For our second Audiobook Q&A, Listen Up is proud to sit down with Simon Vance. Over his long and illustrious career, Vance has narrated hundreds (thousands?) of audiobooks, won major awards, and even negotiated a peace accord with a supernatural web cam. We sit down with Vance to chat about social media, the perils of bad writing, his latest project, and what he does to prepare before recording an audiobook.
1. Before you were an audiobook narrator, you read the news for the BBC. How did that experience help prepare you for audiobook narration? And how did you make the transition from newsreader to narrator?
I was always a pretty good sight-reader, so being a BBC newsreader probably helped me hone that craft. Although we usually had a few moments before the bulletins to read through the scripts, there were often quite lengthy stories thrown at us while we were on the air. Also, as a radio presenter, you commonly have to deal with people speaking into your ear while you’re talking on the air, and I’m sure that helped me to be able to think on different levels — a definite requirement for a self-directed narrator. My shift pattern at the BBC was quite strange, and I found I was often free some days during the week. A friend introduced me to the Royal National Institute for the Blind Talking Book Service and I volunteered time. After an audition, I was accepted and for about eight years spent an afternoon a week narrating … I look on that as my unpaid apprenticeship.
2. You’ve been narrating audiobook for over two decades. You’ve won numerous awards. What’s your proudest profession achievement as an audiobook narrator? And why?
Yes, it’s nearly 30 years now … scary. Proudest achievement? That’s very hard to say. I think my first Audie award was quite thrilling (2006 – Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan, Sci-Fi Category). But I’m proud every time one of my narrations is well received. In fact, now I come to think of it, I was somewhat overwhelmed when an author I respect (Orson Scott Card) wrote a blog complementing my narration of David Copperfield — he was quite effusive; crediting me with helping him see the quality of Dickens’s writing. Helping someone who “knows” writing see the value of another great writer… that’s quite an achievement!
3. After narrating everyone from Charles Dickens to Steig Larsson, what’s next? Do you have a dream project? A book or author’s work that you’d love to record?
Charles Dickens and the classic authors are always out there, but you never know when the next Stieg Larsson might arise. I was very lucky in that instance, but the next new discovery may fall to someone else to narrate — I’ll keep my fingers crossed. As far as the classics go, I’ve done so many of them already. I’ve found, these days, that I often get more joy out of the newly discovered writers than the old classics, even though I often find the classics an “easier” read.
4. I read somewhere that you don’t pre-read the books you narrate. Is that true? How can that be true? Why don’t you pre-read? And what do you do to prepare before going into the recording booth?
I’m pleased to put the record straight here: I think this misunderstanding came about because of a phone interview a couple of years ago. I was either misquoted, misunderstood, or — perhaps more likely as I trust the writer concerned — I thought I’d said something in a certain way, when in fact I said the opposite … Anyway. Here’s what I do: Continue reading