Undead Authors: My Interview with Eloise J. Knapp

10 05 2013

Today, I have a very special guest for Zombie Awareness Month, Ms. Eloise J. Knapp, author of The Undead Situation, which found a place on my coveted Top 10 Zombie Novels of 2011 with authors like Mira Grant and Joe McKinney, Her newest novel, The Undead Haze is currently available in EBook through Permuted Press, and in Audiobook by Audible Frontiers, and read by Kevin T. Collins.

At the time of this interview I had not listened to The Undead Haze, so don’t worry about spoilers. Now that I have listened, I can asure you all it’s awesome. Check out my reviews of both books in this series.

The Undead Situation

The Undead Haze

So, Eloise, Welcome to The Guilded Earlobe. I’m sure you will answer my inane questions with style and class.

BOB: When I first hear of The Undead Situation, the biggest thing I heard was about your age when you wrote it. All I was hearing was, “OMG! She was like 10 years old when she wrote it with crayons…. isn’t that AWESOME!” (The preceding statement was maybe a bit exaggerated.) Now, skeptical Bob was skeptical. So, could you tell us about how The Undead Situation came to be?

Eloise: No, you have it right. 10 years old with crayons, but halfway through I switched to colored pencils for crisper letters….

I started writing the beginnings of TUS when I was about 16. I wrote short vignettes here and there. Eventually my uncle started writing his novel and planned on self publishing it. I was inspired and became very motivated to turn those short pieces into something bigger. I set my mind to it and self published by the time I was 18, then a few months after that PP picked it up.

BOB: As a big Zombie fan, I had your novel on my radar, but these sort of wunderkind stories of young authors always leave me wary, but I try to keep an open mind. When I did listen, I was blown away by the maturity and insight you brought into the genre, especially in your characterizations. Cyrus is perhaps one of the most fascinating characters I have encountered in Zombie Fiction. A man who is seemingly a sociopath, but in someway, finds himself in this harsh new world. When you were developing Cyrus as a character did you ever worry that he was too different? That readers wouldn’t be able to connect with him, or find him at all likeable?

Eloise: I didn’t worry about him being too different, because that is what I wanted from him. Part of why I started writing was because, while I loved all kinds of zombie books, all the characters seemed too similar. I wanted Cyrus to be different. Easy to hate, easy to love, easy to laugh at, all in one. I knew there was a risk in people not liking him, but it was one I was willing to take for the sake of producing something unique. If I wanted almost all readers to connect with him or like him, he wouldn’t be who he is. He basically wouldn’t exist.

BOB: As someone who tends to lean more towards the introverted side, who enjoys his moments of solitude, and can often find the company of those beyond his closest friends and family a bit trying, I could relate in some ways to Cyrus. You would think an apocalyptic event would be the perfect place for a loner like him. Yet, I think one of the major themes of The Undead Situation is trying to find a balance between being wary and distrustful of people, and the fact that you need others to survive. With the ending of The Undead Situation, I can’t help but wonder how this dichotomy will affect Cyrus and Blaze. Without getting into too many spoilers, is this something that is further explored in The Undead Haze?

Eloise: Yes, yes, YES. It is explored a lot. A new character is introduced who forces Cyrus, in ways he isn’t happy and totally unfamiliar with, to truly consider his stance on being wary and distrustful versus how much you need other people to survive; or rather, the fine line of needing versus using other people for your own gain. TUH is heavy on character development. Cyrus didn’t like it, but it had to be done.

BOB: Beyond writing, you also do work as a photographer and model for some really awesome Zombie Apocalypse photographs, have edited an anthology and put all your skills together for Z Magazine, the first magazine written by Zombies for Zombies. You have done this all while attending college. When I was in college, I didn’t write any books, ran the radio station morning show when I wasn’t hung-over and was lucky if I actually read all my assigned work. I was very often on the edges of burning out. So, what are some of your favorite things to do when you just want to blow off some steam and escape the world for a bit?

Eloise: Instead of stating the obvious (watch zombie movies, go shooting) I’ll tell you some things you wouldn’t guess. I love to do hot yoga (about a 110 degree room, hour long sessions) about 4-6 times a week. Since I was young I’ve always loved baking and cooking, so I do quite a bit of that. When I have time I also quilt or work on other sewing projects. I also run a food blog with my grandma.

BOB: As you know, my blog focuses on Audiobooks. The Undead Situation features the work of one of my favorite narrators, Kevin T. Collins. I know some authors like to get involved in the audio productions, while others are hands off. Also, some authors will not listen to their own audiobooks because they fear it will affect their voice, while others love listening, even going as far as saying it helps them in their writing. So, did you listen to the audiobook version of The Undead Situation? Did you have any thoughts, revelations, icky feelings, or anything of the sort about the production?

Eloise: I listened to about 70% of TUS before I couldn’t. Naturally the voice wasn’t I imagined for Cyrus, but that is sort of a given. After I got over the voice (and I really love the narrator, I just had to get used to it after the first twenty minutes) it was an icky, icky feeling. Having something read back to me like that made me point out all the errors in my own work, wince at certain words or things I thought were cool at the time but didn’t anymore, etc. By the time TUS was turned into an audio book it had been so long since I revisited that my writing had changed a lot. In that sense it was also a revelatory because I realized certain things I did and tried curbing them.

BOB: If you were not writing about Zombies, what would you be writing about?

Eloise: I would still be writing post-apocalyptic fiction, but just not with zombies. I’ve also considered branching out into regular old dramatic fiction, but it’s a twinkle in my eye. Rather than say what I’d be writing about, here are some things I know I won’t be writing: romance (just can’t do it), young adult (I can’t stop things from getting too violent), paranormal (I’m afraid of ghosts and would scare myself).

BOB: Is there one book on your shelf that your fans may be shocked to see there?

Eloise: Almost the entire collection of Little House on the Prairie books. Vintage. Up until a few years ago I read at least one every summer. When I was a teenager I’d read all of them in the summer.

BOB: If Zombies were infesting your neighborhood right now, and you only had time to grab one item from your room, what would the item be, and why?

Eloise: I’d definitely grab the .22 rifle and a ton of ammo. I don’t have a good bug out bag built so the rifle seems like the next best thing.

BOB: We have moved from a world where authors do more than just write, but now engage with their fans through social media on an almost daily basis. You blog, attend cons, post charming and often hilarious videos and engage with your fans in a meaningful and professional way. Is there anything about Zombie fandom that has surprised you? Also, feel free to share any cool interactions you may have with fans over the years.

Eloise: One thing surprised me at first, in the absolute beginning of connecting with people, and it was only for a moment. When I first went to zomBcon my mom (I don’t think she’ll ever read this, but if she does, sorry mom!) was constantly going on about how people would be weird, mean, inconsiderate. That they were, for a lack of better words, freaks. It was offensive to me, of course, because wasn’t I a “freak” since I loved that stuff too and wrote about it? At the time I lived and breathed zombie books and movies. Anyway, she went to zomBcon with me and I had been nervous because I let her get to me, but right when I started meeting people it became obvious that they were the nicest people I had ever met. The sense of camaraderie (especially at zombie only events) is overwhelming. Everyone is nice, everyone is supportive and willing to talk. Like I said, it only surprised me for a second before the, “Well duh! Of course they’re awesome!” kicked in. Moral of the story? The people your mom calls “freaks” are the best people ever.

And I do have a fan interaction that, to this day, gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Almost two years ago a woman sent me this insanely long email about The Undead Situation. It was a mixture of praise and the most intense, blunt criticism I’d ever received. Ever. After I read it (it was at least two or three full word doc pages) I sat there, dazed. I sat on it for a day then emailed her back, thanking her for taking the time to email me and that her criticism was very helpful. We talked on and off for a while, then eventually I asked her if she wanted to beta read my sequel, maybe put some suggestions in here and there. Well, she ended up ripping every page apart. Every comment and edit was a brutal reality check. I loved every second of it. No beating around the bush. If she thought something sucked, she said so. After working with her I can safely say I became a better writer.

BOB: So, now that The Undead Haze is being released, what is next for you?

Eloise: I’m working on the last book in Cyrus’s trilogy and the last edition of Z Magazine. Don’t get your hopes up though; I’m a slow writer and it will be a while before The Undead End (my nickname for it) is finished. In the mean time I’m blogging, making videos, connecting with fans, and facing the “real world” now that college is over.

BOB: I want to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Any last words?

Eloise: Thanks! And…
Prepare for the apocalypse!

You can connect with Eloise J Knapp:

On Her Website

On Her Blog

On Facebook:

On Twitter:

On YouTube

Z Magazine

Her Books at Audible

The Undead Haze at Permuted Press





Narrative Overtones: My Interview with William Dufris

15 02 2013

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?

William:Thanks, Bob!

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.
Sooooooooo…

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!

Check out Williams titles on Audible.com, including the latest The Human Division episode. Visits William Dufris Website, Mind’s Eye Productions.





Narrative Overtones: My Interview with Dick Hill

26 06 2012

 

If you are a fan of audiobooks, particularly mysteries and thrillers, at some point you have probably experienced the iconic sonorous voice of Dick Hill. One fo the first series I had listened to when I became and audiobook fan was Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, and this was the first time for me that a narrator became the voice of a character. Since then I have listened to many great performances by Dick Hill, from action thrillers, to mysteries to fantasy and science fiction titles, and he always manages to make the characters memorable, and the words just jump off the paged. Dick Hill was kind enough o answer my questions today for Audiobook Week.

First off, I sincerely appreciate, and am honored that you an agreed to take the time out of your schedule to do this interview. When I first became an audiobook fan, around 6 years or so ago, you were the first recognizable narrative voice to me. You were the first narrator who had me looking for books not by genre, or author, but by who read them. You introduced me to a lot of great writers I may never have experienced if I remained solely a print reader.

So, to start off could you tell me how you got started in the industry, and give those who may not be familiar with your work and overview of your career?

Dick Hill: I was working at a small Equity Theatre in Michigan when Michael Page, a transplant Brit, who also worked there, put me in touch with the folks at Brilliance Audio.  He’d done a number of books for them, and they were looking for a narrator to do a WWII book, American p.o.v.  I recorded a few pages from a supermarket military thriller on a cheap cassette player, (about the closest I’ve come to having a demo, though I’ve helped a few folks put together their own) and that was enough to give me a chance with them.  I knew immediately that I’d found my niche, and I have never looked back.  Luckily, I found a measure of success in the work that’s kept me happily employed ever since.  That was probably close to two decades ago.

Let’s get into your books. I will start with the obvious one, at least for me, and that would be Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. Back on April Fools Day, I wrote a joke "News Update" saying to distract Reacher fans from the casting of Tom Cruise, they were also recasting the audiobook version, and that the frontrunners to replace you were British narrator Robin Sachs, and Bahni Turpin. I think the reason this joke works, is because, for many Reacher Fans, you are Jack Reacher. Can you tell us about your relationship with this character?

Dick Hill: Eileen Hutton put me together with Lee for the first Reacher novel, and I’ve been blessed to do every one since.  Different audio publishers, but Lee has dragged me along with him, for which I’m quite grateful.  I must admit, it’s not just the fans who think I’m Reacher.  When I’m recording the latest Lee Child offering, I’m also quite convinced that I am him.  At least in the booth.  When I step out into the real world, it’s plainly evident that I am NOT.  I’ve met fans face to face on a few occasions, and though they’ve always been very kind, I feel I can detect a bit of disappointment that I’m not the physical specimen I voice in the books.  Voicing Reacher’s latest adventure is one of the high points of any year.  My wife, Audie winner Susie Breck, no longer narrates, but she engineers and directs my work from our home studio.  We both love Lee’s skill and artistry.  His humor (well, humour) and terrific sense of rhythm go along with all the other elements to make his work so great.  Lee’s the sort of writer who puts it all on the page so well, that it seems to me inevitable that Reacher and the other characters speak the way they do.

As a narrator who has handled many series, as well as standalones, do you prefer revisiting characters you know, or experiencing and developing new characters?

Dick Hill: Hmmm….interesting question, that.  Not sure I have an answer.  A continuing character’s familiarity is a great thing to savor and work with, but then, the challenge of finding a new person to try to inhabit is a delightful challenge. Even with an established character, the opportunity to stretch oneself is always there, and the demands are the same in that you try to make every word count. I guess I’m just happy to be working at something I find so rewarding, and so challenging, whether it’s an old friend or a new one.

The Jack Reacher series has been told in both the first person POV and the third person POV. As a narrator, do you prepare differently for a book actually narrated by the character, as opposed to a sort of omniscient, neutral third person narrator?

Dick Hill: Not really.  As soon as I’ve finished the opening credits, I dive in, fully invested (I HOPE!) in telling the story as interestingly and believably as I can imagine, no matter the POV.  That said, first person, particularly a person I’ve known for awhile, can sometimes offer a special enjoyment.

Recently, Stephen White has announced that he will be retiring his series character, Alan Gregory with a two book arc. One thing I love about Alan Gregory is he is not an action hero in the least. He’s mild mannered, and almost a pushover, but his moral code as a psychologist gets him entangled in some messy situations. He’s very much the anti-Reacher and I think that is reflected in your performance. When voicing characters how much is detailed preparation, and how much is natural performance? Are the any tricks you use to keep a character in your head while performing a reading?

Dick Hill: Thanks Bob.  They are two very different characters, and I like to think that’s reflected in my work.  Both writers (Child and White) are wonderfully talented, and I find my guide to performance is right there in their words.  Not only are the characters different for these two, or any other accomplished writer’s works, but the language used, the world-view of the author in his work, the rhythms and vocabulary make the performance almost inevitable, or so it seems to me.  Generally, Susie preps our work, deals with pronunciation questions, or enlists my help in that regard.  She’ll note clues or descriptions of characters and any mention of accent or timbre etc. included in the text and make that available to me.  I do cold reads, I find it more challenging and feel it contributes to a fresher, better performance.  Many other narrators take an altogether different approach and do wonderful work.  Whatever works.  Keeping major characters in my head is no problem…I often have in mind some person I know, or character or type I might have seen somewhere, to refer to.  And of course, we keep notes for ongoing series.  Those are invaluable when you’re doing, say, a W.E.B. Griffin series, which may have recurring characters that make brief appearances over a number of years, half a dozen lines in each book.

You have narrated books in many genres. While the majority of your work in in the Thriller/Mystery genre, you have narrated Nonfiction, Fantasy, Romance and Memoirs as well. What is you favorite genre to perform?

Dick Hill: You’re right, I do more Thriller/Mystery work than any other genre, but I enjoy doing other sorts of work every bit as much.  My favorite genre, if you can call it such, is Well Written/Thought Provoking/Engaging, whether that takes place on a distant planet, a dark alley, or in the past.

If we were to get a peak at your personal bookshelf, what may we be surprised to find?

Dick Hill: I have a hunch what people would find most surprising is the very small  number of books we own.  I’m an auto-didact, I suppose, and for years I hung onto and treasured many of the books I read that engaged and enlightened me, but we’ve given away all but a few score.  The library is within biking distance, and we are very good customers of that wonderful place.

One of my favorite fantasy series is David Anthony Durham’s Acacia series. It was actually my first experience with you reading fantasy, and I was surprised how different it was than my other experiences with you. You read it with a deliberate, style, with a hint of a British accent to it. Fantasy is one of the genres that I have explored more with audiobooks, because a gifted narrator can really contribute to the world building. What are some of the challenges you face with Fantasy that you may not face with more realistic novels?

Dick Hill: Other than perhaps developing some unique vocal traits to help differentiate societies or races, even species, my approach to that sort of work is very much the same.  A willing suspension of disbelief, a real immersion in the world the author creates, of whatever sort, is the one common thread for me.  Came across a book once, ACTING IS BELIEVING.  For me, the title alone pretty much sums up my approach.

Can you give us a glimpse of your process, from prepping your books, to what happens in studio?

Dick Hill: I think I pretty much covered that in the earlier questions.  Let’s see, what else?  Stay hydrated.  Keep your head in the game.  Don’t make noise. Try to ensure you’re not too hungry, in order to minimize Borborygmus. (Isn’t that a great word to describe a growling stomach or gut? I can never manage to keep it in mind though, for some reason, have to google it in order to use it)

When your done bringing worlds alive with your voice, how do you relax?

Dick Hill: Read.  Cook.  I love working in the kitchen, and I like to think I’m a pretty fair cook.  Family and friends.

My favorite all time Dick Hill read novel is Joe R. Lansdale’s A Fine Dark Line. It’s a coming of age mystery tale that centers on a 13 year old boy whose family owns and operates a Drive-In Theater. I found that for someone know for a deep, sonorous voice, you handled the voice of a 13 year old rather well.   I could go on and on about that book but I shall resist. If you had to pick one book or series as the highlight of your career, what would it be?

Dick Hill: Well, you certainly picked a prime candidate with A FINE DARK LINE. Huckleberry Finn, and a book called THE RIVER WHY, by David James Duncan, but to paraphrase the lyric from Finnian’s Rainbow, when I’m not reading the book that I love, I love the book I read.

In my review of The Affair, I joked a bit about the intense love scene between Reacher and his lady of the moment that you gave a deliberate escalating rhythm to. Are there any types of scenes that as a narrator that you find awkward or uncomfortable, or do you just have a "go for it" sort of attitude?

Dick Hill: I’m lucky I think in that the various publishers I work with have a sense of what I wouldn’t care to do.  I begged off one very popular series because although it was good work in many regards, there was a sadistic/sexual element that I felt uncomfortable presenting, primarily because the greater  part of the audience for the books was comprised of young people, and I  didn’t wish to have anything to do with establishing such behaviors or beliefs in people’s minds.

Is there any book or author who you haven’t had the chance to read that you would love to take on, given the opportunity?

Dick Hill: Wish I’d done Robert Parker.  That popped into my mind.  Great dialogue.

Any upcoming projects that you are particularly excited about?

Dick Hill: I’m always pretty excited, gratified anyway, simply to be working.  Right now, though, I’m working through a backlist, some thirty or so, of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels. Some of the earliest police procedurals, with  a great cast of continuing characters.  Terrific dialogue, in fact, Robert Parkers cited McBain as a great influence.  Just finished Stephen White’s  penultimate Dr. Gregory book (Gonna’ really mourn the loss of that guy) and sometime this month I’ll do the latest Jack Reacher.

I could probably continue with a million more questions, but I will restrain myself and ask just one more, which is my old interview standard. If one day, someone wrote the story of your life, what author would you like to write it, and who would be your choice to narrate the audiobook version?

Dick Hill: I don’t think I’d ever wish to have my life story told to the general public.  If it were, I’d want to narrate it myself.   Hell Bob, I want to narrate every book ever written!

Again, thank you for your time!

Make sure you check out Dick Hill’s Website and the well over 400 titles available at Audible.com.





Audiobook Week: An Interview with Ted Scott

25 06 2012

Like many people, I enjoy listening to audiobooks from the first introduction, to the final credits. If you have listened to as many Audiobooks as me, you begin to become familiar with certain manes in the Audiobook World. One name that has been credited many times and on some of my favorite Audiobooks is Ted Scott. Ted Scott has worked with Stefan Rudniki and Gabrielle De Cuir’s Multimedia Production Company Skyboat Media for years. He has worked with many talented narrators. I have always been a behind the scenes kind of guy. I worked my way through college doing Sound and Video work for plays, dance recitals, conferences and working at my college radio station. For Audiobook Week, I wanted to highlight one of these behind the scenes guys who help make the medium I love perform at it’s very best.

 

First off, thanks for stopping by the blog today. Could you give us a little background on how you got started in the audiobook industry and an overview on your career?

Ted Scott: No problem. Back in 1999, I was asked to do live sound for an event with author Byron Katie. I was a house painter at the time, but since I have a background in music and understand signal flow and was cheap, I took the gig. She liked me and asked me to “tour the world with her” as a sound engineer. I pitched her for a much bigger role in The Work Foundation and became her sound man, post production engineer, and digital archivist. Eventually she scored a deal with Crown for her first book. Around that time she and I met with John Hunt from American Audio Literature, who wanted to obtain the rights to her first book as well as her live workshop archive. As part of the deal, I was hired by Audio Literature to continue oversight of the archives and edit her first book, Loving What Is. This is when I first started working with Stefan Rudnicki, who produced the work along with Joel Heller. Shortly afterwards, Stefan offered me  the chance to edit The Rock Rats, by Ben Bova, a 10 hr. multireader book, followed by Xenocide, a multireader by Orson Scott Card. I guess I did a good job, because the rest is history.

What exactly does an audiobook editor do? At what point do you get involved in the process?

Ted Scott: My work starts the moment the recording is finished. Typically, I’m sent a director’s script with markups as to what happened during the session, as well as the sessions themselves. It’s my job to premaster the sessions for editing, which involves setting levels and reducing ambient noise to acceptable levels. Once that’s done the work of editing begins. I “cut the chaff,” so to speak, by removing all the extra takes and cleaning up obtrusive breaths and mouth noises. Of course, during the sessions, there is direction, page turning, and other interruptions in the narrative process. I basically try to honor the pace of the narrator and mimic what they would have done had there not been an interruption. Once the edit is done the book moves into a quality control (QC) and analysis phase where misreads, inconsistencies, and final cleanup notes are delivered back to me. In most cases we call the actor back in for pickups of misread sentences. I implement those pickups and spruce up any issues that come up in QC. Occasionally I’ll fix misreads by editing. Once the book is fixed we move to a final mastering phase where I’ll bring the levels up and prepare the audiobook to spec for the publisher. 100% of the time this involves creating a download product, and about 20% of the time it will involve mastering a CD product as well.


I’m not sure exactly how many of your titles I have experienced. I know it’s probably a good number. As someone who listens to a lot of speculative fiction, I know I’ve heard you name associated with productions by Audible Frontiers. and Blackstone audio, and probably plenty of others. Is there a different approach you take to a production if it’s science fiction or fantasy, as opposed to non-fiction or some other genre?

Ted Scott: Not specifically.  A lot of the approach I take is decided for me at the production level. I will say that science fiction does tend to lend itself well to certain production values, such as multiple POV’s (Point of View), in which a different reader is used for each POV shift. Stefan Rudnicki and Skyboat are innovators of this type of production, and I’m very happy to be an integral part of that process. The recent Galactic Center series by Gregory Benford is a good example of this, and of course the works of Ben Bova and Orson Scott Card are classic examples of this type of production. Of course, a lot of books are just more appropriately read by a single reader. If the casting is there, and with Skyboat it always is, all I have to do is honor the pace of the narrator and the rest will fall into place.

As someone who works on the production side of the audiobook industry and have had to deal with a lot of different narrators, do you have any narrator pet peeves? Something that just drives you crazy every time a narrator does it?

Ted Scott: Not really. You’d think I would, but the truth is that most pro narrators are a joy to work on. They tend to have a tremendous amount of focus and positive work ethic. While everybody has their quirks, it’s hard to overlook the fact that you’re actually watching and listening to a master at work on their craft. It’s amazing.


What advice would you give a new narrator, for optimizing the technical side of their performance?

Ted Scott: I’d say, trust the producer who cast you, breathe, and relax. It’s important not to rush. If they are working alone, such as in a home booth setup, which is quite common these days, I’d say consult with a studio engineer regarding mic placement, then consult with a post engineer to tweak the studio sound so that the technical side can be forgotten and energy can be placed on performance. Try to learn from the experts by watching and asking questions if you can. The best narrators have a remarkable consistency in their levels both from one end of a sentence to the other, as well as from one end of a book to another. Stefan Rudnicki is a master at this. Other narrators that come to mind are Stephen Hoye, Hillary Huber, and Scott Brick.


Do you ever listen to audiobooks for entertainment? If you do, how do you keep from keeping your knowledge of the technical aspects of audio production from affecting your ability to simply enjoy a good audiobook?

Ted Scott: I do. I think in most cases the production values tend to be fairly high. If there are serious technical issues, such as bad levels or just a bad production, I’ll just pass on it. I can tell that kind of thing from an Audible sample, so I don’t listen to poorly done books. Sometimes I can get thrown by an editors sense of timing, but for the most part, the narrator does all the work and it’s easy to forget about the small stuff and just get into the story.


I’m sure in the course of your work you encounter tons of narrator miscues, misreads, and mispronunciations, are there any that stick out for you as especially funny or absurd?

Ted Scott: I once had a narrator misread a three word phrase as “Split Pea Pedicures”. None of those words were in the phrase. It had nothing to do with anything! We all got a great laugh out of that one.

Is there any particular production you feel especially proud of, and why?

Ted Scott:Wow, there are kind of a lot that come to mind now that you mention it, but if I had to pick one thing that really stands out it would be the short story collections by Harlan Ellison. I am so happy to have been able to work with him. He is an astounding writer and an unparalleled performer. His work tends to bring out the greatest performances from pro narrators. Check out the story collections The Deathbird or Shatterday, you won’t regret it.

I also never pass up a chance to recommend A Long, Long Time Ago, and Essentially True,  by Brigid Pasulka. This one was read by Cassandra Campbell and directed by Gabrielle DeCuir.  it’s a beautifully written book, and Cassandra’s performance is incredibly moving and sensitive.

 


I know that you have probably gotten the chance to work with a few celebrity narrators. Do you have a favorite moment working with a celebrity narrator? What about a horror story?  Do you prefer to work with professional narrators, or celebrities?

Ted Scott: I like working with both professional narrators and celebrities equally. Pro narrators are really good at what they do and often make my job easy. They tend to be very consistent in their levels and use tone to convey mood rather than volume shifts. Many of them are skilled in ProTools and have their own home studios, which can be quite nice. They’ll often deliver sessions which are edited (to a degree) on the fly during the recording phase (called “punch and roll”), and this can be quite convenient.  Celebrities, although often not “expert” narrators, tend to be really good actors, at least the ones I’ve worked with. There is a certain satisfaction I get as an editor in helping the production come together for them.  Sometimes the performance is so good that it brings out a totally different level of editing from me, a level of willingness and dedication that’s on a different plane, just as these actors are. I’ve experienced this numerous times with Tim Curry, Anne Hathaway, Elijah Wood and Annette Benning, among others, and many of the celebrity books I’ve done have turned out to be some of my best work, thanks in no small part to these fine actors.

I know a lot of actors have superstitions or habits that they perform before heading on stage. Do you have any superstitions before heading into the studio to work on a book?

Ted Scott: I just shut my phone off.

After a long day of making people’s words and voices sound good, how do you unwind?

Ted Scott: With physical activity, definitely. Sitting for many hours at the computer can take its physical toll after a time. I’ve spent thousands of hours in the seat over the years, and in fact, I don’t even sit anymore when I edit, I stand. A run, a walk, or lifting heavy things in the evening is good for my body and mind. On days off, I tend to head to music venues, play guitar, or go hiking or camping with my wife and kids.

Finally, if someone was to write the story of your life, who would you want to narrate the audiobook version?


Ted Scott: Ewen McGregor, which is kind of odd because as far as I know he’s never narrated an audiobook. Then again, I’d never edited an audiobook the first time I did it. Anyhow, I think he’d be good and I’m always suggesting him in hopes that he’ll do it someday. If I couldn’t get him, I’d of course go with Stefan. Sorry Stefan, it’s Ewan McGregor man!

 

A Huge thanks to Ted Scott for taking the time out to answer my questions!

Check out Ted Scott’s Website 50 Nugget Wash and be sure to follow him on Twitter at @50NuggetWash. 





Armchair BEA 2012: Introductions

3 06 2012

I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant to do Armchair BEA this year. I like meeting new bloggers, following what’s going on and getting the skinny on the latest book buzz in the industry. Yet, what I don’t like doing is talking about myself. I like talking about books, about what I was thinking about when reading books, how books have influenced my life and things like that, but blatantly promoting myself isn’t something I enjoy doing.

I was sort of sad when the BEA team changed the interview format. Last year, I had the opportunity to meet a great fellow blogger during the interview period, and despite having different taste in books, we hit it off pretty well.  It helped that we both are audiobook enthusiasts. The cool thing was that since we both had very different audiences, so we had the added benefit of exposure to a new market. Plus, I love answering questions posed by others specifically tailored to me and trying to think of new, twisted questions to ask someone. Yet, I won’t be a spoiled sport, and will try to do this interview thing.

What really made me decide to do Armchair BEA is that June is Audiobook Month, and BEA is a great platform to promote audiobooks. If this is your first time here, this blog is dedicated to audiobooks. I review 3-5 audiobooks a week, mostly in the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and Thriller genres. If you are someone who instantly writes of audiobooks, I hope you will stick with me this week and give me a chance to open your mind to this medium. If you are already an audiobook fan, Welcome! We should have some fun this week.

My Answers to the Interview Questions:

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

My name is Bob, I’m a bit of an oddity in the Book Blogger world, being a 30 something male audiobook blogger. I have been blogging for over a decade, but I have only been actively blogging about audiobooks on this blog for about a year and a half. My first blog was commentary on TV, particularly the Shows Survivor and The Amazing Race, and mostly contained columns I wrote for other online sources. I began blogging about books 5 years ago, but after a career change, which also resulted in my move to audiobooks as my primary source of fiction, I put blogging on hold.

The reason I started this blog was that there really wasn’t a wealth of available Audiobook reviews in the genres that I loved. Plus, I love books, and love writing about books.

What is your favorite feature on your blog (i.e. author interviews, memes, something specific to your blog)?

I have a weekly feature called Welcome to the Apocalypse that appears each Friday on my blog (unless there is another event happening.) This feature highlights my love of Apocalyptic Fiction, with reviews, interviews and monthly lists featuring my favorite Post Apocalyptic books in particular categories, like Post Nuclear and Alien Invasion.

Also, this year, along with other bloggers and organized by The Literate Housewife, I participated in The Armchair Audies, were bloggers listened to all the nominees in a category for The Audio Publishers Audie Awards, and then made their predictions. My contributions were in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal Categories, and this event was one of my most rewarding blogging experiences.

Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?

I have to admit, my favorite post I have written is my review of Adam Mansbach’s Go The F*ck to Sleep. It really was a joke review, and some people I guess didn’t get that. My other post I would highlight is My Top 10 Adult Dystopian Novels. Dystopian Fiction has taken the Young Adult world by storm, and I felt, as part of my Welcome to the Apocalypse Feature, it would be interesting to highlight some of the classic examples of the genre.

If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?

Most of my favorite literary characters would not make good dinner guests. I would love to invite Jack Reacher to dinner, but I am sure the conversation would be full of long, awkward silences. I’d love to sit down with Joe Ledger from Jonathan Maberry’s Department of Military Sciences Series and have a beer, but more likely than not we would be attacked by terrorists, zombies or genetically engineered monsters.

Authors are a bit easier. I’d love to have dinner with Eloise J. Knapp because she is gorgeous, brilliant and loves zombies. I think beers with Chuck Wendig would be a blast, in a twisted sort of way. There are a lot of brilliant new authors like Myke Cole, Saladin Ahmed and TC McCarthy who have this approachable vibe on Twitter that I think it would be fun interacting with them in real life.

Yet, in the end, I think I would most enjoy playing Scrabble with Einstein, the intelligent Golden Retriever for Dean Koontz’ Watchers.

Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging? How?

The one thing about the blogging community is they are constantly pushing me to expand my reading horizons. I have experienced a lot of books I probably never would have if it wasn’t for reviews and recommendations of fellow bloggers. This is the beauty of book blogging, the community. If you are simply writing reviews and posting them on your blog without interaction with other bloggers, you are doing it wrong. If you are only interacting with blogger who review books in your specific favorite formats or genres you are doing it wrong.

Don’t do it wrong.

If you only discover one new book through your interactions with other bloggers, you have discovered a new book. That is doing it right.

What To Expect From Me This Week.

1. Audiobook Reviews: I will have a review each day this week. Some titles you should expect, a release day review of Zombie by debut author J, R. Angella,  the latest entry in Christopher Farnsworth’s Nathaniel Cade series titled Red, White and Blood and the newest from John Scalzi.

2. Daily posts. I don’t consider myself an expert blogger, so don’t expect much sage advice from me. You will find a lot of talk on audiobooks, with recommendations.

3. Special Guest Post. I will have a very special guest post and audiobook giveaway. If you are a fan of Zombie Fiction, you’ll want to check it out.

I will be attempting to visit as many blogs as I can. look forward to meeting you all.

If you are interested, and want to interact, you can follow me on twitter @guildedearlobe, or like my Facebook page.

Look for my review of Invincible, the latest Lost Fleet novel by Jack Campbell today.

Note: The Banner Image Used Above was Created by Nina of Nina Reads.





Seven Questions with Mira Grant

19 05 2011

Mira Grant is the author of The NewsFlesh Trilogy. Feed, the first book in that series, has been nominated for both a Hugo Award for Best Novel, as well as an Audie Award for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Audiobook. Her latest addition to the series is Deadline, which. in my humble opinion, is a brilliant follow up to Feed.  The Print version from Orbit Books, and the Audio version from Hachette Audio are available June 1. You can check out my review of Deadline here.

Ms. Grant was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule of writing kick ass novels, taking care of her cats and sharpening her machete to answer a few questions.

Bob: You are one of the few female author who has embraced the Zombie genre. Why Zombies? How did you fan base and colleagues react when you told them you wanted to write, not just a zombie novel, but a series of them?

Mira: “Hey, now.  Zombies aren’t as much of a boy’s club as some people think.  Cherie Priest’s fabulous steampunk zombies got her on the Hugo ballot last year.  Kelley Armstrong has done some fantastic things with zombies in her Women of the Otherworld setting.  And Madeleine Roux wrote an interactive horror-comedy zombie novel called Allison Hewitt is Trapped.  It’s not just me!  But it was zombies for me because it was always zombies; they’ve been one of my favorite monsters since I was a kid and got in trouble for sneaking out of bed at midnight to watch Night of the Living Dead.  There’s something beautifully appealing about the dead that walk.

“My fans and colleagues mostly reacted with relief when I said I was finally going to buckle down and write a zombie novel, rather than talking endlessly about how much I wanted to write a zombie novel some day.  And then they all laughed at me when, midway through the process of writing Feed, the big zombie boom hit.  They were all, see?  You, too, can predict future trends.  And then they stopped laughing when they realized I had the CDC on my speed dial.  By the time I was midway through Feed, most of them were invested enough in What Happens Next to be really, really glad that I was planning a complete trilogy.”

Bob: In my review of Deadline I remarked how, based on the events of Feed, Deadline had to be a decidedly different book. How tough was it to find the right tone for Deadline? How anxious were you about the reaction you may receive from it?

Mira: “It wasn’t as tough as you’d expect, largely because a lot of the things that make Deadline so different were a natural evolution of things I was already doing in the last quarter of Feed.  I had already done this with the training wheels on, so to speak.  I’ve been pretty anxious about a lot of aspects of the book’s release.  People loved Feed so much (except when they didn’t) that it’s a little nerve wracking to be all ‘great, now here’s the sequel, have fun.'”

Bob: In most Zombie Apocalypse books and films society is almost entirely eradicated, except for a few enclaves scattered about. Yet, the Newsflesh world is different. Your society has found away to adapt itself to the Zombies, yet, this adaptation seems mostly based on fear. I can’t help but think this is a reflection of out post 9/11 world. What about the world you created fascinates you?

Mira: “If I can be completely honest…the science.  I am an old school horror girl and I have a machete collection, but when you ask me about what I like best in this setting, it’s really and truly the science.  I love the squishy reality of it all.  I love that it functions.  The fear is definitely a reflection of the world we’re living in today.  Humans make surprisingly good boiled frogs.  We chip away at our liberties and our freedoms one little piece at a time, and as long as we take it slow, we’ll give up more than you could ever dream.  Look at how we live now.  Look at how we lived twenty years ago.  Ask yourself…would we ever, ever have given up those freedoms for security in a single lump sum?

“My big social fantasy that’s expressed sort of behind-the-scenes in the Newsflesh world is universal and comprehensive medical care.  This is a reality that has learned the value of strengthening the general population.”

Bob: My site is basically dedicated to Audiobooks. Have you listened to the audiobook versions of your books, and what do you think of them? Were you involved in anyway with the production process?

Mira: “I’ve listened to part of Feed–I didn’t even realize the Deadline audio book was finished until I saw your review.  I thought the readers were awesome, and that Orbit made some very smart choices with the production.  I couldn’t listen to the whole thing, because I needed to be focusing on writing the next one.  I’m not involved with the production process, apart from occasionally explaining how to pronounce a word, but I totally trust them.”

Bob: Now some fun questions. If you were going to go Irwin for the day, what weapons would you choose to take with you?

Mira: “I would like a tank.  A nice, big tank that fires depleted uranium bullets and can crush anything which happens to step into its path.  I will then roll my tank around, flattening zombies in my wake, and making Tank Girl jokes until everyone wants to slap me.”

Bob:I find it suspicious that cats fit nicely under the weight threshold for Kellis-Amberlee amplification. More proof of their evil plot for world domination?

Mira:“Science again.  When I was designing the virus, we needed a weight threshold, or else it’s zombie squirrels and the end of the world.  Forty pounds seemed like a good cut-off point.  Some dogs and most livestock can amplify, most cats and babies can’t.  Also, no zombie rats.  I am opposed to zombie rats.  They would be bitey.”

Bob:Finally, there is this other author out there named Seanan McGuire. Tell me, what would fans of the Newsflesh novels discover if they checked out her work?

Mira: Seanan McGuire is my good twin–I’m the evil one–and she primarily writes urban fantasy, with occasional forays into science fiction and horror.  Fans of the Newsflesh novels might find that her work is surprisingly familiar, especially the short fiction, which deals with vampires and psychotic muses and hitchhiking ghosts and buckets of mad science.  Plus her website is updated a lot more regularly than mine, and her bibliography tends to list the things I have coming out.  Funny thing, that.”

A big thanks to Mira Grant for answering my questions… and for not creating zombie rats.

Note: You can find the images I used for this post on Mira Grant’s Website. Icons and Wallpapers available.