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.
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.)
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!