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 Meanwhile, before my wife’s death in 2016 I had gradually withdrawn from the world of I.T. to become her full-time caregiver, and since then I have reinvented myself as a narrator, video maker, and digital artist.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

Battlefield 1066 -Spotlights – Victoria Zigler

#SWauthors #History #Childrensauthor

Name: Victoria Zigler, or Tori for short.

Tell us a bit about yourself I’m a blind vegetarian poet and children’s author.  Born and raised near the foot of the Black Mountains of South-West Wales, UK, I now live very close to the town of Hastings on the South-East coast of England, UK.  I share my home with my Canadian husband, and our gang of rodents (which currently consists of 3 degus, 1 gerbil, 2 rats, and 2 chinchillas) and spend most of my time either reading or writing.

Set during the Battle of Hastings tell us a little more about your story

My Battle of Hastings story is about a young boy named Eadweard who, along with his best friend, Cerdic, thought it would be fun to join the ranks of men marching to fight in the battle, even though they officially aren’t old enough and had been forbidden to do so by their Fathers.  They have dreams of being great war heroes, but soon discover the reality of war is nothing like what they imagined it to be.

It’s a children’s historical fiction story, but I’ve put an “eight years and older” warning on the book’s blurb, because some of the scenes in the story really aren’t suitable for readers younger than that, in my opinion.  After all, it is a story about a battle, and I can’t show the reality of war without showing some violence and blood.

What prompted you to write this one?

I wanted to branch out and try other genres, and this year being the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings inspired me to write a story about the battle.  I quickly decided that I wanted to tell the story of the events of the battle reasonably accurately – as much as can be done without a time machine, which I don’t have access to, unfortunately.  But I also wanted the story to be from the point of view of someone who wasn’t some famous war hero.  Part of my preference for someone who wasn’t a great war hero was because I wanted the person to be a child, and part of it was because I wanted fighting to be new to him.  I wanted to tell the story of the battle, while at the same time showing that war isn’t the amazing adventure some people think it to be.  I also wanted the book to be suitable for middle grade readers, which is why it needed to be a young lad who was the main character.  After looking up everything I could find on the battle, and letting those thoughts simmer in my mind for a couple of months, I sat down to write the story, and “Eadweard – A Story Of 1066” is the result.  To my knowledge, Eadweard and Cerdic themselves never existed.  However, boys like them would have, and the battle itself was very real.

How much research was involved? I already knew some of the details of the battle, partially from doing an essay on it during the time I was homeschooled in my teens, and partially because I live not far from Hastings, and it’s almost impossible to live close to Hastings and not know one or two facts (especially when you have an interest in history, as well as random facts, so pay attention to those kinds of things).  However, I still made sure to spend plenty of time researching my facts as accurately as possible.  I also happen to be very close to someone who is a huge history buff, a fellow writer, and essentially a walking encyclopaedia, so I asked him if he’d be a beta reader for me.  Thankfully, he agreed, so was able to help me out with anything I wasn’t sure about.

What was the most fascinating thing you learned from this experience?

I’m really not sure how to answer this one.  I found the whole thing fascinating; I like history.

Who do you think is one of the most important historical figures in British history?

I think the most important person in history is whoever figured out how to create and manipulate fire, because fire is the most useful thing in the world.  It doesn’t matter if you benefit from the things fire does for us directly by sitting in front of a roaring blaze, or indirectly by benefiting from the power that’s caused by a chain reaction started by burning some kind of fuel, if you’re a human being, chances are you’ll be benefiting from fire in your daily life… Especially in extremely cold weather.  Although, not quite as much as you might have had Thomas Edison not figured out about electricity.

Who do you believe to be the rightful claimant – William or Harold Godwinson? Why?

I think Harold is the rightful claimant.  I know William believes Harold promised him the throne, but it’s William’s word against Harold’s on that one.  Besides, even if he did, Harold was given the crown by people who held enough authority that their choice to do so was accepted.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s that; once he’s king, he’s king.  If everyone thought that way though, the battle wouldn’t have happened, and neither would many others throughout history.

What other books have you written?

How long have you got? Haha! No, I really mean it! OK, I’ll summarize: to date, I’ve published seven poetry collections and 42 stories of various lengths (including “Eadweard – A Story Of 1066” and the story that was published in the “Wyrd Worlds II” anthology).  My “Kero’s World” and “Degu Days Duo” books are semi-fictionalized stories based on the lives of my actual pets, my “Magical Chapters Trilogy” and “Zeena Dragon Fae” books are fantasy stories, my “Toby’s Tales” books are based on my own adjustments after losing my sight, “My Friends Of Fur And Feather” and “Rodent Rhymes And Pussycat Poems” are pet themed poetry collections written for and about real pets I’ve owned or known, the rest of my poetry books are random collections of poetry, all my stand alone stories are aimed at children of middle grade reading level or younger and cover a few different genres (though they’re mainly fantasy stories, fairy tales, animal stories, or some combination of the three) and my story in “Wyrd Worlds II” is a fantasy story.  I have plans for plenty more in the near future.

 

Character Questions

Who are you? Tell us about yourself.

My name is Eadweard, and I’m nine years old, though I’m tall for my age, so look a little older.  My Father isn’t a rich lord, but we have enough money to live comfortably, and for my Father to have two sets of armour.  His new armour is much nicer than the old stuff, but the old armour is still  in good enough condition that he kept it for me; he says I’ll grow in to it properly one day.

What faith do you hold? Are you devout?

I’m no priest, nor do I plan to become one.  I believe in God though, of course, and say my prayers.

What is your moral code?

My Father always taught me that a warrior should be prepared to die to defend their leader and loved ones.

Would you die for your beliefs?

I don’t actually want to die.  I know I should be prepared to do so, but that doesn’t mean I want it to happen.  If I’m going to die though, I want it to be in a way that will bring honour to my family, and make my Father proud of me.

Would you kill for them?

I would try to.  Though that’s not as easy to do as it looks.  It turns out fighting with practice swords is a lot easier than fighting in a real battle.

How did you become embroiled in this battle for the crown?

Well… *Looks guilty* I wasn’t supposed to be involved.  My Father said I wasn’t ready for battle, and ordered me to stay home.  My best friend, Cerdic, was told the same by his Father.  We disobeyed though, and found a way to join the ranks of marching men.  You won’t tell our Fathers, will you?

Honestly – who do you think is the rightful claimant?

King Harold is the rightful claimant, of course.  The Witon said he should be King, and they wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true, would they?

Were you afraid during the battles?

I tried to pretend I wasn’t, so the others wouldn’t think me a coward, but I was afraid throughout most of the battle.  I’m pretty sure Cerdic was too.  Part of my fear was fear of what my Father would do if he found out I’d disobeyed him and found a way to join the battle after all, and part of it was the actual battle itself.

Have you a family?

I’m my parents’ eldest child.  I have three younger siblings.  My eldest sister is only a year younger than me, and often helps our Mother to keep an eye on our younger brother and sister, who are hardly more than babies.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope to have already shown my skill in battle, and gained enough notice as a great warrior that my heroic deeds are rewarded.  That would make my Father proud.  Then he won’t be quite so angry that I disobeyed him when he said I wasn’t ready to join a real battle.

Links/cover etc.

Author links:

Website: http://www.zigler.co.uk

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/toriz

Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Zigler/424999294215717

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/victoriazigler

Blog: http://ziglernews.blogspot.co.uk

 

Buy links for “Eadweard – A Story Of 1066”

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/652726

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/eadweard-victoria-zigler/1124182601

Apple iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/book/eadweard-a-story-of-1066/id1137551399

Also available from other sites Smashwords distributes to… Paperback coming soon!

eadweard-a-story-of-1066-cover-1-1600x2400

Battlefield 1066 – spotlights – Barbara G Tarn

Name: Barbara G.Tarn

Tell us a bit about yourself

I was born in the boot-shaped country dripping into the Mediterranean sea, but having lived abroad at a young age, I currently feel international, a woman with no country that sometimes is quite sick of the whole crazy planet. I love history, especially the Middle Ages (11th to 13th century), and making up stuff, although I learned the value of research even for the craziest idea – be it fantasy or science fiction. I write mostly SFF these days, having exhausted any will to talk about current events and today’s people.

Set during the Battle of Hastings tell us a little more about your story

Here’s the blurb: Nineteen-year-old Robert Malet followed William the Bastard to England to claim the English throne. The battle near the small town of Hastings is the beginning of the Norman conquest of England, but also of Robert’s second life.
A vampire in 12th century Europe traveling, fighting and meeting his siblings in darkness, changing names through the years when his mortal life is gone.
Follow Robert Malet, Brother Geoffrey, Robert Capuchon and Mercadier through the years. History and fantasy based on medieval chronicles for a Vampires Through the Centuries novella.

What prompted you to write this one?

When Steph Bennion suggested we write something around the Battle of Hastings, I thought it would be the prefect setting for one of my vampires stories. The original idea was about a Viking woman through the centuries who could be at the battle of Hastings. Just an episode of her long life – she pursues her love through the centuries without turning him into a vampire, simply looking for his next reincarnation! 😉

As the second novel developed, I decided it should be someone actually turned at the battle – with the Viking woman and the berserker passing through Kaylyn’s novel along with Bran the Raven, the maker of them all. You shall encounter Robert also in the novel Kaylyn the Sister-in-Darkness that will come out Nov.2, but this is his story from his point of view.

How much research was involved?

I had already studied the 11th and 12th centuries for a shelved historical novel, so I pulled out my old Histoire de France en Bandes Dessinnées (history of France in comic-book form from the late 1970s) and saw they had William the Conqueror and other interesting characters.

To make sure the battle itself was neatly done, I bought an Osprey Publishing book about that campaign – based on the two or three chronicles of the time.

For later times, I went back to my research on William Marshal and Richard Lionheart.

What was the most fascinating thing you learned from this experience?

That the Normans had ugly haircuts! 😉 My poor cover artist almost gave up drawing Robert, although I had sent her the images of how the French artist had drawn William the Conqueror…

Who do you think is one of the most important historical figures in British history?

History is written down and recorded by winners. And it gets rewritten through the centuries. Robin Hood, Roland or King Arthur – who knows who the actual people were? What were they actually called and what did they actually do?

That said, there are some chronicles left – to be taken with a grain of salt, since usually it’s copies of long lost originals (something that applies to the gospels as well, but I digress). I think that there was no real England as we know it today in the 11th century. The Danes, the Saxons, the Angles all mixed up – and then the Normans, who had managed to get a piece of land from the King of France, decided they wanted a piece of it too…

The Anglo-Norman nobility after the conquest spoke French, not English. Richard Lionheart spent only six months of his short reign in England – he was Norman, he couldn’t care less about what happened beyond the channel! He was too busy trying to keep his continental estates…

Who do you believe to be the rightful claimant – William or Harold Godwinson? Why?

I don’t really have an opinion on this. The great empires (Roman, Frank) had fallen to pieces, but there’s always someone who want to rebuild them, isn’t it?

What other books have you written?

Three more Vampires Through the Centuries (with more to come next year), a science fantasy series called Star Minds and then there’s my fantasy world of Silvery Earth… lots of titles, but also lots of collections and mostly standalone! Full list here.

 

Character Questions

 

Who are you? Tell us about yourself

I am Robert, son of William Malet, one of the few proven companions of Duke William. I was born in Gravelle-Saint-Honorine nineteen years ago.

What faith do you hold? Are you devout?

I am Christian, of course, and I’m as devout as the other knights around me. Bishop Odo celebrated mass and blessed us before joining us in the battle against the English. Yes, bishops can also be fearsome warriors in my time and great landholders as well. I know that Archbishop Baldwin took King Richard’s army to the Holy Land all by himself…

What is your moral code?

I am a knight and a man of honor. I kill only in battle.

Would you die for your beliefs?

I’d die for my lord and liege. I’d die to protect the land, my family and their estates.

Would you kill for them?

If my lord and liege asks me to. Or if someone threatens me or mine.

How did you become embroiled in this battle for the crown?

I followed my father and the Duke of Normandy, whom I admire greatly. It was actually my first real battle and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Honestly – who do you think is the rightful claimant?

Honestly, I can’t say. You see, my father is related to King Harold… but he still fights by Duke William’s side!

Were you afraid during the battle?

I’m part of the mighty Norman cavalry. No, I’m not afraid, even though the damn English had raised that wall of shields. But then the berserker attacked me…

Have you a family?

Parents, siblings and soon a Norman bride.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

As one of the dozen or so greatest landholders in England.

 

 

Links/cover etc.

blog: http://creativebarbwire.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BarbaraGTarn

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4717133.Barbara_G_Tarn

Author Central http://www.amazon.com/Barbara-G.Tarn/e/B0050P0R2G

Where to find everything: http://www.unicornproductionsbook.com

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