Category Archives: Q&A

Audiobooks Q&A: Brick Shop Audiobook’s Robert Granniss

Adam Boretz -- December 4th, 2012

This week, our Audiobook Q&A steps out of the recording booth and into the studio, as we chat with Robert Granniss, engineer and directer at Brick Shop Audiobooks.

Listen Up: Tell us a little about your background and how Brick Shop Audio came to be? What was the motivation behind starting your own recording studio?

Robert Granniss: Chris Theise and I started recording some of his music together in the winter of 2010. I had accumulated a good deal of audio equipment, having produced and engineered bands in New York and New Orleans since about 2000. We pooled our resources and enjoyed working together and started sniffing out a more steady line of work than recording music. Since most musicians are DIY-ers these days, we decided to make a go of making our day job of  producing audiobooks at Recorded Books into our own business. When ACX came along, we decided to take the plunge and invest in a sound booth and have been at it since. Our motivation is that we love producing recordings, be it music, radio (I’ve worked at WNYC as an engineer for On the Media, and Chris hosted a show on WNYZ), and, of course, audiobooks.

LU: What sets Brick Shop apart from other independent studios that record audiobooks?

RG: I think we have a really interesting blend of talents amongst ourselves, in that I have a computer science background and can deal with the immense data flow involved in recording, and Chris has experience in the financial sector and has a sharper business acumen than anyone I’ve partnered with in the past. Though, first and foremost, our advantage is the friendships and professional relationships we have with a very talented and diverse pool of NewYork-based actors and actresses who are eager to work with us. We get giddy whenever we cast books knowing how great it’ll be to hear, say Jim Jenner reading Holding Lies by John Larison, or Erin Mallon reading Simply, Mine by Jane Carrington, Jennifer O’Donnell for White Trash Beautiful by Teresa Mummert, and so on.

LU: Publishers Weekly recenlty did a feature on self-published audiobooks. How do you see the rise in self-published titles affecting the audio industry? Continue reading

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Audiobook Q&A: Laural Merlington

Adam Boretz -- November 20th, 2012

Listen Up’s Audiobook Q&A is back — and we’re delighted to return with a conversation with Audie Award-winning narrator Laural Merlington.

Listen Up: The APA recently released its call for entries for the Audie Award for Distinguished Achievement in Production. You were part of the cast of last year’s winner, The Watch that Ends the Night. What was it like to be a part of that production?

Laural Merlington: The Watch that Ends the Night was different from my usual assignments in that it is a multi-voice work. Also because the book is written in a poetic format it afforded the voice talent and director some creativity in terms of doubling voices, layering them, and also adding sound prompts to add to the drama. I have played many different characters in my career as talent, but this was my first ICE BERG!

LU: On a very similar note, what was it like winning the Audie Award for Distinguished Achievement in Production? Is this up there among the highlights of your career as an audiobook narrator?

LM: It is a privilege to have won the Audie especially sharing it with the very talented cast that performed this work. I don’t know if it is the height of my career, I would love to win on my own, but it certainly is a high moment for me.

LU: Do you think an award for Distinguished Achievement in Production can put an audiobook “on the map” in a similar way to the Audiobook of the Year award?

LM: I honestly don’t know if an award for Distinguished Achievement in Production holds any sway, but winning an Audie of any kind should certainly bring some attention to this piece. I hope it does, as it is well worth listening to.

LU: The Watch that Ends the Night was an ensemble cast. Tell us about the recording process. Did you record your sessions separately or with other actors?

LM: Yes, The Watch that Ends the Night is an ensemble cast, however because the way the piece in written, in long first-person narratives, it did not allow for the various narrators to work together. Each of our individual sections were recorded independent of the others.

Continue reading

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Audiobook Q&A: Jo Anna Perrin

Adam Boretz -- August 13th, 2012

Our Audiobook Q&A returns with Jo Anna Perrin — audio narrator, actor, writer, photographer, and co-creator of Abbreviated Audio. We caught up with Jo Anna earlier this summer and chatted about everything from flying under the radar and APAC to #JIAM 2012 and dream projects.

You and Johnny Heller run Abbreviated Audio. Can you tell our readers a little about the site and how it came about?

The idea for a blog had been germinating between us for quite a bit of time. We both write professionally, and the urge for a space that was ours, where we could do just that, write, at our leisure and with complete control over content and time, largely appealed to us. We would have complete autonomy, therefore no deadlines and no one to object to content. Slowly, the idea of a  website that encompassed audiobook-ish information as well, such as reviews, interviews, commentary, and of course, humor, became factored in, and that idea intrigued us. On a cold December day, I opened my email to find a hosting site had made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and voila, for better or worse, Abbreviated Audio was born.

In your June Is Audiobook Month video with Robert Fass, you say that you’re going to expand Abbreviated Audio—can you give us a preview of that expansion?

Our goal, which we hope we can fulfill, is to largely widen the look and purview of the original site. We hope to take it beyond its humble beginnings. To that end, we are in talks with a site designer regarding adding more inter-active media, and bells and whistles, such as classes and podcasts to the site.

We’d like to make Abbreviated Audio more encompassing in terms of the audiobook world and create a location where other narrators and/or reviewers feel comfortable contributing. We already are gifted to have Jennifer Conner of Literate Housewife fame, who occasionally guest contributes on our site, and we’d like to extend the invitation to other narrators, reviewers, and bloggers as well.

Also, and this is certainly riskier on our part, we are hoping to dip our toes into audiobook production…A prospect that both terrifies and excites us!

Speaking of June Is Audiobook Month, how was it for you? What were some of your #JIAM2012 highlights?

I always enjoy Audiobook Month! The first weeks are especially hectic since they include obvious highlights such as APAC and the Audies, BEA and the Bloggers track. It is in effect, a social extravaganza, where I get to visit with many people in the short span of about seven to 10 days, that because of disparate locations, I only see during that time.

Getting to visit and photograph the Listeners Lounge this year was a particular delight, as was checking in with Robert Fass’s daily video journal in honor of the month, not to mention being in one myself.

I was especially pleased to see that this year, more than any other previous one, there was remarkable media coverage of many of the events of Audiobook Month, along with commentary on the art form itself, and public recognition of many amazing narrators. The serious nod to audiobooks in the press has been a long-time coming, but unquestionably better late than never.

How did you get your start in audio narration? And what tips would you offer aspiring narrators? Continue reading

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Audiobook Q&A: 50 Shades of Becca Battoe

Adam Boretz -- July 31st, 2012

Our Audiobook Q&A series is back — and this time, we’ve gone GREY. Today, we bring you our in-depth audiobooks chat with Becca Battoe, the narrator of E.L. James’s wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed.

1. How did you come to narrate the audio editions of the 50 Shades books? Were you a fan of the series?

I have worked with Random House Audio for a few years now, so they have me in their databank as a reader. When E.L. James and her people called Random House looking for voices, mine was one of the many options she was given to choose from. Apparently, she chose my voice as the reader for these novels, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

2. Once you signed on to narrate the series, did you feel a certain amount pressure give the popularity of the books?

Fortunately, when I got the call from my producer offering me this job, neither one of us had any idea how huge this title was going to be. I was still recording the second and third books when they released the first one, and I was astounded at all the press it got right out of the gate. I’m still at a loss for words. They were released over 20 weeks ago, and all three are still in the top 10 on Kindle, audio and paperback. It’s amazing!

3. Did the “adult” nature of the books present any special challenges to you as a narrator? Were there any passages that gave you pause as you were recording them? Continue reading

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Audiobook Q&A: Xe Sands

Adam Boretz -- June 29th, 2012

Today our Audiobook Q&A series returns — AND HOW! — to help celebrate the conclusion of Audiobook Week and June is Audiobook Month with an in-depth talk with one of our favorite narrators, Xe Sands. During our interview — which Listen Up is posting in conjunction with Sands’s Going Public — Xe thanks the narrators who have helped her during her career, offers tips for aspiring audiobook narrators, and tells us what’s she’s working on next.

1. In one of his June Is Audiobook Month videos, Robert Fass describes you as “breaking out this year” with a string of very successful and well-received audio productions. Do you see this as a breakout year? Why or why not.                                             

I was honored that Robert included me in his excellent JIAM video series and his wonderful introduction gave me something to think about. It’s tempting to consider your first year or two working steadily or in which you begin receiving industry recognition as your “breakout” year, but I would counter with this: breaking out implies pushing past the boundaries of whatever box you’re in — expanding and growing. Positive reception and professional recognition is a part of that, but I’d offer that there also needs to be that “something else.” This year marks a sea change in my approach to narration. With the help of a very insightful mentor, I’ve spent the better part of 2012 diving into my delivery to identify what is/isn’t working for listeners, and what should or shouldn’t change. It’s been a remarkable and sometimes painful process of falling out of love with how I sound and into love with what I do. If this process has led to a more fulfilling experience for listeners, it has been well worth it. And by that measure, I would consider this a breakout year.

2. How did you get your start in audio narration? And what tips would you offer aspiring narrators? Continue reading

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PW Focus on Audio 2012: Part IV

Adam Boretz -- May 18th, 2012

Our final piece in Publishers Weekly’s Focus on Audio 2012 is a Q&A with comedian, actor, director, and writer Michael Showalter — narrator of the audio edition of his memoir Mr. Funny Pants and host of this year’s Audie Awards.

Michael Showalter is probably best known for starring in the 2001 film Wet Hot American Summer; his participation in the comedy troupe, Stella; and from the ’90s, his role in the MTV show The State. But he’s also written a memoir and recorded its audiobook, and this year he will host the Audies Gala and Awards Presentation on June 5 at the New-York Historical Society. We caught up with Showalter recently to chat about audiobooks, his experience in the recording booth, and his latest projects.

Can you tell us how you got into the audiobook world?

I wrote a book that came out a year ago or so, and it’s now just recently come out in paperback, called Mr. Funny Pants with Grand Central Publishing. And we did an audiobook for it that was a lot of fun and people really liked it. Now I’m a veteran.

Was your narrating the audio edition of Mr. Funny Pants your idea or the publisher’s?

I think my book is really humor writing. In a lot of ways it has the feel of almost a standup comedy routine. My book is written very much in my own voice and with my own vernacular, so it was pretty much a no-brainer that I would do the audiobook myself rather than having, like, Sam Elliott do it.

To read the rest of the Q&A, CLICK HERE.

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Audiobook Q&A: Dan Zevin

Adam Boretz -- April 24th, 2012

Our Audiobook Q&A Series returns, and this time around we chat with Dan Zevin, author of the forthcoming memoir Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad, about recording the audio edition of his book for AudioGO, the perils of pronunciation, and the dangers of carbonated beverages.

1. This is your first book to have an audio edition. What was behind your decision to narrate Dan Gets a Minivan yourself? 

I used to contribute funny radio pieces to NPR’s Boston station, WBUR, and I also hosted a funny call-in show called “Everyday People,” where I interviewed non-celebrities like my UPS guy or a birthday-party clown. I forgot how much I loved going into a studio and recording until I posted some of those spots on my website for Dan Gets a Minivan. Narrating my book was a chance to get back into the studio again. Now I want to start doing radio again. Or maybe I can just narrate other people’s books instead of having to write my own.

2. How was the recording process for you? Was it what you expected? Was it different?

It was surreal. My book is a comic memoir about the transition from couplehood to familyhood. It’s funny, but it’s personal. Spending six hours reading it aloud was like spending six years re-living my life. Now I can fire my shrink. I’m cured.

3. What did you do to prepare before you stepped into the recording booth? Continue reading

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Audiobook Q&A: Jane Green

Adam Boretz -- March 13th, 2012

Our Audiobook Q&A Series returns as we chat with bestselling author Jane Green about her latest novel, Another Piece of My Heart — and the book’s audio edition, which Green  narrated herself.

1. You’ve published several bestselling books that featured audio editions read by professional narrators? What was behind your decision to narrate Another Piece of My Heart yourself?

One of my favorite parts of doing a book tour is reading the books out loud. I lose myself completely in the characters, but was always nervous of reading due to the not-insignificant fact of me being English, whereas my characters are American. The wonderful Laura Wilson at Macmillan Audio was entirely skeptical before my audition, but I passed!

2. How was the recording process for you? Was it what you expected? Was it different?

The recording process was more tiring than I expected, and more fun. The hardest thing was realizing how much editing I needed to do — reading my words out loud made every mistake and repetition glaringly obvious. Thank heavens it wasn’t too late to make changes. I sat there with pencil in hand, scribbling across the manuscript as I read.

3. What did you do to prepare before you stepped into the recording booth?

Not enough. I had the voices for the major characters, but not the minor ones who kept appearing unexpectedly. That’s the kind of thing a professional actor can pull off wonderfully, making it look so natural.

4. What was the biggest challenge? Continue reading

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Audiobook Q&A: Johnny Heller

Adam Boretz -- December 6th, 2011

This week, our Audiobook Q&A Series returns and we chat with Johnny Heller about his recent work narrating The Postmortal, his latest projects, his significant experience ripping bodices, and the importance of always knowing where the restroom is located.

1. You recently narrated Drew Magary’s The Postmortal for Tantor. How was that experience? What was the biggest challenge?

Narrating always has challenges — the major one being that we narrators know that we will not be able to please every fan of a given book! Our job is to be a conduit for the author’s truth — I know that sounds all “actory” but it’s the best way I can explain what we do.

I don’t always get to narrate books I love or would willingly read on my own, but The Postmortal was awesome. I loved the book and I told Magary that I thought he was brilliant. It’s just a tremendous read that I hope is going to be a tremendous listen. My biggest challenge with this title was living up to my own expectations — of making my narration as excellent as the printed word. I think I did, but then again I’m biased! 

2. This is the first book by Magary that you’ve narrated. Does that newness make the job of narrating an audiobook more difficult? Do you think that when you narrate multiple books by the same author, you develop a relationship with their work and are able to slip back into the author’s writing?

Absolutely. When you narrate a series of titles by the same author you get in touch with his rhythms and — hopefully — get to create recurring characters. I get to do that with the Richard Castle books (Naked Heat, Heat Wave, and Heat Rises), with Michael Wiley’s Joe Kozmarsky series for Blackstone, Michael Buckley’s NERDS series, Troy Soos’ Mickey Rawlings mysteries, and Dan Gutman’s baseball card time travel stories all for Recorded Books. Hopefully the author likes the way you handle his or her characters and it begins somehow more collaborative. 

3. The Postmortal is a thriller about a pre-apocalyptic world in which people cannot die of old age — which must make for an exciting audiobook. Does reading a thriller make the process of recording the audiobook easier because you know readers will be engaged at certain points? Do you ever find yourself getting swept away by the story when you’re narrating a thriller?

I don’t know if I’m any more engaged in a thriller than in a biography or a young adult title. Hopefully, if I’ve done my job, the listener will have no idea that I like one book any more than another. 

Truth be told — of course I like thrillers and funny books more than I like other titles I narrate.  I think the audiobook moves along better and easier if the story is good and the author is good and I love the book. I’ve done lots of medical, motivational, and business titles, but it’s much easier to read a thriller — cuz they’re thrilling! Continue reading

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Audiobook Q&A: Ron McLarty

Adam Boretz -- August 23rd, 2011

This week, we’re thrilled to sit down and chat with Ron McLarty about his recent work on the audio version of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, his longstanding partnership with David Baldacci, the perils of narrating after lunch, and what it was like to narrate his own novels.

1. You recently worked — with Dennis Boutsikaris and Daniel Oreskes — on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, playing the part of Mr. Wednesday. You’ve obviously done both solo narration and multi-cast audiobooks — like American Gods.  Do you prefer one to the other?

I haven’t done many big cast audiobooks, but I do prefer solo narration, where you’re sort of creating from scratch as opposed to trying to fit in…In fact, I didn’t see Dennis or Dan at all doing Mr. Wednesday.

2. Neil Gaiman has narrated some of his own books and even won awards for his narration. Was he involved in the creation of this audiobook at all? Did he offer input?

Neil’s involvement was after the fact. He listened to my first go-thru, didn’t like it, and had me re-do it. (He was right.)

3. In addition to narrating audiobooks, you’ve also done a lot of work on television and in films. How does acting for the camera and narrating an audiobook differ in terms of performance? Do you prefer one to the other?

There’s a kind of anonymity in narration that seems comforting. You’re not showing off, just trying to vary the characters in personality and style. The microphone is a friend. The camera is different. The whole set-up is different. You’re performing for your director, crew, and co-workers. It’s a pretty wild environment. I supposed I liked it all better when I was younger, but now I must admit I prefer just reading the book to the audio engineer. Continue reading

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