Back To Detail Page

 Interview with the Narrator:
Kelly Dolan

Tell us about yourself:
I live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and I work full time at Willow Creek Community Church. I’ve been here for about five years on staff and attending for about ten years. I also work with the high school ministry here called Student Impact. I originally grew up outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in a smaller town called Waukesha. I moved here in the fall of 1992 to go to Judson College in Elgin, Illinois. I originally started out as a biblical studies major with plans to go into the ministry and go on to seminary. In high school, I had done a few drama productions and acted in a few plays, so about halfway through my sophomore year at Judson, I decided to switch majors and became a theater major for a while. Eventually I got a degree in mass media communications with a minor in theater. So most of my background and experience until recently has been in video. I produce different video segments for Sunday night programs at the church, and I’ve managed to do different drama-related projects during my time here at the church. I’d done freelance voice over work before, but this is my first audiobook.

How did you become involved in narrating “The Message”?

A friend of mine from college works at Oasis Audio, and I was out there about three months ago. I was doing some smaller voice-over work for them, a video promotional piece. While I was there, I connected with somebody who was overseeing the production of “The Message” audio Bible. He asked me to read a sample of it and I did. They called me a little later on and asked me to do another reading and eventually they told me they wanted me to be the voice on it. Obviously, it was a great opportunity for me and not necessarily something I sought after, but it’s been an awesome product to be a part of.

What are some of the challenges that you faced being the narrator, especially of a book with such weight?
I was mostly excited. I couldn’t think of any projects that I would be more excited to do from an opportunity and responsibility standpoint. That was the thing I was most impressed by when I first found out I was doing the project. I got really excited about the responsibility of knowing that this was a translation of God’s Word. It was telling the story of God and his people. I just really felt the responsibility early on, and that made me take this seriously and not see it as just another job. I really tried to think about the original intent of the authors and about the audience. I let that help form some of the material emotionally. Especially since it is so long and a lot of times just straight narrative, I could get into these stretches where I was just reading one word after another, but I tried to keep in mind who the author was and who they were writing to and let that dictate the emotion I was giving to the reading. For instance, Paul is writing to the Corinthians, this new band of Christians that are doing just phenomenally but it has a lot wayward ways in it that Paul is trying to sort out and help them with. So he probably has this mixture of love and excitement for them as a people, and at the same time, he wants to get some things down and figured out. I just tried to look at it like that.
I got a Bible dictionary so I could try to get my pronunciations right on all the names and towns. Anywhere possible that I didn’t know the story or didn’t know what was happening, I sought out either something written about that passage, or tried to talk to someone about it. Often it came down to me and Tim, one of the producers who did the recording, just talking with each other about what we were reading that day or what we had read and just tried to live in it a little.

How did you decide to deal with the pronunciations?

The cool thing for me, especially being my first time doing anything like this, is that I was working with Tim Hollinger, one of the producers, and he’s done a number of audio Bibles before, and also has twenty-some years of doing audiobooks and radio broadcasts. He had a really good knowledge of pronunciation and specifically, pronunciation that people would be used to or what he had commonly heard words pronounced as. Sometimes, it came down to “Hey Tim, how should I say this word?” And he would tell me how he had heard it said or how scholars generally pronounce it and such. Other times, when he didn’t know, we’d consult the Bible dictionary.

What are some of the “behind the scenes” parts of the production that you liked or disliked?
The coolest thing about it was that on the days that we recorded, we spent those days just recording to and listening to God's Word. That felt to me like a pretty great privilege, and a cool thing that God would provide an opportunity like this where I would spend this much focused time in Scripture. For a year or so before I started this project, I had been using “The Message” for my own personal devotions, as well as for preparaton when I would speak or teach here at Student Impact. But now here I was every day, showing up to do work with God’s Word.
I’ve done a number of roles in the “Left Behind” radio drama series and that’s been a blast, but it had been shorter amounts of time that I had to read something and I was also going back and forth with other actors. But as my first audiobook, so much of the audiobook process is that you would get there in the morning, and go till the afternoon, just reading and reading. I found that to be the greatest challenge. It really pushed me a lot. Sometimes it was difficult to maintain concentration and to be thinking clearly as you should about every verse, particularly when I got tired and fatigued. That was the most challenging thing; learning to be a part of a project that was so long.

Did you find yourself on some days not being able to give it your full attention?

Yes. There was one day I remember, when I came in, that I had a really long weekend and had to work most of the weekend. I had spoken at Student Impact the night before and I thought I was fine coming in, but my mental and physical energy was just low. That day jumps out because I remember really struggling with it. I’d get three or four sentences out and then I’d mess up and we’d have to go back and after another few sentences I’d do it again. There were days when you were battling to get your best stuff out. But then there were days where you come in and for whatever reason, it just clicks and you’re reading all sorts of stuff without making mistakes and you feel you’re really hitting the mark. It varied from day to day.

How long did the production take from beginning to end?

Just the recording part of it, was about eight days. Anywhere from four to six hours on those days. Because we had to fit it around my work schedule, we did it sporadically on several Mondays and Fridays. It was about a month and a half process.

How was working on the “Left Behind” dramatizations?
It was a great experience. I started doing that about 2 years ago. I first got involved during the production of “Soul Harvest”. I’ve played random voices here and there. I played Bo, the Pauwakee airport owner, probably the only recurring character that I had for a few books. That was a ton of fun. There are a great group of people working on that project. They are some of the most gifted and talented people I have ever met.
That was the first professional voice-over project I had done. I was pretty intimidated walking in, especially the first couple times I was there. A good portion of them are professional actors that act in different stage, commercial, and film stuff in Chicago. I felt like I was a little bit in over my head, but I think that was good since it pushed me a lot and taught me about the process of voice-over.

Do you listen to audiobooks or audio products?
I do. I don’t listen all the time or every day or every week, but I especially like listening to nonfiction, like biographies and business titles. The one that jumps out at me as a book that made me think about what it would be like to narrate an audiobook was the audiobook version of “Black Hawk Down”. I had listened to that, unabridged, while on a road trip out to South Dakota.
Now after I’ve done an audiobook, as I listen to different audiobooks, I try to learn, listen, and think how I would have read it. I feel like I’m listening with a different ear than before.

What kind of feedback have you received about “The Message”?

I haven’t heard much yet. I heard a few things from the people at Oasis, but I haven’t heard anything back from anywhere else. I think once it gets released, I’ll be hearing from people I know.

Have you listened to the final product and how do you feel about it?

I’ve heard parts of it. I feel really good. It’s weird when you’re listening to your own voice because you know every little thing that you wish you would have done differently. I’m anxious to sit down and listen to a large chunk of it. I don’t know if I will be able to tolerate the sound of my own voice for twenty hours worth of material, but I do want to listen to a book all the way through.

Do you have any new projects on the horizon?

I don’t have any voice-over work on the horizon. I’m hoping some other stuff will come along. Everything I’ve done in terms of voice-over has just kind of come along and was not something I had really sought out. I’m just seeing what kind of opportunities will come my way and in the meantime, I have more than enough to keep me busy at the church. We do programs every Sunday night, where we have a variety different videos we produce and show each week, and I also oversee the drama team. I’m working with the drama team and they are preparing for an actor showcase in May. In two weeks, we are doing the first ever Student Impact Film Festival.
The Sacred Romance - Audiobook on CD
The Sacred Romance - Audiobook on CD

Waking the Dead                                - Unabridged Audiobook on CD
Waking the Dead - Unabridged Audiobook on CD

Wild at Heart - Unabridged Audiobook on CD
Wild at Heart - Unabridged Audiobook on CD

Return to Narrator Interviews