Dorothy What inspired you get into narration?
Darren I’ve long been a fan of audiobooks, from the first time I heard a tape of folk tales playing in my elementary school library.
If the technology was better back then, I probably would have started doing it, even if only for my own enjoyment or as cheesy Christmas gifts.
Now that technology has opened the doors for home studios, it’s time to act on creating something I’ve always enjoyed.
Dorothy How long have you been an audiobook narrator?
Darren I began with public domain audiobooks in early 2008, just using my Blue Snowball desktop mic, knowing full well that I wasn’t creating a finished product, but just acting on a desire to get the ball rolling.
Dorothy What books or projects have you narrated?
Darren I have narrated several public domain classics, such as White Fang and The Island of Dr Moreau. Late last year, I began working with ACX on more mainstream commercial projects, and have since completed three works: Double Exposure and Burnt Offerings, both by fiction author Michael Lister, and then a playful but education non-fiction title called Badass: The Birth of a Legend by Ben Thompson.
Dorothy What projects are you currently working on?
Darren I’m currently finishing my own non-fiction title, called Pirate Nation, and I’m starting on another title by Michael Lister called Blood Sacrifice.
Dorothy How do you approach a new project? Do you read the book first and make stylistic choices?
Darren I read it first, if only to understand which characters will be there throughout, so I make sure both to make their voices distinct, but not so off-the-wall that I won’t be able to keep it up during longer speaking parts. I do find that I still have to read a section over before recording, however, even if I’ve read it before. There’s something about having it fresh on the mind that’s vital for me.
Dorothy Does your approach change depending upon the genre?
Darren If it’s a non-fiction work with a universal theme, I can get by with just reading the section right before recording, assuming there are no themes or characters that will crop up later that require some planning. Too, with non-fiction, there’s usually a little time needed for looking up pronunciations.
Dorothy Does the author have any say in how you narrate their work?
Darren I would certainly be open to the author’s input in this, though I’ve found this is usually isn’t the case, as the authors I’ve worked with have the stance that the narrator knows what he or she is doing.
Dorothy What is your favorite book?
Darren My favorite audiobook is probably Anansi Boys, a Neil Gaiman title narrated by Lenny Henry. My friends who love Gaiman laud American Gods as the better work, but my mind always goes back to how amazing the narration was for Anansi Boys and I have to argue on its behalf.
Dorothy What is your favorite of those you have narrated?
Darren I would have to say White Fang, since it’s an amazing book outright, but because it was a title I really cut my teeth on. I must have read it or listened to it a dozen times, and I just kept liking it more and more. I’ll probably narrate it again one of these days, when my skills and equipment are even better.
Dorothy What is the most challenging thing about being a narrator?
Darren The time it takes to do the job well is definitely the biggest challenge. Including editing and mastering, it’s about ten-fold more time-intensive than most people think – even experienced voice actors.
Dorothy Do you have any advice for people considering becoming an audiobook narrator?
Darren I would suggest just getting out there and doing it. Equipment is relatively cheap nowadays, and there’s always room to grow as you grow as a narrator. There are also many echelons of where your work can glean listeners, appreciation, and – eventually – customers. You might start doing public domain work for free on YouTube, a Podcast, or Librivox, and then move up in workload, equipment, and platform as you get better.
Dorothy Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? A website or blog?
Darren LinkedIn has been a great place to connect with other narrators and voice actors. I’ve gotten advice, leads, event info, and jobs all from this free platform. There are also some wonderful, free forums out there specific to whatever audio software you’re using. I have gained so much from the pros on these forums, that it’s well worth the time and energy to seek them out. All they ask are thanks in return.