Today I am so pleased to welcome SJ Himes and Joel Leslie to Joyfully Jay. SJ and Joel have come to talk to us about the audio release of The Necromancer’s Dance (I just finished this one and loved it — review coming Monday). They have also brought along a copy to give away. Please join me in giving them a big welcome!
“Interview with the Vamp…Just Kidding! The Narrator!”
Hello everyone! My name is SJ Himes, and I am so honored and excited to be here today on Joyfully Jay! I’m here to discuss the recent release of my bestselling urban fantasy novel, The Necromancer’s Dance, out on audio. This was an adventure from start to finish, and when I wasn’t excited enough to scream, I was terrified, but to help me through the process was the talented and supportive Joel Leslie, the narrator for the book.
I honestly thought that writing the book was going to be the hard part. Truly, getting this book written and released was a nightmare, but I had experience behind me and I muddled through. When it came time to put it out on audio–I was at a loss. I’m a native Bay Stater, and the book takes place in Boston and Beacon Hill. One of the things I wasn’t willing to compromise on was the spirit and the sound of Boston and her people. What do I mean?
Accents, of course.
Everyone who isn’t a native of Massachusetts and the Greater Boston Area has preconceived notions about what exactly a Boston accent sounds like. There’s the wretched–think Leo Dicaprio overacting in The Departed; to the are-you-even-trying of Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting. It’s a sound, an inflection, that once captured accurately–everyone knows it.
In The Necromancer’s Dance, Angel Salvatore is a smart-ass, snarky, hot-headed and kind-hearted necromancer who finds himself falling in love for the first time, dealing with unknown enemies from his past, and someone trying to kill him. Dead bodies are piling up, the action kicks in, there’s sex, flirting, mayhem, and body-thievery. So finding someone capable, let alone brave enough to tackle all of that with an authentic Boston accent, was a trial.
I waited, wondering, listening, and sadly declining enough auditions to dampen my expectations. I thought to myself, Maybe I should just give up on finding someone with the right voice?
Then, like magic, a familiar name in the m/m community sent me an audition. I was excited, but cautious. I already knew he could handle an Australian accent, and British with aplomb; but could he maintain a Boston accent for numerous characters with the random Irish and European characters?
He did. He pulled off the snark and the wit, with an accent I would have pegged as a native. I wholeheartedly said YES! and here we are a few months later, celebrating the release of The Necromancer’s Dance on audio.
Everyone always interviews the author–and in a blatant attempt to escape that horrifying prospect and torment a sweet and talented man, I changed things up with Joel Leslie and put on my reporter’s cap! Here’s me pretending to NOT be me–confused yet?–and asking Joel all the tough questions about narrating as a career, and The Necromancer’s Dance from the narrator’s point of view.
Hi Joel! Just pretend I’m not the author–Maybe picture me as a serious journalist. *points to hat* This should be fun! Are you ready?
(Joel looks slightly alarmed. I cough, and move on.)
Here we go!
(SJ) What drew you to narration and audiobooks?
(Joel) I’ve always loved great storytellers. The man who was kind of like my Grandfather who was a Disney illustrator and also had this marvelous gift of spinning a yarn. I think that was a huge influence. I studied acting at University, developed a passion for dialects and ended up a stage director for many years. I was also a theatre professor. Audiobooks are actually a perfect combination of skills (since you need not only to be an actor, but you also need a critical ear and self-direct yourself as you’re recording). I ran a theatre company for the past decade, and I would sometimes do one-man radio dramas of condensed classics (like Treasure Island and Dracula). A colleague of mine, who is a wonderful narrator said, “You really should try to do this.” So, I gave it a shot, and it’s been a dream come true. I’ve always been an avid audiobook fan and getting to create them is a thrill. In particular, I love recording m/m stories because it’s a treat to give voice to LGBT characters who are the main characters in their own books. And you get to play in such an unbelievable variety of genres. I have always loved audiobooks – it truly is a unique artform, and when it’s done right it’s the most intimate and personal kind of performance I can think of.
(SJ) What appealed to you about “The Necromancer’s Dance?”
(Joel) Well – to start with, the cover really grabbed me. It’s pretty fantastic. I think authors underestimate how much of a draw that can be for a narrator. I love contemporary fantasy and I adore playing anti-heroes. I thought SJ’s world building was superb, even from the first few pages I read. And, to be honest, I’d really been wanting a book set in Boston that I could really utilize that dialect. And vampire stories are always so much fun to narrate… there is such a sweeping romance and sensuality. I did have to explain to a couple people that a necromancer was NOT a necrophiliac. (Joel laughs.) Biiiiig difference.
(SJ–I just choked on my soda. Say what? *mind boggled*)
(SJ) The book has several different characters, with half of them sporting Boston accents, the rest a varied collection of European and Irish. Was it difficult to switch between accents and characters when there was a mix of voices in a scene? How do you approach keeping them all separate and distinguished in your performances?
Well – the Boston accent is notorious for people screwing it up. I was nervous about it. I thought that nothing could be scarier than doing Australian books for Australian authors, but I was wrong! When I found out SJ was FROM Boston I might have had a little bit of a heart attack. (SJ–Breathe! It’s okay. No judging here! *silently judging* I’m from Western MA but I spent all my party time in Boston. *wink*) Luckily, my in-laws are from just outside of Boston, which helped. The day before I started recording, my boyfriend and I went to a really late showing of Patriots Day (which had just come out) and I sat in the back and practically mouthed the whole movie!
I don’t have a hard time jumping between accents that much – cuz it’s just kind of become the main thing I get hired for. I work closely with authors to get a sense of who each character is, (I even usually ask them what each character’s Patronus would be lol) and then I have very vivid image in my mind as I’m playing each character. But I definitely recorded Angel’s lines over and over to give it my best shot.
(SJ) Angel’s patronus would be a phoenix, fyi. *winks*
(SJ) Do you have a favorite character in the book? Is that character the same as your favorite voice/accent to perform, or are they different?
(Joel) I love Angel. I love characters that have snark as a primary character trait! Funnily enough, I really love Milly… even though we went back and changed her from my first attempt at her. I had made her British and SJ emailed me and said she really wanted her to sound like Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada. And once I got in that gear, it was so much fun.
(SJ–I worship at the feet of the Great Streep. Joel ROCKS as Milly.)
(SJ) The characters’ accents are very important in the audiobook—almost another character. Everyone has an idea of what a Boston accent sounds like—lots of ‘cahs’ in lieu of ‘cars’, but the actual accents vary and have far more depth. What did you do for research in terms of keeping the accents authentic and not give in to stereotypical expectations?
(Joel) I already talked about lip-syncing Patriots Day. I also did research and listened to a lot of samples online. There is a really hilarious Seth Myers skit called Boston Movie that is a super jumping off point to really pinpoint the sound changes (sometimes an accurate caricature is the best way to begin learning an accent.) My big hurdle was separating it entirely from New Jersey – when I went astray, that’s what it would sound like. When SJ was happy with the result I was really over the moon.
(SJ) Can you describe your average day recording?
(Joel) It’s a much more disciplined job than I ever would have imagined. I record about six hours a day. I get up, do a physical warm up (shoulders/lips etc), and then I’ll do a vocal warm-up and use a vicks personal steamer for about ten minutes (steam is the only way to get moisture directly to your vocal chords). Then I’m in the booth all day with a break for lunch. I always thought I was one of those performers who could just jump out of bed and be good to go. But narrating is really a marathon, and you have to build up stamina and really take care of yourself. If you imagine how much a lead actor speaks in a play each day – even if it’s a one-person show, that’s maybe two hours max. We are using our voices, and manipulating them to crazy pitches and sounds to create different characters, three times that on a daily basis. I worked with a speech pathologist and she told me the only people who deal with the kind of sustained all-day vocal demands that narrators do are school teachers! I drink ridiculous amounts of water a day. I used to drink about 4 liters of Diet Coke a day… but audiobooks took away that guilty pleasure! I learned I had what they call ‘silent reflux’ and had to totally adjust my diet because it was changing my tone. Also, working alone, there is no one forcing you to get up in the morning and making you climb into that little closet to record… you have to have self-discipline if you want it to be a career. I’ve been in the theatre all my life and narrating is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a nine to five schedule! The worst is getting sick, because you can’t fake it or just push through… if your voice sounds different from the last chapter you recorded, you’ve got no choice but to wait until you get better. I usually finish recording around 4pm and then, cuz apparently I’m an octogenarian, I take a power nap with my two weiner dogs! I record three days in a row, and then on the fourth day I prep the next book that’s coming up on my schedule. Usually your average m/m book is about 80,000 and will take me about four to five days in the booth.
(SJ) I want to thank Joel for letting me pretend to be a journalist–dream come true there! And a huge thank you to Joyfully Jay and everyone who stopped by today to take a look. I hope everyone enjoys The Necromancer’s Dance on audio as much as I do. Joel did a fabulous job. It’s available on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.
Listen to an audio sample of The Necromancer’s Dance on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jojofro-1/necromancer-teaser. SJ Himes and Joel Leslie will BOTH be at GRL in October 2017! Find out more information at https://gayromlit.com/home
In a world where magic is real and evil walks amongst humanity, a young sorcerer is beset by enemies, both old and new.
Angelus Salvatore is the only necromancer in all of Boston, and his name is whispered warily by the undead and fellow sorcerers alike. He and his brother Isaac are the lone survivors of an attack by an army of the undead, in which Angel used a spell so powerful it forever marked his place in history. Now, years later, Angel struggles to balance his career as a teacher of the higher magical arts, his role as big brother, and a tenuous relationship with an Elder vampire from the local clan. When his brother’s boyfriend is used as a pawn in a mysterious plot to draw Angel out, Angel is once again drawn back into the old hostilities that fueled the Blood Wars and led to his family’s death.
Leaning on others for help is something Angel cannot do, and while he searches for clues as to who may be targeting him and his brother, Angel finds his heart steadily growing occupied with Simeon, Elder and vampire. Dealing with death magic and vampires on a daily basis may leave Angel jaded when it comes to life and staying that way, but the more time he spends fending off the ancient vampire’s attention and affections, the more he realizes he wants to give in.
Can Angel find out who wants him dead, and keep his heart safe in the process? How can he fall for a vampire, when his whole family was torn apart by an army of the undead? Death stalks the streets of Boston’s historic Beacon Hill…and there is no one more suited to battle against death than a necromancer.
About the Author
I’m a self-employed writer who stresses out about the silliest things, like whether or not I got my dog the best kind of snack and the fact my kindle battery tends to die when I’m at the best part in a book. I write mainly gay romance, erotica, and urban fantasy, with ocasional forays into contemporary and paranormal. I love a book heavy on plot and character evolution, and throw in some magic, and that’s perfection. My current series are: The Beacon Hill Sorcerer, Bred For Love (as Revella Hawthorne), and The Wolfkin Saga. My last two novels in the Beacon Hill Sorcerer won 3rd Place in the Gay Fantasy category for the 2016 Rainbow Awards.
I live in New Orleans, where the personalities are big and loud and so are the bugs! New Orleans is rich in cultural history, and the flavor and music of the City is impossible to hide. Before that, I lived all over the United States: Tampa, Western Massachusetts, Indianapolis, and on and on…. I’m a nomad, and I’ve yet to find a place that calls to me strongly enough to become home. My faithful travel companions are my dog Micah, the numerous voices in my head who insist they all get put on paper, and the wind at my back.
Joel Leslie is a UK transplant, growing up with American parents in a British commonwealth. A classically trained actor with an MFA in theatre from USC, he is often cast for his unique ability to deliver native, authentic combinations of American and British sounds. His great range and ability to bring characters to life with honesty, wit and versatility delights producers and listeners alike.
He is proud to have a strong following with m/m listeners and an ongoing relationship with some of the finest writers in the genre. He loves that every day he gets to share these beautiful, inspirational and empowering GLBT characters with the world. When not in the booth he spends his time chasing after two loquacious wiener dogs.
Find a list of Joel’s books on Audible
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