Audiobook Review: Hungry Tales by Jonathan Maberry

5 11 2012

Hungry Tales by Jonathan Maberry

Read by Tom Weiner

Blackstone Audio

Length: 3 Hrs 53 Min

Genre: Zombie Short Stories

Quick Thoughts:  Hungry Tales is the perfect treat for those looking for a quick fix of the undead. While some zombies shamble, or dig or make their way through the waters, they are all hungry for a chance to disturb you sleep. Maberry is a master of the genre, and in Hungry Tales he offers a smorgasbord of horrors for fans of the undead.

Grade: B

One thing that Sandy has taught me is that I am totally unprepared for the Zombie Apocalypse. In fact, I was one of those idiots out on Sunday night who realized that if he did lose power, his frozen microwave meals and turkey burgers weren’t the best choice to sustain him for an extended period. Sure, I had some canned soup and beans and some English muffins that taste like crap without a toaster, and supplies to make a decent salad, but beyond that, I was pretty much screwed. Hell, I wasn’t even sure I had a non-electric can opener. I was actually quite lucky during the hurricane, my apartments complex never lost power, despite the fact my sisters who lives less than a mile away from me was without power until Saturday, My work place was hit very hard, with downed trees, power lines and a fire in the generator house which kept the majority of the campus without power for most of the week. Now, due to the nature of my job all employees are considered essential and exempt from travel restrictions and required to show for work during inclement weather. Due to this fact, I was out on the roads during the heart of the storm, and it had a truly apocalyptic feel. While the devastation we suffered during the storm was minor compared to the Jersey shore and Staten Island, I think I got a unique look due to my job working at a home for people with disabilities. We rely so much on things being stable. Adaptive equipment, medical devices, powered wheelchairs, proper storage, and simple routines are essential when dealing with this community, and this taste of the chaos that is possible. This is one of the reasons I don’t think I would survive the first day of a Zombie Apocalypse. While the smart thing would be to run for the hills away from the dense population area that I live in, I don’t think I could leave behind the residents where I work.

So, if Romero is the master of the Zombie Movie, than it’s quite possible the Maberry may be his literary brother. I have read lots and lots of Zombie novels, and while there are Zomlit books I likes more that some of Maberry’s work, no one author has explored the genre with the scope and expertise as Maberry has. Hungry Tales, a collection of Zombie short stories written by this master, is proof of this. Maberry offers 5 varied and comprehensive looks at the possibilities we can explore with zombies, Maberry gives new twists and turns to the staple zombie tropes breathing fun and excitement into the walking dead. There are five strong zombie tales spanning the genre including a comic look at an isolated case of a zombie caused by green comet, an atmospheric and creepy tale set in the Appalachians and a look at the zombie apocalypse from the unique perspective of Samaria culture. Maberry also offers two short stories set within the established worlds of his zombie novels.  The Wind through the Fence is a nuanced story set before the events of Rot & Ruin as the survivors are attempting to reclaim land and establish a safe zone for humanity. In probably my favorite story Chokepoint, set in the world of Dead of Night, a small squad of misfit soldiers tries defend a bridge against the encroachment of the zombie hordes. It’s full of Maberry’s trademark action along with one of the more unique and fully fleshed group of characters to appear in a short story. Hungry Tales is the perfect treat for those looking for a quick fix of the undead. While some zombies shamble, or dig or make their way through the waters, they are all hungry for a chance to disturb you sleep. Maberry is a master of the genre, and in Hungry Tales he offers a smorgasbord of horrors for fans of the undead.

I am always surprised at the range that narrator Tom Weiner offers in his narrations. His natural voice is so deep and at times, booming, you forget that he can do many things with it you just won’t expect. From the start, in his reading of Calling Death, Weiner proves that he isn’t just a one trick pony. He reads the tale of an older Appalachian matron, and the soft spoke Samurai Sensei Otoro with just as much authenticity as he does hardcore soldiers and backwoods yokels. It’s a challenging job for a narrator to take on an anthology a varied as Hungry Tales, and pull it off with ease. Hungry Tales is another winning short story collection by Jonathan Maberry from Blackstone Audio. 

Note: Thanks to Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.





Fall 2012 Reading Events: RIP & MX3

1 09 2012

Well, it’s officially September, which means that soon the leaves will begin changing, the kids will; be back in school, and the dark forces that inhabit the night will be unleashed upon us. Fall is a wonderful time to explore the darker themes of literature, and to help us along the way are two excellent blogging Events.

First up is hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings:

Readers Imbibing Peril VII

The seventh edition of Stainless Steel Droppings ode to the macabre brings together a lot of wonder4ful bloggers who will be listening. reading and reviewing books, movies, television and whatever else may give you chills at night. This events runs from September 1st until October 31st.

Murder, Monsters, Mayhem

Once again, Jenn from Jenn’s Bookshelves will be our Dark mistress all through the month of October. Jenn will highlight the thrilling and frightful and be giving out some goodies along the way. Look for some excellent guest posts as we celebrate all things bone chilling.

While I have a lot planned for the events, here are some of the new releases coming out that I plan on listening to and reviewing:

From Tantor Audio

From Blackstone Audio

Macmillan Audio:

Simon & Shuster Audio:

Random House Audio:





Audiobook Week 2012: Listen Up!

29 06 2012

Today is the last day of Audiobook Week, and that is sadmaking. Yet, today’s discussion topic is a lot of fun.

Where do you learn about great audiobook titles? Find reviews? Buy your audiobooks? Share your secrets with the rest of us!

I’ll let you in on a little secret, I am not a rich, reclusive millionaire who has an unlimited budget for purchasing audiobooks and the time to listen. Nope, I work for a living, in an industry not well know for its exorbitant wages. Audiobooks are expensive, and my budget is limited, so I have to be creative in order to keep on listening to 15-20 Audiobooks a month. If I was going to purchase all my audiobooks through Audible I would probably spend close to $200 dollars a month. This doesn’t fit nicely into my budget.

My biggest source of Audiobooks is my Public Library and their Overdrive System. Years ago, I also used NetLibrary, but I’m not sure if it even exists anymore since I haven’t used it in well over a year. Here is my trick for Overdrive. I am lucky to live in a major Metropolitan area, with 5 major counties within a drivable distance. At some point in my life I have lived or worked in these counties and have the Library cards to prove it. Also, due to Access PA, many Pennsylvania libraries open membership up to any Pennsylvania resident. This makes the number of titles available to me much greater. Now, part of me wonders if I am gaming the system, so each year I make a donation to all the libraries that I actively use. It’s not a major donation, and in the end it’s much less that if I purchased these titles, but I think it’s a good gesture in an economy where places like Libraries are often the first to experience cuts.

So, the point of this is, get to know your library system. Talk to your librarians. Find out what is available and ask how you can help. Many libraries accept book and audiobook donations, which is a good place to send the books that are cluttering your house.

Now, many book bloggers are used to getting review copies sent to them almost willy nilly. For Audiobooks, it’s a much more careful and deliberate process. Each month I visit all the major Audiobook Publishes and figure out which of their new releases I am interested in. I also have signed up for their newsletters in case I missed something. For many Publishers I have been able to develop a contact person for requesting titles. Some of them have actually contacted me, and others I worked to discover. Yet, I try and work to maintain the relationship, however it gets started. There are a few Publishers, like Penguin Audio, Harper Audio and Simon & Schuster Audio that send out occasionally emails letting bloggers know what titles are available for review. Throughout my efforts I have developed relationship with all but two of the major Audiobook publishers. These relationships have been rewarding in more ways than just free audiobooks, but encouragement, recommendations and promotion as well.

Some tips for dealing with publishers. Only ask for titles that you are truly interested in, and will be able to review in a timely manner.  When you do review a title, send a link to your review. Publishers prefer honest reviews over fake positive ones, and I never have had an issue with a negative review affecting my relationship with a publisher. Lastly, for new release titles, try to have your review as close to release date as possible. There is nothing wrong with asking a publisher for advice on when to publish a review to increase buzz. I know I have a few times.

There are a few tools I use to find upcoming audiobooks beyond Publisher Websites. Audiofile puts out a list of New Releases that usually cover a two or three month period that is searchable by genre and Publisher. Be careful with this because sometimes the info is not totally accurate. It helps to double check any info with the individual publishers. I love Overdrives classic search. Its new search sucks, but the classic search is still available at this link. Finally, Fantastic Fiction has an Audiobook New Release search filter that I use often. Just remember that this information is for releases in the UK, and it’s not always accurate for the US.

Finally, I want to thank Jen from Devourer of Books for hosting this event. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the passion for audiobooks taking hold. Thanks to everyone who has participated. Feel free to hit me up on twitter, or send me an email or Facebook Message if you ever have any questions about Audiobooks, or just want to chat.

Also Today:

An Interview with Audiobook Narrator Michael Goldstrom

A Review of Leviathan By Scott Westerfeld read by Alan Cummings





Narrative Overtones: My Interview With Michael Goldstrom

29 06 2012

Michael Goldstrom is a relatively new to me narrator who has recorded books like A Confusion of Princess by Garth Nix. My first experience with his work was Variant by Robison Wells, in which I said he “has the potential to be a great narrator.” Well, in Mira Grant’s Blackout, he proved that statement true by giving an excellent performance in my favorite audiobook of 2012 so far. Michael Goldstrom was kind enough to answer a few of my hard hitting questions.

I want to thank you for taking the time out today to talk audiobooks. First off, could you tell me how you became involved in the audiobook industry and give a bit of an overview of you career?


Michael Goldstrom:  I’m really appreciative, but does your audience read? Part of me thinks I should narrate this. Anyway, I’ve always been an aural person (hello ladies), and have loved creating worlds out of sound by either recording sketches, radio shows, characters, or sound worlds in fake languages. With sound, our imaginations go wild, and we become our own filmmakers.

In college we had a phone system called the Rolm phone, where you could easily change voicemail greetings (and prank friends and connect them so they each thought the other called), and every day I’d change the greeting with different characters and scenarios: a mafia den, Brazilian carnival, an international whorehouse… those really were the days.

At Juilliard I up-leveled my skill set to perform classical text, and do mafia voices but with greater breath control. Then I worked as an actor in New York doing plays, musicals, television and film, and I also auditioned for Saturday Night Live. Now in Los Angeles I focus on comedy, both in acting and writing. I also performed as the narrator in Peter and the Wolf with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and  currently perform in Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon for the Cartoon Network.

I’ve always wanted to do audiobooks, because they merge the fun of characterization with the luxury of long form storytelling. Audiobooks are like deeply intimate films in the mind of the listener, and as the narrator, you have the power to help create those images. You dictate the pace, the tone, and create entire worlds, by…dictating. Literally. You are a dictator. This fulfills my German heritage.

You are relatively new to audiobooks. Is there anything about the industry or the process that surprised you?

Michael Goldstrom: I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, because every community has this, but the audiobook community is a relatively insular world consisting of stars , passionate fans, critics, haterspublishers, all centered around aural recordings of stories. I find that amazing, amusing and as the Spanish say: great.

Striking about the publishing industry though, is how much authors must actively self-promote their own work – primarily through Twitter. Imagine if Melville had to do that- “@mobynotthemusician New novel coming out – whales, natives and peg legs in a crisp 458 pages. Kindle anyone? Lol. Check it out!”

Through Twitter I also enjoy reaching out to the authors…they’re alive; why not take advantage?


Before I get into the book I really, really want to talk about, I wanted to talk a little about my first audiobook experience with you, which was your reading of Variant by Robison Wells. Variant is a sort of modern Lord of the Flies, with a host of wildly different young adult characters. What was you biggest challenge when recording this novel?

Michael Goldstrom: In Variant, the narrator is a jaded teenage boy, and all the main characters are within a four-five year age range, so differentiating the characters was a challenge. This was amplified by the story itself in which these characters have no contact with the outside world, so their personalities are in question. Also, their very existence is in question – once you get to the end of the story, you see why.

Before reading Variant, were you aware of the true phenomenon that the Young Adult market is?

Michael Goldstrom: While mentally I feel like a young adult, I definitely did not know the young adult market was a phenomenon.  Is it a phenomenon? What constitutes a young adult anyway – ability to not buy beer, or a penchant for zombies? This is a deep question.

As a narrator, do you feel your talents are more suited to Young Adult and Middle Grade books, or adult books?

Michael Goldstrom: My talents might be most suited to the “Pre-School Epic” genre. I love the fun you can have with young adult and children’s books. How often can you play an invisible bandapat in adult literature (aside from the deleted chapters in Fifty Shades of Grey)? That said, I love the richness and variety of genres, so my goal is to work in all genres at all levels: thrillers, mysteries, historical fiction, neuroscience. You’d hope four years at Juilliard would prepare you for anything, or at least that’s what I tell myself. Right?…Anyone? Hello? It’s very quiet here.

Now, I want to talk about Blackout, which, full disclosure, is my favorite audiobook of the year. Blackout is the third entry in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh Trilogy, and you are the third narrator to handle Shawn Mason’s perspective. Before taking this on, did you read or listen to the previous editions of this series, or did you go into the character cold?

Michael Goldstrom: I’m so thrilled you liked it! I went in cold. Very cold. Think Antarctica, add a dash of Siberia and top it with a WASP from Connecticut.

Personally, I thought you nailed Shawn Mason, but where you really excelled was in some of the peripheral characters, particularly Mahir. Can you tell us a little about your process for creating authentic voices that fit the background and personalities of the characters?

Michael Goldstrom: Very appreciated. Text analysis gives you clues to the characters.  It’s the same process when preparing  for theater or film. Usually, everything you need to know about the characters is either explicitly expressed or implied in the text.  For example, in Blackout, Mahir’s name gives us information about his background, then his schooling and family are mentioned, and of course how he relates to other people and his environment, and the actions he does and does not take all reveal information about how he might sound.

For Blackout, you co-narrated the novel with Paula Christensen, each of you handling a different perspective. How did the two narrator system work? Was their any interaction between you and Paula, or was their a director or other outside person that helped coordinate the recording?

Michael Goldstrom: Our truly masterful maestro of all things audiobook related, Bob Deyan of Deyan Audiobooks supervised the recording. Paula and I overlapped on one day and we briefly discussed some voices, then had lunch. ‘Twas a good day.

As far as your personal tastes, do you read or listen to audiobooks for pleasure, and what are some of your favorites?

Michael Goldstrom: I listen to audiobooks when I drive to Northern California to see my family.  It’s my traveling therapy before entering the storm.  Unfortunately, I’m a productivity book fanatic, so I listen to a lot of those kinds of books -”Getting to Yes, Getting to No, and my favorite, “Time Management for People Who Listen to Too Many Productivity Books.” I’m just now reviewing my audiobook fiction list so I can start to learn from narrators I like. When I heard Frank Muller’s audiobook of Orwell’s 1984, I couldn’t stop “turning the page.”

Is there one novel or author who you would love to narrate that you haven’t yet had the opportunity to take on?

Michael Goldstrom: Michael Chabon or Andy Borowitz or of course The Last Testament, A Memoir by God, with David Javerbaum.

When not performing, what do you do to blow off steam?

Michael Goldstrom: I was asked that in Central Park when I was 15. I was then asked if I wanted to “blow off steam” behind the bushes. Now I play piano, accost other people’s dogs, or write.

Besides being a narrator, you also act and perform comedy. If someone was to show up to see you perform live, what should they expect?

Michael Goldstrom: I’ll let the LA Times speak: “a tour de force that will leave you roaring”. Aw yeah.

Of all your performances, which would you consider the highlight of your career?

Michael Goldstrom: Sadly, Cabaret in high school.

Is audiobook narration something you plan to continue on a regular basis? Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share?

Michael Goldstrom: I absolutely love narrating audiobooks, and look forward to the overwhelming plethora of literature demanding to be read out loud.  Snooki may need her autobiography read since she cannot speak language. But I do have some upcoming projects – and to be kept apprised please follow my Facebook Page or Twitter or Google + Page (yes I use it and love it).

Someday, when someone writes the story of your life, who would you want to perform the audiobook version?

Michael Goldstrom: There’s a lot of assumptions in that question, but going with it – hopefully I myself will be able to narrate it with advances in cryopreservation, or by having kept my brain alive and speaking through Siri. Although in that case I’m not sure where royalties would be sent.

 

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Audiobook Week: What Makes A Good Narrator?

28 06 2012

Who are your favorite narrators and why? What do you look for in a narrator? Have a preference between male or female narrators?

As someone who has listened to as many audiobooks as I have, you develop certain pet peeves. Yet, I’m attempting to stay positive for Audiobook week, so I am going to talk to flip it around a bit and call it my narrator pet preferences. I think this post will serve two purposes. First for listeners and fellow bloggers, when I do review an audiobook these are things I look for and the terms I apply to these aspects. Secondly, for narrators, when I critique your performance in a way that can be seen as negative. Typically it is because of one of these issues. Often times, I am not saying your performance is bad, but it could have been better for me as a listener if these things were achieved.

It should be noted that I am in no way an expert. I am a listener. Narrators have directors, producers, groupies and hanger-ons who probably give them better advice than me. So, take these bits of advice from a novice listener for what they are. When you are recording a book, ask your self, "What Would The Guilded Earlobe Do?" Then chide yourself for getting distracted.

1. Find A Distinctive Voice:

While this applies most to First person narration, it can also include third person as well. Most narrators have what I call a “default narrative voice.” This is the voice you typically hear when they are reading Third Person Prose. Yet, often, when reading first person tales, their default narrative voice doesn’t necessarily fit with the main character. This is when a good narrator creates a distinctive voice. Let’s face it, if your main character is a New York City early 1800’s roughabout, then he or she probably shouldn’t sound like a professional voce over artist. There are times when a narrator actually enhances the character development of a story by creating a distinctive character voice. There are some narrators who are simply amazing. If you have listened to Nnedi Okafor’s Who Fears Death you may be surprised to learn that Anne Flosnick is not a young African girl living in Post Apocalyptic Kenya, and neither is MacLeod Andrews, narrator of the wonderfully dark Sandman Slim series, a 90’s era punk who just escaped the darkest pits of hell.

2. Flavor

This is a term I use a lot when discussing the overall feel of an audiobook. When you eat chicken, you want the protein rich avian flesh substance to taste like chicken. When a book takes place in China 3000 years in the future, the audiobook shouldn’t feel like its taking place in The Valley in 2012. There are many ways to achieve flavor, through the proper use of accents, distinctive vocal styling, rhythm and pacing. I think this is one of those aspects of an audiobook that is part preparation and part instinct on the narrator. If you want examples of excellent use of flavor by narrators, check out Phil Gigante in Throne of the Crescent Moon and Cassandra Campbell in A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True.

3. Consistent Choices

Narrators need to make a lot of choices when narrating a book. Often times these choices are not just about what works best for a novel, but also what will highlight the narrator’s strengths and downplay their weaknesses. The most important pieces of advice I can give on this topic is, first, know yourself and second, stay consistent. If you are going to read a third person account that centers on a Irish character with an Irish accent, then you should continue that trend when voicing perspectives involving Chinese, Lithuanian or Venusian characters. I reviewed one audiobook where the narrator read the female characters dialogue with a female voice, but her internal monologue with a male voice. Don’t do this. It makes me sad and a bit confused. Two narrators that always make smart consistent choices are Bronson Pinchot and Katherine Kellgren.

4. Don’t Be Riddley Scott

I love action films. Heck, I love action. But when I watch action movies I like to see the action. I cannot stand Riddley Scott’s extreme closeups during action scenes that muddles the ability of the audience to follow what is going on. Narrators sometimes like to speed up their reading of action scenes, to increase the urgency and excitement. This is affective if done right, but some narrators lose control of the pace, and the action becomes muddled. Some narrators manage to slow down the pace of the action, yet still display the same sense of urgency that the speedier narrators are attempting. Two narrators that always help me visualize the action, no matter how intense, are Ray Porter and Hillary Huber.

5. Why You So Serious?

I tend to read a lot of science fiction. I love me some strange and weird characters.  Big tentacle monsters, fuzzy cat like sentient aliens, fallen angels, demons, creatures from Mazzugalh 5 in the Delta Quadrant, all these characters make me happy. What I really like is when I realize these characters are making the narrator happy too. I love when you can tell that a narrator is having fun. It comes out in their choices, in the wonderfully weird character they create. You guys might not know this, but we listeners can hear that sly smile on your lips. I love when a narrator just goes all out. If the script calls for over the top, go for it. Let’s face it, Oliver Wyman makes me laugh on a regular basis, whether he is voicing my favorite loveable serial killer Serge Storms, or the cast of crazy creatures in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International. And, I challenge anyone to listen to Khristine Hvam’s narration in A Beautiful Friendship and not want a Tree Cat. It cannot be done! One little secret, when you are having fun, I’m more likely to have fun when writing my reviews, and my fun reviews tend to be my best and most popular reviews, even if they are about sexy dragons.

6. Know Who You Are

This topic is a bit more controversial. Well, controversial in the fact that it resulted in my only negative interaction with a narrator. Casting is quite important for the listener. Now, I understand that narrators have little if any control over casting, and they have families to raise and cats to feed so they can post funny pictures of them on the internet.  Yet, make smart choices when taking on a role. More often than not when you are miscast in a role, the casual listener will blame you. If you choose a role that doesn’t suit you, it probably will result in bad reviews, and more importantly, one bad listen may keep a consumer from buying future audiobooks you narrate. Nobody but internet trolls and snooty pipe smoking critics like bad reviews. Two narrators that make very wise decisions on what roes are appropriate to them are Wil Wheaton and Grover Gardner. And yes, I know one of the reasons this is is because they are able to make these decisions, but it’s still true.

I love narrators. I have done many things with narrators by my side. I like writing good reviews and praising your performances to the heavens and petitioning the government for a national narrator holiday. Today I talk a bit more about the relationship between narrators and the listeners in my review of Ken Scholes Lamentations. Make sure you check it out. There will be a test.

Don’t forget to check out all my narrator interviews this week. Today’s interview features the awesome Khristine Hvam.





Narrative Overtones: My Interview with Khristine Hvam

28 06 2012

Khristine Hvam has told me stories about Zombies, fallen angels, Post Apocalyptic Wastelands and Tree Cats. She is one of the most consistent performers in the industry and whenever I see her name attached to a project I know I will be in good hands. All her hard work has recently paid off in an Audio Award for Hachette Audios production of Laini Taylor’s The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Khristine was kid enough to answer some of my questions today.

 

So, we’ll start off easy. Could you tell me how you got started in the audiobook industry, and give me a bit of an overview of your career?

Khristine Hvam:  Like so many of us, I started off on one road and somehow took a turn that landed me right where I never knew I wanted to be. Kind of like getting lost on a country road and finding an beautiful vineyard, where they just happen to be having an amazing wine tasting, and today its free and open to the public. That’s sort of how I found audio books. I was on the road to a career in voice over and a director friend of mine said, “I gave your information to Audible, expect a call.” Next thing I knew… I’m an audio book narrator.

I’ve also been blessed to work all over the entertainment world. I’ve worked in documentaries, I produced morning radio, of course as most actors… I bartended (lol), and now voice over, where I seem to be having the most success. You’ll find my voice in video games (WOW and Motion Explosion), Animations (Poke’mon), and TV and Radio commercials. I’m a very lucky lady!

Besides audiobooks, you have voiced characters in animation and video games, and done commercial voice over work. How much of your voice talent is natural, and how much is it hard work and training?

Khristine Hvam: Hmmmmmmm… I don’t know. I always fear this question. Truth is… In the beginning I was kind of winging it (don’t tell anyone). I had taken a few years of acting in college, and then some coaching in voice over when it became obvious that’s what I wanted to do… but really, I’m just a goofy girl that likes to play, so I found the one career path that would let me do that. The only real answer to this question is… ALL of the above. Natural talent molded and shaped with training and brought to life with hard work. “Success happens when preparation meets opportunity” Don’t know who said it… but they were right.

Recently you narrated Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, which went on to win the Audie for Fantasy. Now, I have to admit of the three Audie categories I listened to and predicted this was the one I missed. *sadface* Yet, it was a beautifully story full of strange creatures, stunning visuals and exotic settings. Tell us a little bit about working on this book, and the challenges you faced bringing it to life.

Khristine Hvam: There were no challenges to this project in all honesty. It was one of those perfect storm situations, where everything just sort of came together. The team of people at Hachette that I was fortunate enough to work with were amazing, we all loved the material, and our visions for the characters were all on the same page. It was a great project to work on and I’m very much looking forward to the next in the series.


My first experience with your narration was with Peter Cline’s Ex-series, which was a multi-narrator production, where you handled POV’s but also isolated dialogue from the female characters. While this style has some drawbacks, it also gave it an interesting comic book feel that fit the story. When you work on multi-narrator productions, how often do you actually get to interact with the other narrators? Would you actually prefer more interaction, or working in isolation for the other narrators?

Khristine Hvam: It’s always better when we work together. The performances are more authentic this way. You’re listening and reacting to the other performer, how could this not be great?! During this project we were able to do just that. At one point we had four narrators in the booth at once, it was nuts! I think we spent more time cracking each other up than actually recording. Unfortunately, for many multi-cast reads you’re on your own. It’s hard to get all those schedules to line up. When this is the case there’s just a bit more prep, like listening to the others performances, chatting with them ahead of time to make sure everyone is on the same page. And of course, great direction is key!

You have performed a variety of different genres, both in YA and adult, but speculative fiction (science fiction/fantasy) seems to be the genre you work in the most. Are you a Science Fiction or Fantasy fan yourself? Do you have a favorite genre to work in?

Khristine Hvam: I would say the YA/Fantasy mix is my favorite to work with. In the last several years, some amazing writing is happening in this genre. It has been filled with strong female characters, interesting and well thought out plots, and loads of creepy and bizarre sidekicks that make this voice over chick giddy. So I’d say, yup, this is my favorite.

As for what I choose to read in my spare time… I’m all over the map. Right now I’m reading the Stieg Larsson books. But, truth be told there’s not much time for casual reading in my world. When you read 6-8 hours a day… well, you get the point.


One of my favorite titles you worked on was David Weber’s A Beautiful Friendship, which was a spin-off of the popular Honor Harrington series and notable for it being the first time anyone voiced Treecats. With human characters, you can use things like ethnicity, physical descriptions and personality to come up with a voice, how do you go about developing voices for a fictional species?

Khristine Hvam: Yes, this was a good one. Often times the author tells you what these kinds of characters sound like. Perhaps not specifically, but the same way in which they tell you how human characters sound. It’s how they choose to phrase things, the way in which the characters handle themselves and behave. All these things contribute to their “sound”. Often times, as I am prepping the material, I “hear” what that character sounds like in my mind, and then try to create that same sound in the booth. I suppose these types of voices really come from my imagination. Can you remember being a child and playing pretend? “I’m a mermaid! With flowing blue hair and a shiny green and gold tail!” … I guess I just never grew out of it.

What are some surprising facts about the audiobook industry and recording audiobooks that causal listeners may not realize?

Khristine Hvam: This is a tough question Bob! I can only tell you what I didn’t realize when I first started in audio books. 1. Its’ the hardest Voice Over work there is. It takes extreme focus, dozens of hours of preparation, and forces you to pull from all your creative juices. Like marathon running for VO.   2. People really love it and they are very loyal when they discover they like you as a narrator. (and we as narrators are honored and humbled because of this)  3. The actual recording of a book is pretty short. Just double the length of your audio book and that’s how long it took to record it.  4. Most importantly, that there are many people involved in making an audio book. It’s not just the narrator. It’s directors, producers, engineers, editors, QC people, acquisitions people, publishers, THE AUTHOR, and of course the listener that make the audio book experience a great one. So when you review a book, keep all those people (and the many more who aren’t mentioned) in your thoughts as you love it or leave it.

What is the strangest character or creature that you have been asked to voice?

Khristine Hvam: OH MY… there are so many to choose from! My experience in the audio book world has provided me with a wealth of strange characters, so many of which stand out in my mind. Razgut from “Daughter of Smoke and Bone,” really stands out the most I think. A fallen angel who was once beautiful, now mangled and lame, slithering and crawling and doing anything he can to survive… he was pretty creepy. As a matter of fact I can remember when we were recording his sections in the studio, I had looked up at some point after reading him and the producer/director and engineer were making these cheeped out “ick” faces while shaking their heads… and I KNEW I had found Razgut’s voice. Anytime you elicit a physical reaction from someone… you’ve gotta be on the right track.

 

Is there any one book that you would consider the highlight of your career?

Khristine Hvam: “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” has really been the highlight. Great material, wonderful author, amazing production team, and I won my very first Audie with this one… how could it not be the highlight?!

When not bringing stories to life for our listening pleasure, what kinds of things do you enjoy doing?

Khristine Hvam: All sorts of things! I’m all about my family and friends and love spending my time with them. I’m a big fan of the outdoors so you might find me hiking and biking. I’m recently married (a year and a half now) and my hubby and I love to travel and see the world together. As a matter of fact we are in the process of planning our next trip! Any suggestions??

If someone wrote the story of you life, who would you want to read the audiobook version?

Khristine Hvam: If someone wrote the story of my life I think I’d be so psyched that my life was interesting enough to write about that I wouldn’t even think about who would read it. But, you know what might be interesting… having each of my close friends and family members take a section, and get their take on things… they do know me best. And who better to tell the tales than the people who lived it with me?

Finally, do you have any upcoming projects, audiobooks or otherwise, that you are particularly excited about?

Khristine Hvam: I get pretty excited about all the projects I work on and right now I’m prepping a good one called “Osiris”… looks pretty interesting so far… keep a look out!

 

Bob, I’d like to take a moment to say something to you and the rest of the listeners…

Thank you. Really thank you. So many times I’ve woken up to a strange name in my inbox. A listener, so moved by one of my projects that they took the time to find me and tell me so. I want you to know that I spend the rest of my day with a smile on my face. And when hubby comes home, I share it with him, and I put that email in a special saved folder so I’ll always have it.  It’s like my very own rock star moment and it means a great deal to me. Also, Thank you… sincerely thank you to those of you who might NOT like a performance. Your critiques help me discover areas to improve and change and make me a stronger performer and person. Much love.

 

Make sure you check out Khristine Hvam’s Website and the list of her available titles at Audible.





Audiobook Week 2012: Mid-Week Meme

27 06 2012

Today, Devourer of Books does half the work for us, asking us to answer her Audiobook Week Mid-Week Meme. I am happy to oblige her whims.

 

Current/most recent audiobook:

I am currently listening to Survivors: The Morningstar Strain, Book 3 by ZA Recht and Thom Brannon, narrated by Oliver Wyman.

Impressions:

This book is special for me because the Morningstar Strain series was the first Zombie series I listened to on audiobook. ZA Recht passed away in 2009, and this book was completed based on his notes and early chapter he had written.  So far, I’m enjoying it, helped by the fact that Oliver Wyman is narrating.

Current/most recent favorite audiobook:

I have talked a lot about Blackout by Mira Grant, probably my favorite audiobook of 2012, but my surprise favorite has to be The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. It’s a first person tale of a woman who is the top bureaucrat at a secret British Magical Agency who loses her memory and discovers someone is trying to kill her. It is a lot of fun and Susan Duerden gives an excellent performance.

Favorite Narrator You’ve Discovered Recently

I love female narrators that are not that typical perky, soprano voice you hear quite often, particularly in young adult novels . Recently I’ve listen to audiobooks narrated by Lorna Raver, Maggi-Meg Reed and Vane Millon, all of whom brought a unique gravitas to their reading.

One title from your TBL (to be listened) stack, or your audio wishlist:

14 by Peter Clines, read by Ray Porter. This is one of those titles I try to avoid reading too much about, because it has such a mysterious feel to it, I am trying to avoid spoilers. In general, it’s a horror/mystery about a man who moves into a Brownstone and discovers each room as some strange mysterious element. Plus, come on people, Ray Porter…. Ray Porter.

 

Your audio dream team (what book or author would you LOVE to see paired with a certain narrator, can already exist or not):

I spend way too much time in my life casting narrators for books I love. OK, my dream production would probably be Phil Gigante reading Neal Barrett Jr.’s Through Darkest America and Dawn’s Uncertain Light. These are two amazing Post-Nuclear war novels with one of the most disturbing twists I have ever read. They have a western feel to them that I think Gigante would handle well.