Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Shorts '14: Narrator Katherine Kellgren

Overreader News Flash: June is Audiobook Month! As I told y’all on Monday, I’m taking part in the Summer Shorts series of blog releases. Spoken Freely, a group of more than 40 professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) by offering Summer Shorts ’14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.
Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and essays will be released online each day via Going Public, as well as on various author and book blogs. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, pieces will be available for free online listening on their day of release. As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Media in support of ProLiteracy, there are over 20 additional tracks only available via the compilation download.

Additionally, this week is Poetry Week, and I’ve been fortunate to have three narrators visiting Overreader with their poetry selections. Today Katherine Kellgren reads Lewis Carroll’s You Are Old, Father William. Everyone here knows how much I adore her work, so you can image how happy I am to share this exclusive & extremely fun reading. Plus, she was nice enough to answer a few of my questions.

First, a bit about the Katherine Kellgren:
KATHERINE KELLGREN has recorded over two hundred audiobooks. She is a multiple winner of the Audie Award (including three for Best Solo Narration – Female), and among her titles are five recipients of the American Library Association’s Odyssey Honor, as well as numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards, Publishers Weekly Listen Up Awards, and ForeWord Magazine’s Audiobook of the Year. She has been named a Voice of Choice by Booklist Magazine, and is on AudioFile Magazine’s list of Golden Voices. She is a graduate of The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and lives in New York.

And now, my questions:

Mel: I’ve just glanced through my spreadsheets, and found at least 20 titles narrated by you, which leads to my first question: how are you so good? Or to be more specific, what training and experiences brought you to audiobook narration?

KK: Thanks for the kind words, Melanie! I feel that every book I work on is a learning experience, as audiobook narration always presents constant challenges. I'm trying to improve as a narrator with every project that I'm fortunate enough to be able to record, and that process, although challenging, is actually quite a lot of fun! In terms of training, I did a three year diploma course in acting at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), and there was a great focus on voice and dialect work there which has helped me when working in audiobooks.

Mel: Does working on a series differ from narrating stand-alone titles? Do you know from the outset that you will be revisiting Jacky Faber or the Incorrigibles or Lady Georgiana, and does that change your prep work?

KK: I approach series books pretty much the same way as stand-alone titles prep-wise, though when I'm recording a series I always make sure if possible to save a short sample of each one of the character voices in case they recur in subsequent books. I keep playlists of character voices from the different series I'm working on in my iTunes library and refer to them when characters pop up again. I have quite an odd assortment of hundreds of different voices in my iTunes library, so I make sure never to play my music on random shuffle, as you never know who might turn up...!

Mel: You could make quite the party game playlist for your fans: “who is Katy voicing now?” :) I know I’m not alone in being a listener who will follow you from project to project, leading me to new authors and different genres. Did you anticipate becoming a ‘brand’ within the audiobook industry? What about working with audiobooks has been a surprise to you?

KK: I would love to think of myself as a brand in the audiobook industry, because I think all narrators are or have the potential to be. I know I'll follow favorite narrators from author to author and genre to genre, and I'm truly touched if my work has helped to introduce listeners to new authors. As a child and teen, listening to audiobooks helped to introduce me to the work of some of my favorite authors, so if I can be a part of that process, it makes me happier than I can say!

Mel: Do you have favorites among your projects? Is there anything new or forthcoming you can tell us about? 

KK: I've never been able to pick a favorite among the books I've recorded, as each of them has been important to me in different ways. As for things forthcoming, I have a short story about Lady Georgie of HER ROYAL SPYNESS fame called MASKED BALL AT BROXLEY MANOR which I'm delighted to be reading, and two books coming up to record this summer that are also in series that I truly adore, one older and one new. Things are looking decidedly piratical for me in the next few months, as I'm set to record the second book in a new series for children called THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES. Swashbuckling, grog-swilling, timber-shivering (and a talking gargoyle to boot), what more could an excitable narrator like me desire? Also coming up is the final linear installment in L.A. Meyer's BLOODY JACK series, titled WILD ROVER NO MORE. To say that I'm excited and can't wait to see what happens to Jacky would be an understatement...!  

Mel: Oh you are DEFINITELY not alone with that excitement! I’m afraid I gasped when you said ‘final’ there – good thing there’s a new sea-going series for me to explore, if I’m no longer going to get my regular infusions of Kellgren-voiced Jacky stories.
Tell me about your poetry pick today, Lewis Carroll’s You Are Old, Father William from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I’ve loved it ever since my big brother first recited it to me when we were in grade school. I think he just wanted to kick me down stairs and pretend he was acting out the poem, but I still found it terribly funny. (Sadly for him, there were no stairs in our house.) Why did you choose it, and having read it so recently, do you often find yourself praising the muscular strength of your jaw?

KK: I've loved the poem since I was a child as well, and can remember various family members reciting it. You're right, lack of stairs in one's childhood home is a distinct advantage. I also have a delicious recording of Edith Evans reading it from the 1930's of which I'm rather fond. I shall spare you the further muscular exercise of my jaw, and simply conclude by saying to you and your kind readers:

I have answered five questions, and that is enough 
(I would bet), I won't give myself airs!
I don't think you can listen all day to such stuff,
I'll be off, 'fore you kick me downstairs!


Wasn’t that fun? Aren’t you delighted by her and jealous of me for getting to interview her? Now, go listen to the poem several times in a row, since it expires after just a day.

And if you were too late, no gnashing of teeth necessary – you get this recording and dozens more when you purchase the Summer Shorts ’14 collection, plus you’re helping out the great people at ProLiteracy.

Bonus Poetical Fun!
Head over to Beth Fish Reads today (6/13) to hear Carrington MacDuffie reading her Al's Boy.
Yesterday (6/12) I hope you didn't miss:
At AudioGals, Coleen Marlo reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning's How Do I Love Thee?, and
At Lakeside Musing, Amy Rubinate, Cassandra Campbell & Kathe Mazur reading Edna St. Vincent Millay's Sonnets 2, 4, 6 from Renascence & Other Poems.
Tomorrow (6/14) are two other blogs with two other narrators reading two other poems:
At Michael Stephen Daigle's blog, Diane Havens reads Walt Whitman's So Long, and
At Going Public, John Pruden reads James Whitcomb Riley's The Funny Little Fellow.

Summer Shorts '14 is made possible by the efforts of the Spoken Freely narrators and many others who donated their time and energy to bring it to fruition. Post-production, marketing support and publication provided by Tantor Media. Graphic design provided by f power design. Project coordination and executive production provided by Xe Sands. Nonprofit partnership coordination provided by Karen White

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Audiobook Giveaway: Still Foolin' 'Em

Here’s something I’ve barely even talked about much (understatement) but: June is Audiobook Month! Today I’m excited to be participating in the APA’s Audiobook Community #audiomonth campaign. 
What does that mean? 

On offer: one copy of Billy Crystal’s Still Foolin’ 'Em (Macmillan Audio), which won not only the Narration by Author or Authors category (which is why I get to feature it today) but also the Humor and Audiobook of the Year categories (so you see, this is a big deal! You should totally enter for a chance to win!)

As I said here about it: "Crystal can tell a story, and does so with humility and poignancy and wit and an expansiveness towards the world. And obviously he has the perfect voice for narrating this book. He does voices some, and keeps the humor up front but settles back real gently when it's time for me to cry."

Do you want it? I know you do. See below for giveaway instructions.

I’m not alone in all this audiobook love – you can visit blogs all month long to obtain a copy of every category winner, as part of the June is Audiobook Month celebration, sponsored by the Audiobook Community. Be sure to follow #audiomonth and #Audies2014 and follow Audiobook Community on both Facebook and Twitter – they’ll point you towards giveaways NEARLY as awesome as mine.

Tomorrow, head over to The Oddiophile and double your chances to get Crystal's book, since she's featuring the Humor Audies winner as her category!

To win Still Foolin’ 'Em
Tell me something at least a little bit funny that’s happened to you lately. Put your tale in the comments below, and I’ll choose someone at random on Friday the 13th
Be sure to check back here to see if Friday the 13th is YOUR lucky day this year!
Happy Listening!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer Shorts '14: Narrators Patrick Lawlor & David Drummond Read Classic Poetry

June is Audiobook Month and again this year I’m taking part in the Summer Shorts series of blog releases. Spoken Freely, a group of more than 40 professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) by offering Summer Shorts ’14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.
Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and essays will be released online each day via Going Public, as well as on various author and book blogs. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, pieces will be available for free online listening on their day of release. As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Media in support of ProLiteracy, there are over 20 additional tracks only available via the compilation download.

Additionally, this week is Poetry Week, and I’m fortunate to have three narrators visiting Overreader with their poetry selections. Today Patrick Lawlor reads Walt Whitman’s Miracles and David Drummond reads three brief classic love poems by Robert Herrick, Percy Bysse Shelley, and Emily Dickinson. (The Dickinson is here; the other two are on the complete collection - you should buy it!). Enjoy their readings here (but be fast – the links expire in a day!) And below, the guys were nice enough to answer some of my questions. Aren’t they great? Don’t you just want to hear them read to you all day? Isn’t Audiobook Month the BEST?

A bit about the narrators:
David has made his living as an actor for close to 30 years, but he doesn't look that old.  He has received a few Earphones Awards (his latest, Brian Doyle's The Plover) and an Audie nomination.  When he isn't recording in his sweatbox of a home studio, he's fixing things his children have broken, or breaking things that can never be fixed.

Patrick has recorded over 300 Audiobooks in just about every genre. He has been an Audie Finalist 3 times. He 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.
Mel’s Questions:
You came to audiobook narration with a lot of performance experience. Where do those paths diverge? 
David Drummond: The biggest difference is the loss of an audience.  And the loss of rehearsals.  And the loss of any other human soul but me.  It's lonely work.  On stage, I love being impressed by my cast mates.  In the studio, I do not impress myself.
Patrick Lawlor: I don’t think I could do audiobooks without my background in Classical Theatre. It prepared me to be able to tell a story, even a complex one, to speak clearly and understandably, to have the stamina to endure long sessions and to populate my brain with a whole slew of characters that I can draw upon at a moment’s notice. I do miss the immediate feedback from an audience, however. I have to agree that this is the biggest divergence, and much is lost without it. On the other hand, it’s nice to be able to do something over when it doesn’t go right the first time.  (A problem Drummond doesn’t have). I also get a huge kick out of being the whole cast. And the director and engineer, if I’m recording at home. Though, I must say, it certainly is more fun being in a studio with other people.

Mel: (You both chose notable 19th c. American poets for your selections today, so I’m going to stay topical with my many allusions. Watch out for the question about the plums in the ice box; it’s a trick.)
PL: Hahahaha!

I chose a notable 19th Century American poet because I’m well-read, classically trained and appreciate the finer things a classic represents. David did it because he’s pretentious.

Mel: What new skills did you develop in working with audiobooks?
DD: Making strong character decisions – purely vocal choices – and sticking with them for days at a time.  Understanding how to create and sustain a mood.  Maintaining my cool when my neighbor uses a leaf blower to clean off her roof.
PL: (see Begging 2 answers down)

I have had to learn to work fast. I have to read a piece once, and come up with a plan of attack, characters, regionalisms, dialects, etc. on the fly. I have learned how many words I didn't know that I didn’t know how to pronounce, and to look up everything, because the one thing I DON’T look up, I will pronounce wrong. I have learned to stay “on mic” and not move around. Or to move around and keep my mouth in the same relation to the mic. I am a very physically expressive performer, so to remain relatively still while performing has been a tough skill to master.

Mel: Do you have favorite genres to work with? Favorite authors? Favorite blogs? (Hint: huddled masses yearn to read Overreader.) Have your personal reading tastes shifted due to your audio projects?
PL: I LOVE Action/Adventure, Mysteries, YA titles, Dog Stories and, recently I have had a lot of fun recording Romances. By far, my favorite author to work with is Suzanne Brockmann. I have recorded something like 18 of her books to date, and hopefully, will continue to do so for some time to come. I also really enjoy Gary Paulsen, Timothy Egan, Peter Straub, L.J. Sellers, G.M. Ford, John L. Parker, Jr. and Ted Kerasote to name a few. Jenny Lee’s ELVIS AND THE UNDERDOGS series and Michael Winerip’s ADAM CANFIELD OF THE SLASH series, are my all-time favorite YA books I’ve worked on. 

My favorite blogs other than Overreader, and really, who needs more than Overreader? Thanks for the nice mentions, BTW. But if I HAD to read other audiobook-related blogs, BermudaOnion rocks, as does AudioGals for mainly Romance.

I read very little on my personal time any more, but when I do, it’s generally Runners’ World magazine or escapist fare like the Harry Potter series (yes, it’s been a while). My teenage niece is currently trying to get me to read the DIVERGENT books, so I guess they’re next.

DD: I have enjoyed the few fantasy books I've done, because I amuse myself making outrageous choices.  I don't assume many people are going to listen to my books, so for the discerning few I try to show off.  "You liked that, huh?  Well try this on for size!"  It's like a late-night magic act, when only the die hards are left in the audience.  
I'm mostly hired to read non-fiction, because I have a clear voice and a patronizing, know-it-all tone.  And I can pronounce long words like refrigerator.
I no longer have time to read anything other than what I'm recording.  I am not the fastest worker; I have two children (ages 7 and 15) who are extremely busy; and I am their delivery service.
My taste in literature, as in my music, is stuck in the late '70s.
Mel: What are you working on now? Your catalogs are large, they contain multitudes. What will be added next?
DD: I'm finishing up a 40-hour non-fiction book on the Hustons. It was 800 pages long, and the author told me it was originally 2200 pages long. Really, it could have been 250 pages long and no one would have been any the wiser. There's not a single book I've recorded that wouldn't have benefitted from being at least a third shorter. (Mel: Of course you think that now, but you have yet to narrate one of MY wonderful, perfect word-count novels!) Much of the book-length non-fiction I've done would have been better as bullet-pointed magazine articles. No kidding. Authors need to be forced to record their work to see how much lard they retain in their work. I shouldn't complain, since I get paid for the finished hour. And yet… I do.
Tomorrow I'm starting my first book for a Christian publisher, and then the latest in a series of Canadian crime thrillers. Who knew they had crime in Canada?
I know that makes me sound busy, but I'm not. I'm constantly begging for work. Begging. It's embarrassing. No really, it is.
PL: I am currently working on the latest DETECTIVE JACKSON MYSTERY, by L.J. Sellers, DEADLY BONDS. My friend Melanie Ewbank and I are also in the process of doing a revisit of the early Troubleshooters, Inc. novels by Suzanne Brockmann. (Actually sparked by requests from fans of the series, who wanted Mel and I to voice the first several books! Very flattering, and not just a little humbling. Maybe don’t print that part.) (Mel: Oh, I’m printing it. Because I’m one of those Lawlor-Ewbank-Brockmann superfans!) And as with David, begging has become a large part of my life, as I basically have 2 natural states: Needing Work and Working. When I’m not working, I am looking for work, when I AM working, I’m looking for work, basically, I’m ALWAYS looking for work… including now, what’ve you got?

Mel: You two are great friends, which in my version of friendship means there are stories you don’t want each other to tell the world. Will you share one or two here? Or are there things of which you may not speak?
DD: For the record, I'm a better friend than Patrick.  Just not with him.
Patrick fell off the edge of the world for a few years a while back.  I think he's writing a novel of his experiences, which, not surprisingly will be narrated by… Simon Vance.
I owe a large percentage of my start in audiobooks (say, 87.5%) to Patrick, so you'll never hear me speak ill of the man.  Although you may find some juicy tidbits if you poll the graduates of the dance department of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the mid-'80s.  His nickname was "Love Gun."
Nope, I got nothin'.  I'm always buying the first round of Guinness when we get together.
PL: David actually IS a way better friend than I am. Apparently, I tend to disappear (No, its not CIA related, and if you keep asking questions YOU may disappear, too!) Actually, I HAD fallen off the edge of David’s world, about the time I started recording audiobooks. He actually tracked me down through Tantor, after seeing my picture on the back of an audiobook I narrated. He actually sought my advice on getting started in audiobooks, I told him what little I know, he did everything I told him to do, then took the ball and ran with it! He hasn’t embarrassed me yet. And we have been in touch quite regularly ever since!

Mel: How did you select your poems for the Summer Shorts project? Did you ponder, weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, or were these old favorites?
PL: Funny you should put it that way. I LOVE Poe! I would have done Anabelle Lee, one of the most beautiful American poems ever, but I had done it for a compilation several years ago, and felt it would’ve been uncool to redo it. Honestly, Walt Whitman ranges from quite wonderful to kind of unreadable for me, but MIRACLES is an old favorite, and one I look at every so often when I need a dose of reality. Positive reality. I mean, all of life IS a miracle, and we should be grateful to be blessed with even the smallest one! 
DD: I pondered longer than I expected, but it gave me time to look back at books I hadn't cracked since undergrad.

I knew I wanted things to be short and sweet (like me).  That way, if the listeners didn't like it, it would be over quick (again, like me), and if they did like it, they'd want more.

I originally wanted to record five sonnets from the five main Romantic poets -- Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats and Shelley -- but I couldn't find a satisfactory unifying theme.  So I went with particular lines I liked, rediscovered the Herrick poem, then started looking for other really quick poems that could be read in a breathless faux-erotic tone that I hoped might get me hired to read Romance novels.  Hence, "Old, Short and Hot" -- three classic, brief, steamy poems.

The previous post in this series can be found at MV Freeman’s blog.
Tomorrow there will be two posts in this series! Check out Robin Miles at Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Books, and Paul Boehmer at Reading in Winter.

And if you’d like to scan through all of the posts in this series, do check out the Going Public blog!