published in AudioFile (February/March 2016)
Christa Lewis’s last three narrations earned AudioFile Earphones Awards. All three of them are challenging books that reveal the talents of someone relatively new to the field of narration. In Ryan Graudin’s WOLF BY WOLF (book from Little Brown, audio Hatchett), she switches accents, time periods, and moods, creating flow for a book that she sees as “shards of experience that were almost disjointed, the aches and pains of them all intriguing.”
In Mary Gaitskill’s THE MARE (book from Pantheon; Audio from Blackstone), she dramatizes the emotionally complex character of Ginger in her first audiobook with multiple narrators.
About her third Earphones-winning title, INFINITE HOME (book from Riverhead, audio from Blackstone), she says, “I found Kathleen Alcott’s use of language so rich, so full of colors and metaphors, that I thought, if I add anything to this, I’m going to drown the listener. So I tried to almost delete myself from the book. After I finished the narration, it took me weeks to recover.”
Lewis found her way to narrating through complete serendipity. She was living and working in Berlin, Germany, as an international newscaster when she took a holiday in Los Angeles. While there, she was contacted by a European client who needed a recording, so she phoned around to find a studio.
At the time, the legendary audiobook company, Deyan Audio, was actively seeking narrators. “Hi, my name is Christa Lewis . . .” was all she could say before cofounder Debra Deyan shouted, “Do you do audiobooks?” Debra wouldn’t listen to Lewis’s queries about studio prices, but interrupted–“You need to contact my husband right away!” Finally, Christa agreed to call Bob Deyan, who interviewed her within days and put her on their roster immediately as a narrator.
Later, Lewis decided to embark upon recording in a studio in her home–as many narrators do today. Learning how to work as narrator and director and recording engineer was a whole new challenge. “As a newscaster,” she remembers, “I had the best engineers in the world making me sound like a million bucks every time I went on the air, but I had never recorded myself.” She spent the next 18 months teaching herself how to record, edit, and master. “I practiced, I failed, I wept, I cursed. I’m a perfectionist, and I had been spoiled.”
It’s been years since Lewis graduated from Boston University’s with a degree in theater, for which she focused on acting. “Since then I’ve done a million things with my voice. Only lately am I finally feeling that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Audiobooks are the fulfillment of whatever pushed me into acting school 30 years ago.”