June is audiobook month! This year, I’m participating in something really exciting: Going Public…In Shorts, a serialized audio story production!
Spoken Freely, a group of 30+ professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) 2013 by offering a serialized audio story collection: Going Public…in Shorts. Each narrator has recorded a short piece from the public domain, including the work of Chekhov, Twain, Chopin, Poe, Lovecraft, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Wilde and many others, even Lincoln’s pivotal Second Inaugural Address. All proceeds will go to the Reach Out and Read literacy advocacy organization.
Throughout June, 1-2 stories will be released online each day via Going Public, as well as on various author and book blogs. Each participating narrator will be hosted by a different blog. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, stories will be available to listen to for free, for one week (online only – no downloads).
You can imagine my excitement upon signing up to join in on this fantastic project. This excitement only grew when I discovered one of my favorite narrators, Dick Hill, had signed on as well. Partnering with Dick has been a true honor. He narrates Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, one of the very best thriller series out there.
Rather than interviewing Dick, I asked him instead to contribute a guest post about what he does, as a narrator, to get into the role of the character he is narrating. Without further ado, I give you Dick Hill!!
The truth is, Jenn, not a helluva’ lot. I’m a fly by the seat of your pants kinda’ guy. Always have been. I delight in doing cold reads, and with my wife Susie Breck engineering and directing, I’m able to do those safely. Susie has won a number of awards, among them an AUDIE, for her own work recording books, and I trust her to keep me from going too far astray. She preps our books, makes character notes that she gives me to work from. Age, personality traits, education, accents, etc. Unless we’re doing a military thriller, I don’t look at the script before recording. With military books, I’ll skim through, marking dialogue to i.d. characters (often these books have groups of characters engaged in dialogue, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, POTUS, and a dozen others sitting around some table discussing some crisis) Military jargon is something I’m more familiar with than she is.
A typical book however, would have Susie handing me one or more lined yellow pages, listing main and secondary characters, with notes about their appearance or general attitude, etc. I work with that info as a guide, assigning voices as we proceed. Having read the book, Susie can keep me out of trouble if I choose a voice and approach that will get me in trouble. Giving someone a nasal tenor voice when on page three hundred umpty seven it’s revealed that he was a rumbly bass, who sounds as if he gargles with ground glass. That sorta’ thing.
With a character like Jack Reacher, we’ve been together so many times that it is very comfortable and natural to assume the role, but then it was an easy fit from the start, thanks to Lee’s writing. I think the brunt of the work is done by the author. Someone as skilled as Lee Child does a terrific job laying out specifics of behavior and persona for his main character. He also has a very definite rhythm to Reacher’s dialogue that’s remained consistent through the entire series. All I do is read, tell the story, the best way I can. I can’t really explain how I arrive at all the decisions I make beyond that. In fact, I don’t really want to examine my process, if indeed I even have one. I’ve been getting away with it for a long time, and I don’t want to rock the boat by intellectualizing whatever it is that happens.
Supporting characters are handled pretty much the same way. Sometimes a person I know, or a character I’ve seen portrayed onstage or on t.v. or in a movie, will come to mind to guide my choices. Then I don’t try to exactly mimic that character, but I’ll do my impression of my memory. It may not seem or sound anything like the character that inspired my take, but in keeping that imagined performance in mind, my offering will at least have a measure of consistency. (e.g., any book with a sub commander may feature my imagined version as played by Fred Thompson. More attitude than vocal impression, though there’s a nod to his patterns and inflections. Similarly, officious martinets may have me keeping in mind William Daniels, and wise, solid, salt of the earth characters will reflect my late father-in-law. )
I can’t speak to anyone else’s process, (hard enough to speak to my own) but I think most narrators prefer to work with the script more than I do, reading and perhaps studying it before stepping into the booth. I love the challenge of cold reads, and perhaps there’s something gained by the sense of immediacy and discovery the approach engenders. Then again, maybe not. As I stated above, I try not to examine my process too closely. I’ve gotten away with what I do for a good long while, and I hope to continue doing so. I also hope I’ve given some kind of glimpse into how it comes about for me. Hope it makes sense to you. I think I’ve laid out, as best I could, the way it comes together. Then again, I may be fulla’ shit. Often am.
Learn more about Dick Hill and his contribution to Going Public…In Shorts! Finally, click below to listen to Dick’s contribution to the project: narration of Mark Twain’s Two Illuminating Stories: The Story of The Bad Little Boy, and The Story of the Good Little Boy
Two Illuminating Stories from Mark Twain (read by Dick Hill) by Going Public Project
Be sure to check out Paul Michael Garcia’s visit today at SFFAudio! Also, in case you missed it, Gabrielle de Cuir visited Teresa’s Reading Corner yesterday! Tomorrow, check out Devourer of Books for a new short!