Narrator Interview – Danny Letham

*Name: Danny Letham

*Tell us a bit about yourself: Raised on a Scottish moorland farm, I spent much of my adult life in various Scottish and English cities and now live near the North Wales Coast.  My work background is software development and systems analysis, specialising in commercial, financial, and manufacturing systems. Born into a musical family whose other stock-in-trade was teaching, I was a mobile deejay in my teens, and these days I can gossip for Britain about many musical genres.

How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? While I’ve always liked to talk, the impetus came in the form of the usual story: suggestions from friends and relations. I was very aware that merely being the “natural” that those good folks suggested was not enough, and indeed the well-intentioned encouragement might not even have been true. So, from about 2012 onwards I researched and self-trained with the help of Patrick Fraley’s tutorials and a few other sources. Meanwhile, before my wife’s death in 2016 I had gradually withdrawn from the world of I.T. to become her full-time caregiver, and since then I have reinvented myself as a narrator, video maker, and digital artist. I first encountered ACX through Mr. Fraley.

Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? You’ll have worked out from the foregoing that I have only just taken the plunge. So, for the time being I don’t have much to say here. I have a computer full of material that will never be seen or heard in public, kind of like those early Beatles recordings made in Hamburg. (Dream on, Danny!)

Do you have a preferred genre?  Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? I’m a non-fiction kind of a guy really, who aspires to biography, history, the education sector, and corporate reads. I have a high regard for the better fiction narrators and am not averse to characterisation, but not every title is an Agatha Christie mystery and although I have my moments and can run the gamut of SATB timbres (baritone and mezzo are my best) I’m not quite in the same league as David Suchet. What folk tend to overlook, though, is that within the vast tract that is non-fiction there is every bit as much of a need for nuance and sense of scene. Which isn’t to rule out the right novel, of course; never say “never”. That said, I am minded to avoid so-called “Adult” material but I’d not reject an otherwise suitable title just because it had some adult content; however it would have to be very good read. On the other hand, given that I have a well-developed avuncular style for kids’ books there is an obvious conflict, so “Adult” is not a market I would target.

What are you working on at present/Just finished? I have just arrived on Audible as narrator of a kids’ title written by Victoria Zigler, called “Eadweard: a Story of 1066”. That title attracted me partly for its historic interest but significantly also because of its ethic; as a lad who never wanted to be a soldier myself I identified with its busting of the myth. The ten-year-old Danny repulsed by the “It’s a Man’s Life” TV recruitment campaign would have loved that book.

Eadweard - A Story Of 1066 Audiobook Cover

Ongoing, from a business perspective I am looking at ethical advertising both in sound and on video more so than audiobooks, but additionally in the medium term I have my eye on a couple of older works which are now in the Public Domain and for which I would assume the role analogous with rights holder as well as that of narrator.

*Tell us about your process for narrating?  (Be as elaborate as you like.)  Step One is, sample it and improvise reading one or two previously unseen passages. See how it FEELS. That instinct is important, and I try to carry it with me throughout the creative process at the same time as balancing it with self-directing. Next, read the thing end to end; if you don’t do that you can paint yourself into a corner either with a wrong characterisation as the plot unfolds or, in non-fiction, with a compromised counter-argument. Try a few more passages as you go along, and revisit former ones. Note how different the passages you improvised feel when they are re-encountered. Rehearse. Mark the text with cues and emphases while progressing, considering any surprise inflections that might work to keep the audience engaged. Rehearse again. Set milestones. Go on the mic, for no more than half an hour at a time; after that amount of time mistakes will multiply. Avoid becoming a slave to the punctuation, especially if that punctuation is mechanised. Repeat whole sentences or at least clauses where you notice at the time there has been a blooper, without pausing. Then get technical with NR, EQ, and all that stuff. When editing bear in mind that sometimes it’s better to splice than merely to cut. Sometimes there is no option but to overdub, but don’t do that yet. Open a list of overdub requirements. Listen back, repairing any pops or clicks etc, while identifying any more overdubs. Listen again, following the text closely looking for misreads. Rely on it; there will be some, and consequently more overdubs. Each overdub is a miniature run of the “mic NR EQ pop click etc.” cycle.  Cry, scream, and yell, when the sound palette of the overdub doesn’t match the main body of your narrative. Rinse and repeat. FINALLY (um, not really finally) submit your Thing Of Beauty. Cry, scream, and yell, some more when the rights holder sends a list of …. overdub requirements! Rinse and repeat. Oh, and that other chap who waves his arms? Me too.

I didn’t mention mixing just now. I always record vox in mono but where music or SFX is involved I will decide based on the specifics of the case whether or not to mix in stereo. If it’s narration only, it stays in mono unless I need to emulate physical activity. However, they never needed a stereo mix in the days of Steam Radio, did they? We have lost a lot these days, with the “live” imperative supplanted by all this tech, and yet I am mindful of babies and bathwater. I prefer to use Adobe Audition. Some freeware is absolutely magnificent, but Audition’s visualisations and its brush and lasso repair tools in particular are all but indispensable. In the end you get what you pay for.

What aspects do you find most enjoyable? In a sentence? I like the sound of my own voice! No, in all seriousness, performing is the buzz; I can’t say that I love the technical aspects. I did discover recently when invited to do a live reading that the dynamic is entirely different from studio work, so now I am looking to add that to the repertoire on a permanent basis.

Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? I certainly do. I think it unwise to dismiss either royalty share or finished-rate. Every project has its own business case. It depends on what balance you need to strike from time to time between visibility, prestige, and cash flow.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Not very often because in my limited leisure time I tend to read, looking for performance material! I spend more time listening to podcasts online. The audiobook that I have enjoyed the most – ever! – is David Suchet’s reading of “Death on the Nile”. Such characterisation! He is especially able when “doing” the women, and then there is all that over-the-top emoting, and excellent timing resulting from the great sound editing and audio engineering. What’s not to love? It is a lesson in the proper use of tech to give an enhanced performance experience. One of my bugbears is that the unavoidable pauses in “he-said-she-said” dialogue passages go unedited because of production time constraints. And people have been trained to like it, even to consider it best-practice. For me, while it’s fine in a live situation on a recording it just jars.

*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? Yes and no. It’s unfortunate in some respects that the old way is almost extinct, of Wise Old Heads occasionally reading from a book but frequently improvising around a detailed memory. There is nothing quite like a live performance in which the narrator responds to the audience’s cues and maybe interacts with them. The best stories can be retold with near-infinite variation – consider how folk music works. In my dreams at least, I foresee that style of performance returning as ordinary people’s reading comprehension skills continue to diminish – which I believe they are doing regardless of the A-level statistics. For now, though, as a society we are going through a “more of the same” loop in which hearing the same story repeatedly in exactly the same formulaic way is the “four legs good” of our era, and whether we like it or not the playback device is king. Equally, the playback device is an ideal medium for disseminating listen-once material, superior to radio because of its on-demand nature. In that context word-of-mouth, social media ads, and the Infernal MP3 Machine are the narrator’s best friends. Just as the phonograph paved the way for excellence in musical performance we must hope the MP3 does the same for narration, although in my view we aren’t quite there yet.

Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? The commuter lifestyle has a lot to do with it. The world of the past that I have described has largely been mechanised out of existence, and indeed that is the case even away from the urban cycle – in agriculture, for example, productivity demands shackle us to our tractors and our milking machines more than ever before. Changes in the popular music scene have made recorded music significantly less attractive to many than it has been previously, so the advent of affordable and – importantly – portable technology with which to hear something interesting is bringing the audiobook to the masses just like the Dansette did popular music half a century ago.

Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) It’s too early to say as regards earnings, but actually, I think it more realistic in my situation at least to seek prestige and visibility than it is to expect Big Bucks directly. It is an easy platform to use in the technical sense, while in another respect it falls somewhere in between an effective hiring fair and a useful additional networking tool, not so much with peer-to-peer networking (to steal an I.T. term) as in the wider literary community. Having said that, I think the signal-to-noise ratio in terms of networking opportunity is less than ideal.

Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? Every experience is a learning opportunity. If you don’t see it that way, that is a negative in itself.

Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. People perceive me to be fearless but… while obviously, I wouldn’t choose to do so I would wrestle a Rottweiler (and probably lose), and yet I have an irrational fear of chickens.

Where can we learn more about you?

Website with onward links is here: http://www.thevoiceofdaniel.com/

For repertoire and samples , go straight to soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/dannyletham

If you want to check out Victoria and Danny’s work – please use the links below.

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Children/Eadweard-A-Story-of-1066-Audiobook/B0778V7XDC/
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/652726
Barnes & Noble:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/eadweard-victoria-zigler/1124182601
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/eadweard-a-story-of-1066
Chapters-Indigo
:
https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/eadweard-a-story-of-1066/9781370587865-item.html
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/eadweard-a-story-of-1066/id1137551399
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/audiobook/eadweard-a-story-of-1066-unabridged/id1313336363
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
The Book Depository:
https://www.bookdepository.com/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/9781539534471
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31199382-eadweard—a-story-of-1066

Audio Book Narrator Interview 9 – Lauren Ezzo

*Name: Lauren Ezzo

*Tell us a bit about yourself:  I was born and raised in East Lansing, MI. I’ve loved literature since I was little, and in 2014 received my BA in English/Theatre from Hope College in Holland, MI. Currently I’m a freelance narrator and actor based in the Midwest!

How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? My first year out of college, a friend working a Brilliance Publishing sent me an audition notice. I went into their studio, read some Twilight and some Neil Gaimain, and was taken on! I thought if nothing else it’d be a fun new section on my resume. Two years later, and here we are!

 

What are you working on at present/Just finished?  Just finished a book of poetry inspired by/chronicling The Donner Party! It’s called To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of The Donner Party. It’s a super interesting and emotional read — not to mention unorthodox! And it’s based on a real member of the party.

*Tell us about your process for narrating?  The recording process itself depends on where/with whom I’m recording, but my prep is generally always the same: When I receive the manuscript I do a quick read/skim to see what I’m getting into. As recording approaches, I re-read several more times and jot down “specials” — words I’m unfamiliar with, specific author notes, place names, anything out of the ordinary. I consider each character leading up to the reading — where they fit in the story, and what sort of voice the author’s given them on paper. I love to communicate with authors in this regard — often their inspiration will ring a bell in my brain. Beyond that, lots of tea, coffee, and snacks.

What aspects do you find most enjoyable?  Everything!!! I get paid to read!!!! I’m an actor first and foremost, so it’s a great challenge to see how much nuance and meaning I can imbue a story with using just my voice. I’ve learned so much about writing, storytelling, dialect, character, pacing….Also it’s a great conversation starter at parties.

Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? Oh yes! If the book is intriguing, royalty share is totally acceptable. I won’t turn down a book I really enjoy and have faith simply because the payment is royalty share. I’m not an author, but I can imagine that self-publishing takes just as much work as narration (and probably a bit more money). That being said, if an author can afford a PFH rate, I would recommend going this route. Narrators (myself included) are more likely to seek these titles out first, since they’re often paying second and third parties to record, edit, master, etc. Additionally, a seasoned narrator will typically only record with a PFH — but this is WELL worth the investment. You get what you pay for, and armchair narrators can definitely impact your audiobook’s sales.

Do you listen to audiobooks? I didn’t before I began recording, but I do now! I just finished Squirrel Meets Chipmunk by David Sedaris, which features Elaine Stritch. Hilarious.

*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling?Absolutely. Actually, just last month WSJ published an article confirming that audiobooks are the fastest growing publishing format in publishing! (I’m including the link below). Audiobooks, ebooks, smartphones, and the like will never replace flesh and blood books, but there is something to be said about audiobooks and the future of storytelling. Audiobooks create relationships; the performative aspect engages and it’s impossible to not respond to another human voice (even if it’s a negative response). Audiobooks are also becoming necessities — for those with learning disabilities like dyslexia or ADD, or corporate learning.

(http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-fastest-growing-format-in-publishing-audiobooks-1469139910 )

Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular?Convenience, and the human element. You don’t need to be stationary to listen to an audiobook…and having Sissy Spacek read To Kill a Mockingbird to you personally is pretty cool.

Can you remember the first audiobook you owned? My own! The CEO Buys In, by Nancy Herkness.

 

Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. How about two truths and a lie? I’m a Gemini, I bought a couch this week, I keep up with the Kardashians (I know, I know…) Get in touch with a correct guess and I will send you a prize!

Social Media links:

By all means, please follow, contact, and share! I love hearing from people 🙂

Website: www.laurenezzo.com

ACX: https://www.acx.com/narrator?p=A2BGEGYCIIX0EQ

Audible: http://www.audible.com/search?searchNarrator=Lauren+Ezzo

Twitter: @singlewithfries

Audio Book Narrator Interview 8 – Michael Hanko

*Name: Michael (Mike) Hanko

*Tell us a bit about yourself:

How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? I was a Communication major back in college, studying Radio and desktop publishing. I love music and so I spent 2 years on air as a DJ while in school. Loved it! But could not find any work in radio after school, given how competitive it is.

A little later on, I started a career as a Training Specialist. So again, being able to get in front of people and be in the public speaking arena was not a bad move. It helped me to work on and polish my delivery/style. This whole time, though I was always interested in voice and just a year ago I started my professional voice career.

Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? So far, I have produced 31 audiobooks (in just my first year professionally). They have mostly been self-help and inspiration/Christian projects. Some of my biggest sellers have been Listening (Christian Olsen) and the Happy Puppy Box Set (Charles Nelson and Jennifer Smith). I have enjoyed producing all types of works, including (recently) game guides and now even biographies.

Do you have a preferred genre?  Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? I don’t have a preferred genre. I truly just enjoy the different types of books that are published and trying to adapt my voice to some of them. The only style I don’t honestly do is adult/explicit material. And that’s because of my Christian faith. Just not a genre that I’m completely comfortable with.

What are you working on at present/Just finished? I have two biographies that I’m producing, both of NBA superstars. I had produced a similar title recently and the author and publisher have been super to work with, so I was happy to take on additional work from them. Also, I secured another scripturally based book that I will start shortly as well.

*Tell us about your process for narrating?  (Be as elaborate as you like.) I look first for titles that I feel comfortable with. When I say that, I look for titles that fit me – adult, middle aged, midwestern accent (mine is not as pronounced though). But at the same time, I try to stretch myself by looking for titles that cause me to be more engaging or at least to strike a balance between more serious and more fun.

When I receive the manuscript, I will read it to try and get a feel for the tone, pacing, etc. I believe that any book’s translation/narration is that much more successful when I can make that connection. And just as important, when I’m editing the final tracks, I listen as a reader – is the volume good? Is the pacing and flow of the read good (not too fast or slow)? Are the pauses natural and help to convey the right tone? I love the process and hearing the project come together!

What aspects do you find most enjoyable?  I love the read. I have loved reading since I was in elementary school. I was always one of the first kids to volunteer to read out loud. And I enjoy editing. I’m getting better all the time when it comes to that end and I love to challenge myself to make my edits better, to make the book sound more alive.

Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? I’ll consider any offer. All of my produced works have been royalty offers.

*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling?  I do. We have amazing technology and I know many people that are audiobook readers. Technology is allowing us to reach people in many new and exciting ways.

Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? You can take that book anywhere, just like traditional books. But, with the added advantage of listening in your car, as many people have suggested to me. You take the portability of a traditional book and add another flexible layer.

 

Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) I’m still new to the industry (one year plus) but I enjoy seeing the numbers each month of sales, reviews, etc. ACX/Audible provides great tools and information for me as a narrator, making it easy for me to follow my own activity and to share in the overall success of the project. And their interface (receiving manuscripts, uploading, etc) is very user-friendly.

Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? Just once. I felt very strongly that the author was being aggressive in their wording (within the book). And I did mention it to them. Although it did not ultimately affect the final product, I will speak up if I am not comfortable, that it will not benefit either them or me.

Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. I have a very dry sense of humor. So, I enjoy funny movies for example and especially those that are similarly dry and/or sarcastic.

Where can we learn more about you? I can be found on Facebook (artist page for my work), LinkedIn, Twitter and my own website, MikeHanko.com

Audiobook Narrator Interview Number Seven – Melanie Fraser

Name: Melanie Fraser

*Tell us a bit about yourself:

I was born in Cape Town, South Africa to where my father had moved during WWII. I made the decision at the age of 3 to become a ballet dancer! Following my training there and after the family moved to England – post-Sharpeville  – I continued full time theatre training. As an actress, singer and dancer I later appeared  in theatre, film and television. After a long break away from performing, during which time I qualified and taught professional classical ballet in the UK and abroad, I returned to acting and now perform on screen and as a voice over artist.

How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production?

Gary Terzza told me about BeeAudio’s new Studio Certification Course and that they were establishing a UK network. Helen Lloyd, with whom I had worked in a few theatre productions, runs the UK side. The course introduced me to audiobook narration as well as production.

Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these?

These are on audible (UK and USA sites)

‘A Gentleman’s Daughter: Her Love’ (Reina M Williams)

‘The Promise’ (Elizabeth Chappelle)

‘The Final Dawn’ (Alice Catherine Carter)

 ‘Princess in Peril’ (Janet Whitehead)

 ‘A Murderer’s Heart’ (Julie Elizabeth Powell)

 ‘Lady Concealed’ (Jane Bridges)

‘Dirty Business’ (Julie Elizabeth Powell)

 One of my favourites is The Final Dawn, a compelling story of treachery and murder set in Stalin’s era/

Do you have a preferred genre?  Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this?

At the top of my list is espionage, then historical and crime/thrillers non-fiction and fiction as these stimulate my interest and I always buy these books.

I’m not drawn to narrate erotica, science fiction and fantasy (involving elves and pixies) and wouldn’t usually buy books in those genres.

What are you working on at present/Just finished?

Currently I am nearing completion of an historical fiction set during the Anglo-Boer War called, ‘Crossing the Vaal’ by Archie Vincent.  It is beautifully descriptive and my top favourite to date.

*Tell us about your process for narrating?  (Be as elaborate as you like.)

I start by reading the whole book before auditioning. Production begins by marking up the whole script with any pronunciation, unusual words etc listed or researched. I liaise closely with the author if there are any queries.

The characters are all colour coded on the script and a spreadsheet sets out the ages, types of voice and other information for reference. Accents are sourced via the IDEA, You Tube, film and other archives. I engage a tutor – always a native speaker – in whatever foreign accent is needed.

After recording and proofing, the editing takes considerable time. My studio is in a quiet area. Nevertheless, noises such as cars, planes, lawnmowers, barking dogs occur, picked up by my extremely sensitive microphone and are all removed. Each chapter is paced and proofed again with a final QC done before mastering, saving to the required format and specifications of the publisher after which the whole production is uploaded. An ongoing backup procedure is followed throughout the production so that nothing is lost……

What aspects do you find most enjoyable? 

I love the actual narration and really enjoy getting totally immersed in the story.

Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this?

Yes, so far I have done mostly these but now give preference to projects with a PFH rate.

Do you listen to audiobooks?

Yes. I’m currently listening to David Rattray’s ‘The Day of the Dead Moon’ a thrilling history of the Zulu Wars in the 19thC.

*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling?

Whilst many people like listening to books whilst doing other things such as travelling, there are also people like me who prefer to read a book. For me it is partly because after many hours of working with sound, I like peace and quiet. I think they both have their value.

Please tell us a silly fact about yourself.

I have a dimple on each shoulder!

Where can we learn more about you?

http://www.melaniefraser-voice.com

http://www.spotlight.com/5892-8977-4349

https://www.acx.com/narrator?p=A25CGL7F987D8R

http://www.beeaudio.com/narrator/melaniefraser

http://www.audible.co.uk/search?searchNarrator=Melanie+Fraser

uk.linkedin.com/in/melaniefraservoiceuk

Social Media links:

I am not on Facebook or Twitter

MELANIE HAS ALSO BEEN RECRUITED TO NARRATE OUTSIDE THE WALLS – my latest short story with Diana L Wicker.

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/outside-the-walls-fantasy-short-story-new-release/

Audiobook Narrator Interview Number Six – Lynelle Bennett

Name:
Lynelle Daliah Bennett

*Tell us a bit about yourself:
I consider myself a very creative person.  My family kind of pursued the military route and I ended being more of the artist out of all of us.  I draw a lot, write stories, poems, play video games and dance for fun but my passion became singing.  I grew up training myself as a singer and hoped to one day become a star like most little girls.  I was self taught for a long time and went to college for Audio & Media Technology where I wanted to learn how to record and mix my own music and eventually sell it.  I then kind of went on a hiatus from singing in the studio and started to sing in community choirs. 

How did you become involved with audio book narration and production?
Well, eventually I kind of hit a snag in my career and really thought about what I really wanted to do.  I knew that I really wanted to use my voice in some way but I didn’t find the music industry as appealing anymore.  I then met a very awesome woman named Diana L. Wicker who shared her stories with me.  I then noticed there was a side to my voice that I had always ignored but when I thought about voice acting, I realized how much I really enjoy reading and how I tend to create different voices for the characters.  I write a lot too and I usually voice my own characters in my head so I thought that perhaps this route would be promising.  I reached out to Diana who was interested in making her stories into audio books but found that she wasn’t really able to do them herself so when I introduced the idea of me starting to pursue the voice over path, she was excited because now she had a way of getting her audio books.    

Do you have a preferred genre?  Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this?
I really enjoyed doing “The Dreamweaver’s Journey” because of all the different types of characters that I had to create.  It was fun figuring out what a Unicorn or Owl or Dragon would sound like.  It was especially intriguing trying to voice a goddess-like character like Lady Kali.  Fantasy was really fun in that regard.  However, I am open to anything really.  I would love to do a murder mystery or romance as well.  I really love the tones in those types of stories and feel that it would challenge me in a good way. 

What are you working on at present/Just finished?
I just finished “The Dreamweaver’s Journey” and I am probably going to start recording the next book in Diana’s series called “The Guardian Child’s Return.”  I’ve already read it and figured out the voices of the characters in that book so I’m hoping to record that soon.

What aspects do you find most enjoyable?
Inventing voices for all of the characters was both challenging and fun.  I really had to test my range and even play with changing the tone of my voice that I never really thought of before.  Characters like Lord Hyatt for example.  The male characters in particular were most challenging but I actually grew most fond of them over the female characters such as Lord Grypos and Nolan. 

*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling?
Absolutely!  There are many individuals who prefer to listen to a book while driving or even walking perhaps a pet or just getting some exercise or whatever.   I personally know that even visually impaired people most likely utilize audio books.  Why not?  

Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular?
As I previously stated, people can listen to books the way that they listen to music and the fact that they can pretty much take it anywhere makes it very convenient.  I think that may be the main reason why they are growing in popularity. 

Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book?
So far, my production process can still use some work.  I thought that I would finish Book 1 in one month but here we are, three to four months later and it’s finally been released.  I hope that it gets faster for the next time around. 

Please tell us a silly fact about yourself.
I think that I am a major geek.  I get so nerdy into games that a lot of people just can’t help but smack their heads.  I got so into a video game that I made a music tribute video based on my main characters and even drew, and painted a portrait of my main characters in the game as well.  It was an RPG so I was able to make up what the main hero looked like.  I don’t know if this is considered silly or obsessive.    

Where can we learn more about you?

So far the best place is Facebook.  I hope to get a website soon!  Also, the Dreamweaver’s Official Site is a good place to get more info on the books by Diana.    

Social Media links: https://www.facebook.com/lynelle.bennett
Official Site for Tales from Feyron:   www.talesfromfeyron.com

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Dreamweavers-Journey-The-Age-of-Awakenings-Book-1-Audiobook/B013J9VUAW/

http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Dreamweavers-Journey-The-Age-of-Awakenings-Book-1-Audiobook/B013J9WNOY/

Audiobooks – an author’s experience – Frankie Bow

Today I am pleased to welcome Frankie Bow. She has just released an audio book with narrator Nicole Gose, and Frankie has joined us to tell us what she has learned from the experience.

Over to you Frankie:

I’ve just released my audiobook, The Musubi Murder. It’s the first campus murder mystery set in Hawaii. The experience was great, and as of this writing I’m happy to report a 4.5 star rating on ten reviews on Audible.

There were some surprises along the way. Here are are four things that I didn’t expect:

  1. My narrator managed to impersonate me, without ever having heard my voice.Several friends, to whom I’ve gifted copies of the audiobook, have told me that they thought I was the narrator. I am not the narrator. That role was filled by Nicole Gose, a talented voice artist from Hawaii. The thing is, Nicole recorded the chapters without having ever heard my voice. And I know she doesn’t naturally sound like me, because I listened to her audition tapes. The only explanation I can think of is that she captured the “voice” of the author so well that it seemed that she was telling her own story, rather than reading someone else’s.
  1. A versatile narrator requires fewer dialog tags.In the written manuscript, you need dialog tags like “Pat said” in order to keep track of who’s talking, especially in three-way conversations. When your narrator can clearly voice three different characters, though, many of the tags become unnecessary–and annoying. After listening to the first pass, I actually went back and edited many of the dialog tags out of the manuscript. Nicole was very patient with me, and did the necessary edits and re-recording. Removing those few words made a big difference.
  1. It’s not going to turn out the way it sounded in your head. I thought I had written a low-key meditation on academic life, and I found myself listening to a boisterous comedy. Part of this was Nicole’s delivery (her comic timing is fantastic) and part of it is simply the medium. Producing an audiobook was a little like writing a play. I wasn’t calling all the shots anymore; I was a co-creator with the performer. And I knew not to micromanage.
  1. Audiobooks don’t have the discoverability of ebooks–yet.Audible doesn’t have the narrow categories that Amazon has, so there’s no “cozy mystery” category, just “modern detective.” That means that “The Cherry Cheesecake Murder” is in the same category as “The Burning Room.”

Audible doesn’t currently allow authors to put in keywords. So “The Musubi Murder” won’t come up under searches for “cozy mysteries,” “Hawaii,” “university,” or “campus.” (Also: I don’t recommend searching for “campus.”) Searching for “murder” does bring up “The Musubi Murder,” fortunately, because “murder” in the title.

The next book in the series is tentatively titled The Cursed Canoe. But if Audible still isn’t allowing keywords by the time it comes out, I may have to change the title to “The Cursed Canoe: A Funny Cozy Murder Mystery Set In Hawaii Also Sue Grafton Janet Evanovich Joanne Dobson Amanda Cross.”

Thanks Frankie, it certainly is a learning curve!

Here are the audiobook links:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Musubi-Murder-Unabridged/dp/B00S7LPC8Y/

http://www.amazon.com/The-Musubi-Murder/dp/B00S8J6W34/

And the hardback: http://www.amazon.com/The-Musubi-Murder-Frankie-Bow/dp/1432830740/

Audio Book Narrator Interview Number Three – Neil Hellegers

Name: Neil Hellegers

Tell us a bit about yourself: I am an actor, educator, and narrator who lives in Brooklyn, NYC. I’ve been acting professionally for  about 16 years, in basically every way an actor plies his or her trade: Shakespeare, on-camera commercials, film, tv, experimental theatre, commercial VO, video game VO, etc..  I’ve also taught acting for the University of Pennsylvania and The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. In addition, I’m an inveterate reader, which is what brought me to audiobook narration.

How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? Like many folks these days, I came to audiobook narration via the growing trend of home studio recording and production. I’ve worked in-studio as well, but my start came relatively recently, as I was looking for a way to productively fill the time between auditions and the like. I had always listened to audiobooks, during many years on the road for acting gigs, so the challenge was setting up a viable recording arrangement, learning how to use the darn thing, and finding work. This was, of course, on top of commuting my existing skill set actual act of narrating itself. Setting a consistent tone and pace is one thing, making a professional-quality recording of it is another thing entirely. Thank goodness we live in an age where almost every production issue imaginable has been hashed out on the internet! So, after about a year, I’ve reached a place where I’m confident in my home studio, freeing me to elaborate on my story telling skills. The veterans I’ve met tell me they usually settle in to that aspect after about 20 books or so, so at least I’m about halfway there!

Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? It’s been fairly varied. My first was a really unique contribution to the very-popular zombie genre, called Dead Drunk: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse One Beer at a Time, by Richard Johnson, a great book that has the grace to be exactly what it sounds like.  After that I did an instructional book about Zen meditation by Howard Fast (author and screenwriter of Spartacus, among many others). These two books had a surprising lot in common, if also totally different. More recently I’ve been working on a cycle of the works of H. P. Lovecraft, which has been very rewarding. There’s been a significant revival of attention to Lovecraft, both in spoken and written word, and I’ve always been a fan. My approach was not to read these tales as “horror” but as testimonies of awe and wonder…which then turn horrible. I’ve completed The Shunned House, which takes place, as much of HPL does, in Providence, RI, where I completed my MFA some time ago. I also just released an original collection called Precipitous Tales: Origins of Mythos, which contains four, early works. Putting together and naming a new presentation of Lovecraft has probably been my favourite endeavour.

Do you have a preferred genre?  Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? In my personal reading, I’ve been mostly working through a lot of science fiction, like Iain Banks’ Culture novels, which are amazing, but I also read quite a bit of fantasy and other genre fiction. That being said, I go through phases where I back away entirely from both of these, in favour of non-fiction, or new popular fiction. The bottom line for me is the writing and the story telling, and I would say the same goes for narration. Again, I’m far too new to the game to declare an area of focus, but if the book has a compelling, unique story to tell, that’s what I prefer. At this point, nothing is ruled out.

What are you working on at present/Just finished? I just finished Veil of the Dragon: Book One of the Prophecy of the Evarun, by Tom Barczak, which certainly fits the aforementioned criteria. There’s obviously a great deal of Epic Fantasy out there, but it takes a strong hand to craft one that offers something new, that resonates with the humanity of its audience, but doesn’t simply re-tread new ground.  Veil of the Dragon did that for me. Tom has a gift for world-building, generating an array of cultures with distinct mythologies, but also has a very lyrical sense of environment, both of which made for a gratifying narration experience.  The audiobook just became available, and I know Tom’s busy with the sequel.

I just started prep for a great non-fiction book, Whatever Happened to the Metric System?, by John Bemelmans Marciano,  that I’m recording at Audible next month (which I’m very, very excited about). Lots of fascinating political, military, and geometric research to sort through.

Tell us about your process for narrating?  (Be as elaborate as you like.) There are some consistencies for every title, such as being sure to not only read the whole thing beforehand to get a sense of structure, pace, and theme.  I usually move through the text slowly, taking notes, and planning out how I want each section to fit the next, develop, and conclude. Beyond that, the process varies depending on the demands of the book. If applicable, character lists and voices have to be generated, to have a distinct sound for each, but also how each character grows and/or changes as the book goes on. In the case of Veil of the Dragon, Tom and I had long conversations about the varied cultural origins of the characters, and how one grouping might sound in contrast to another, but also how exactly to pronounce the original language of names and places, while creating consistency for said cultural groupings.

Once all that preparation is done, I lock myself in my studio, and get to work. I’m constantly refining my recording process, always looking for better sound, and a more efficient procedure. Though as immersive as the technical aspects are, they are all in the service of the story telling. Time allowing, I listen back to make sure I’m meeting the developmental goals I set for myself, or altering set goals as I go. I try to do as much proofing as possible along the way, so I can later focus on just the storytelling. I’m rapidly approaching that place where I can outsource my editing, but for now, I’m applying a “sweep the stage floor” approach from my early days of acting: The more I know about every aspect of audiobook production, the more effective a narrator I will be, even if my only task is to show up and read.

What aspects do you find most enjoyable?  Storytelling. Dialects! The intimacy you create with the book, which is so much more than simply reading for pleasure. The collaboration with an author (which I try not to take for granted, as many of my authors are long dead). Listening to it when it’s all done, trying not to cringe too much at the quirks that I’m pretty sure only I can hear, and taking in the complete project I’ve done.

Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? At this point I still do, as I’m working to build a list of books in genres I’d like to work more often. That might not still be true in the near future, but for now I’m lined up to do sequels of previous Royalty Share books. That being said, I wouldn’t take on a RS if it the Rights Holder or author hasn’t created a considerable fan base, has a definite marketing plan, and, most of all, is telling a story I want to read.

Do you listen to audiobooks? These days more so, though admittedly often in a clinical manner, to get comparisons for style, pacing, and technique. I listen to hundreds of samples, though, which is mostly born out of the press of time and finances.

With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? I certainly think it’s a fixed manner of story telling, and the technology has certainly made it easier to record and listen to audiobooks (remember those tomes of cassettes?). I don’t think audiobooks will  trump other performance mediums, no, but will continue to serve their particular niche.

Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? Audiobooks have a place no other medium can fill. On one level, you can’t read while operating heavy machinery or doing chores around the house. Moreover, audiobooks are an extension of the literary tradition that also stretches back to the earliest form of storytelling. And aside from giving fans a second way to take in their favourite books, its something people can actually do together.  Having an app certainly makes this all easier, but I think people (like myself) who have always loved to read are coming to see audiobooks not as a substitute for reading, but as yet another way to absorb a story, with one that makes the most of the collaboration between author and narrator, and in that way, offers more than a solitary read.

Can you remember the first audiobook you owned? Yes! The Vampire Lestat, by Anne Rice, narrated by Frank Muller. Great stuff.

Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) They have been an excellent platform for getting started, and I’ve met a great community of narrators and authors from my work there. It takes a bit of close reading and follow-up on their policies, but such is life.

Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? Again, I’m new. But I really haven’t had a bad experience; I’ve been lucky to work with great authors and great publishers, dead and alive.

Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. I own a real broadsword.

Where can we learn more about you? You can read about what I’ve been up to, watch samples from my on-camera work, and listen to my voice work at the aptly named neilhellegers.com.

Social Media links:

@neilhellegers on Twitter

neilhell47 on Instagram

Neil Hellegers on FB

 

 

Audio Book Narrator Interview Number Two – Mike Legate

Name: Michael J Legate, by night known as Mike.

Tell us a bit about yourself: I was raised by theatre wolves.  I grew up behind the stage, basically.  My dad teaches theatre, as do I.  I went to school to learn theatrical sound design and someone decided that was reason enough to give me a job teaching all aspects of theatre design!  Sound design isn’t a huge part of my job anymore, so I look for opportunities elsewhere to scratch my audio itch.  Besides that, I’m 33, recently moved to Colorado and enjoy dark beer, Rueben sandwiches, and watching my two boys Jameson and Salem chase my German shepherd Oskar around the house.

How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? When I was younger I acted in a few plays.  I was never any good, but my favorite part was the cold reading that we’d all do at the very start of the production period.  I was excited just to read aloud my parts along with other people.  When I started going to college, I would work on a few shows and I would use my voice and I was always surprised whenever someone didn’t recognize my voice.  I’ve always enjoyed reading to other people, and now that I’ve got kids to read to, I’ll never be out of practice.

Do you have a preferred genre? Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? Fantasy and science fiction are my preferred genres as they provide the widest variety of voice work.  Trying out new voices on characters is immensely entertaining.  I try to stay away from financial self-help books.

 What are you working on at present? I’ve just up the short story collection “Tales of Erana” by AL Butcher.  It’s been a fascinating book to work on, since each story has a different feel than the one before it – one story will be a tragic love story involving the thunderous wrath of a goddess and the next would be a lighthearted lesson in why you don’t mix your magical potions up.  It’s been a lot of fun.

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Tales-of-Erana-Audiobook/B00LB8WH0G/

http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Tales-of-Erana-Audiobook/B00LB8Q4JG/

*Tell us about your process for narrating? Whenever I design a show, I’ll read the script all the way through for fun, and I’ll try not to think about designing, although inevitably my designer light seeps through the cracks a little.  I try to look at the script from the perspective of an audience member first, and then I can go back and begin to read it from a designer’s point of view.  Audiobook manuscripts are sort of the same way.  I have to read it as unbiased as I can so I can be affected as a reader first, and then I’ll have a better idea of what the author wants.  I’ll try a few different voices to use for the narrator, based on how the mood of the script feels.  A dark thriller sort of novel would lead to a more serious sounding voice, that sort of thing.

I have a pretty cheap rig with a homemade pop filter in front of the microphone, so my first job is setting everything up and doing a few voice exercises.  I’ll read for a few minutes first to let my voice warm up and then start recording.  If I mess a word up, I’ll pause for a moment and redo the whole sentence again.  I use Sony Vegas for all my mixing.

What aspects do you find most enjoyable? I really enjoy doing a mix of different voices.  I grew up plastered to the television on Saturday mornings, and I continue to watch cartoons to this day and have a deep respect for animation voice artists.  I’m also delighted any time I can add atmospheric sounds or music for added effect.

Do you listen to audiobooks? My day job and family doesn’t give me a lot of time to sit down and listen to audiobooks, but I honestly also have difficulty listening to audiobooks at length, since my mind sort of drifts away.  I’ve always been a daydreamer, so unless it’s a very compelling story (or a short one) I generally tend not to listen to them.  I love podcasts, however, so figure that one out.

With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of reading? The paperback will never die, and I think that’s a good thing.  Every new bastion of technology brings about a new way to tell a story.  Just look at how engrossing the storylines are in video games nowadays!  There will always be something new and shiny to come out that can tell a story in a different way, but the key isn’t going to be in the tech itself, but how to really use that tech to help tell a great story.

Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? A whole lot of people travel to work by themselves, and everything we own is becoming more incorporated into our iPods and smartphones.  Everyone is potentially carrying around a little book reader with them at all times.

Can you remember the first audiobook you owned? I remember as a kid, I had a huge Disney collection of read-along books on cassettes.  They were the kind that made a ‘ding’ sound when you were supposed to turn the page.  I remember that I found the audio more much more engrossing than the book illustrations I was supposed to be looking at, so I’d just sit there and listen instead…

Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. I have bent pinky fingers and can repeatedly crack all my finger joints.  I am truly an endless font of talent.