Books

Let Cassandra Campbell Tell You a Story. She’s a Pro.

SPEAKING VOLUMES Cassandra Campbell has narrated 900 audiobooks, so it comes as no surprise that she is a pleasure to interview by phone, with a voice that’s both soothing and commanding and with the range to make herself heard over the din of a sisterly squabble in the background (mine). Campbell’s recent projects include “Golem Girl” by Riva Lehrer, “True Story” by Kate Reed Petty and “Eat the Buddha” by Barbara Demick, but she is perhaps best known for her narration of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which is now in its 27th month on the best-seller list for audio fiction.

Set in North Carolina’s marshlands, Delia Owens’s blockbuster novel is also in its 118th week on the hardcover fiction list. “My mom grew up in the South so I’ve done a lot of books set there,” says Campbell, a Connecticut native whose twin passions, acting and reading, were inspired by her father’s work as a theater critic for The Hartford Courant and the experience of growing up in a televisionless household. She says she was recording voiceovers — “which I was terrible at because I wasn’t oriented toward television” — when a friend helped her get an audition with an audiobook publisher: “I thought, This is the perfect marriage: getting to play all the parts and reading the book.”

Campbell has never had any contact with Owens, but she feels intimately connected with the story of a motherless girl who is left to fend for herself in the wild. "There was one section, maybe three quarters of the way through the book, where we go out into the marsh and it was so beautifully written and vivid,” she recalls. “The scientific descriptions of the natural world were really compelling to me.”

Like many veteran narrators, Campbell has a recording booth at her home in Sherman Oaks, Calif.: “It’s in the garage, next to the paint cans. It’s not glamorous.” The setup allowed for a graceful transition to fully remote work during the pandemic; instead of traveling to a studio, Campbell communicates with directors from the privacy of her own yard. The isolation allows her to disappear further into the story, an experience she describes as part meditation, part vigorous interaction with the language. She says, “You know you’re on the right track when you disappear into the story. My goal always is never to have it be about me, but always to have it be about serving the writer’s words. When I’m doing that, I feel like doing the thing that the book needs.”

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