Erin G. Burrell (EGB): I want to share the delightful chat I had with my new friend, and the narrator of my book, Petrea Burchard (PB). We took turns interviewing each other. It was interesting to learn more about Petrea, and the audiobook profession. I hope you feel the same.
EGB: How did you get into narrating audiobooks?
PB: I’ve been an actor all my life, and I’ve worked in voiceover for many years. I had looked into audiobooks years ago, but at the time I was focused on writing a novel and didn’t pursue narration. A couple of years ago, when a major voiceover client decided to “try a different sound,” (a male!) I wasn’t sure what to do next. A good friend who is also in voiceover said, “You should be narrating audiobooks!” and my brain lit up. So I started to study the craft.
EGB: What qualities do you look for in a book to narrate?
PB: I look for good writing that I can relate to. I’m a writer, too, and good writing really speaks to me. As an actor I’ve learned to relate to different people and characters, so the range can be broad. But there are some things that don’t fit my voice, or my style. I wish I could do everything, but I can’t. I love fiction, memoir, history, biography…basically anything that’s well written. It’s no secret that good writing is easy to speak. That’s why actors like performing Shakespeare.
EGB: What preparations do you do, prior to recording any chapter of a book?
PB: I read the whole book before I start recording anything. I might have questions about pronunciation, concepts, etc. If I’m in contact with the author, I can ask them. I also have the internet, the phone, the library. I want to know what I’m talking about before I start talking. I’ve come across interesting historical or geographical references, and I like to read up on those. It helps me to have an image of what I’m talking about.
I also prepare physically. Sitting in a small booth for hours is challenging, believe it or not. So I stay in shape, drink lots of water, watch what I eat, and do vocal exercises daily.
EGB: Your acting background enhances your narrations. What was your favorite acting experience and why?
PB: Oh boy. I’ve had some wonderful ones. My favorite has to be the British/American Drama Academy (BADA) summer program at Oxford. I had a whole month to immerse myself in the study of voice, movement, Shakespeare, and even Samuel Beckett, in the beautiful setting of Oxford and the surrounding countryside. We had wonderful teachers from the Royal Shakespeare Company. I fell in love with England and I always want to go back. It was bliss.
EGB: What made you decide to narrate That’s Why You’re Here?
PB: Your experience and the way you wrote about it spoke to me. Your background and mine are not the same, but it’s as though they criss-cross, and I understood your experiences because of experiences I’ve had. It’s like when you meet a client in the book and discover the connection you have with them. That’s why I’m here!
PB: In “That’s Why You’re Here,” you tell the story of how you got started reading the Tarot. How did you get started writing about it?
EGB: While I was reliving the wonderful experiences I’d had at the Healing Arts Festival, it came to me how frequently I’d been asked, “How did you get involved with the Tarot?” It also came to me how often my clients told me they’d enjoyed and benefited from my personal stories. That was a surprise. Not long after, a voice “dropped in” and said, “Start writing your stories.” I ignored this voice for a time because I wasn’t a writer and thought it was a crazy notion, but the voice persisted. I finally honored that message and began to write . . . nothing was ever the same after that.
PB: Do you read the Tarot for yourself? Is it a regular practice?
EGB: Each morning, I pull cards for myself and I’ve been doing it for years now. I like to see what my day may hold and what I need to focus on. In doing this, I also stay connected to the cards, the meanings, and their images. Working with the cards each day is soothing and grounding to me.
PB: I’d like to know about readings and fairs. It seems like it could be either exhausting or energizing. What is it like to read the Tarot for strangers all day?
EGB: It’s exciting and exhilarating. I’m energized throughout the day and tired when the day is over. I was beyond wiped-out after my first festival, but my energy level has improved since then. I, too, have to stay hydrated since I’m using my voice all day. We have that in common.
As far as reading strangers, we may start out that way, but by the end of the reading there is a closeness, especially if tears were shared. Tarot readings can be very intimate. I’m convinced that there is a divine purpose behind each person who chooses to get a reading from me. We were meant to spend time together. At most fairs and festivals, I am one of seventeen readers, so there is quite a selection. I have been told many times a person was “drawn to me.” I love that. One woman told me that coming into my booth felt good, like she was coming home. That touched me.
PB: What was the most exciting reading you ever did? Has there ever been one that was uncomfortable, or scary?
EGB: My most exciting reading is in my book. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet, but I will say it involved a necklace and doing psychometry, the holding of an object.
I’m happy to say I’ve never had a scary reading, but I will confess that a few readings were uncomfortable at the start. (I’ve included an example of an uncomfortable read in my memoir.) The two I’m thinking of happened with men who said they wanted a reading, but their body language told a different story. They were shut down in the beginning, but ended up in a better place by the close of the reading. It’s gratifying when that happens.
PB: Do you plan to write more books? What’s in the works?
EGB: I continue to write and post pieces to my website. I write about topics that inspire me, and I’ve even done a couple stories about my favorite TV show/book, “Outlander.” I am currently trying my hand at fiction, which is a challenge. I wish words came easy like reading the Tarot. I love to write, and I enjoy the community of writers I’m involved with. You never know, there could be another book in my future.