Friday, August 21, 2015

Reading for fun and profit!

I'm very happy to announce that my second Tales of Telenia book, JOURNEY, is now available as an audiobook. (You can listen to a sample of it here--just click the link.)

I thought it might be interesting for readers (hey, and me, too!) to find out a little bit about what it is to be a spoken-voice performer.  Let me introduce you to Steven Barnett. He has read not only the Telenia books, but also is the voice of my character Jeff Resnick.  (At least for the last 6 titles.  We'll be re-recording the first three in the not-too-distant future.)

Steven and I recently talked and here's a portion of our conversation.

How does one becomes a voice artist?
I'm not sure there is one generic way to become a voice artist. I started as a vocalist in college, learning to sing opera, but I've always been a talented mimic. I loved to imitate cartoons, famous people, anything I could for a laugh. I did voice-over work when I was in film and tv work and kind of just branched off from there.

Do you read the whole book first?
It depends on the length and type of the book. If the book is fairly short, say on the order of 80-90000 words, I will generally not read beforehand and just work things out in recording. If the book is longer, or has a large number of speaking characters and voices and things, then I'll read the book first and try to get a sense of the characterization beforehand, especially if the book has alien or foreign characters and languages.

Is the dialog the hardest because you have to switch voices?  How do you know which voice to use?  Do you color code them on your script?
For me, dialog between males isn't so difficult, mostly because I'm used to imitating character dialogue. What's hardest for me is dialog between a male and a female. Doing a feminized voice requires a lot of tuning in the musculature of the mouth and vocal folds and it's difficult sometimes to switch between them rapidly. One of my earlier projects involved two main characters, one of whom was a teenaged boy from modern-day Philadelphia and the other was a teenaged girl from 18th century Scotland. That was terribly difficult at first.

What's the hardest part about narrating a book?
The hardest part is consistency. Making sure that when you flub a line, you go back and re-read that line precisely as you read it before. Making sure that if you're recording a book and it's going to take more than a day, that your mic placement and your settings are all the same as they were when you started. Making sure your editing process is smooth and that each chapter matches the others in timbre, volume, and emotion is also a big part of that.

How did you get into this kind of work?  
By accident, like many others have, I'm sure. One of my good friends is an author and he stumbled across the Audiobook Creation Exchange website, or ACX, where authors and narrators of audiobooks can come together. He sent me the link and off I went.

What kinds of stories have you narrated?
I've narrated quite a few kinds: cozies, sci-fi fantasy, superhero stories, erotic fiction (boy, are THOSE difficult to read...), romance... I have a preferred genre I like to read personally, but I'm pretty much a mercenary when it comes to recording. I don't like to limit myself to one genre or another just because it's not what I'd read at home on my own time. In fact, one of my favorite books I've done is a book I'd never have read on my own in a million years-- a Southern romance story with some erotic scenes. It's a sweet love story and I highly enjoyed doing all the characters.

Do you have a favorite genre to read? 
I prefer to read genres where there are lots of distinct characters, so typically fantasy and sci-fi novels. I'm a huge fan of urban fantasy, so I tend to want to get those novels more, but the more and more I work, the more into mysteries I am becoming.

What are your future plans? 
Right now, my plan is to keep doing what I'm doing, but more of it, you know? More titles under my belt, more recognition. I'm working toward being named an Audible-certified Producer, which is a certification that tells authors and producers that I am a narrator of high-quality and able to deal with more expensive, high-level projects. It opens more professional level doors, let's say. But I'll work with anyone, regardless of budget, if the book is quality. In the future, my goal is to broaden my voice skills and perhaps do cartoons. I love character voices and comedy, so cartoons are right in my wheelhouse. I'm a huge voice-acting nerd, so it would be a thrill to work with guys like Rob Paulsen, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Laura Bailey, Grey DeLisle, Jennifer Hale... the list goes on. That's my future.

Where can we find you online? 
Well, I don't have a professional website yet. Too busy to make one, I suppose, though I'm working on it. Right now you can find me on Twitter @PlasmatixUltra. I also have a Facebook page for me as a professional, and you can find that at .  I can also be reached via email at and a list of the books I've narrated is available on .  Just click this link. And, of course, you can always find me at your favorite audiobook retailers: Audible, Amazon, and iTunes!

Thanks for joining me today on the Cozy Chicks Blog.  Any other questions for Steven?  Feel free to leave a comment/question and you might win one of the books Steven has narrated for me.