Until very recently, I hadn’t listened to a “book on tape” since elementary school, when the librarian would play the story and flip through the pages for a group of us kids sitting on the floor with our legs crossed.
Flash forward a couple of decades or so and I’ve not only discovered Outlander the television series, but also Outlander the book series, and beyond that, Outlander the audiobooks. I give full credit to the ladies at the Outlander Podcast for the discovery of Davina Porter, narrator of the series. Being an audiobook narrator is a talent that not all people have. It isn’t just reading words off the page, it’s becoming the characters. And to me, the biggest feat is to convincingly portray the manliest (and arguably the sexiest) male character so well, that I forget who is actually speaking. Well, I can tell you about one woman who has absolutely nailed it.
It was a pleasant surprise to see Mrs. Porter listed as one of the speakers for George Mason University’s Fall for the Book event. Mason happens to be my alma mater, and I have to confess that as a student, I don’t ever remember attending this annual event. I only needed to be out of school for 8 years to finally show up, and, boy, it was a lot of fun.
Two lines formed at the doors of Harris Theatre. As the crowds settled in their seats, Outlander author Diana Gabaldon came in and sat amongst us, and then it was time for Davina’s introduction.
Cue Davina’s entrance, accompanied by a cane, which we all found out was due to “a dog, a leash, and a chipmunk.” She sailed right into tales of how she got into the field of book narration. For those who have never heard her speak before, Mrs. Porter has a lovely English accent that always reminds me of Julie Andrews. As coincidence would have it, she started with her first audition for a book about Culloden, the last major battle between the Scots and the English. Afterwards, she was told they really wanted a Scottish male narrator and was later contacted again because the Scots were indistinguishable.
Did I also mention that her husband of 50+ years is also a Scot? Kind of feels like fate, really.
Mrs. Porter’s description of what it takes to do her job was fascinating. There’s so much that goes into reading a story perfectly for audio. The clothes you wear, what you drink, how much you eat, etc. all affect the recording. A narrator has to pick up clues from the author on characters and how they may sound. And then, those voices have to stay consistent. She’s read the classics, but seems to have a real love and connection with the Outlander series like the rest of us, admitting that she feels bereft after finishing each book.
You’re not the only one, Mrs. Porter!
The audience was lucky enough to have several scenes read aloud–from Outlander to Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. But I think what was likely the highlight of the entire hour-long talk was her introduction of Jamie Fraser.
“Mr. Darcy is all very well…but Jamie, ugh!”
The final installment of my Outlander-themed weekend is coming soon and includes the full Periscope video of Diana Gabaldon’s award ceremony at George Mason University… Stay tuned!