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An Interview with Voice Actor Kim Mai Guest

Kill Me Softly Audio Book Kim Mai Guest photoKim Mai Guest has scolded Solid Snake for hanging out in the women's bathroom, mentored a bratty demon prince in Disgaea, and joined the list of hot-pants-wearing Final Fantasy elite as Alyssa Zaidelle in Final Fantasy XIII-2. Now she's brought her voice-acting talents to the Kill Me Softly audio book, and I couldn't be more thrilled. And she's agreed to do an interview!

Let me give you a little background on Kim Mai: in the audio book department, she's done Juliet Marillier's Wildwood Dancing, Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss, Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize, and Catherine Fisher's Incarceron. Her TV resume includes shows like G.I. Joe: Renegades, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Justice League, and she's attained video game immortality (in my opinion, anyway!) in games such as Metal Gear Solid, Disgaea, Fatal Frame II & III, Final Fantasy: Dirge of Cerberus, Mass Effect, Dead Island, and Final Fantasy XIII-2.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale?

That’s a tough question, to have to pick only one. I’ve always liked The Little Mermaid, both the original and the Disney version. But I’m sure I’m forgetting an even better one.

When you record an audio book, what's the process like? How do you prepare? And could you talk a little about the director's role, and how you work together to bring the book to life? I think the process of creating an audio book is still mysterious to a lot of listeners, and it would be great to get a peek behind the scenes.

Well, first I do a little happy dance that I’m going to do another book. Then I read it and make notes as I go. I jot down character information so I remember who everyone is and look up words, stuff like that. Then I’ll go to the studio and they’ll adjust the mic and test the sound levels to make sure it sounds good. Then I just start reading until we’re done. Then the sound files go to an editor who takes out the mistakes, sounds, etc., works his magic and makes us sound fabulous.

As for the director, I personally love working with a director. Some audiobook narrators record without one, but I really prefer having a director. I don’t have to worry if I’m mispronouncing a word and sounding like an idiot, because they’ll let me know, both if I’m mispronouncing a word and/or sounding like an idiot. I can bounce ideas off them or see if something I’m doing is working or not. They’re also usually so knowledgeable and prepared that if I can’t figure something out, they’ll know all about it. Also it’s nice to actually talk to another person every now and then during the day.

When you're working with a book that has a lot of characters, is it a challenge to keep the voices distinct? How do you decide what each character should sound like, and how do you keep the voices consistent from one day to the next?

I love being able to play all the characters in a book. Sometimes it’s hard, like when you have 30 English guys. That really cuts down on the possible vocal choices. But when I take notes on the characters I look for any descriptions the author specifically makes about the character’s speech, accent, physicality of the mouth (e.g. no teeth, a fat lip, etc.) Then I make notes on the voice I’ve created for the character. That’s how I keep track of them all and keep them consistent. Or sometimes I use really bad impressions of famous people to key in on a character. Like when I did Jewel, I was thinking of Jennifer Tilly. Like I said, bad impressions, but great characters.

If you were a teenager in Beau Rivage, what would your fairy-tale curse be and who would you hang out with?

If I got to choose my curse it would be something fun, like red dancing shoes or turning everything I touched into cake. But if I look at my real life, it would probably be the Beauty and the Beast curse. Not that I’m a beauty by any means, but that I always seem to be trying to tame beasts. And I would definitely be hanging with Blue, Jewel, Freddie and Layla. They would be awesome!

I know you're a Final Fantasy fan, so I have to ask: which FF game is your favorite?

Well, 7 was the first one I played, so it’s always had a special place in my heart. I liked 8 a lot too. I’ve got 13 now and I still haven’t had a chance to play it! But I’m in the next one, so that’s going to have to be my favorite. ;)

And if there's anything you wish I had asked, anything else you want to mention, please do!

Just that I really appreciate you giving me the chance to tell my side of the “story." And that I really had fun reading Kill Me Softly and I know that everyone who reads it will too. Or I suppose listens to it. I can’t wait to see the sequel!