Meet the Audiobook Narrators for the Award-Winning, Caught Up in RAINE – LG O'Connor
Caught Up in Raine Audiobook

Meet the Audiobook Narrators for the Award-Winning, Caught Up in RAINE

Caught up in RAINE Audiobook Cover

Listen / Purchase Caught Up in RAINE (US): Click Here

Listen / Purchase Caught Up in RAINE (UK): Click Here

Listen / Purchase Caught Up in RAINE (FR): Click Here

Listen / Purchase Caught Up in RAINE (DE): Click Here

Meet Thurlow Holmes (Jillian) HERE

Meet Zachary Michael (Raine) HERE

As an author, choosing a narrator or a narration team is both fun and daunting. Our characters live in our heads, and we know their voice, we’ve heard them for months and sometimes years as we’ve written their stories. I was thrilled to find an amazing duo of voice actors that I felt really resonated with me and who could believably represent Jillian and Raine. It’s my pleasure to introduce Thurlow Holmes and Zachary Michael, the female / male narration team for Caught Up in RAINE.

Welcome, Thurlow and Zachary! It’s been great working with you both. Thank you for joining me to give us a peek into the world into audiobooks and the lives of our narrators.

Let’s start with, what do you do when you are not narrating?

Thurlow: Audition!

Zachary: I love my new puppy and my old puppy. I do lots of disc golf, regular golf, and woodworking. I am a DJ as well, video games, and just hanging out with friends.

How many books have you narrated and do they have a common thread or theme?

Thurlow: RAINE was my eighteenth title as Thurlow Holmes. The majority of the seventeen prior titles have been adult erotica, from historic seminal academic works in the genre – i.e., Auletris, by Anais Nin…to short story fantasy…to what I’d call “rated R” romance works.

I also use another name to act, narrate other genres (travel, teen romance, and non-secular works) and provide entertainment, commercial, and corporate voiceover work.

Zachary: I have done, or am in the middle of completing around 40 audiobooks. A common theme—and I laugh when I say this—romance hand’s down. That is what my voice was made for I guess.

What do you love most about narrating audiobooks?

Thurlow: Literally giving the characters their voice, adding a whole other dimension to the storytelling experience.

And it’s all the more rewarding when the author who, as you’ve said, has been hearing the voice in their own head before you ever even connected, shares back with you that the life you’ve breathed into their creation is a match. I tell my husband all the time that I liken each casting notice to the euphoria similar (but not the same!) to a first kiss. It’s validating, exciting, and heady all at the same time.

It’s also delightful when you have a narration partner like Zachary, whose performance from the male POV totally, organically informs and influences the female read as though we were literally standing in front of the same mic, having the conversation face to face…when the reality is that we’re in studios about 500 miles apart from one another! The kitchen scenes between Raine and Jillian are great examples of moments in the story that I went back and re-recorded after hearing the inflection and reaction Zachary read into Raine’s pieces.

And from a professional standpoint, audiobook narration gives me a really treasured opportunity to experiment with and hone my voiceover and acting acumen. In my own studio space, there’s not the pressure I’d otherwise feel…because I’m not presenting the production in front of a live audience or film crew. There’s a lot of luxury in having the freedom to try lots of different things without worrying about “failing in front of someone” or wasting someone else’s time.

Zachary: I love having accomplishments such as art, projects, music, etc. Anything that is something that shows that I worked for something, accomplished it, and bonus points if people like it!

How do you select a book to narrate? Do you prefer a specific genre or types of characters?

Thurlow: First and foremost, it has to be something you’re ready to literally live with for weeks to months of your life. So the characters and storyline need to evoke something in me – whether that’s empathy, emotional resonance, or even curiosity – before I’ll audition for or accept a project.

In terms of a character preference, I love a character who gives me a full emotional gamut…but I also relish every opportunity I get to do a deadpan read as well…probably because I don’t really pull that off in real time.

Zachary: I sort of more come to an agreement with authors as to what makes sense in the way my voice sounds, how I act, and the characters I can do. My favorite types of characters are ones that I have a voice for or create a good voice for that everyone likes.

How do you prepare for recording? Do you have an initial process or routine by which you get to know the book you’re going to be reading?

Thurlow: When I first began audiobook narration, I would read the entire piece, make my own directorial notes, and try to come up with relatable personas so that I could easily recall and record the voice of a particular character in the story. So I might note in a margin to read a particular character “like Kristin Bell,” or “PPV,” which stands for “polite phone voice,” as I was taught by my Mom! And all of that happened before I ever set foot in the studio.

Anymore, however – both because I’ve gained experience and the necessity of time efficiency – I much prefer to read the narration completely cold. And yes, I recognize that my saying that may strike utter terror in author’s hearts.

But the reason I generally prefer that approach now is that the recording thus captures my actual reaction to the dialogue, versus a canned or pre-emptive delivery, knowing what’s coming around the corner.

Zachary: I do a bunch of silly vocal warm-ups before recording. One thing that I do is work with my authors to establish the characters and create a template for them all ahead of time.

What qualities make a great narrator? Do you have any tips for aspiring voice actors?

Thurlow: One of my all-time favorite narrations is Blair Brown reading Stephen King’s Rose Madder. Her delivery is relatable but somehow at the same time fluid, mercurial. I’d say a great narrator is someone who draws you into the story with that relatability but is adept at avoiding predictable, repetitive, “delivery drone” cadences.

And the best tip I have to offer is what was offered to me: truly be a voice actor, not just a narrator.

Zachary: Hard to say… I’ll let you know when I become a great narrator 😊 – for aspiring actors: your business etiquette and work ethic are as important as your acting skills

Was there a scene in Caught Up in RAINE that you just loved to narrate? Was there a scene that was especially difficult to narrate?

Thurlow: Yes! It’s from the opening moments of the book. As Jillian is leaving the hospital, you can tell she is not only relaxing but slipping into her “just Jillian” self, where she doesn’t have to be looking out for or taking care of someone else. And in that unguarded moment, she meets Raine. The “voice in her head” dialogue as she first meets Raine and is reacting to him – but trying not to give anything away, trying to play it cool – was crazy fun. And happily, that was the audition script, too! So I immediately felt a connection with this project, based on that single piece of the story.

And there were two scenes that were particularly difficult for me.

The first was when Jillian was pushing Raine away. That was actually a section I had to record a couple of times. My first cold read of the material literally petered out, because I was trying to stay in character, but my personal reaction was incredulity that she would throw away happiness, and then I became aware that the read had totally digressed to a point where I wasn’t actually vocalizing the words, but reading them to myself, to jump ahead! (Oops.)

The second was the book signing scene. The preceding scenes were emotionally fraught, and my emotional reactions to them as a reader – much like what I hope the listeners will feel – was a resigned but nonetheless high level of frustration. Thus, when Raine steps up and the happy ever after becomes apparent, there was this overwhelming relief. But that wasn’t the tricky part. The tricky, and frankly surprising, part as I recorded the rest of that scene – which I hope does NOT come across to the listener! – was that I experienced, standing in front of my mic and trying to record a joyous reunion, an utter sadness that Jillian and Raine had not been able to experience every single moment together up to that point. {Edited by the author to remove spoilers}

Zachary: In Caught up in RAINE, if I had to pick one that I loved to narrate, it would have to be the fight scene near the end. Any super emotional scenes are always fun when you have dual narrators because they come to life so much more.

Difficult to narrate? Some sexy scenes can be difficult sometimes when recording, but the final product is worth it.

How long do you record at a time, on average? What is it about a book that will shorten or lengthen this?

Thurlow: As I freelance audiobook narration and production, I tend to record for 2-3 hours in the morning (reserved for younger characters/higher voices or cheerful announcer-y pieces) or at night (adult characters, deeper vocal ranges, and/or accent work), which is about as much as I can comfortably do after a full day of talking for a living.

Something that lengthens my recording time is out of town travel. I prefer not to use different locations to record a single story. So I’ll record as long as I can without over-taxing my voice, and work on editing and mastering from the road, leaving pick-ups for once I’m back in the same recording location.

And there’s nothing like allergy season or a sudden or prolonged (and thus cold-symptom-inducing) cold snap in the Midwest to shorten recording time!

Zachary: This varies for me, drastically. Some days it's 1 hour, some days it's 5 hours, just for recording. The more characters and special acting or instruction make a book take longer.

How do you see the industry evolving?

Thurlow: I don’t know that I think proactively about this as much as perhaps I should (hmmmm….note to self). Instead, I think reflectively about my personal experience. I along with a number of actor colleagues had a fairly rapid and enjoyable ramp-up into the audiobook space resulting from a class in audiobook narration taught by seasoned actors. Those two veteran professionals were savvy enough to recognize and impart the great advice I cited earlier: flex your acting talents to be a voice actor…because there’s a real demand for depth and colorization in delivery. Of the ten actors in that first class, I think seven or eight of us had contracts within a week or ten days after completing the four-week session.

My hope is that whatever evolution takes place, there will continue to be a space for creativity, growth, talent, and collaboration to abound…and that we’re not outpaced – or replaced! – by AI technology.

Zachary: I see it constantly moving forward, hopefully with more opportunities for all the authors and actors!

Do you prefer royalty share deals or straight hourly rates?

Thurlow: I personally prefer PFH rates. It’s a nice way to feel a sense of accomplishment – and also closure – on a project. That said, I’d be a liar if I told you I didn’t like the royalty “magic money,” as I call it that comes in every month!

Zachary: Depends – most books that do really well do not do a royalty share. Personally, I haven’t had a Royalty Share book in some time.

How would you describe your narration style and voice? 

Thurlow: I’d love to say “Classic Blair Brown protégé”…but reality is that both my style and voice are believable, warm, genuine, and approachable. I recognize I’ve got a higher register, which I always considered a deficit. But like so many things we “grow into” as we grow up, I now see it as an asset which allows me in a single day or week to be booked as a child's voice; a 20-something young woman; a mother; and a grandma!

Zachary: From my bio: Strong, smooth, soothing, relaxing and fluent actor specializing with character voices and storytelling. From everyone else: Sexy voice guy

What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?

Thurlow: A pinnacle moment for me was being cast as the voice of a child’s toy for a major retailer. The toy also had three character audiobooks which, when played, would activate the toy to talk. I could walk past the display in any mall and activate the entire display by calling out one of the lines from the story.

Easily the most difficult moment was very early on, as I was learning the ropes about audiobook production. I’d had just recorded the 42nd and last chapter in the book, and upgraded to a new software platform before starting the final mastering review. Suddenly my laptop screen went blank…and then everything shut down. It turned out to be a complete hard disk failure. There were about three sweaty, nauseous days (as I recall them to be) where I didn’t know if the computer gurus would be able to retrieve all – or any – of the files. In the end, it all worked out. But to this day I won’t activate any software upgrades while a project is still in production.

Zachary: I’ll always remember the first time I got a paid deal. My first interview. My first romance. My first Sci-Fi. These were all things that gave me motivation and confidence that I was succeeding in making Voice Acting a reality.

I’ve had some difficult moments learning lots of accents and doing them well.

What’s helpful to you as you are working with an author, and what’s not so helpful? How do you stop yourself from laughing or crying at some of the things authors write?

Thurlow: Candid, ongoing communications back and forth with an author are most helpful. A character list, any desired accents, preferred word and/or name pronunciations, or other general guiding comments are all hugely appreciated…provided they’re offered up front. I’m most comfortable when I have an ongoing dialogue with my authors throughout the process, not only to make sure I’m bringing the characters to life in the way they’d hoped or dreamed, but also so that I don’t record half the book, only to learn that I said “ant” for “Aunt” and the author was hopeful of the “ont” pronunciation…in all 674 occurrences of the word I’ve already recorded.

If the author’s writing invokes laughing or crying in a good regard, that’s a delight…and the laugh or cry you hear in my recording will likely be my authentic reaction to the written words. If, however, the laugh/cry is triggered by exasperation over those written words, well…that’s when it’s helpful to have colleagues out there to serve as your proverbial shoulder to laugh or cry on. Though NOT associated with this project, Zachary and I have certainly played that supportive colleague/therapist role to one another in those trying moments. (Thanks, Zachary!)

Zachary: Helpful – full character and description list, but creative independence for the actors to mostly do them how they want to create them. I generally work to get a feel from the author, then try to shape the characters based on that, and not blindly.

I never stop myself from anything, I take lots of pauses while I’m recording if something calls for it.

Are you working on any special projects?

Thurlow: Recently I provided the English voice translation for a young storm survivor in a foreign language IMAX film. Though it only took about 30 minutes to record the six or so lines, it was done in one of the largest recording booths I’ve ever been in, with a team of about 5 sound technicians on the other side of the glass from me. And through the headphones, I was also patched into the film production team in France, who would listen to the live recording, discuss it, and offer direction, request for another take, or approval on the spot.

Zachary: Tons of projects, all the time.

The question you wish I would have asked but didn't.

Thurlow: “Please oh please narrate all the rest of my books, Thurlow?” J

Zachary: None. I’m good.


There you have it!




Listen / Purchase Caught Up in RAINE (US): Click Here

Listen / Purchase Caught Up in RAINE (UK): Click Here

Listen / Purchase Caught Up in RAINE (FR): Click Here

Listen / Purchase Caught Up in RAINE (DE): Click Here

Meet Thurlow Holmes HERE

Meet Zachary Michael HERE

Leave a Comment: