You also work on workshops that teach the craft of audiobook narration. Tell us about that.
I love teaching; it's a great way to both find new talent and see what's happening in the acting community. The workshops I've done focus on taking stage and screen actors (or those who are in training) and teaching them how to use their voices only to convey emotion, to tell a story, and to engage a listener. Narrating audiobooks is a really intimate thing — you're literally right in someone's ear. I teach actors how to dial the volume of their voice back, [and] use other ways — pacing, modulation, their own mental imagery — to tell a story and convey emotion.
What's your favorite audiobook (and who narrates it)?
This is a really hard question. Can I give my top three?
Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, narrated by Wil Wheaton — Wil Wheaton and Ernest Cline, like me, are true children of the '80s. This book is the ultimate homage to the decade. It's a great story, chock full of pop culture references and characters that you come to love (along with one you totally despise) as the story develops. Wheaton's narration is stellar — he really commits to the story and draws you into it. It makes me feel totally okay about my nostalgia for the decade.
Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons, narrated by Will Patton — This one is a beautiful portrait of the American west, narrated by someone who has a true love for it. Patton's telling of this story brings the entire thing to life; it's a book I can listen to over and over again. This was a great pairing of book and narrator — the tone of Patton's voice matches the beauty of the writing perfectly.
Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, narrated by Richard Armitage — I just started this one, but it's already in my top three. You can't ever argue with Dickens, and Richard Armitage's love of Dickens and storytelling comes through loud and clear. This is the longest book in my library, coming in over thirty-six hours, and I'm really excited to have so much time with the story (and, let's be honest, Richard!)
Oddly, I've never read any of these books in print. I first came to each of them in audio, and my experience of the story is so intimately tied to the narrator's voice in each case that I don't think I'd want to read them in print.
What was your favorite audiobook you worked on recently? What do you think made it so great?
John Scalzi's original novella The Dispatcher, read by Zachary Quinto. It's a short one, clocking in just under two and a half hours, and a great entry point for folks who haven't listened to an audiobook before, or listeners who haven't done much sci-fi. I'll never forget how loudly John Scalzi cheered when we told him who was narrating! Being in the studio with Zach was a blast — he's a super committed actor, and extremely talented. I think our listeners could hear all that dedication and enjoyment of the story come through in his voice.
What sound tools do you use to get the best possible audiobook?
Audiobook recording is a pretty simple thing. All you really need is a good mic, a quiet booth, and then the actor does the rest.