Monday Feature

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Feature: Joel Leslie

C.S.: What do you narrate?
Joel: Books, primarily. Sometimes nutritional information on the back of cans or cereal boxes.  LOL. Actually, as Joel Leslie I narrate any kind of LGBT material, mostly m/m romance. As Joel Froomkin (my real name), I do other material (a lot of historical and British material mostly).  I only keep the names separate so that people looking for my work in the m/m genre can find it easily. I’m actually recording my 100th book this week.

C.S.: What genre(s) do you most enjoy working in?
Joel: I really enjoy fantasy because there is so much room for vocal play and accent work (which is kind of my specialty). I also love historical material and cozy mysteries (there need to be more of those in the m/m genre!). One of these days I really would love to be doing more Y/A material. I’m super excited that I’m going to be doing one for Kiernan Kelly – Mad About the Hatter that is about Alice’s brother in Wonderland… it’s gonna be soooo fun.

C.S.: Tell us about your acting space.
Joel: My super-handy boyfriend, Rich, built a booth for me. It was actually kind of funny because I got a chance to be considered for a book with a major audio company, but they have very specific audio specs you need to meet. So about two months ago over a marathon 48 hours he built it for me so that I could get that job (I did!). It’s about 4x3… narrating is not for the claustrophobic! I have it set up so I can record sitting or standing, which is great for me because I have back issues. In fact he put metal bars at the sides so that I can lean on them and take some of the pressure off my back as the day goes on.

C.S.: What sort of work-related items do you keep at hand?
Joel: I go through SOOOOO much water in a day it’s ridiculous. I have my geographic dictionary (which is invaluable if you are a narrator) and not much else apart from the keyboard, trackpad, screen and mic. I wish it was about another foot wider cuz I could have some fun stuffed animals in there to keep me company. A personal steamer is a must, but it lives outside ‘my cave’.

C.S.: What’s the weirdest item you keep nearby that’s not at all beneficial to voice acting?
Joel: My booth is currently parked in what was, for a while, our costume shop (my boyfriend and I own a theatre company which is on hiatus at the moment). At one point we bought out an upholstery fabric store that was going out of business….so my booth is literally surrounded by hundreds of bolts of fabric.

C.S.: What’s easily the most distracting item in your acting space?
Joel: Facebook. Facebook. Facebook. I’ve learned to actually close out my email while I’m recording so I don’t get notifications and wanna stop and look. Between each chapter I let myself have a five minute ‘recess’ to catch up on messages and the latest m/m Facebook drama lol.

C.S.: Do you have any bad habits when you work?
Joel: Well – I actually carry more tension in my neck than I should when I’m recording. I watched a Facebook live video of myself and I was like “Ooooh”.  I was a chiropractor’s nightmare. I’ve tried to become very disciplined about my day because I’m so booked that I can’t afford to get behind. So, I had bad habits – but now I avoid them with structure. I have a time to get up, warm up, steam, get to work and a number of pages I HAVE to do each day or else. We are moving to Orlando in a few months so I really have to get into good workday habits otherwise I’ll be like “I wanna go see Mickey” EVERY SINGLE DAY.

In Joel's defense, the booth is quite hot.

C.S.: Do character voices come easily to you?
Joel: I love this question. It depends. British ones, yes. I have a much wider range of characters that I feel I can play with if I’m dealing with UK material because there is such a variety of dialects. I think my range of American characters is ok (the Skyler Foxe series really pushed that envelope)… but I still wish I had a more exhaustible supply of alpha-males. I am always very determined that each character has their own unique sound… and when you juggle 10 different series like I do, it can get tricky. Because as a series goes along, and more characters are added to the mix, it becomes challenging. My favorite episode of Family Guy is where the Doctor and Peter’s father in law are in the same room and they realize they have the same voice!

C.S.: Do you have any warm-up exercises?
Joel: I would be toast without them. I stretch, then I do a vocal warm-up, and then I steam my voice. Steam is the only way to get moisture to actually make contact with your vocal chords – and it makes a huge difference for me. I am actually having surgery on the 26th for reflux and I’m nervous but SO excited because my vocal stamina is really affected by it.

C.S.: Do you have any ‘helpful’ pets?
Joel: I have two extremely loquacious wiener dogs. My booth is now so far from them that the barking isn’t an issue. But dachshunds are very vocal and until I had the new booth they TOTALLY knew that they could hold me hostage by barking until they got a treat.

C.S.: What do you do to de-stress or enjoy that’s unrelated to voice acting?
Joel: OMG I love to nap. So. Much. Apart from that, we go to the movies a LOT (there’s not much else to do in Indiana) and I’m a giant Disney freak (hence the Orlando move). I really try and be disciplined about going to the gym… I’ve learned (and was quite surprised) that my voice is a lot healthier when I do.

C.S.: Question from the audience: Tell us the craziest voice you’ve ever had to come up with.
Joel: I did a kids book with a six foot tall talking cockney bunny rabbit. He was fun.  I think people that listen to my m/m stuff probably like Rodolfo from the Skyler books the best. He’s sort of a cartoon of Antonio Banderas and folks seem to always mention him as their favorite.

Release Date: Pending Audible, hopefully week of April 17, 2017.

Blurb: Ennek, the son of Praesidium’s Chief, has rescued Miner from a terrible fate: suspension in a dreamless frozen state called Stasis, the punishment for traitors. As the two men flee Praesidium by sea, their adventures are only beginning. Although they may be free from the tyranny of their homeland, new difficulties await them as Miner faces the continuing consequences of his slavery and Ennek struggles with controlling his newfound powers as a wizard.
Now fugitives, Ennek and Miner encounter challenges both human and magical as they explore new lands and their deepening relationship with each other.

Upon release, will be available at Amazon & Audible.

Narrator Bio: An Earphones Award-winning narrator, raised in the UK with American parents, Joel Leslie is known for  a unique blend of authentic American and British sounds. He is a specialist in dialects – having taught accents at NYU, coached Broadway stars and celebrities, major regional theaters and national tours.  Classically trained with an MFA in theatre from USC.  Former theater faculty for Purdue/Indiana University; Director of Drama at Manchester University. He has over 100 full length audiobooks to his credit and over 2,000 five star reviews on audible.  He was awarded Narrator of the Year and Audiobook of the Year 2016 by Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews and five of his titles have been voted Audiobook of the Month by voters at Openskyebookreviews. He likes Twizzlers and dachsunds (who also like Twizzlers).

Be sure to check out Joel’s giveaway! (6) winners will receive their choice of audio of The Necromancer’s Dance by SJ  Himes or Dare to Hope, All Cocks Book 4 by TM Smith.

Thank you for supporting indie authors and their incredible audio narrators! Be sure to leave Joel your own questions or comments!


Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday Feature: Jordan L. Hawk

C.S.: What do you write?
Jordan: Mainly m/m paranormal historical romance, but I also have a m/m contemporary paranormal romance series (and one f/f novella).

C.S.: Why do you enjoy these genres?
Jordan: I’ve always been a history nerd, and I grew up reading fantasy, so it’s a lot of fun to combine history and magic.

C.S.: Tell us about your writing space.
Jordan: I’m lucky enough to have a home office. I work on a treadmill desk, set at 2 mph, because sitting on my butt 8 hours a day wasn’t good for me. I have small bookcase for research books I might need for whatever book I’m working on at the moment. I have fan art posted on one wall, and pictures of my covers ringing the room near the ceiling.

C.S.: What sort of work-related items do you keep at hand?
Jordan: I try to keep everything I need in the office. Research books, office supplies, calendar with my schedule on it, etc.

C.S.: What’s the weirdest item you keep nearby that’s not at all beneficial to writing?
Jordan: A companion cube my spouse 3D printed and then painted for me.

C.S.: Do you have any ‘good luck’ charms?
Jordan: Nope!

C.S.: What’s easily the most distracting item in your writing space?
Jordan: The internet. After that, the couch in the next room where I sometimes nap.

C.S.: Do you have any bad habits when you write?
Jordan: Not that I’m aware of.

C.S.: What time of day are you most creative?
Jordan: The morning. I try to do most of my writing then, before I run out of steam and just want to nap or goof off.

C.S.: Do you have any ‘helpful’ pets?
Jordan: Three cats: Savannah, Agatha, and Autumn. Agatha likes to sleep on the keyboard. Autumn chews on electrical cords to get attention, so every cord in my office had to be encased in plastic tubing.

C.S.: What do you do to de-stress or enjoy that’s unrelated to writing?
Jordan: I play video games to unwind. I’m a Bioware nerd, so mostly play the Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises.

C.S.: Do you drink or snack while writing?
Jordan: Coffee is a must in the morning. I should probably drink more water in the afternoon.

C.S.: Listen to music? If so, does the soundtrack change with projects?
Jordan: I listen to music while plotting, and yes, each book does have its own soundtrack. Which means I’m constantly looking for new music!

C.S.: Question from the audience: If you could give advice to any of your characters, who would it be and what would you tell them?
Jordan: Don’t jump to conclusions about that dude you just met, because you’ll be banging him by chapter 15.

Release Date: 3/17/17

Blurb: An outbreak of demon attacks across Charleston has worn SPECTR agent John Starkweather to the bone. Now a new threat faces his team: a demon with bullet—and bite—proof skin, which can’t be stopped by ordinary means.

John’s only solace comes in the form of his lovers: Caleb Jansen and the vampire spirit Gray. Caleb and Gray have their own problems, however. Unbeknownst to John, they’ve been tracking a mysterious entity across the city. And after they finally come face to face with their quarry, nothing will ever be the same.

Author Bio: Jordan L. Hawk grew up in North Carolina and forgot to ever leave. Childhood tales of mountain ghosts and mysterious creatures gave her a life-long love of things that go bump in the night. When she isn’t writing, she brews her own beer and tries to keep her cats from destroying the house. Her best-selling Whyborne & Griffin series (beginning with Widdershins) can be found in print, ebook, and audiobook at Amazon and other online retailers.

Be sure to check out Jordan’s giveaway for a chance to win an e-book of any title from her backlist! (3) winners will be chosen.

Thank you for supporting indie authors. Leave your own questions or comments for Jordan!


Monday, April 3, 2017

Interview: Derrick McClain, narrator Nevermore

I’ve been extremely excited about Nevermore coming to audio. Now that it’s finally available, readers/listeners can hear why I’ve been itching to share this project. Derrick McClain did an absolutely phenomenal job narrating the book! For anyone new to Derrick’s work, or those who may be interested in the creative process from his side, I did an interview with him about his contribution to Nevermore.

C.S.: Tell us a bit about your background as a narrator.
Derrick: While I always enjoyed the idea of doing audiobooks and other voice work, I never really knew how to get into the industry until I stumbled into work as an audiobook proofer for Dreamspinner Press. While I loved listening to the audiobooks, it really reignited my desire to be the one getting to bring these stories to life – and this time I knew where to go to start doing the work.
I think it’s also interesting to note that most audiobook narrators have a background in stage and screen acting. I on the other hand, do not – thanks in part to a dramatically tragic experience at theater camp in middle school, which I am not getting into right now. Instead, my background is largely in public speaking, along with the dramatic (live) reading of literature and a bit of reader’s theatre.

C.S.: What drew you to the Snow & Winter series?
Derrick: The very first thing that drew my attention was that it is part of Dreamspinner Press’s imprint DSP Publications. I’m a big fan of DSPP and love the idea of more of those titles going into audio.
But then I read the blurb and audition script and absolutely fell in love. Crimes inspired by Edgar Allan Poe? Hearts discovered under a floorboard? An MC who owns an antique shop? Yes please. (Okay, that last one might not sound exciting to most people but if you saw my house you’d understand. Seriously, you’d think a pair of old gay grandfathers lived here).

C.S.: What kind of research or preparation did you do for this project?
Derrick: Well, I worked with you on getting the voices and tone just right. The story fluctuates at times from an almost dark noir tale to a tongue-in-cheek comedy, and finding the right pacing and tone to cover all of that without losing the humor or destroying the macabre creepiness of certain moments was vital.
I also read up a bit on achromatopsia. Especially its pronunciation. Thanks for that.

C.S.: The Mystery of Nevermore is the first book in the Snow & Winter series. Do you enjoy revisiting the same characters as an audiobook narrator?
Derrick: I enjoy the idea of it – and I keep character voice files and backups specifically for those purposes – but Snow & Winter is the first series where I’ve actually signed the contract for more than one book in the series. There are some other series that I’ve started or come in on that I hope to continue with, but as listeners know all too well sometimes it can take a while for things to move into audio.

C.S.: What elements did you take into account when creating the voices of Sebastian and Calvin?
Derrick: First comes any explicit descriptions of their voices in the text. After that, for me it’s all about absorbing their personality and just seeing what voice rises out of that. [Sidebar: this is one of the things I find so challenging about auditions – I barely know the characters yet, which makes finding their voice very difficult] Finally, I try to make sure that all of the characters are still distinct audibly, which sometimes can lead to some final tweaking.

C.S.: Were there any characters that were difficult to give a voice to? On the reverse— were any of the voices easy to find?
Derrick: Sebastian was challenging in that he’s rather complicated, and I also wanted to go deeper with him at first but I needed him to remain very distinct from Calvin. Sebastian’s dad was a challenge only in that for whatever reason I kept wanting to make him southern. Stupid vocal chords, no!
Calvin came rather easily, actually, and I have a weird joy in voicing deep manly alpha males who try – but eventually fail – to hide their emotions behind a face of stoicism.

C.S.: Were there any scenes in Nevermore that you particularly enjoyed narrating?
Derrick: The parrot. I’ll spare you the full story but there was a certain elementary school experience in my life where my mimicking a parrot defeated a bully. So I’ve had a parrot voice in reserve for a couple decades now and finally got to use it.

C.S.: Was there anything in this project that challenged you?
Derrick: Action scenes are always challenging because the natural impulse is to go fast – and at parts you absolutely should – but the best way to convey action is usually breaking it up. And throwing in some epic dramatic pauses.

C.S.: Which character in Nevermore was your favorite?
Derrick: I want to choose someone other than Sebastian. But who am I kidding? I freaking love Sebastian and can’t wait to continue his story.

C.S.: What are some of your upcoming projects for 2017?
Derrick: Right now I’ve got more titles scheduled out than I’ve ever had before in my career – which is both exciting and terrifying. Immediately, I’m in the booth with Josh Lanyon’s Point Blank which is a collection of the first five Dangerous Grounds novellas following two agents of the Diplomatic Security Services as they navigate crime and love. Then I have Felice Stevens’ Learning to Love before returning to our boys Sebastian and Calvin in your The Mystery of the Curiosities. There’s another five or so titles also contracted after that but everyone will just have to wait for those announcements.

The Mystery of Nevermore (Snow & Winter Book One)
Available at Audible and Amazon

Narrator Bio: After eight years of professional and competitive public speaking and (live) oral interpretation of literature, Derrick has turned his powerful voice to the world of audiobooks.
While he enjoys reading, listening to, and narrating a wide variety of genres, he has a particular affinity and passion for romance novels of all types.
Derrick records in a professional quality studio at his home in Tallahassee, FL, where he enjoys the quiet North Florida lifestyle along with his fiance and insanely hyper dogs. He has previously lived in rural Pennsylvania as well as Orange County California, and has extensively traveled the United States, becoming familiar with a wide range of American accents and sub-cultures.