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Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Feature: Derrick McClain

Welcome to Monday Feature with our first audiobook narrator, Derrick McClain! Please help me welcome our guest and read on for his interview, latest release, and giveaway.

C.S.: What do you narrate?
Derrick: Books. Mostly gay romance. Sometimes with werewolves.

C.S.: What genre do you most enjoy working in?
Derrick: I know it’s not a genre but rather a trope, but…I kinda have a thing for the whole “bodyguard who falls for their charge”. Examples I’ve done include Bender by M. Stratton, Dark Horse, White Knight by Josh Lanyon, and Light from the Dark by Mercy Celeste (coming soon!)

C.S.: Tell us about your acting space
Derrick: It’s a 3’x5’ closet. When I first started I recorded with a (relatively) cheap USB microphone into a worn-out laptop with free software in a sort of cubby hole of studio foam. Then – inspired in part by Greg Tremblay’s studio remodel – I completely reworked the closet making it a proper booth with sound isolation, absorption, and a professional microphone and software.

C.S.: What sort of work-related items do you keep at hand?
Derrick: Headphones. iPad for the script. Water. Chapstick. Chewing gum.

C.S.: What’s the weirdest item you keep nearby that’s not at all beneficial to voice acting?
Derrick: My space is fairly Spartan compared to some narrators. The only thing that’s not practical is my tiny mountain of used chewing gum. (Sigh…gross, I know. The gum helps to reduce mouth noise, but I don’t have a trashcan in the booth so it ends up getting collected in a pile until I can’t stand it and take it to the trash.)

C.S.: Do you have any ‘good luck’ charms?
Derrick: No. But now I want one. Any ideas?

C.S.: What’s easily the most distracting item in your acting space?
Derrick: My iPad. If I “forget” to put it on airplane mode it’s all too easy to fall down the rabbit hole of Facebook/email/Goodreads/etc.

C.S.: Do you have any bad habits when you work?
Derrick: Sometimes when I’m behind schedule and I keep flubbing the same sentence I’ll curl up in a ball on the floor of my booth, hyperventilating and on the brink of tears, convinced that I’m going to be dropped from the book and blacklisted by publishers and authors and never going to work again and my fiancΓ© will leave me and the house will be foreclosed on and I’ll be homeless and trying to turn tricks for a living but no one will want me because I’m gross and disgusting and a talentless fraud who has destroyed his life by thinking, “Hey, that sounds like fun, I could do that!”
It usually doesn’t last too long before I get back to it, but…yeah…that’s probably a bad habit.

C.S.: Do character voices come easily to you?
Derrick: Yes and no. If I focus on making a distinct and unique voice, it’s challenging and inconsistent. If I just focus on the character – their temperament, personality, attitude, background – it tends to flow quite naturally.
Except if there’s a major accent. I’m not Joel Leslie. It takes me at least a full day of research and mimicry for any given accent. At least.

C.S.: Do you have any warm-up exercises?
Derrick: Oh yeah. Stretching, face massage, weird noises, and some warm-up phrases. A couple favorites going back to my college forensics (speech and debate) days are, “A proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee pot” and “A big black bug bit a big black bear and the big black bear bled blood.”

C.S.: Do you have any ‘helpful’ pets?
Derrick: A five year old Jack Russell/American Fox Hound mix named Ajax and a three month old Golden Retriever/Husky mix named Hector. I appreciate that Hector is learning to communicate when he has to go out, but could he please learn to hold it for longer than 20 minutes at a time?! Also totally regret getting him squeaky toys.

C.S.: What do you do to de-stress or enjoy that’s unrelated to voice acting?
Derrick: Video games. Also drinking. And I usually go to at least one drag show a month.

C.S.: Question from the audience: Name one character you loved creating the voice of. Why?
Derrick: I love the voice for Nutter, from M. Stratton’s Bender (which happens to be both one of my first books and also one of my few non-m/m titles). Nutter is an absolute psycho murdering nutjob, but he’s also super intelligent. So I had to find a voice that properly conveyed him but wasn’t too over the top. He makes a return in the sequel Revenge, and I’m really hoping to give him voice in my new and improved set-up sometime in 2017.

Audio Release Date: January 20, 2017

Blurb: Ryan Keller has it all: a great supportive family, friends, and no limit to his self-confidence. Coming out of the closet was not as traumatic as he would have thought. Navigating through life isn't easy for any man, let alone a gay one. Rest assured that Ryan has it handled.
Brandon Ford comes from the wrong side of the tracks. With a dark past, he doesn't have much going for him, no money, no friends, definitely no charisma, and his family makes people on Jerry Springer look like total winners. Life can't be worse - until it becomes unbearable.
When Ryan helps Brandon out of a bad situation, chemistry sparks between them. Only Brandon has one problem: he's hiding in the closet with no way of finding his way out.
After years apart, Ryan runs into Brandon. This spells emotional turmoil for both Ryan and Brandon. Will years of resentment and bad feelings pull them apart or force them to work on their relationship so they can end up Tied Together?

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.

Join Derrick's giveaway for a chance to win an audiobook copy of Tied Together!

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  1. Great post, I always love learning some background about narrators of books I listen to. I am a huge audio-book fan. I look forward to listening to some of the books you have narrated. Thanks for the chance at your giveaway

  2. Wonderful interview. Thank you. I have How to Be a Normal Person by T.j. Klune queued up in my audible library. Looking forward to hearing more of your narrations.

  3. For what it's worth, I'll be checking in and am happy to answer any additional questions anyone might have :)

  4. Love the behind-the-scenes info! Even when it involves a semi-creepy, chewing gum-laden claustrophobic cubicle... ;-)

    I enjoy your work immensely Derrick, and look forward to your upcoming releases. What I am curious about is this: Do you double check pronounciations of names, places etc with authors? Also, how many times do you read a book - to get the feel of the story and characters - before narrating it? Yay for helpful, bladder challenged pups.

    Thanks so much.

    1. Thanks Dianne! I promise the pyramid has been disposed of. Well, that one at least.

      As to pronunciations - for names and places it depends on how much contact I have with the author. When I work for publishers sometimes I never speak with the author at all. But there are a lot of resources for pronunciations and there have been times when I've even called real life places to check on local place name pronunciations.

      For the pre-read, I always read through it *at least* once before I start production. It's vital not just for clarity on characters and what pronunciations I need to research, but also the larger feel, flow, and narrative arc. So usually one full pre read and then partial prereading as I go, but sometimes I'll do a double pre-read, waiting to take notes until the second read through and just getting lost in the story the first time.

    2. Wow, thanks for the detailed answer. I certainly appreciate your hard work and talent. Talented narrators such as yourself certainly add extra layers of color and shine to authors' wonderful works.

      Glad to hear there is turnover on the gum pyramid at least. :-D

  5. I think it's fascinating to find out what goes in to narrating an audiobook. Thanks for sharing!!

  6. Thanks for the awesome interview. I chuckled several times and I need all the laughs I can get. Plus the cute pic of your dogs. I also need all the cute pet pictures I can get.

  7. Thank you for the interview, Derrick. I love audiobooks, and I am always amazed by the excellent job narrators do in them (I'm looking forward to hearing Dark Horse, White Knight... I need to hear Dan's voice!)

  8. Great interview. Thanks for the inside story 😝 Especially about your gum pyramid 😘