22nd February 2017
“There were two that stood out for me.” says Anna, referring to Sarah Gray’s anthology of eerily dark tales, “The Switch, which is about an old woman in a house where a Victorian light switch keeps appearing. People start to think she’s losing her mind, and then something very dark happens…” she continues, careful not to give too much away.
“The second is a story called The Pier. A little girl wearing red wellington boots is playing in the pouring rain, and the grown-ups, who you assume are her parents, aren’t paying much attention to her, as a young woman watches from afar.” Sarah Gray has an impeccable talent for creating enigmatic, compelling stories that keep you riveted with imaginative twists and turns and leave you mulling them over well after you’ve finished, haunting you like the supernatural beings that inhabit the stories. “The twist at the end is lovely, and the image of the child in red boots is incredibly strong and stayed with me.”
Surface Tension is the second collection of short stories that Anna has worked on: “You never know what you’re going to get, but what was wonderful about this book, was that they are all really great stories.” That’s exactly what we like to hear, and she’s not wrong. Each of Sarah Gray’s short tales is individually brilliant – menacing, beautifully written, clever, and set apart from other paranormal books by their depth and subtle psychological undercurrents. It takes great skill to create convincing, well-rounded characters in a short story, and to craft a concise, well-paced plot, but it’s something that seems to come naturally to Gray.
Such standout pieces of literature needed a voice that would do them justice, and who better than an award-winning narrator and voiceover artist?
Having received an Audiofile Earphones Award in 2015, you’ll struggle to find an award nomination list without Anna’s name on it. Last year alone, Anna was put forward for Narrator of the Year at the Audio Production Awards 2016, as well as receiving nominations for two categories at the 2016 Voice Arts Awards.
Despite her success, Anna is still as grounded as ever. “It’s kind of bizarre going up for all these glamorous big awards because I work out of a former airing cupboard.” she laughs, “Not that I’m complaining; it’s very cool!”
Her talent for storytelling, and her ability to portray characters so well perhaps comes from her background on the stage. “I’m an actress, and in my head I’ve been acting since I was 5 years old. There are characters and accents that sit very easily with me; it’s just natural.”
As well as narration, Anna is kept busy as a successful voiceover artist: “I’ve always voiced high-profile commercials in between theatre jobs, but after getting ill a few years ago, I began recording from home.” Anna soon became a hit, with names like Coca Cola, Mothercare, FC Barcelona, and Next under her voiceover belt. “I’m very, very thankful.” she says, “Because I had such quick success in voiceover work from home it boosted my confidence and I really believe that it helped speed up my recovery.”
It would appear that Anna’s talent for voice arts runs in the family, as her three children all do voiceovers too! “Last year, there was a competition to read Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss. It had to be recorded live, and without stopping. It was a competition aimed at adults, but my 8 year old decided, ‘Well I’m a voiceover artist, I’m going to do it’. What was lovely was that the competition organisers created a children’s award for her reading, which they’re now going to award every year!” she beams, “And for Christmas, my eldest asked to have a proper demo produced. It’s a great way to pay for university if they decide to go!”
So how has Anna found her time with Essential Audiobooks?
“Essential has been lovely for me because Catherine [O’Brien, Essential Audiobooks’ founder] is really passionate about the books she takes on. The quality of the writing makes a real difference to a narrator, and the support I can get, even though I’ve not tapped into it, I know I can get with Catherine and that doesn’t always happen.”
“Coming in at the start of a new business, a business where somebody is passionate about what they’re doing is great. I’m just as passionate about the audiobook industry. There are so many fantastic books out there, particularly the classics that haven’t been recorded in a long time, and technology plus narration styles have moved on. To be able to be part of that with Essential, at a time when the audiobook industry is exploding, is incredibly exciting.”
Anna has so far narrated two audiobooks for us, Surface Tension, of course, as well as the dark fantasy novel The Cracked Amulet by R.B. Watkinson, which are both available on our website, and now, excitingly, on Audible too.
And what next for Anna? Well, we’ll soon be releasing Sarah Gray’s next collection of haunting stories, Half Life, on which you can hear Anna read the dark, yet deeply funny Killing Rachel. Keep your eyes and ears peeled, your mind open, and your wits about you.