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Meet Jilly Bond, audiobook narrator

For as long as Even in Darkness has been a novel, I have wanted to create an audiobook version. I am a voracious consumer of audiobooks. I still have the real-life voices of many of the characters in my mind’s ear. This last fact has been both a motivation and a barrier to the important decision of choosing a narrator.

I really wanted to narrate this book myself, but alas, I am not a voice actor, and I have learned that audiobook narration is an art best accomplished by a professional. I have asked for and listened to many auditions, most from gifted narrators, but none met the bar of that pesky intuition containing the set of voices and overall sense of European style that has been with me for years of thinking about this project.

Enter Jilly Bond, four-time Audiofile Earphone award-winning narrator, actress, coach, director, producer and all-around wonderful person. Her British English, her thorough knowledge of German, and her gracious love of Even in Darkness worked to fulfill my dream of creating the audiobook. But who is Jilly, and what brought her to this work? Read on! (As of today, the audiobook version is available at Google Play, Apple, Scribd, Chirp, Authors Direct, and Kobo. It will shortly be available on Audible. If you just can’t wait, and you’re willing to download the Author’s Direct app, click here..

I asked Jilly a little about herself and also how she became an audiobook narrator…

Jilly was born and brought up in London and from an early age was conscious of the language reflecting social class. Both her parents were Londoners and didn’t speak with “received pronunciation.” They sent Jilly to schools where she would learn to speak so she could “fit in.” Having learned to adjust her diction to meet any situation, after her years of success, Jilly finds she is now letting her parents’ language back into her own.

As a young woman, Jilly became a BBC secretary and then director. At the ripe “old” age of 27, she began acting. After she had two children in her 30s, she did a series of radio plays at the BBC, where she picked up a better understanding of the technical side of production. Her big break as a narrator came when the author Doris Lessing chose her to narrate an audiobook. She has narrated books by Mary Stewart, Rosamunde Pilcher, and Philippa Gregory, to name just a few.

As an author, and because Even in Darkness is based in part on real people, I had their voices in my head, and I communicated that to you. But you read the book and heard your own set of voices. Somehow you nailed the different voices but still made them your own. How does that potential differential play out in your role as a voice actor or narrator?

“You wrote those characters’ voices so beautifully, so the rhythms of those accents were already there, in the way you ordered the words in the sentences. You had different rhythms for different characters. As I’ve gotten more experience, I’ve tried to find a kinship, a kind of empathy with the character. So, for example Klare, your main character…I could feel a lot of empathy with her. You said in the text that she had a kind of high and musical voice, so I made sure to follow that.. It’s really more about an emotional affinity with a character, which is really similar to what I do on stage.”

Did you have direct contact with Mary Stewart? (not sure when you recorded her audiobooks) (Full disclosure… my lifelong fascination with Arthurian legend began with The Crystal Cave..) I have the same question about Phillipa Gregory and Rosamunde Pilcher!

“I haven’t had direct contact with those except for Doris Lessing, who wrote me a very nice letter. Some of the modern authors I’ve worked with , recent authors I’ve worked with have invited me to their book launches. It really helps to have direct contact with the author, but a lot of the publishers in Britain discourage that. I’ve done a lot of historical fiction and particularly around the two World Wars.”

What was it like to play Elizabeth I in Sir Walter’s Women? She’s one of my favorite historical figures….

“We performed Sir Walter’s Women in Winchester where he was executed. I love history and she is also one of my favorites. The costumes were so heavy! It made me admire her as she had to wear all of that so often. I just image her on horseback at Tilbury. I love her speech that goes something like ‘I have the weak body of a woman but the heart of a man and a lion”… a woman in power at that time.

How did you become multilingual?

Lots of English people don’t bother with languages, and both my sisters are linguists. We all speak French, I’ve got much family who speak Spanish, but German and French I studied at school. I spent time in school in Berlin, and spent six months in Hamburg … I love the clarity and the ordered structure of German.”

You are an actor, a producer, a coach, a voice artist and a director. How has the pandemic influenced your work? Are you moving in one direction more than another?

“People who work in our business are quite remarkable for their adaptability. When this all started, we all looked to see how to keep an artistic life happening,” says Jilly. She was about to start a tour of a play she’d done previously about domestic abuse in which the notion was to help audience members identify and seek help. In the absence of being able to perform it in person, she, and a couple of the other artists created an audio performance which they edited over Zoom and they distributed it to radio stations all over the country to do interviews and direct people to the website. Even though they all worked for nothing, they ended up getting an Arts Council grant, and it gave them all a sense of purpose, community and creativity out of what had been a disappointment.

Anything else we should know?

“Even in Darkness is an absolutely wonderful book… beautifully written!” I think you’re dealing with some very interesting issues which would be unexpected to people . If they’re told that it’s about the Jewish experience in the Second World War, then they’re not going to understand what it’s really about. Then they’ll come to it with some ideas, and find all sorts of fascinating things.

The work that I’ve done recently proves that theater can go on, if we’re creative… and it feeds into the audio work. “

Thank you, Jilly, for everything! Learn more about Jilly at her website

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