As I mentioned on day one of this A to Z blog challenge, I am an audiobook addict. I listen to a LOT of audiobooks. When I heard MacLeod Andrews narrate the Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson and The Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey, I knew he would be the perfect choice to narrate, The Nine. And I was right. His talent for creating different character voices and his comedic timing, brought the book to life ( you can hear for yourself below and if you go to the Judas post there is hysterical sample from the audiobook).
I wanted to learn more about MacLeod, so I asked him a few questions about being a narrator.
How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?
I would say I stumbled into the opportunity by chance, but at the time I landed my first audiobook I had been actively pursuing voice over work. Admittedly audiobooks were not something I had even been aware of as a possibility. I had the good fortune of being put in touch with the inimitable Laura Grafton at Brilliance Audio when I was mostly doing theater in NYC and she gave me a crack at a middle grade book called Crows and Cards by Joseph Helgerson. I auditioned for her twice to get the gig, flew to Michigan to record, took a little longer than expected to finish, but soldiered through. It turned out well and garnered some awards (all credit to that wonderfully entertaining and original book) and so it led to more books, which led to more clients, and ultimately a career in and of itself.
What do you do to prepare for narrating a book?
It varies a bit by publisher as different outfits provide you with more or less information up front but generally I start by reading the first chapter and last chapter to get a feel for the author's style and voice. Then I do the necessary detail work of putting together a log of characters and if they've any specific vocal identifiers: accents, age, gender, body type, good guy, bad guy etc. This process can involve skimming and targeted word searches. This data is the basic building blocks I need to keep from going off the rails with a character. If I'm really under the gun scheduling-wise I can enlist the help of trusted readers to gather these facts, freeing me to focus more effort on creative choices. I'll then continue reading the book in a more linear (and enjoyable) fashion to the extent time allows. There've been a few occasions where I've been forced to narrate a rushed book cold and, barring the occasional hiccup, it usually proceeds more smoothly than you'd expect. Narration after a certain number of years lives more in your body than your brain, a muscle memory kind of thing you could call instincts I suppose. If you have your facts straight and reliable pronunciations, it becomes a bit like sight reading music.
How do you decide on what voices to use for the characters, and then how do you keep them straight while you are narrating?
Depends on the text. I usually let the text guide me unless I've got a bug in my brain to try something cheeky. I've worked most of the bugs out over the years though and am far more submissive now, haha, for better or worse. If a text calls for broader characterizations (typical of fantasy and Sci-Fi especially), It's a balance of what the author has indicated, archetypes, and instinct. Keeping them straight is always a challenge, but the best way is to work with a skilled engineer who can catalogue the voices for you as they come up and play the references back as needed. Barring that luxury you 'memory bank' key phrases and mouth placement and rely again on muscle memory. Many of the books I do have anywhere from 20 to 120 characters so I always prefer working with an engineer; it's the best way to stay on point. Helping hands only make the finished product better and keep details from falling through the cracks.
What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
It’s been proven incorrect. It’s just a different means of gathering information. And just like there are speed readers I know people who can devour an audiobook at 3x speed if not faster. Active listening is as much of a skill and requires as much concentration as reading. I’m just as likely to lose focus listening to a podcast as I am reading an article.
Do you have a favorite audiobook narrator that you like to listen to? What is it about him/her that you like?
Probably Frank Muller. He's so incredibly present and has an undeniable vocal quality.
If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
Hellz yeah I’d use it. I don’t think I’d be able to resist poking my head into the future for a bit. I also loved ancient Greece growing up and Egypt. Wouldn’t mind cruising the library at Alexandria or drinking some old style wine in Athens.
LISTEN TO CHAPTER ONE OF THE NINE
The Nine is available on all audiobook platforms including Audible
MacLeod Andrews is a multiple Audie, Earphone, and SOVAS award winning audiobook narrator, as well as an award winning film actor and producer. He’s perhaps most recognized in audio for narrating the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey and The Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson. His films They Look Like People and The Siren have played festivals all around the world and are available for streaming on major platforms domestically and abroad. He has a cat named Luna, a well known affinity for chocolate chip cookies, and rations his social media fix to twitter.
C.G.Harris is the author of the sci-fi series, The Rax and the urban fantasy series, The Judas Files.. The Nine, book one in the series, is now available as an audiobook narrated by the talented, MacLeod Andrews.