Today, as a special treat to all of you The Human Division fans, as well as audiobooks in general, veteran actor, voice over artist, and narrator William Dufris, voice of John Scalzi’s The Human Division and over 300 other audiobooks answers a few of my questions. Dufris voice has been heard in movies and TV Series, as well as cartoons like Bob the Builder. William also produces full cast audio movies with his company The AudioComic Company. I am very excited to have him stop by my little corner of the internet today.
Bob: First, off William. I want to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I’ve been an avid audiobook listener for nearly 8 years and have probably listened to over 1,000 audiobooks and, for me at least, you are one of the iconic voices of the medium, and one I can trust to tell me a good story. So, let’s start out with an easy question, how did you get started in the industry?
Actually, my start in the world audio work was based on constant rejection. I relocated to London with my future 1st wife in the late 80’s, and immediately began seeking acting work. However, to my dismay, I discovered the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but rather who you know” that will get you work rang quite true there. Producers would hire English actors with passable American accents, with whom they’d worked before, rather than an untried and untested nobody like me.
However, I persevered, and put together a clown show, through which I acquired my Equity card, followed by my first agent, who sent me to a BBC Radio Play audition… which I got. There, I met a number of fellow North American actors, who were all extremely generous in pointing me to potential voice work opportunities. Thus, I stared doing cartoon/film dubbing, language tapes, more BBC plays and audiobooks.
Bob: You seem to narrate within every genre, from memoirs to fantasy, taking on authors as diverse as Mark Twain, Mark Halperin, Richard K. Morgan and Dashiell Hammett. Do you have a favorite genre, or style of book to read?
William: Fortunately, I’ve always been an avid reader (under the covers with a flashlight, as a kid – always carrying TWO paperbacks, as an adult, just in case the first was finished before I returned home), and so I can’t confess to an all-time favorite genre. As long as there’s a good story, I can be easily hooked.
My absolute favorite narrations were: Mark Twain’s HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Dashiell Hammett’s THE MALTESE FALCON and Michael Rubens’ THE SHERIFF OF YRNAMEER.
Bob: My very first experience with one of your narrations was with John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, now years later you have returned to that universe with The Human Division serial. What was you initial reaction when Audible approached you with the concept of a serial audiobook?
William: I was thrilled. He’s a wonderfully talented writer, who weaves plot and character in a delightfully convoluted fashion. He’s not a waster, either. He’ll drop a casual reference to something seemingly mundane, or other, and will return to it in such a clever way later on (nope… no examples. Ya just gotta discover it for yourself!). As a narrator, he really keeps you on your toes.
Bob: Was the recording experience handled any differently for this project? Was there any specific challenges with this project due to its serialized nature that you haven’t experienced when recording a more traditional audiobook?
William: Basically, I received most of the files in one go, but was instructed to upload each chapter separately, and within an established schedule. The only trick is to maintain a flow, as other work demands attention in between these uploads. Fortunately, the chapters themselves, although linked, are nearly complete stories in and of themselves.
Bob: How do you typically prepare when recording an audiobook? Do you have a specific method for deciding on particular character voices, or is it more of an organic process?
William: Definitely organic. As an actor, I sorta ‘see’ the characters in a ‘filmic’ way. As I prep material, prior to recording, I ‘hear’ each character as I read along. Yup, Bill Dufris hears voices in his head!
Bob: One of the reasons I enjoy your work in particular in Speculative Fiction, is you seem to put a lot of thought not just into the voices of non-human species, but in individual characters within the species. One of my favorite audiobook series you work on is Taylor Anderson’s Destroyermen series, which host a ton of characters, including humans, the lizard like Grik, and our favorite cat monkeys (or us it monkey cats) the Lemurians. When you are in the recording studio, how do you keep all these characters straight?
William: I love Taylor’s DESTROYERMEN series. What a world he’s created! Anyway, for the most part all the characters are now pretty much in my head. However, when I began prepping the first of the series, I notated each character on a sheet, along with any description provided by the author. From that, I decided on each particular voice. Most of the choices for the humans, though, comes from ‘attitude’, as opposed to a ‘sound’, as opposed to the obvious choices made for Grik and Lemurians.
Bob: What would you say is the strangest creature or character you had to voice?
William: Sheesh, there have been so many aliens, monsters, animals and weird humans passing through my mouth, I couldn’t really say. One of my more enjoyable ones was a character named Elvis – a blue, flatulent penguin (Uuuuuuurrrrrrrppppp… “Better out than in!”), created for a cartoon series entitled ROCKY & THE DODOS.
Bob: I recently discovered that you recorded a version of one of my all time favorite novels, Replay by Ken Grimwood and this is just one of over 300 audiobooks you have recorded in your career. Looking back over your extensive catalogue is there one novel or series that stands out as special to you? Is there an author or book that you wish you had the chance to record?
William: Well, I’ve already mentioned a few earlier on. As for authors, I would love to narrate Ray Bradbury. His work captivated me as a kid, and still wields a hold over me. I’d also love to do Thomas Tryon’s HARVEST HOME, a creepy tale set in my native New England, produced as a clunky TV movie w/Bette Davis back in the 70s. Annnnnnnndddd THE PRINCESS BRIDE, which has only been recorded as an abridgement by Carl Reiner.
Bob: Not only do you narrate books, but you also produce audiobooks for you company The AudioComics Company. I’ll be honest, I have always been a little skeptical of the Full Cast Audio Drama, yet, recently I realized that many of the reasons I have avoided them are the same reasons I scold others for dismissing audiobooks. So, I’m going to give you a chance to sell me on Audio Comics, as well as tell me a bit about what goes in to producing them.
William: Audio Movies are my passion. These are audio theatre pieces that are recorded with a full complement of actors, and underscored with music and sfx. Essentially, they’re akin to listening to a movie with your eyes closed, and with your imaginations (or “mind’s eye”) more fully engaged.
A number of my earlier productions , HORRORSCOPES, are adaptations of classic and contemporary horror/sci-fi pieces. Our company, AudioComics (<www.audiocomicscompany.com> plenty of samples), has been producing adaptations of new and popular graphic novel titles, such as TITANIUM RAIN, HONEY WEST, STARSTRUCK and THE BATSONS. We have a number of other titles slated for the next few years, including BAD PLANET, created by actor/writer Tom Jane (HUNG / THE PUNISHER).
C’mon now, head on over to the site and give the samples a listen!!! You know you wanna.
Bob: You have now narrated audiobooks from some of my favorite authors including John Scalzi, Jonathon Maberry, William Landay, and Taylor Anderson. I know some of these authors like Maberry and Scalzi are big supporters of audiobooks, but I also find many authors take a very hands off approach to the audio versions of their novels. Do you enjoy working with an author when producing an audiobook and interacting with them about characters and pronunciations? Are there any authors who you have become fans of through working on their audiobooks?
William: I’ve actually contacted a number of authors, whose titles demanded answers about character(s), and all were very generous and helpful. They all seemed quite excited about their work being produced for audio, although it was usually me that had to stem my giddiness at chatting with a real live writer-type fella!
As for being a fan… the DESTROYERMEN series is one I’d hate to see close to a finish.
Bob”: The Human Division seems to be introducing a new audience to audio. Do you think that this project will open the door to more experimentation with new ways of delivering audio?
William: Good ol’ Audible are always looking for ways to grab new listeners. I’m sure they’ll come up with more!
Bob: Finally, are there any new projects that you are working on that you are particularly excited about?
William: Just the aforementioned audio movies we’ve got scheduled for the not-so-distant future. Keep your ears open!