Dorothy What inspired you get into narration?
Derek Other than fixing the leaking roof and feeding the kids? Just pure lust for the untold riches that come with our chosen craft….
Actually, I credit a Welsh speaking grandfather who was a Blue Riband winner in poetry recital at the National Eisteddfod, the country’s premier cultural event, for passing on to me his passion for, and facility with, words.
Looking back now, it’s obvious to me that, whatever my day job has been, my real passion has always been the written, spoken – and now performed – word. One home studio and 21 narrated books later, I’m more inspired than ever.
DorothyHow long have you been an audiobook narrator?
Derek I have narrated as a volunteer for Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic in Cambridge, MA and, more recently, the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA for a number of years. I started getting paid for voiceover work in 2009 and began narrating audiobooks professionally earlier this year.
Dorothy What books or projects have you narrated?
Derek An eclectic mix of fiction – mystery, historical drama, science fiction and humor, and non-fiction – management and leadership, history, and books on subjects like language and shyness. Titles include The Age of Equality: The Twentieth Century in Economic Perspective by Richard Pomfret (a Harvard University Press book); The Blooding, by bestselling author Joseph Wambaugh; Dirk Quigby’s Guide to the Afterlife by E. E. King; A Little Book of Language, by David Crystal; and Prelude to Space by Arthur C. Clarke.
DorothyWhat projects are you currently working on?
Derek I’ve just finished narrating Blood on the Desert by Peter Rabe, which is a good romp through the deserts of Northern Africa; Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, by Christopher Lane, and am now narrating Grab Bag, an eclectic and very amusing selection of short stories by Charlotte MacLeod, and Redcoat, by David Crooks, a fast-paced drama set in the mid-19th century against the backdrop of the British Empire and an expanding United States.
DorothyHow do you approach a new project? Do you read the book first and make stylistic choices?
Derek My approach to a new project is always the same: with pleasure and gratitude! If it’s a work of fiction, I scan the book to understand the overall plot, then make detailed notes on the characters I will have to voice. Once I’ve decided on the characterization, I’ll bounce a sample of each of the main characters to disk for reference. That way, if I’m working on more than one book at a time, I can more quickly and accurately pick each one back up, as well as maintain consistency.
DorothyDoes your approach change depending upon the genre?
Derek I don’t read much of a non-fiction book in advance, unless it’s a subject I know very little about, in which case I’ll scan it to familiarize myself with new terminology, pronunciations etc.
DorothyDoes the author have any say in how you narrate their work?
Derek I have not had the privilege of working directly with an author to date, but as and when that happens, I look forward to lengthy and robust debates about our respective interpretations of their work.
DorothyWhat is your favorite book?
Derek That’s a bit like asking me to name my favorite child……I’m moving on.
DorothyWhat is your favorite of those you have narrated?
Derek Hard to say, since the content has been so varied. I love learning from the books I read; for example, Shyness has some great insights into how our lives can be directly affected by the most ephemeral of decisions taken by the medical community, while The Age of Equality taught me a lot about the origins of crucial economic and political concepts such as the gold standard and the welfare state. But I can equally enjoy ‘page-turner’ humor such as Dirk Quigby’s Guide to the Afterlife, a Zagat-type review of where the world’s major religions send you – why and how – once your time on earth is done.
DorothyWhat is the most challenging thing about being a narrator?
Derek Apart from begging family members not to tread on the squeaky kitchen floorboards directly above my studio? My current major challenges are to:
1. Improve my narration skills as quickly as possible (even though I know it takes time).
2. Maintain a constant and consistent marketing effort. As Patricia Fripp, one of my speech coaches says: ‘it’s your job to let other people know what you can do for them’.
DorothyDo you have any advice for people considering becoming an audiobook narrator?
Derek Ready, fire, aim.
DorothyIs there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Website: www.thederekperkins.com (will shortly be undergoing major reconstruction to reflect my shift this year from voiceover to audiobook narration).
Audiofile Magazine Audiobook Reference Guide profile: http://bit.ly/SGlaQ4.
Demos: Audiofile Magazine profile page; BeeAudio: www.beeaudio.com/narrators/derek-perkins; ACX: www.acx.com (then Search/Narrators for hire and enter my name).