Dorothy What inspired you get into narration?
Gregory Well, the most honest answer is that it was a job and I was looking for work, which is what most actors spend the majority of their time doing.
I had no idea it would become an extension of and, in some ways, a separate career. But it has proven to be a very rewarding and fulfilling job and I honestly can say that I get up in the morning looking forward to going to work.
Dorothy How long have you been an audiobook narrator?
Gregory I have been working with Potomac Talking Books for 22 years and with other publishers throughout that period.
Dorothy What books or projects have you narrated?
Gregory I have narrated over 500 audio books, I am a staff narrator for Potomac Talking Books in Bethesda, Maryland which sub-contracts (along with several other studios) to narrate books for the blind and physically handicapped program through The Library of Congress. I also work as the Director of Narrator development there.
I have also narrated for national publishers, Chivers Audio, BBC Audiobooks and am currently working with Graphic Audio. I think I’ve narrated about thirty books with them, several are still in post-production.
Graphic does books with multiple character actors, sound effects and original music; they have a web site you can check out. I have the recurring role of “Monty” in the “Jill Kismet series” and the featured role of “Bagdertail” in the historical novel, People of the River”. Last year, I had great fun and am very proud of the work I did as “The Penguin” in their BATMAN series, “No Man’s Land”.
I have done everything from children’s literature to textbooks, my forte is multiple character fiction, but I have done dozens of biographies, self-help books and just about any genre you can imagine.
Dorothy What projects are you currently working on?
Gregory Right now I am narrating two books, “Nature as Spiritual Practice” by Steven Chase, which is a religious/philosophical study of becoming closer to nature through God and vice-a-versa? I am also doing “I, Michael Bennet” which is another in James Patterson’s seemingly endless array of detective fiction. Like all of Patterson’s work it is fast paced and well-structured with excellent characters and easy to listen to.
Dorothy How do you approach a new project? Do you read the book first and make stylistic choices?
Gregory Depends on the book, with a more detailed book, science, math, even historical novels, there is often research involved. Getting the correct pronunciation of people’s names and places or scientific names and phrases. Then there is always the fun of foreign languages, I am not ashamed to admit it; I am not too good with languages. I can pronounce words in dozens of different dialects and accents, but the real thing usually requires at least two to three takes. I do read as much of the book as I can beforehand, you need to. You need to know where the story is going, what kind of characters are there and what kind of voice you hear for that character.
Dorothy Does your approach change depending upon the genre?
Gregory Well, yes, as I said above, I will spend more time with the classical Latin and Greek in Mr. Chase’s book and learning the pronunciation than I will detail where the plot of a detective story is going. But make no mistake; you must be familiar with the work before you record it. Cold readings are not good for the narrator and definitely not good for the listener.
Dorothy Does the author have any say in how you narrate their work?
Gregory No, in fact, the authors have no idea we are recording their books for the most part. As part of the Chafee Act of 1994, all LOC books are eligible for the program; the books are selected by a committee at the LOC.
Dorothy What is your favorite book?
Gregory Okay…you have to go back a ways, but seeing your next question, let me answer this way; When I was younger I was deeply moved and inspired by “To Kill a Mockingbird” and also “Of Mice and Men” . Pretty much anything by Steinbeck, strangely, I was older when I really discovered Mark Twain and Poe. And then of course, poetry was a big part of my world in college and E.Cummings is the gold standard for me.
Dorothy What is your favorite of those you have narrated?
Gregory You’re asking me to think back over 500 books! I would have to say that my favorite is a book that came out in the midst of the Anne Rice hoopla. It’s called “Lost Souls” by a young woman named Poppy Brite. The writing is brilliant. She puts Ms. Rice to shame. Same genre and same basic concepts, but Brite creates a world so alive and characters so thrilling …it was the first time, an epiphany really, that I realized how powerful the spoken words and the work I was dong…that ALL of us at PTBS certainly, were doing…but this was my moment of hearing the words flow like fine wine or sweet honey over your lips, it was beautiful.
Dorothy What is the most challenging thing about being a narrator?
Gregory Interesting, you know, we are in an election cycle so everyone has an opinion on everything. Not one to be taking sides or anything, without question the most difficult thing…for me at least…is when I am given a book that is written by one of the more volatile and whacked out of the talking heads…and I have to sell it! That’s my job, because the people who will be listening to this book are undoubtedly of a similar point of view. So I have to read it with the passion and integrity that the author intends. Even when I personally don’t buy a bloody word of it.
Dorothy Do you have any advice for people considering becoming an audiobook narrator?
Gregory Yes, training, coaching. Even if you are a veteran stage actor, audio book narration is the most difficult form of voice work there is Period. In my position as the Director of Narrator Development at PTBS. One of my jobs is to listen to audition CDs sent in by actors and then choosing the ones that sound the best, bringing them in to audition with myself and Mark Delgado, my partner in crime. We try to find the best people to send to the Library for their final approval. I’ve had people with Broadway credits who cannot do this work. It’s not just telling stories or reading to your kids. It’s hard work.
Dorothy Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Gregory I will have lots to share on Wednesday night, Nancy suggested that I prepare something to read, so I have a short piece of narration and a funny piece from the book Don Rickles wrote. And I am also happy to take questions if your show does that.
Dorothy A website or blog?
Gregory I have a web site but it is being rebuilt and I have yet to set up my blog. But my e-mail is gjggorton at aol.com and I am always happy to hear from people who enjoy my work or the work of my fellow, very talented narrators at Potomac Talking Books.