Category Archives: General

Tomorrow: Summer Shorts 2014 Comes to EDIWTB

Tomorrow (Sunday), Summer Shorts 2014 stops here at EDWITB. I will be featuring a audio short story from Susanna Daniel called “Sharks and Seals”, performed by Karen White, as well as an interview with both Daniel and White about the story and their collaboration. You can listen to the story for free on my blog on Sunday 6/30, so be sure to stop by and give it a try. It’s a really short story – 3 minutes or so – and very memorable. See you tomorrow

Q&A With Audiobook Narrator Patrick Lawlor

Patrick-LawlorI have had the pleasure of meeting audiobook narrator Patrick Lawlor twice, at BEA 2013 and 2014. He’s an incredibly friendly, interesting guy who has recorded over 300 audiobooks in just about every genre. He has been an Audie Finalist 3 times, and has received several AudioFile Earphones Awards. He has won one Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award, Numerous Library Journal and Kirkus Starred Audio Reviews, Multiple Editors Pick, Top 10 and Year’s Best Lists.

Patrick has helped fuel my obsession with audiobook narrators by answering my questions here on EDIWTB as part of June is Audiobook Month. Thanks, Patrick! You can follow Patrick on Facebook here.

Q: How did you get into audiobook narration?

A: I started out as an actor, primarily on stage. Actually, my MFA is in Classical Acting, primarily Shakespeare. I have done all I can to make a living as an actor, and part of that has been expanding my definition of what it means to be a working actor. Subsequently, over the years, I have done stage, film, television, radio plays, theme parks, renaissance faires, murder mystery weekends, corporate training projects, industrial films. I’ve been an actor, director, stuntman, fight choreographer, teacher, tour guide, dancer, pub singer, bad mime, and yes, waiter, bartender and LOTS of file clerk gigs.

I was very lucky to get into audiobooks at a time when there were a lot less people trying to do this for a living. The Audio Publishers’ Association held a yearly job market, which was, in essence, a chance for prospective narrators to audition for a bunch of publishers at once, and then have several opportunities to socialize with them and start to get to know them. I was able to make several lasting relationships and got my first gig halfway through the day! I did 5 books my first year, 9 my second year, and about 12 my third. Since then, I average between 25 and 30 books a year. This has become my full-time job and I couldn’t be happier about it. I still do theatre when I can, but mainly I record. I have a studio in my home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and these days, record most of my work there, though I still travel to studios all over the country.

Q: How do you prepare for a new narration role? Do you read the whole book through to get a sense of the characters and story?

A: As far as my preparation is concerned, I have a fairly flexible routine. Each book is unique and presents unique challenges. Some have a lot of technical, foreign or invented words that need pronunciations. Some need a lot of character voices and/or accents or dialects. Sometimes I have to learn a whole way of talking, for instance if I’m reading military nonfiction, business books  or any number of things I don’t personally know about. Nothing is worse than listening to an authority who obviously doesn’t really know what he’s talking about! Generally, though, I always read the book (well, almost always. Sometimes time prohibits a pre-read). I make a list of all words I don’t know how to say. You’d be surprised how many everyday words you think you know that you’ve never actually said aloud. I pay special attention to real people’s names, regional pronunciations, odd words and technical words and phrases. If possible, I talk to the author to get her/his take on pronunciations and anything else they might find important. If it is a nonfiction, I then start to record. I normally do not do any distinct voices for nonfiction, unless they are specifically called for or the person has a famous voice. If it is fiction, this is where the fun starts. Character work! I come up with voices, accents and dialects for every character in the book. I draw as much as possible from clues in the text – accent, stutter, quiet, fast talker, etc. Once this is done, I hit the studio!

Q: What is your favorite genre for narrating?

A: Honestly, I love all genres. I really like the diversity of the material I get to read. If I had to pick a favorite genre, though, I’d have to say its a tie between Crime Thrillers and Young Audience books. Oh, and Dog Books! I LOVE Dog Books! And Romance. I’ve been doing a lot more of that lately and really enjoying it! Oh, heck! I like most of the stuff I read! Which is a good thing, because what I read for work is pretty much all I read. I don’t really get the opportunity to read much outside of what I’m recording, so I’m lucky I enjoy it! Mostly, when I do get the chance to look at outside stuff, it’s Runner’s World magazine, or stuff like the Harry Potter books. (Which should tell you how long its been since I read as a leisure activity!) My 13 year old niece is after me to read the Divergent books, so I foresee those will be next.

Q: How much interaction, if any, do you have with the author while you’re recording?

A: I really value interaction with the authors whose work I record. Unfortunately, I don’t get to do it enough. Whenever I do, I get fantastic insight into the work, and am able to craft my work to better serve what they have done. I feel that, with very few exceptions, narrators and authors should do everything they can to develop a working relationship. It only helps the work. This is especially true when dealing with a series. I have one author that I have worked with now for 10 years, recording over 20 books. Her name is Suzanne Brockmann and she writes mainly Romance. But FUN, action-adventure, Navy SEAL, high-octane Romance. Lots of humor, action and really good writing. They are the most fun books I do. I look forward to working on them. Generally, I read them with a female partner, as Suz writes in a deep POV style that lends itself to dual reads. I have had great partners in these reads, mainly Melanie Ewbank, but also Renee Raudman and one book with Angela Dawe! With that kind of talent, really, all I have to do is show up! Suz and I hit it off right away, and over the years we have gotten to the point where we are in each others’ heads. I know what she is going to say as I’m reading, and she knows how I’m going to sound as she’s writing! Mel and Renee and I have bonded with Suz in a way that is remarkable and fairly rare. It has gotten to the point where she knows us and writes characters specifically for us to read.  We have developed a shorthand that makes our jobs much easier. There is always a real team feel when we do a Suzanne Brockmann book. In addition, Suz and I have gotten to be friends, though I just met her face-to-face for the first time last month in New York. Our relationship allows us to cut to the chase when we’re working. I like to think we both do better work because of it. I know it’s more fun!

Q: Anything else you would like my readers to know about you?

A: What else can I tell you about myself? I have won 4 Audiofile Earphones Awards and a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award. I have been an Audie Award Finalist 3 times. I have several starred reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. I have been featured in numerous Best Of, Year’s Best, Editor’s choice, Fan Favorite and other similar lists. I am the only working male audiobook narrator in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (There ARE two female narrators, but one of them lives in a suburb, and the other does mostly theatre). I’m happily married to the very talented filmmaker, Karen Erbach (check out the Girl Scouts of America’s 100th Anniversary commercial, To Get Her There. It still airs all over the country! I’m a huge fan!) We have a fantastic 4 year-old American Staffordshire (Pittie) Mix named Charlie, who is, quite possibly, the best dog in the world, and we foster a 1 year old Boxer/Pit mix named Billy who is… stinking cute and trying really hard to be a good dog. To relax in our spare time, we run marathons.

Q&A With Audiobook Narrator Therese Plummer

Last week, I was in NY for BEA 2014. One of my favorite parts of BEA is the annual audiobook narrator-blogger lunch. Last year was my first one, and I was very excited to go again this year. It’s an amazing opportunity to sit down with a bunch of very talented narrators and talk to them about the process of bringing a book to life via audio. I was in heaven.

Therese

Therese Plummer (r) and me (l) at the narrator/blogger lunch at BEA 2014

I met a number of new narrators this year and also got to catch up with some friends who I met last year. At one point, I told Tavia Gilbert (who will be interviewed on EDIWTB later this month) that I had written a Top 10 Best Audiobooks post last June for June is Audiobook Month (JIAM). I read her the list of audiobooks, and she told me that one of the narrators – Therese Plummer, who narrated Faith by Jennifer Haigh – was sitting down at the other end of the table. I totally geeked out and had to go down to meet Therese in person. We hit it off instantly and bonded over our love of Jennifer Haigh. A week later, we’re connected on social media and she has answered a Q&A on EDIWTB.

So here is the Q&A with Therese, who is a FANTASTIC narrator. You can really get a sense of why she loves what she does, and why she’s so good at it. There is a lot of dedication there to making an emotional connection with the material and being faithful to the author’s story. I will definitely be seeking out more of Therese’s work.

Q: How did you get into audiobook narration?

A; I took a class with Robin Miles about 8-9 years ago and auditioned for something with BBC at what was then Talking Books in midtown Manhattan. Mike Charzuk, Executive Producer at Audible, Inc., heard my audition and called me at my day job. I was working as an assistant in a financial firm to pay my bills while auditioning and trying to make it as an actress. Mike mentioned hearing my audition and wanted to know if I was willing to come in and audition for him as a narrator? I had no idea who Audible was or what he was asking me but I said yes of course I will come and audition. I read and landed two contracts with Audible. I took a week’s vacation from my day job and that week I worked every day recording my first Audiobook, Susan Mallery’s “Delicious.” At night I was rehearsing for an off-off Broadway show. I was in heaven and knew this what was I was supposed to be doing. Working as an actress! The day I returned to my day job my boss called me into his office and said they had to let me go as there was not enough work to justify my position. 5pm that same day Mike called me and asked if I was available to start narrating earlier as his other narrator could not finish her contract due to pregnancy. I said, “Yes that should work out just fine, thank you so much!” Since then I have been so blessed to work for so many amazing publishers around NYC.

Q: How do you prepare for a new narration role? Do you read the whole book through to get a sense of the characters and story?

I absolutely do. I have to. I read the entire story and I learn about my characters and arcs and tones and moods and flow of the story. I go back and underline in different colors my characters so my brain registers once I am in the booth whose voice is coming up. I record off of an iPad these days and I use a program called iAnnotate that is a godsend in prepping my stories. The author tells me everything I need to know. I do not have to reinvent anything. My job is to honor the text and bring his/her words to life through my acting. It is such a gift to do this.

Q: What is your favorite book that you’ve recorded? Any books on your dream list?

A: My favorite book I recorded to date was Faith by Jennifer Haigh. I am not sure if it was because I grew up Irish Catholic and found the entire story so completely fascinating but I was able to connect to Jennifer’s characters in such an intimate way that I felt like I was in the living room telling this story to my sisters. It felt like family. She is a superb storyteller and my job felt so easy as she gave me such descriptive and palpable characters that to bring them to life was a joy for me. I told my producer, Paula Parker, the last day of recording that I didn’t want it to end. It is my Mom and Dad’s favorite audiobook to date. That makes me happy!

I’ve always wanted to record To Kill a Mockingbird or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Q. Where do you do your recording?

A: When I am working for Audible I travel to Newark, NJ to record in their booths. I record in NYC for Recorded Books, Harper, Penguin and Hachette.

Q: What is your favorite genre for narrating?

I actually LOVE YA books! Julie Kagawa’s vampire series that I have been so lucky to narrate rocks my world with every book. I don’t know if it’s because I am emotionally 16 on a good day or what but I love those characters and stories so much! I also love Literary Fiction. Besides Faith my other favorites have been Return To Me by Justina Chen, Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Want Not by Jonathan Miles and The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. And I will admit I adore recording Romance. I have been working on a series for Robyn Carr for the last five years. I was lucky enough to do her Virgin River and Thunder Point series and I literally built this town in Northern California with each book adding more and more characters until I literally felt like they were my family.

Amazing!

Q: How much interaction, if any, do you have with the author while you’re recording?

I have adopted Robyn Carr as a second Mom and she has accepted. She and I were able to do an event together at the Mid-Winter Library Conference in Seattle for Recorded Books and it was amazing. I could sit and talk with her for days. She is literally the sweetest, nicest and funniest woman I have ever met. Recording Justina Chen’s Return To Me was another incredible experience for me. She was able to call us with input during the recording and was just so excitedI was narrating all I wanted to do when the book was over was give her a hug. The story was incredible. I realized she was in Seattle and I reached out to her the weekend I attended the conference with Robyn Carr asking her if she wanted to get tea. She said I am going to throw my book release party the weekend you are in town and would you be my guest of honor and read a section of the book? Well after getting off the floor I shrieked ”Yes of course!”. The book party was hosted in a bookstore and was packed with all of the people she had based the characters in her book off of. As I realized this I became very emotional. I said to her and the audience when I was finished reading, “Thank you for allowing me such an intimate seat on your life story. I realize at this moment why what we do as writers and narrators is so powerful.” That day shifted something in me about the work I do on such a fundamental level. What a gift it is to tell people’s stories and be a part of their healing journeys. I felt connected to the human race in such a deep way.

I will reach out to authors especially when working on their book has changed me in some way. I sent Jennifer Haigh and Jonathan Miles emails thanking them for choosing me to record their books and shared with them what the experience was like for me. They were both very grateful and gracious.

Q: What do you like to read in your spare time?

Ha! The joke is that I have started seven different books five years ago and can’t finish any of them because of needing to prep my Audio books. But on my nightstand right now is Her by Christa Parravani. I read a few pages before bed each night.

Q: Anything else you would like my readers to know about audiobooks?

I always heard my mom talk about audiobooks and how amazing they were and I was like yeah yeah just read the book! Little did I know how transformative a story can become with the right voice narrating it. I like to think I am able to bring some joy to someone listening to my narration. That service is why I do what I do but also because there are so many great stories to be told. It is the oldest form of entertainment and I am blessed and lucky to do it almost every day.

June Is Audiobook Month 2014

June is a great month for many reasons, but one of my favorites is that it is Audiobook Month! A whole month to celebrate the wonderful narrators and audio productions of equally wonderful books.

I will be doing a few things here on EDIWTB to mark June is Audiobook Month (JIAM). Last year, I ran a series of three interviews with audiobook narrators. I am lucky to be able to do it again this year. Watch the blog for three Q&A posts with Therese Plummer, Tavia Gilbert, and Patrick Lawlor. I’d like to thank them in advance for taking the time to answer my questions – I have a lot of them!

Summer Shorts June is Audiobook MonthI am also participating in a blog post series called Summer Shorts. In this June series, a new short story is posted every day on a different blog, featuring an audiobook narrator reading the work of one of his or her favorite authors. Readers can listen to a different short story for free each day, and buy the whole collection from Tantor (with 20 additional bonus tracks) for $9.99 (effective through June 30). Proceeds from the purchases will support ProLiteracy, a literacy outreach and advocacy organization.

Here is the full schedule of shorts, as well as the blogs on which they will be available. On June 29, I will be featuring a reading of Susanna Daniel’s Sharks and Seals by Karen White, a longtime friend of EDIWTB and one of the narrators I interviewed for JIAM last year. You can read more about Summer Shorts here. Thanks to Xe Sands and Karen White for organizing Summer Shorts and inviting me to participate!

This month I will also update my Top 10 Best Audiobooks list which I posted last June.

BEA 2014 Wrap-Up

I spent three glorious days in NY last week for Book Expo America 2014 (BEA).

This year, I focused on learning about new books (mostly fiction) at a number of panels held over the course of Thursday and Friday, as well as on obtaining copies of a select few galleys. I discovered some unknown authors by wandering the floor and checking out galley stacks and author signings. I also attended some fun off-campus events, such as the HarperCollins 2014 Fall Preview and Blogger Party, the Bloggers Recommend happy hour, and the annual audiobook narrator-blogger lunch (which I LOVE going to – more on that later this week).

Here are some of my impressions of BEA 2014, as well as some photos:

1. There are a LOT of exciting books coming out in the next few months. I picked up galleys from a lot of big-name authors that I have enjoyed in the past – Sue Miller, Jane Smiley, Ann Hood – and also heard some very passionate editors rave about upcoming books from new authors. These new authors are edgy and have written about difficult topics, which I found encouraging. It shows that fiction is alive and innovating. 

2. Celebrity memoirs are as big as ever. There were huge lines for author signings by such stars as Neil Patrick Harris (who wasn’t even signing a book!), Angelica Huston, and Billy Idol, not to mention the ticketed author events that also featured celebrities. (I didn’t wait in these lines.) I also attended a panel discussion with Jonathan Tropper, who adapted his novel This Is Where I Leave You for the big screen, along with the movie’s director Shawn Levy and stars Tina Fey and Jason Bateman. It was a huge event, with hundreds of people turning out. Tropper spent a lot of time talking about the fascinating process of adapting a novel into a screenplay.

3. But the really long lines were for YA authors. The longest line I saw during BEA was for a signing by Lois Lowry. RJ Palacio also had a huge line for a signed tote bag. There were many other lines for authors I’ve never heard of, and I presume that most of them were YA.

4. E-readers might be big, but galleys moved quickly. I saw stacks of books one minute that were gone 15 minutes later.

5. Big news for audiobooks: a new format that features MP3 files and that allows a whole book to be saved onto a single disc. This will make audiobook production cheaper and faster, which should benefit the publishing industry and listeners alike.

6. Readers – whether they are bloggers, librarians, educators, or industry insiders – are as passionate as ever. Everyone seemed very excited to be at BEA, and were enthusiastic about the authors they interacted with and the books they collected.

And now the pics!

Signed copies:

photo 1Unsigned fiction(mostly):

photo 2

 

Books from the HarperCollins 2014 Fall preview and blogger party:

photo 3Books I picked up for friends and other odds and ends:

photo 4And books for my kids:

photo 5

Here are some authors who signed my books:

Jane Smiley:

photo 1 (5)

 

Ann Hood:

photo 2 copy

Sue Miller:

photo 5 copy

BJ Novak:

photo 3 (1)

Jeff Kinney:

photo 1 copy

RJ Palacio:

photo 4 copy

I am already excited for next year!

I Am Still Here!

Hi EDIWTB readers! I have not dropped off the face of the earth. I am here, and still reading, but have just been swamped with work lately and haven’t gotten through anything. Do you ever go through phases where nothing sticks and you can’t get lost in a book? That’s what happened to me.

I gave up on the most recent Mother-Daughter book club read, which was Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Just couldn’t get into it.

I also gave up on Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music, which I had started on audio. Couldn’t get into that one either.

So that set me back a bit. I am now listening to Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat on audio, which I’m enjoying (especially the DC setting) and reading Ann Hood’s The Obituary Writer, which I am liking quite a bit.

Next week, I head to Book Mecca in NY, also known as Book Expo America (BEA), where I will convene with my fellow book bloggers and get to see my favorite audiobook narrators and hopefully pick up a bunch of books. I vow that this year I will be ultra picky – I still have stacks of books from last year’s BEA that I haven’t cracked.

So that’s the update from here. I will hopefully have reviews to post soon. I hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend – what are YOU reading?

Winner of TIME AND AGAIN Giveaway

Congratulations to the winner of the giveaway for Time And Again by Jack Finney! The winner is Suzie Marker. Enjoy the book – it is fantastic!

Thanks to everyone who entered.