Tag Archives: June is Audiobook Month

June Is Audiobook Month Blog Tour and Giveaway

It’s June! My favorite month because of the long days, the glorious weather, and the promise of summer ahead. It’s also Audiobook Month, the annual celebration of all things related to audiobooks.

I’ve been very vocal here on EDIWTB about my love of audiobooks. I got hooked when I started listening about 8 years ago. I always have an audiobook going in the car, and listening has not only allowed me to add many more books to my list each year, but it has given me a whole new appreciation for the genre. I am obsessed with audiobooks – how they are cast, produced and performed. Writing this blog has luckily given me the opportunity to get to know some narrators, and I think they are some of the coolest people on the planet.

So I was very excited when I was asked to participate in a blog tour for June Is Audiobook Month. First, check out five awesome audiobooks below, if you’re looking for a new listen. Second, check out the other posts in the tour, which will continue throughout June with many more audiobook recommendations from other bloggers. And finally, leave me a comment below with the name of a favorite audiobook to enter into a contest to win an awesome giveaway: three free downloads from Audiobooks.com and a pair of headphones!

5 recent audiobooks that I loved:

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal is my favorite book so far of 2017, and the audio was just as good as the print. Authentic Minnesotan accents and empathetic narration beautifully matched this treasure of a book. I recommend it to anyone who will listen to me! Give it a try on audio. Narrators: Amy Ryan and Michael Struhlbarg.

The Risen by Ron Rash. This is a haunting story, simply and beautifully told, and the audio version is just perfect. The narrator wonderfully captured the troubled, dreamy Southern protagonist and brought this story to life. It’s a short listen and totally worth it. Narrator: Richard Ferrone.

Underground Airlines by Ben Winters. Don’t confuse this book with Underground Railroad, which came out at the same time. This one imagines a United States where slavery was never abolished. It’s a thought-provoking, dystopian thriller performed by an excellent narrator who expertly conveyed a wide range of emotion. Narrator: William DeMerritt.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. I thought the narration of this unforgettable Iraq War novel was just perfect. So many accents, emotions, sound effects – all nailed by the audio. I didn’t love the women’s voices, but that’s a minor quibble. Pick this one up. Narrator: Oliver Wymer.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. If you haven’t read this book yet, give it a try on audio. The narration of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning World War II novel is calm and even, despite its many tense and horrific moments. The audio is long, but it goes quickly as the suspense ratchets up. Narrator: Zach Appelman.

Leave me a comment below with your favorite audiobook to be entered into the contest, and be sure to check out the other blog posts on the tour!

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.

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.

Q&A With Audiobook Narrator Anne Flosnik

This has been quite a month for Q&As! Two great author Q&As at Politics & Prose – Curtis Sittenfeld and Lionel Shriver – which I will be posting about here on the blog. And three great audiobook narrator Q&As in honor of June is Audiobook Month! Here is the third one, with narrator Anne Flosnik, whom I met at the BEA audiobook narrator breakfast I attended in May. Anne narrated The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, which I enjoyed on audio despite the fact that the discs were skipping. And I have her Little Bee on my to-listen list. Thanks to Anne for taking the time to answer my questions!

Anne Flosnik audiobook narratorQ.  How did you get into audiobook narration?

A. I got into audiobook narration via joining a local women’s networking organization in order to try to make a success of a side business in cosmetic sales. Through it, I met a lady who was a guest on a local TV show, and she invited me to take part on the show. Through being on the show I met other other performers, and heard about the Actor’s Center, an excellent “one stop” resource for actors. I joined, and found a voice teacher through it, and also through its audition hotline I found my Library Of Congress job. I was a Studio Narrator at the Library of Congress from 1996 – 2008, when I left because my commercial audiobook career had taken off with my narration of Little Bee by Chris Cleave, for Tantor Audio.

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. I prepare by reading the book from cover to cover, and I make notes concerning the character descriptions, age, personality, accents if any. I also have a page to list any pronunciations I need to look up, and this also helps me to keep pronunciations consistent. I keep all my notes, which are on paper, and in stacks, and they have saved my life on many occasions, especially when doing a series that evolves over time.

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

 A. That’s a tough question. I am keenly aware that each and every book is the author carefully crafted creation, and in a sense their “baby.” It is my responsibility to ensure with every project that I give the highest quality narration I am capable of, and be as true to the author’s intent as possible. Some books have stayed with me however, and each of them has something unforgettable about them, that has remained with me, for different reasons: The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox, Little Bee, and Anna And The King Of Siam.  All were award winners, and all were self directed and researched. Other extra special books include the classics I have narrated such as Pride And Prejudice, Sense And Sensibility and The Turn Of The Screw.  I have a great fondness for Long Lankin, a chilling, multi-point of view YA title, and children’s books such as The Wheel On The School and The Secret Garden. I also loved the intricate Kushiel’s Dart set in an alternate medieval Europe part of the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey. This was a challenging, and satisfying series. The books I read by Robin Hobb were outstanding, and the many romances it has been my honor to narrate.

Q.  Where do you do your recording?

A. I record Tantor projects at home. All others I take to a local engineer, and I also travel on occasion, or indeed whenever asked, if I can fit it into my schedule. It’s lovely to get to see old friends and make new ones. This life can be solitary at times. Usually I am directing myself, and do all my own research, which is an integral part of the narration process, and I find deepens my understanding and appreciation of the text.

Q. Do you ever find that your voice changes from session to session? (Sometimes I think I can tell when one session ends and another starts because the narrator’s voice gets lower, for example.)

A. Yes, I do find my voice changes from day to day, and even over the course of a day. For me it has as much to do with the time of day, or when I last ate, as tiredness, or just not feeling well. I think audiobook narration can be somewhat of an “athletic exercise,” in that the fitter I am physically, the better I perform, as my breath control, stamina and endurance are all increased. Being well-rested is an extremely important component of how I sound. I make great efforts however, to keep the sound quality as consistent as possible, and am very aware of it, along with the many other things I am listening for, and course correct to keep things on an even keel.

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

A. Most times I don’t have any interaction with the author. If I do it is usually concerning pronunciation issues. Sometimes, as I have narrated for authors over the course of a series, or even years, we keep in touch, and I am always excited to be narrating their latest work, or even doing several of their  backlist books one after the other. It is a very special bond to get to work this closely with another person’s creations.

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

A. I am finding I have less and less time to read for pleasure, but when I do I will often read something that is current. I usually have an audiobook on the go though, and for recommendations I look to AudioFile magazine for inspiration. I love literary fiction and mysteries best, along with some non fiction. I enjoy “how-to” books, and historical fiction and nonfiction are also favorites. 

Thank you to the wonderful narrators who have participated in this Q&A mini-series on EDIWTB: Robert Fass, Karen White, and Anne Flosnik! And hooray for audiobooks, which have changed my life.

Q&A with Audiobook Narrator Karen White

web_karen_5195It’s still June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) here at EDIWTB!

I was lucky to meet three audiobook narrators at BEA last month who were willing to spend the time to answer some of my questions about narration. I posted the first interview, with Robert Fass, last week. Today’s interview is with Karen White. Karen White is a classically trained actress who has been recording audio books since 1999 and has well over 100 books to her credit and is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA.  Honored to be included in Audiofile’s Best Voices 2010 and 2011, she’s also an Audie Finalist and Best Audiobook of the Year winner for 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Q.  How did you get into audiobook narration?

A: Although I am a trained actress, I actually started as an editor in audiobooks.  Back in 1999 here in Los Angeles, most audiobook production involved celebrities and abridged books.  When calling around trying to get narrating work, I was offered a job editing audiobook recording sessions on ProTools (which I quickly taught myself to use).  My supervisor there was hired about six months later to open a Los Angeles recording studio for Books-on-Tape, and he hired me as his assistant.  At that studio I started narrating as well as casting, directing and editing.  It was an amazing immersion in the craft!  When I had my first child, I chose to work less and only as a director and narrator.  (I think mommy-brain and editing-brain could not co-exist in my head.)  About five years ago, I built a home studio and now I work almost full-time for publishers 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?

Only a couple of times have I been unable (due to last minute scheduling) to read the whole book before beginning recording.  And I really hated it.  No matter the genre, I find that it’s really important to read the whole thing through to “get” the narrative voice: the tone, mood, style, etc.  And inevitably, if you start a fiction title before reading the whole thing, you’ll find out on p. 298 that Uncle George spent time in New Zealand and picked up a bit of an accent.  And it can be a lot of work to replace all of Uncle George’s dialogue with the proper accent!

When I read the book, I am paying attention to the above narrative stylistic elements, and I’m notating all specifics on the characters (if it’s fiction) and any word pronunciations I’m unsure of.  I then organize all this info so I have it at my fingertips when I start recording.  I like to get the right brain work done ahead of time so I can cruise in the left brain and work instinctively as I record.

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

A: Asking about my favorite book is like asking me which of my kids is my favorite!  But I have to say that one of my all time favorites was Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees.  (I did the Library version, but not the retail version — not sure why or how that happened).  I’m from North Carolina originally, so I loved being able to work in my home accent.  And I connected personally with the material on so many levels – not so much literally but emotionally.

I think my dream is to record something by Edith Wharton.  I actually lived in her summer home one spring and summer while acting at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA (it is definitely haunted) and I read most of her books then.  I chose a Louisa May Alcott story for our narrator driven fund-raiser Going Public…in Shorts because she was on my mind.  But maybe next year I’ll do a Wharton!

Q.  Where do you do your recording?

I have a “Whisper Room” which is a not-quite-but-pretty-close-soundproof modular booth.  (Meaning if my kids are screaming on the trampoline right outside, I can still hear them.  And I can hear the neighbor’s gardener’s leaf blowers.)  I think I disappoint my booth a bit.  I’m its 3rd owner.  The 1st owner did movie trailers and the 2nd did sports promos. When I bought it, I was told that a million dollars a year of voiceover work had been recorded inside it.  Unfortunately, very few audiobook narrators are making that kind of money!  But I spend a LOT of hours in my little booth and hopefully she’s at least appreciative of the quality of writing I’m working with, if not the quantity of dollars coming in J

Q. Do you ever find that your voice changes from session to session? (Sometimes I think I can tell when one session ends and another starts because the narrator’s voice gets lower, for example.)

A: Because I’ve also worked as a director and I’ve studied to teach vocal production, I am very aware of this possibility, and I try to avoid it.  It’s a good practice to take breaks at the end of a chapter, especially at the end of the day.  It’s also important not to overwork the voice, either by working too long of a day, or by straining or abusing it.  But it can be a challenge to honor an author’s specific descriptions of a gravelly voice or a smoker’s rasp and protect your voice at the same time.

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

That all depends on the author and the publisher. Unless I happen to know an author prior to being cast (this happened when I read a book for pleasure and contacted author Anna Jean Mayhew to tell her how much I loved it, and later she requested me to narrate when the audio rights were sold).  Sometimes authors just don’t have time to interact, but for the most part I’ve found authors to be very helpful in terms of pronunciation help if the information can’t be found easily online. (Author Jilliane Hoffman was very appreciative when I checked in with her on character name pronunciation as she names all her characters after her friends!)  I also tend to promote my books on social media; most authors are appreciative of that.  I had a great time reading with Meg Waite Clayton when she was in town for a bookstore event and I’d love to do more of those.

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

Although I always seem to have a half-read parenting book on my bedside table, women’s fiction is definitely my pleasure reading genre of choice.  In fact, I’ve had a little rule since I was in my late twenties that I only purchase books and music written by women, for solidarity.  (If I really want to read a book by a guy, I will get it from the library or borrow it.)  My book club recently read Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes, which I noticed on your sidebar.  I loved that it made me cry very snottily for the last 20 pages, which would have been tricky if I’d been narrating it.

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

I’m just happy people are buying them!  Changes in technology have meant that a much larger percentage of published books are recorded in audio than were even five years ago.  I haven’t seen any numbers which would prove my theory, but I believe that the percentages of female writers having their work published in audio has increased as well.  Selfishly, that’s good because it’s more work for me, but personally, I prefer the woman’s perspective.

Thank you, Karen, for another wonderful audiobook interview! I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions.

Karen has very generously offered to give away an Audible credit for one of her audiobooks. To win one of the books that she has narrated on audio, leave me a comment here about where you listen to audiobooks. I will select a name at random on Friday, June 28.

June is Audiobook Month

This month is Audiobook Month, and I am celebrating it with some audiobook-related content here at EDIWTB.

I discovered audiobooks in the summer of 2010, when I listened to 21-hour Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. Ever since, I  always have an audiobook going in the car. My commute is about 20-30 minutes long, so I can usually get through an audiobook in about three weeks, sometimes less depending on the length of the book. I almost always pick out audiobooks for which I already have the print version, because I like to read along in the print. I find that having the print version lets me re-read passages that might be hard to find on CD, and it helps with learning how characters’ names are spelled, how books are structured, and how key scenes were written. And sometimes when I get close to the end of an audiobook, I finish it off in print because I get impatient to find out how it ends, and print is faster.

Some books aren’t as successful in audio as others (The Red House by Mark Haddon comes to mind), while others seem to dance off the pages on audio (A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash). I’ve read books narrated by their authors, multiple books narrated by the same narrator, and books narrated by multiple authors. I’ve read books narrated by 80s movies stars (hello Campbell Scott and Elizabeth McGovern and Molly Ringwald). And I’ve even had the chance to meet some of the narrators I’ve enjoyed.

Last week at BEA, I went to a breakfast with a group of audiobook narrators and a few other bloggers. It was one of the highlights of my BEA experience. I met Karen White, Robert Fass, Anne Flosnik, Patrick Lawler, Amy Rubinate, Simon Vance, Xe Sands, and Lauren Fortgang, and they couldn’t have been a nicer bunch. They tolerated my many, many questions and recommended books and recordings. They were incredibly supportive of each other, and seemed genuinely happy to be in each others’ company. Please check out their sites and their recordings!

In honor of Audiobook Month, I will be featuring interviews with Karen White, Anne Flosnik and Robert Fass later this month, and I have also created a new category within the blog – Audiobooks – which collects all of the audiobook reviews that I have written. I always cross-post my audio reviews at Audiobook Jukebox, which is a great resource for finding new audiobook reviews, and I also recommend the site Audiogals, which is run by Lea Hensley, whom I also had the pleasure to meet last week.

So keep an eye out for the narrator interviews later this month, and keep listening to the great recorded books that we are lucky to have access to.

Here is a photo of me with the narrators and bloggers at the breakfast last Thursday (thank you Lea for the photo!). I can’t seem to make it any larger.

APAC5-30

I’d love to know: what are the best audiobooks you’ve ever listened to? What made them great? I will do a top-5 list later this month.