, covered it, catalogued it and put it on the shelves of the school library, beside all the ‘proper’ books. I am very sure that Mrs Milte’s kind gesture planted the seed that I might one day try to be a ‘proper’ author.

Those Clare links made it even more special for me when Catie was chosen as the narrator for my fourth novel, The Alphabet Sisters, which is set in the Clare Valley. Since then, she has narrated its sequel, Lola’s Secret, as well as Family Baggage, The House of Memories and my short story collection All Together Now.

Here’s my Q&A with Catie:

1. How did you become a narrator of audio books?

Well, nothing very exciting to see here; like most actors I was ‘between jobs’ and a mate suggested I should give audiobooks a go. So I auditioned and I’ve been doing it for 20+ years.

2. How many times do you read the book before you do the recording?

I read a book just once (readers may have noticed that Ms McInerney’s books tend to be on the ‘weighty’ side). It is, however, a very ‘close’ reading, with copious note-taking around characters, voices, accents and pronunciation.

3. How do you decide on each character’s voice?

Characters’ voices pretty much suggest themselves to me. On the odd occasion when I’m struggling to ‘hear’ a character, I think of someone similar who is known to me and use that voice as a reference point.

4. What happens on a typical recording day?

These days a typical recording day, for me, begins with waking up in a hotel as, living in beautiful Victor Harbor, South Australia, I have to travel to Melbourne to record. I generally do a quick cross-check of what’s ahead of me for the day (tricky words, who’s talking etc) before heading off to the studio. Coffee from the café across the road. Check in with my producer, then lock myself in a sound proof booth approximately 2 metres x 2 metres. Headphones on (I like LOTS of feedback), listen to a little bit of the previous day’s work, check that the ‘levels’ are consistent and away we go. Each session is roughly three hours with a half hour lunch break and a couple of 5 minute breaks to step outside (get more coffee) and stretch my legs. I generally do two sessions in a day.

5. How long does it take to record my novels?

Recording time depends on the length of the book, the narrator’s ability to read without making mistakes, and the producer’s skill in editing mistakes and ‘dropping’ you back into the recording. I generally do around 60-70 pages per session.

6. What’s the hardest part of doing the narration?

A multitude of characters and accents (something of a McInerney specialty) and groups of similar but different characters, like sisters (another McInerney specialty) can be hard work. And, while not physically arduous, recording does demand prolonged and lengthy periods of concentration; my shoulders and neck are usually very tense by the end of the day. Also determining whether another muffin will exacerbate or alleviate those tummy rumbles.

7. What’s your favourite part?

I LOVE telling stories; not just audiobooks, but reading to children in my ‘other’ job as an aide in a primary school, and also to my own children. I am constantly amazed at the pleasure which story-telling brings to people. As an actor, I’ve always felt more confident in my vocal ability than my physical ability and I love the challenge of bringing a world to life through the voice alone. And, let’s face it, I’ve loved mimicking accents and voices for as long as I can remember. I feel entirely at home in the recording studio; each time I return, it’s like going home. And it’s a licence (not needed) to read!

Big thanks, Catie, for your answers and your great narrating.

Catie has worked both on stage and in television, where her credits include Blue Heelers, Neighbours, Halifax FP and The Fast Lane. She is also familiar to listeners of ABC Radio National’s The Book reading and Poetica and is a recipient of the TDK Australian Audiobook Award for Narrator of the Year.

For more details or to hear samples of Ulli’s narration of my books, please visit the Bolinda website here:…