Interview with an audiobook narrator: TJ Clark

Sunwielder on Audible (see offer below) & on Amazon (global link)

I did it again.  I jumped in feet first and then asked questions later. Thank goodness I had an audiobook narrator who held my virtual hand.

Rather than share my newbie inexperience, I thought you might be interested in hearing from a pro.

Meet TJ!  His voice brought my book Sunwielder to life, and this week the audiobook went live!

1. Tell us a little about you, your professional background, and why you decided to begin narrating audiobooks.

I’m a trained actor with a BFA in theater from Syracuse University. My family was always big on audiobooks (back when they were “books on tape”) during long road trips. I have a pretty vivid memory of listening to James and the Giant Peach on a trip from Connecticut to South Carolina. Somewhere along that road there is a giant water tower in the shape of a peach and it made the whole thing really magical to me. I realized I wanted to do them myself when I was a teenager and my sister was reading Lamb by Christopher Moore during a cruise vacation. She got seasick and couldn’t keep reading so I picked it up and read aloud to her on the beach while she tried to keep from throwing up. After a while, mom came over and told me I need to keep my voice down. I looked around and a little gathering had amassed. Everyone said “no, no, keep going. This is great!”

 

2. What do you look for in a book when choosing to audition for a project?

A lot goes into picking a project, but first and foremost, I have to want to read it. If the audition script is good, that’s step one.  But this is a lot of work for a narrator so I do have to consider “Is it going to be worth my time?”  Royalty Share Plus is definitely the best way to get a quality narrator’s attention. It shows you believe in the project and will respect my time. If you can’t invest the money and are hoping to find someone good willing to take a risk on royalty share with you, you need to let people know you have a great marketing plan. No book sells on good writing alone. There is just too much out there.  Oh, and the cover matters. Make it a good one.

 

3. What kind of preparation do you do before starting to record? How do you get a feel for the characters and tone of a story?

Total honesty: I don’t read the books before I start.  For me, it just takes too much time. This goes back to the last question – if I can’t hear the book in my head from the audition sample I won’t do it.  The tone, main character, style, and pace are usually all right there, and if I book the job, that means we are simpatico and I am ready to roll.  As I go, picking new character voices sometimes requires pausing the recording to read ahead a bit, but other than that, I just try and stay alive in the story and have fun.

 

4. How do you come up with different voices and keep them all straight?

Voices come from all over. People I know in life, celebrity impressions, facial expressions I feel like the characters would fall into a lot. I take notes in a journal as I go. Sometimes I have to back to double-check the recording. Some characters are gone for a long time, and I’ll look in my notebook, and it will say something like “slow James Dean” and I am like, “Ok, gotta hear that again.” Haha.

 

5. How can an author best prepare for the audiobook process?

Authors should understand 2 things: narrators aren’t perfect, and this takes a lot of work. I’ll elaborate, you are going to need to listen to these carefully. It’s your book and you want it to be without mistakes. So be ready to double-check your narrator’s work and help them get it right. However, we auditioned and you picked us. So that means you like what we do and have to trust us.  Every change takes us a lot of time so don’t expect to be able to ask for different takes and nitpicking. So you have to come to terms with protecting your baby and letting it go at the same time.  Beyond that, if there is something you care about (voices, accents, pace) you have to communicate that up front. So have it all planned. Having a “dream cast” that you can show your narrator is very helpful. And if your book has made-up words and names a pronunciation guide is essential. My favorite way anyone has done this for me is chapter by chapter. So before I record chapter 5, I can look at chapter 5 notes and see what weird words or new characters are about to come my way.

 

6. What is the greatest challenge(s) in recording an audiobook?

Time. Haha. Editing these takes a while and parts of it are very repetitive. But it literally takes 100% focus to get it right so it can be very mentally draining.

 

7. How would you describe your recording process? How long did it take to record Sunwielder?

I’m a working actor and I am on set a lot. So I record on days off or nights or weekends. Then I bring my laptop to set and edit during my downtime between takes. It took me about 6 weeks to do Sunwielder and that was pretty breakneck for me. I have found a good pace for me is 2 complete hours a week. Obviously, I can do more and there are faster narrators than me. But that’s about what works best for my brain.

 

8. Any marketing tips that you’ve seen authors use successfully in the past? I had to ask!

Get reviews. All the reviews you can. Find people on twitter. There’s a great writing community there. Instagram is pretty good for audiobook reviews too. Goodreads is an amazing resource. Get the book in as many hands as you can and ask everyone to post a review on audible, amazon, facebook. Everywhere.
Note from Diana to blog buds:
Are you an audiobook reader? Do you want to be?
I have Audible credits to share in the US and UK. 
Leave a note in the comments, and I’ll send you one.
And please make TJ’s smile even brighter with an honest review. ❤

 

9. Any other behind the scenes advice for authors?

My best advice to self-published authors is this: just because there is no publisher doesn’t mean any of the jobs of a publisher can be ignored. You just elected to take them all on yourself. So you have to find an editor (it can’t be you), you have to find a PROOFREADER (yes, editors and proofreaders are different and the proofreader DEFINITELY can’t be you), your cover has to be professional, you have to buy ads, you have to get reviews, you have to go to conventions and meet people. You wrote a book!  That’s amazing!  There’s a lot of work left.

 

10. Can you share a short teaser of your work on Sunwielder?

Chapter 42 is my favorite. I think it’s some of the best work I have done so far in my career. So get ready for that.

 

Thanks so much, TJ, for your wonderful interpretation, for guiding me through the process, and sharing your expertise. 🙂

 

Sunwielder Review

A recent kindle review from Jacqui Murray at WordDreams. Thank you, Jacqui, for your wonderful support.

Jacqui Murray reviewed Sunwielder: An Epic Time Travel Adventure

 What wouldn’t you do to save your family? October 18, 2019

In Sunwielder (2016), D. Wallace Peach’s fantasy world is not unlike Earth’s medieval world of hardworking commoners, feudal lords, and warring kingdoms. The hero Gryff wants only to be a farmer and raise horses when his entire family is wiped out by a man who hates him for no apparent reason. When he has the opportunity to change his past with the time traveling Sunwielder, given to him by a timekeeper from a neighboring land, he takes it without questioning the cost. Even though it means he must leave the pastoral beauty of his farm, the loving warmth of his family, and spend the next years as a soldier, fighting a battle his farmer self barely cares about, he takes it. His one promise to his wife when he married her was that he’d keep her safe. He doesn’t intend to break that promise. From the moment he dons the Sunwielder, his life is controlled by a future he isn’t sure of. All he knows is when the present doesn’t work out ‘right’, he dies and gets to try again.

This is a fast-paced story of undying love, baseless hate, and how a family’s life becomes the pawn between those two. One of the most beautiful parts of this story is simply the way Peach links her words. Read this:

“Nearly three hundred men in the great hall dropped to one knee, right knuckles to the floor, heads bowed.”

”Black oaks, dark with summer leaves, swathed the trail in shifting shadow. Shafts of sunlight speared the forest floor, altered only by the sway of branches in the heated wind.”

Peach has a way of picking exactly the right word to evoke so much more than the meaning would promise. Few are better at world building. This is highly recommended not only for those who love fantasies but those who enjoy a good military thriller.

Perception #Tanka Tuesday

Pixabay image by Michael Seibt

Perception

“Cross the bridge.” The crone points her staff to a log spanning a luminous pool.

I squint at the strange collection of creatures impeding my way. I’ve been lost for days in the swamp’s wet greenness, breathing the emerald dew. So many moons that knobby horns sprout from my skull. Vines weave through the fibers of my clothes, and my skin grows iridescent scales in myriad hues of moss. I am hungry despite a bellyful of beetles.

Upon the bridge, a naiad plays her flute, the sound hypnotic though the melody unfurls backward. “Wayward magic,” mutter I, one wary soul who’s encountered these tricksters before. Does this one revel in opposites, mirrored reflections? Which is real, the opposite of whom? Is there any way to know what’s true? My ears droop at the bothersome riddle.

The pipe’s dulcet sound charms a viper, its crescent fangs smiling. Safeguarding or warning? Did the sprite awaken the snake, or does she lull it to sleep? Beneficent or Mischievous? I wrinkle my snout in study. And which of the two covet the poppy? All three could be lethal to me. Beautiful peril, perilous beauty. Or simply a flower?

“How am I to cross?” ask I, my jade whiskers twitching.

The faceless hag shrugs.

choose your poison, child
life implies no guarantees
forsake illusive
dreams of immortality
perception decides the truth

**

I had the privilege in September of choosing October’s mid-month photo image for Colleen’s #Tanka Tuesday. What fun to finally write for this fairytale image. If you enjoy syllabic poetry, visit her site and check out her fun prompts. Thanks, Colleen.

Empty Space #Tanka Tuesday

 

Rail against despair

When deceit inters the truth

When corruption shrieks

And Narcissus chokes the void

With yowls from a vacant heart

 

For Colleen’s #Tanka Tuesday #Poetry Challenge. We had to use synonyms for empty (vacant) and space (void).

Sorry about the politics. I couldn’t help it with those prompts.

The Cowboy in the Bedroom

Can you guess who this is?

I have a framed picture in my bedroom on a small table. It was drawn by a local artist, Kerri Boutwell, and I eagerly bought it several years ago.

Lately, on several occasions, I’ve noticed the portrait turned around and facing the wall. I’d turn it back, only to find it flipped around again several days later.

Finally, last week, I mentioned the odd ritual to my husband. “Have you been turning the picture around?”

“Yeah. I don’t like the cowboy staring at me while I’m in bed.”

“The cowboy?” I laughed. “That’s not a cowboy. It’s Mark Twain!”

Well, apparently it’s okay to have Mark Twain staring at him in bed because the drawing hasn’t moved.

Isn’t it a great picture? I never knew Twain was so handsome, even with the god-awful mustache.

The Word Police: Filter Words

The Word Police are at it again. This time they plan to rap some filter words on the head.

Filter words are generally bad dudes and worth arresting when you catch up to them. They’re guilty of two things:

  • They add lots of unnecessary/empty words to your story and therefore can bog down your pace… a lot.
  • They distance your readers from your characters. The “narrator” tells us that the character is thinking/sensing something (filters the information) instead of just letting us experience the thoughts/sensations directly.

In this 217-word passage, there are 20 filter words.

Greta stood on her front porch. She felt the long-awaited spring call her with a rustling of leaves and patter of hummingbird wings. A smile brightened her face as she watched them battle around the feeder that she’d remembered to fill yesterday.  She supposed she wasn’t the only one enjoying the languid morning. On the porch rail, she saw her lazy tabby stretch and heard his rumbling purr as she rubbed his ears. She knew he liked the sunshine; she imagined he always had.

Lilacs bloomed at the edge of the house, and she could smell their heady fragrance. There were other newcomers that morning. She noticed that the butterflies had returned with the warmer weather and saw crocuses pushing up through the grass. Years ago, her mother had planted them in the lawn, and she realized she’d seen them return every year since.   

Greta suddenly felt hungry, and she listened to her stomach growl. She wondered about the muffins baking in her kitchen and recognized the sound of the buzzer on the oven announcing they were done. She rushed through the screen door and heard it slam closed behind her as she hurried down the hall. She thought they would taste wonderful, and if she wanted to, she guessed she could eat them all by herself.

Now here’s the same passage written without them (173 words instead of 217):

Greta stood on her front porch. The long-awaited spring called her with a rustling of leaves and patter of hummingbird wings. A smile brightened her face as they battled around the feeder that she’d filled yesterday.  She wasn’t the only one enjoying the languid morning. On the porch rail, her lazy tabby stretched, and he rumbled a purr as she rubbed his ears. He liked the sunshine; he always had.

Lilacs bloomed at the edge of the house with a heady fragrance. There were other newcomers that morning. The butterflies had returned with the warmer weather and crocuses pushed up through the grass. Years ago, her mother had planted them in the lawn, and they’d returned every year since.   

Greta’s stomach growled with hunger. Muffins baked in her kitchen, and the buzzer on the oven announced they were done. She rushed through the screen door, and it slammed closed behind her as she hurried down the hall. They would taste wonderful, and if she wanted to, she could eat them all by herself.

That’s about 22% less words!

Same meaning, improved pace, and closer to the character’s experience.

Less distracting to your reader, too.

You won’t be able to eliminate all filter words, nor should you, but an editing pass to rid yourself of a bunch of those annoying delinquents is worth the effort. And it isn’t that difficult when you know what to search for.

Here’s my starter list: watched, saw, observed, felt, smelled, tasted, heard, knew, thought, suspected, remembered, believed, understood, imagined, doubted, supposed, realized, wondered, guessed, hoped, wished…

Do you kill off the filter words in your writing?

More Indie Reviews (or Part III)

I have so many reviews to share, and I’m reading faster than I can get my reviews posted. Three more 5-star books, all different!

The Gemini Connection

by Teri Polen

Oh, what a fun read. Sci-fi fans will have a blast with this thriller, but readers who love human stories will thoroughly enjoy this book too. Simon and Evan are twins with a unique connection even though they are strikingly different. Simon is cerebral, a scientist and gentle soul. Evan is a jock with a temper and a painful chip on his shoulder—he’s never been able to live up to his parents’ expectations.

Despite their differences, the brothers are fiercely loyal to each other, and when Simon goes missing, Evan makes it his mission to find out what happened and bring him home. He’s a successful bender, capable of entering the dreams of clients to unblock their memories or fight their nightmares. Their connection and his talent lead the way.

The world-building is excellent, and though “bending” is a bit of a scientific stretch, Polen does a credible job making it feel plausible throughout the story. The pace moves along at a speedy clip, and there are plenty of tight spots and danger.

The story is told in the first-person point of view of both brothers. You might have guessed that I just loved the characters, particularly Evan and Simon. Their relationship wasn’t without its bumps and bruises, but the steadfast loyalty they felt toward each other had me rooting for them from the start. Secondary characters were richly drawn and three-dimensional, as were peripheral players. A great read that I highly recommend.

Global Amazon Link

***

The Hat

by Craig Boyack

In this short read, Boyack has teamed up Lizzie, a young woman with two part-time jobs, and a talking hat that she stole/inherited from her grandmother’s estate. Yes, you heard that right—a talking hat. At first, she’s rather suspicious and freaked out by the hat, but when a friend’s newborn is stolen as part of a larger baby-napping ring, Lizzie and the hat set out to rescue the infants.

What ensues is pretty entertaining. The banter between Lizzie and the hat is exceptionally witty, particularly as the hat navigates advances in technology (it’s been in a box for a long time). The duo reminded me of wise-cracking detective team with snappy dialog and lots of attitude on both sides.

This book can be polished off in a couple of hours and is well worth the time. Highly recommended.

Global Amazon Link

***

Amanda in Holland

by Darlene Foster

This book was quite a bit of fun. Foster combines a middle-grade fiction plot with a colorful tour of Holland, including its famous sites, snippets of history, and its wonderful flowers and food. I had the great fortune of visiting my grandparents in Holland when I was Amanda’s age, and her experiences in the book mirror my memories in great detail. It was a blast to traipse along beside Amanda and enjoy the country once again.

The main plot focuses on the recovery of a lost puppy, but secondary plots weave through the story, and all come together nicely at the end. There’s a bit of mystery and some danger to keep the tension up. There are also some very moving scenes when Amanda visits Anne Frank’s home and a war memorial dedicated to the Canadians who helped liberate Holland during WWII. A lovely book for young readers and absolutely perfect for readers who plan to travel the world.

Global Amazon Link

***

 

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

#ShareAReviewDay Tuesday – Soul Swallowers: The Shattered Sea Book 1 by D. Wallace Peach

Marcia, over at The Write Stuff, kindly featured a lovely review of Soul Swallowers, an epic fantasy novel. I’m over there chatting everyone up if you want to stop by. Happy Autumn!

Comments are closed here. 🙂

The Write Stuff

Please welcome our first guest today, D. Wallace Peach, who is sharing a great review of her novel, Soul Swallowers: The Shattered Sea Book 1. (I’ve read both Book 1 and Book 2 myself, and can attest to how good they are!) I know you’ll enjoy this review, and will remember to share it far and wide. Thanks!

REVIEW:
Mae Clair
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantasy Masterpiece!
July 25, 2018

Not only does D. Wallace Peach create phenomenal worlds, but she knows how to dish political intrigue with the best of them. In Soul Swallowers, the reader is immediately immersed into a fantastical world of royal hierarchies, caste systems, and a blending of the spiritual and physical as related to souls. The idea that someone can swallow the soul of another and inherit personality traits and skills from the deceased is utterly brilliant. There is very…

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