Arika Rapson, a prolific narrator who narrates erotica as Lucy Malone, is the voice behind the microphone of Jaci Burton’s Changing the Game. The author had final say over the choice of narrator and picked Rapson because, Burton says, “her voice is really sexy, which is important for an erotic romance, but it’s also kind of mellow, with a deep quality that you need for male dialog.” In addition, Burton explains that while she loves audiobooks in general, “listening to your own is a challenge. I’m always self-editing, but [Rapson’s] narration really pulls me into the story.”
How did you end up specializing in erotica narration? Why do you use a different name for those titles?
When I first started narrating, I didn’t turn anything down. If you’re going to be a storyteller, you should be open to telling all kinds of stories. Sex is just such a fundamental part of human experience, to cut out such a big part of life just seems silly. And because some narrators don’t do it, it’s kept me busier. The different names are just for branding. It’s no secret that I’m Lucy Malone, but it lets listeners know that that’s going to be a hotter book.
What interests you about erotica from a narrator’s perspective?
I enjoy how erotica does not seem bound by the limitations that you see in other kinds of writing sometimes and how the sexual element is often a metaphor for personal transformation or a deeper exploration of self. People might assume it’s the book equivalent of porn, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I often find myself very engaged with erotica because those books are often the most multifaceted—there can be a strong paranormal element, a romance, fight scenes, profound character development, and sex scenes all in the same book.
I usually prefer subject matter that celebrates life in some way rather than focusing exclusively on pain and suffering. So I would much rather narrate a book that explores pleasure than a book that is filled with violence and the dark side of humanity. It’s so different from what you see in Hollywood—usually violence wins over pleasure on the big screen because pleasure gets censored and extreme violence does not. So in movies we are more likely to see a woman getting raped than experiencing an orgasm, which I think is really too bad.
Are there narrating challenges specific to erotica?
Breath is a very important element in erotica narration, probably more so than in any other genre. So often when you are narrating, the goal is to not [allow yourself to be heard] breathing, but in an erotic scene a sharp inhalation, shallow breathing, or a deep breath can communicate even more than what the character is saying. Another critical element is rhythm, because the lines you lean into and savor or the lines you speed up a bit will communicate a great deal as well.
There are usually a few lines at the climax of an erotic scene that take quite a bit more time than the rest of the scene in that they need to reflect a higher level of intensity and passion than you will see anywhere else in the book. It can be tough to switch back and forth between two lovers in a scene who may be expressing themselves very differently and to communicate the intensity and passion of each of them in a way that fits the characters.
This is the second installment of Jaci Burton’s “Play-by-Play” series that you’ve narrated. What makes her books well suited for audio?
Jaci always includes details about the characters that clue readers in to who they are at a deeper level, which helps me voice them. And her characters always have something about them that readers can personally identify with. That makes them relatable, so I think listeners are able to connect to the characters right off the bat.
At the same time, she keeps the action moving along so listeners get hooked into the story and don’t get bogged down with too much detail. So, really, Jaci’s books provide an ideal balance of character detail and a fast-moving plot. Also, her writing is very natural and conversational, which I think is key for the audio format. There is some very good writing out there that just doesn’t translate well to audio because it is not written the way people actually talk.
What do you think makes a good audiobook?
I think casting is important—you can have a good narrator who is not well suited for a particular book. The writing needs to be strong and able to pull the listener into the story, with dialog that sounds natural, and a narrator who gets it, who intuitively knows how to tell the story in the spirit in which it was written and can bring life to the characters in a way that feels genuine.—Stephanie Klose