Narrator: Ashley Holt

Ashley Holt
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Narrator Bio

Former NPR PBS FM radio host/announcer in a major media market, with a warm mezzo female voice. I have a background in opera and can present in English, Italian, German, French, Latin. With a background in the performing arts and opera, I can sing as well as do some accents.

Home includes a husband shaped person, 2 cats, volunteerism and an active online gaming presence.
No audiobook genre is taboo, which makes for very interesting dinner table discussion.

Member, Audio Producers Association

(Prepared Author Interview from the Audiobookworm blog tour in Feb. 2018.)

Q&A with Narrator Ashley Holt
  • How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?
    • HA< totally by chance. A friend of mine asked me for help building her recording studio. (My day job is in TV/internet broadcast, so that is why she asked me) I asked her what it was for, and she said “I’m going to narrate for Audible. YOU should do it” So I auditioned for 3 books and got all 3 of them right out of the gate. One of those books is still one of my best sellers. It is a non-fiction book about the Meyers-Broggs MBTI personality profiles and how yo use them to analyze people. My friend? Narrated one book and quit after finding out how hard it is.
  • Did you find it difficult to “break into” audiobook narration? What skill/tool helped you the most when getting started?
    • No, but I really have an edge many folks don’t: a combo platter of: a background in radio, acting and opera (yes, singing) and a very strong tech background in audio/video production and website development. (my dad always insisted I have a backup plan for that artsy career I wanted. So its easy for me to narrate, produce and deal with the website interface of ACX. My Achilles heel? MARKETING. 😉 Might be why I am here.
  • A lot of narrators seem to have a background in theatre. Is that something you think is essential to a successful narration career?
    • A THOUSAND TIMES YES. There are authors that think they can narrate their own book because they have done book readings. Audiobooks are an entirely different animal.The listener wants an IMMERSIVE experience, with full-blown characterizations and world-building.
  • What type of training have you undergone?
    • I have an MFA in opera, and over 20 years of experience preparing and singing opera roles. I have audiobook coaches. (an absolute MUST) One for non-fiction, one for fiction, and one for dialects/accents.
  • How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for narrating?
    • The big lesson I learned is to not take too many books in the same genre. There are only so many ways you can voice certain romance scenes, so I need a non-fiction or a sci-fi or my new favorite genre, LitRPG to mix things up.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • This is a holdover from my opera days. YOu always listen to the greats. Listening to them is also a form of coaching. Kate Reading and Xe Sands are 2 I like a lot, I also listen to my coaches, Sean Pratt (who is currently working on his 950th book) and Carol Monda. I mentioned before, I do this part time. My day job involves a LOT of traveling, both local and cross-country. When I’m stuck in a 6 hour layover in Houston, or have to drive cross-country audiobooks are a godsend!!!
  • What are your favorite and least favorite parts of narrating an audiobook?
    • Favorite? When I feel that phrase hit just right for the moment and the mood. Starblind was a TON of fun in that regard, because I am snarky/sarcastic by nature, so her character fit like a glove…Least favorite is marking during prep. My prep involves reading the book multiple times, (which I love) and then I have to mark pronuncistions, breathing, pauses, emotions, accents…when I wa still using an Android tablet, it was horrendous. I love Android, but switching to an iPad was a game-changer in that respect.
  • What would you say are your strongest narration abilities?
    • Right now, dialogue, especially if its snappy patter. I think I channel Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday” or Rene Russo in “The Thomas Crown Affair” remake a LOT.
  • Is there a particular genre you feel unsuited for? Have you ever declined a project because you didn’t think you were right for it?
    • OMG yes, and I learned this one the hard way. Regency Romance. The only one I did, I did not use an accent. (Granted, the author did not request it, but STILL) Then after I was done, I found out that an RP British accent is de rigeur, and I took a BEATING in reviews over it. Dialect coach says its one of the hardest to learn, so I won’t be doing any of those titles anytime soon.


(Prepared Author Interview from the Audiobookworm blog tour in Feb. 2018.)

Q&A with Narrator Ashley Holt
  • What about this title compelled you to audition as narrator?
    • The lead character. I geeked out bigtime over this title. I went online and downloaded art to represent the main characters, and printed them out and put them up on the walls. I really got into it!
  • How closely do you prefer to work with authors?
    • That is a difficult question to answer. Every author is different, and each experience is different. Having said that, DT stands out as being VERY different from most authors, to the point where we chat in email and talk about hockey more than books!
  • Who are your “accent inspirations”?
    • Another difficult question. I don’t know if I have any. Coming from the opera world makes this a very different experience than a traditional American actor, because we are steeped in the language immediately. When opera singers have to sing in English, its often a very difficult transition! Did I answer the question???
  • How did you decide how each character should sound in this title?
    • Practice, a TON of practice and sounding them out in dialogue scenes. Although I now wish I hadn’t chosen such a gruff voice for Dar, because he figures prominently in Book 4, and damn, that gets painful after a while, even with a ton of vocal warmup. I work with my coach on this a LOT, and she encourages me to put more variety in. It is a learned skill, so with every book I do, I hopefully get better!
  • What types of things are harmful to your voice?
    • 4 hours of continually voicing a gruff character! Ha, no not really. The big no no? Alcohol the night before. Again, back to the opera training. Over 30 years of training (I started when I was 14) and I can feel changes in my vocal cords like THAT. My voice is my instrument, and even one drink the night before changes the COLOR and TIMBRE. Have 2 or 3, and I might not be able to record the next day at all, depending on what book I’m doing or what character.
  • Has anyone ever recognized you from your voice?
    • HA, yes! I mentioned I travel for the day job, and sometimes we drive. So one day we were gassing up at a station somewhere, and the clerk recognized my voice. It was great.
  • Have there been any characters that you really connected with?
    • I now tend to pick titles that have the bit of snark that I resonate with. Having said that, I did a time-travel alt history with a very saccharine sweet heroine that garned some very good reviews, so what do I know?
  • If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
    • SIGN ME UP. I would go to the year 1800, and become a student of Beethoven. I am obsessed with learning the piano – I always wanted to, and never studied. I can plunk out a few things, but I mean really immerse myself the way I did in voice lessons. Also, I am a dork for 19th century literature, especially Russian and Dickens, my favorite author.
  • How does audiobook narration differ from other types of voiceover work you’ve done?
      • I did classical music radio for afew years, and even there, where the style is not as much “in your face” as it would be for a rock station or talk radio, the radio style is still very INTENSE. When I work with my coaches, it is to get the “radio sound” out of my voice.

(Prepared Author Interview from the Audiobookworm blog tour in Feb. 2018.)

Q&A with Narrator Ashley Holt
  • Do you read reviews for your audiobooks?
    • Yes, and my husband wishes I wouldn’t. 😉 People either love me or hate me. Years ago, an actor friend once told me that you shouldn’t read reviews, because you might start to change your style based on what you read. Wise words, I think.
  • If so, which ones stand out to you most, positive or negative?
    • When people get what I’m trying to do with the character. Someone said about Starblind that they “loved Jane’s sass and snark”. Made my day! Um, negative? Do we really have to go there? I’ve had someone say I never should have been chosen for that book. Another time I had someone get angry at me because the author anthropomorphized animals. That just killed me, because I LOVED voicing those kittens. They were all boy cats, and I could have done it all day!
  • What type of the review comments do you find most constructive?
    • Things like “she spoke too quickly”. That means the listener isn’t getting everything I say! Also I found out that a lot of people listen at 1.5x speed. Again thats the radio voice creeping in. Radio is fast, because you have to hit certain marks at exactly the right time.
  • Who is your “dream author” that you would like to record for?
    • Not dream author as much as dream GENRE. LitRPG is fantastic. It combines many of my favorite things. (I was an onlinegamer long before women were accepted in that world)
  • If you could narrate one book from your youth what would it be and why?
    • Dickens, Dickens, Dickens.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • Here have your dope slap.
  • What bits of advice would you give to aspiring audiobook narrators?
    • Be patient, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, be very careful about who you hire as a coach.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I am currently working on: Book 4 of the Starblind series!!!A revision of a BDSM Best Seller I did a year ago.A fictional history of Maria Luisa of Spain, wife to Leopold II, Holy Roman EmperorA university textbook about an American woman who settled in Palestine in the 19th centuryMain Street, by Sinclair Lewis (my first classic I am SO EXCITED)A firefighter romance. I jokingly call it book 3 of the triumvirate. Because I have already done the sports romance (my life was VERY meta during that book) and the cop romance.2 very dystopian novels, one by an Australian author that is BRILLIANT. The second one is by an Italian author, and I haven’t gotten too far into it, but the premise is great and the translation is excellent.An Encyclopedia of musical terms.
  • Bonus question: Any funny anecdotes from inside the recording studio?
    • Not so much from the studio, but its still funny. For a while, I kept getting sent auditions/books with lesbian lead characters. I was the go-to apparently. Coach says its the resonance in my voice. I did 19 short books about a lesbian dominiatrix, in addition to a couple of other full length books. After a while, my husband started to get shall we say, CONCERNED, which just cracked me up.
    • Mostly the in studio stuff are the “derps” we have. In the narrators group on Facebook, we have threads of the day where we post phrases that are tripping us up. Those can get pretty funny.