What’s in a voice? All things considered, everything in the event that you are Davina Porter, the books-on-tape narrator maybe best known for perusing Diana Gabaldon’s fiercely prevalent “Outlander” arrangement and the Isabel Dalhousie books by Alexander McCall Smith. In any case, those don’t start to expose what’s underneath. Discernible Books alone records a great 192 books in her possession. Regardless of whether Porter is understanding fiction, genuine, kids’ books, or exemplary writing, she move us into a different universe. It is horrendously difficult to press stop on any recording when tuning in to her particular, rich voice.
Where did everything start? Indeed, Porter says, “Right from the start as a kid, I always liked reading out loud. I found if I said it out loud for school, I could learn it. I remember my mother taking books away from me and saying, ‘Go outside and play in the sunshine.’’’ And by age 8, she was bitten by the acting bug, leading to the perfect combination.
Listening to Porter describe her earliest theatrical experience belies her sense of humor. She explains, “We had to write a play as an exercise for school. So, I wrote one and wrote myself the big lead. It was ‘After Dark in Kensington Gardens,’ and there were trees coming to life and I was going to be the main fairy. Then they cast the play and I thought, I’m bound to be the fairy.” As it turned out, the young lady who took moving exercises and had the tutu nailed the part, and Porter was given a role as a tree. Unfazed, she says, “So, I rewrote the play to make the tree the largest character.”
She kept acting all through her school years and into the mid 1960s, when as a corporate spouse and mother who had moved to the States from England, she found, “By joining community theater you really get plugged into the whole area. That segued into becoming professional in about the mid-1980s.”
Her acting profession, she says, “has been an incredible help when you’re narrating a book, because you can immediately sum up a character. Most authors, good writers, give you those clues anyway. Some of the characters that can be more cardboardy, you can give them a character by looking for clues. Acting helped enormously in that.”
Her beginning in recorded books started guiltlessly enough. In 1986, she addressed a promotion for storytellers in Backstage, which around then was a week after week New York paper that incorporated every one of the auditions. She got the gig and discovered it was a solid match, since she didn’t care for investing extensive stretches of energy away from her then small kids when doing theater. Presently she says, “What’s good about recorded books is that if you never see me, you don’t know how old I am. As long as your voice stays flexible and you can do the youthful voices, you can read forever … providing the brain and the eyes keep up as well.”
Other than Porter’s acting ability, the methodology she takes to each book is another key to her prosperity. “I read it thoroughly first, and then ask, What is the author’s intent here? Is it funny? Is it tongue-in-cheek? Is it serious? What is she or he or she really saying?” Porter said.
Her principle goal, she says, is “to tell the story. To be the conduit for the story. There’s no judgment on it. The best thing is for at the end of a narration is someone to say, ‘Oh, I enjoyed that. That was a wonderful book.’ To do a good job is to make the story come alive.”
Incidentally, the test isn’t in perusing a decent book. It ends up being in perusing a poor book. What does she do at that point?
“You think, well somebody out there really liked this book, and it’s not for me to be judgmental. It’s been good enough to be published. It’s been good enough to be recorded, and therefore, it’s been good enough to give it your best. But sometimes they are harder to do than the good ones, because sometimes you get a train of thought saying, ‘Oh, really?’ or ‘Oh, for goodness sake!’ and that must not come out in your voice … ever.”
What truly sets Porter off, her annoyance, is chronicled erroneous dates. She says, “I feel if I am reading a book set in a historical context, that person should have done her or his homework. I read a few years ago a book set in Victorian times where the heroine went to Buckingham Palace, and she gave her hat to a hat check girl and then sat cross-legged in a chair in her crinoline. If I read a book about the Civil War and I read about the fashion and the kitchen and the houses, I expect them to be correct.”
Albeit maybe best known for her recorded books, strikingly, she says, “I like children’s literature very much because you’re not allowed to abbreviate. You can’t say ‘can’t.’ It’s got to be ‘cannot.’ A child will abbreviate it when they get older. But the grammar for the most part is exceptional. Some of the adult ones get a little sloppy. You either say, ‘Can I change this?’ or you point it out to the publisher.”
Shouldn’t something be said about genuine, where she doesn’t have the luxury of voices and discourse? Doorman clarifies, “You have got to be able to make it interesting. You don’t want someone to say, ‘I’m nodding off. Oh, my lord. She’s droning on and I’m only on Chapter 1.’ You’ve got to keep the interest going. That might mean vocal inflections. You’ve got to make it lively. You want people to say, ‘I’ve had enough now, but I’m looking forward to reading chapter 2, 3, and 4.’” What she cherishes is the point at which an audience keeps in touch with her and says, “I sat in my driveway and didn’t go home until I finished the chapter.”
Porter’s happiness regarding the procedure is principal. “I just love it,” she says, “I’ve always read. I guess you like to hear the sound of your own voice. You hear the characters and suddenly think, ‘Oh, that is funny.’ It came out of left field. It’s not until you say it out loud.”