NIKKI BANKS: definitely unorthodox
I worked with Nikki as my director for my first book at Audible’s studios in Newark, NJ earlier this year. She was a consummate professional and an impressive young woman, but also, quite funny (as you’ll see).
KW: What is your job title and what are your responsibilities?
NB: I am a freelance Audio Engineer and Audio Book Director. I divide my time between recording/directing about 3-4 days a week at remote studios and spend most evenings and weekends audio editing from home. I record/direct/edit at least 150 books a year, which means I try to stay as busy as possible.
KW: What’s your work zone like?
NB: My work zone at home looks an awful lot like a living room. This could be because it IS a living room! While I have a proper desk, my “editing station” is far from usual. I can usually be found on no particular piece of living room furniture, with a 2.5 feet wide by 6 inch deep plank of finished wood on my lap that was leftover from the cabinetry of a kitchen renovation eight years ago. I wish I could say I was kidding. On the plank rests my laptop, and it has enough room on the left side for a water bottle and a mouse on the right. Headphones plugged in the front, of course. I’ve looked for proper lap desks, but have found nothing better than what I currently have. Definitely unorthodox, but it works.
Aside from “my desk,” I am usually flanked by two napping cats, as well as a husband who always tolerates me saying “What?” when he asks a question while I’m editing. Oh, and HGTV or tennis is almost always on mute in the background.
KW: How did you end up working in the audiobook industry?
NB: Oh, man, by accident! I received a BA in Music and went on to NYU to do graduate work in Music Technology. From there, I was waylaid in music business at ASCAP (aka The Music Police) for a couple years but was doing my best to claw my way into audio engineering full time. In about 2003, enter Charles de Montebello of CDM and John Cheary of John Marshal Media. They both very, very kindly taught me most of what I know today. I distinctly remember wanting out of the music business so badly that my resume’s cover letter to Charles was more of a plea, and mentioned something about a willingness to eat ramen regularly if it meant getting a new start. Fortunately it did the trick. Nearly 10 years later, I am doing the same kind of work, but with a plank of wood on my lap.
KW: What do you love most about the work you do?
NB: That’s easy. The people. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve worked with you, Karen. [me blushing] Most folks involved in audio book recording are usually quite happy to be there and projects are typically positive ones. This could be because freelancers in the arts are simply just happy to be employed, and not necessarily at a place where you’d ask someone if they’d like fries with that. Actors are more often than not a worldly, liberal, vivacious group of people, and I really appreciate that.
KW: Any pet peeves?
NB: If the aforementioned weren’t any indication, I’d have to say a pet peeve of mine is rudeness. I never mind when actors have larger than life personalities or are feeling fragile over a performance. I want to provide a place a comfort when they’re recording so they can let loose. But if someone is being rude and “The D Word” – difficult, as one actor called it – it can make the day go very, very slowly. Mercifully, this happens quite infrequently.
KW: Do you have a favorite audiobook?
NB: I’ve been stupidly lucky to work on many big name projects and with actors I should have been very nervous to be around. None of these compare to the Bloody Jack series, read by Katy Kellgren. I’ve audio edited all of them, and it’s shameful to be paid for something I enjoy so much. The quality of the writing in tandem with Katy’s unbelievable performance (not to mention first rate audio recording and editing!!) is the perfect storm.
KW: Any stories to share?
NB: It’s very difficult to be word-perfect for anyone narrating an audio book. Actor’s will say the darndest, most bizarre misreads and just keep going. My favorite misread had to be, “This weekend would be a great time to spend some time with your sweathorse.” The actress just kept going! The word was supposed to be sweetheart. Naturally, this actress’s nickname is now “Sweathorse”.