In June we celebrate audiobooks and what better way than to interview the lovely admins that oversee the groups of some well known audiobook narrators! I've asked Monica Starkes, Raven James, Shanell Watson and Dannie Terrell from Diem's Diamonds; Lisette Bass, Kelley Carrigan, Enecia Miller and Bernadette Mercado from Exclusively Emmanuel's and Wesleigh's Besties five questions about their favorite narrators. Check out their answers out below:
1. What was the first book you listened to that was narrated by Jakobi Diem?
Monica Starkes: Grip by Kennedy Ryan
Shanell Watson: Me Love You by Alexandria House (Big MF Souf!) He had me at the damn opening credits.
Raven James: My first Jakobi listen was Flow, (book one of the Grip series) by Kennedy Ryan. From that point on, I was hooked.
Dannie Terrell: Hook Shot by Kennedy Ryan
2. What book is your favorite that Jakobi narrated?
Monica Starkes: So hard to choose a favorite because he's Jakobi. But I'll have to say The Black Series by Joan Vassar because he understood the assignment.
Shanell Watson: The entire Black series by Joan Vassar. To hear him take command over the fifty-eleven characters Joan put in that series is nothing short of magical.
Raven James: As if I could pick just one. 🤣 The Black Series and Unfortunately Francine (co-narrated by Nicole Small in duet style narration) are stand-outs. He voices so many different characters throughout the Black Series and every single one is distinct, consistent, and passionate – just a phenomenal performance for hours and hours. And, as Alexandria House once pointed out, this is the series that introduced us to his shuddering orgasms which is a gift to all. 🤣 In seriousness, though – Joan’s writing coupled with Jakobi’s narration is truly a next-level experience. I was also blown away by him, Eboni Flowers, and Nicole Small in Kennedy Ryan’s book Reel. That book broke records* at this year’s Audies (kind of the Oscar’s for audiobooks) – as it should have. Stunning performances by all three narrators and a vocalist (April Christina) who sung two songs in the book. I’ve listened to over 600 audiobooks and that book is in the top three for me.
*First Black romance to win the Romance category and first Black narrator (x 3!) to win, as well.
Dannie Terrell: Just one??? ummmm….. Unapologetically Me by Danesha Little.
3. What book would you want Jakobi to narrated that he hasn't yet?
Monica Starkes: Fast by Millie Belizaire. It's one of my favorite books period. I'll even be pleased with Garden of Eden.
Shanell Watson: Finding Us by Honesty Price. The complexity and ranges of emotion that those characters require and the lyricism of Price’s writing are his specialty.
Raven James: First thought is Free Game by Kema B. That book was so damn good and sexy. So. Good. And. Sexy. Put his voice to that story and I’m gonna need a lot of batteries and a cold shower. Whew. I would also love to hear him narrate something opposite iiKane because that woman is TALENT. If they co-narrated something Johnni Sherri or Sabrina B. Scales wrote I might actually explode.
Dannie Terrell: I would love to hear him & Eboni Flowers in The Santeria Habitat Series by Kenya Wright…Him as Zulu…OOOOOMMMMGGGGG!!!!
4. What do you love most about Jakobi's narrating style?
Monica Starkes: It's not just the beautiful texture of his voice but he's ability to pull you into the story. It's as if you're hearing him speak the screen right in fornt of your eye's. Jakobi has a gifted to alter his voice to bring out the personality of each character.
Shanell Watson: Although Jakobi has a distinct timbre to his voice, it’s malleable based upon the character that he’s portraying. If you listen to him as Seth from Sabrina B. Scales’ Naughty and Nasty, and as Grip from Kennedy Ryan’s series, the texture of his sound is completely different. Add to that Jakobi’s ability to use the rhythm of words and the interpretation of dialogue to create a whole world for the listener as if you’re watching a movie, is just really special.
Raven James: Difficult to say what I love most, but as I thought about this question I kept coming back to one thing – his passion. One time in an interview, I heard a singer say that they were taught to bring everything to every performance. It didn’t matter if it was rehearsal or a venue with 10 people – you treat every performance like your best, most important, performance. That’s how Jakobi narrates. He goes all in with his performances - like every story – every line – is the best thing he’ll ever narrate and the most important performance of his career. It’s intoxicating. Also, his voice sounds like a sexy lullaby, somehow managing to sound both gentle and dominant which is just really hot and absolutely the voice I want reading to me.
Dannie Terrell: His versatility and the passion he emits when acting out the stories.
5. In your opinion, what makes a narrator good?
Monica Starkes: The ability to read with conviction. I can read books myself. I listen to audiobooks for an experience. I want to feel the words. I need you to use your voice to take me where to author wants me to go. It's also the small things like timing, the giggles, swagger when needed, and of course the moans and groans. 😆
Shanell Watson: I’ve been listening to audiobooks for almost 10 years, across all genres. As a casual listener, narration is very logistical – the action of taking words on a page and placing them into audio form. Voice acting – which is something that gifted and trained narrators can do well – is something entirely next level. An understanding of inflection, word play, voice impersonation and a creative connection with the author’s intentions in the writing is what makes a voice actor become the characters we love.
Raven James: The passion and consistency they bring to a project. A background in acting can lend itself to this but I have heard books read by celebrity actors and they did not make great narrators. In interviews with narrators, I’ve heard them saying that talking with and learning from other narrators has helped them, as has experience. For me as a listener, if their performance has me completely believing them as the character/s, totally immersed in the world the author creates, that’s a good narrator. I read/listen to escape and the best narrators + authors allow me to do so.
Dannie Terrell: Versatility and knowing that you are not just reading the book, but acting it out with your voice!
1. What was the first book you listened to that was narrated by Emmanuel Ingram?
Lisette Bass: Should've Been by Alexandria House
Enecia Miller: Held in Contempt by Eva Sherie
Kelley Carrigan: Held in Contempt by Eva Sherie.
Bernadette Mercado: Should've Been by Alexandria House.
2. What book is your favorite that Emmanuel narrated?
Lisette Bass: The Lies We Tell About Life, Love and Everything in Between by CCJ
Enecia Miller: Equivalent Exchange by CCJ
Kelley Carrigan: Thats a tough one...Im gonna have to go withThe Marriage Contract.
Bernadette Mercado: Behind The Scenes by Christina C Jones
3. What book would you want Emmanuel to narrated that he hasn't yet?
Lisette Bass: Every single book I read, most recently The Love You Deserve by Rose'Dior
Enecia Miller: In His Corner by Alexandria Warren
Kelley Carrigan: Body by Night Zuri Day
Bernadette Mercado: I'm an avid audiobook listener and hardly read actual books. The man can read the dictionary and I will listen to it!
4. What do you love most about Emmanuel's narrating style?
Lisette Bass: The Range! His growl, the smile that can be heard and felt, the sincerity, the strength, the playfulness. He embodies it all! Consistently.
Enecia Miller: He is more of a "voice actor" vs a "narrator" and he has a keen ability to embody the characters he narrates.
Kelley Carrigan: He literally pulls you into the story. When he narrates he is ABSOLUTELY talking to me, making love to me...he is telling MY story!
Bernadette Mercado: His range and ability to perform the book versus just reading it.
5. In your opinion, what makes a narrator good?
Lisette Bass: Someone that uses their voice to help take readers on the journey that the author has laid out in words for us.
Enecia Miller: The ability to "act" as they narrate and embody the characters that they reading
Kelley Carrigan: RANGE! Also someone who immerses themselves into the story. They have to be able to give the characters life!!
Bernadette Mercado: The ability to act out his narration and even connect with the characters he is portraying.
1. What was the first book you listened to that was narrated by Wesleigh Sohbahn?
LB: Ante is was my first WS listen
EM: Naughty & Nasty by Sabrina B. Scales (I actually don't remember the first, but I know this one was earlier😫🤣)
KC: If memory serves me correctly it was Shu by Alexandria House. I had read the series previously and Shu was my favorite so I listened to them out of order.
BM: Ante Up by Christina C Jones
2. What book is your favorite that Wesleigh narrated?
LB: The Fold Series by Sabrina B. Scales is my favorite
EM: Behind the Scenes by CCJ
KC: Damn that's a hard question...I would have had an easier time telling you my least favorite....LIES! 🤣
How can you have a favorite when she hit you with that🔥 everytime?
But seriously I think I'm gonna have to go with Shu by Alexandria House. I know that I have listened to that book no less than a 100 times. I fell asleep to that book EVERY night for months.
BM: The Perfect Find by Tia Williams
3. What book would you want Wesleigh to narrated that she hasn't yet?
LB: A Rich Man's Wife by Jessica Watkins
EM: In His Corner by Alexandra Warren
KC: Again with the hard questions🤣
I'm gonna go with ANYTHING by Kay Shanee. Now if I could take it back to the so called vault...I want her to do the The Cochran/Deveraux series by Melanie Schuster. That is my ultimate narrator fantasy!😍
BM: ALL THE BOOKS so I can listen to everything! FOMO is no joke lol
4. What do you love most about Wesleigh's narrating style?
LB: Her voice comes across so sincere, her Male voice is BAE and she brings The Bestie factor into her characters.
EM: She makes the reader feel like the characters that she narrates could be their friends in real life!
KC: Let me gush for a minute...the first thing that I thought when I listened her was damn, that's my best friend, like I wanted to kick it with her. Her narration just drew me in. Whatever character she portrays, that was my best friend. Wesleigh immerses herself in every character, male and female. She's such a versatile narrator and has so much range. Whether she's a young child, a bestie or somebody's grandma, she nails it everytime.
BM: Her voice is everything! The range, the ability to change it up for every character. Her male voice needs his own name and contract!
5. In your opinion, what makes a narrator good?
LB: Someone that uses their voice to help take readers on the journey that authors have laid out in words for us.
EM: The ability to embody all aspects of the characters they narrate and pull emotions from the readers as if we're IN the story
KC: Definitely someone that embodies the character. Pull me into the story, so much so that I forget about everything around me. I want the characters to linger with me for a lil minute.
BM: The ability to make their listeners FEEL all the emotions that the book characters are going through. Being able to perform the book as if I'm watching a movie unfold. Just talent!