Guest Post and Giveaway: Olive Juice with Derrick McClain

Today I am so pleased to welcome audiobook narrator Derrick McClain to Joyfully Jay. Derrick has come to talk to us about recording the audio for Olive Juice by T.J. Klune. He has also brought along some copies to give away. Please join me in giving Derrick a big welcome!


To celebrate my most recent audiobook release – Olive Juice by TJ Klune – I invited fans to ask my anything they want. Here’s the questions and answers…and if you can’t tell, Olive Juice is known to evoke a few tears…


Questions Relating to Olive Juice

Why did you have to sound so vulnerable and emotionally naked while narrating Olive Juice? You’ve broken my heart.

It’s my job!!!


How many times did you have to stop recording to get rid of Wookiee cry face, or did you just use it for the character?

During my pre-read of Olive Juice, there were definitely multiple cases of Wookie cry face.

Once in the booth however, there was only one moment where I actually shed tears – and it is the first time I have ever had to stop recording because of such a reaction in the booth.


How are you able to read sad/emotional books without breaking down? Without your voice getting wobbly and crackling? Do you have to stop to collect yourself or do you detach and have a good cry when it’s over? 

It varies. Audiobook narration, like most forms of acting, can be very emotionally draining and challenging, no doubt about it.

There’s a balance point between being detached and fully invested that happens almost naturally when I’m recording though. Part of this is because you constantly have three things going at once: one part of you is reading/preparing the words just ahead of what you’re speaking (this is hard to describe if you don’t already do/know how to do it, but it’s how we are able to read out loud smoothly); another part of you is actively connecting with and channeling the text you’re performing in that moment; and a third part is monitoring what you’re saying, evaluating your own performance and listening for errors or mistakes. With all that going on, you have a connection, but you’re not quite as vulnerable as you are when you can just fully be absorbed in reading or listening.


How do you psych yourself up into reading something super emotionally charged? Or are you just THAT good at acting?

How do you NOT get psyched into reading something super emotionally charged is the real question! Audiobook narration is this tightrope walk of performance – you’re not just reading something out loud, you’re performing it, but you’re also performing it in a manner that is meant to keep the focus on the author’s words and not your acting, while maintaining certain volume levels and other important norms. An audiobook is different from an audio drama or play (which is in turn different from stage acting, which is different from film acting). The bigger trick is being able to angrily yell without actually yelling, or speak through tears without actually crying.

And at the end of the day, the better the writing, the easier the performance. Luckily for me, TJ Klune is a phenomenal author.


pointblankHow long is the process? I know Olive Juice runs just over 5 hours. How long did it take you to record it?

Too long. I have some of the slowest production speeds in the industry, if I’m being honest. Last week, my friend and colleague Greg Tremblay completed 19 finished hours of recording in a single week. Meanwhile, it took me almost three months to fully record and produce the 20 hour boxed set of Dangerous Ground novellas for Josh Lanyon (titled Point Blank if you wanna check that out).

Olive Juice took me two weeks to actually record and produce, starting late after dealing with delays on other projects, and then the processing process with Audible can take a while after that.


Other Audiobook/Narration Questions

Can you explain a little about the audition process for narrators, how do you choose which books to audition for and how do you get into character? 

With independent productions – which is most of what I do – there’s a website we use which serves largely as a marketplace connecting independent authors and small publishers with independent audiobook producers and narrators. Titles are posted up with their word count (which lets us estimate their recorded length), basic information, the offered rate, and an audition script.

Since this is my career, much of the initial decision about what to audition for does come down to advertised rate. Then I do take a closer look at the material in question, skipping over anything that I know I’m not a good match for (accents aren’t a strong suit of mine, for instance, so I don’t audition for titles in which the MCs aren’t U.S. based), or that I’m just not that interested in recording (I don’t have much interest in Christian titles or Conservative politics, for instance).

I do actively search for authors and publishers I enjoy and who are great clients.

That being said, these days I don’t do many cold auditions anymore, as a lot of authors and publishers come directly to me (or vice versa).

Getting into character is the hardest when you’re just working off the audition script, as you don’t have their full context without reading the entire book first (and it’s not even remotely practical to read every book in its entirety before auditioning). This is where we as narrators LOVE the inclusion of a character description along with the audition script. Otherwise, it’s general acting stuff – imagining the character as fully as you can, even “filling in the blanks” about their personality and history, and then I just open my mouth and see what comes out.


Of all the books you’ve narrated, who has been your favorite character and why?

htbanpI think I have to go with Gus from How to Be a Normal Person. There are a LOT of reasons why that book was so special to me (and I’ve written about them here – ), and Gus especially spoke to me on a deep level. I think if some things in my life had happened a little differently, I could have wound up a lot like Gus…as it is, I think I’m something of a mix between Gus and Casey (but, way more sexual).


I know you’ve discussed on your FB page about the correct pronunciation of words – what are some of the words that are real tongue twisters that you’ve had to retrain your brain to correctly pronounce based on the character rather than your own personal dialect? 

There’s actually two different beasts here.

The first is mispronunciations, which I’m getting better at, I swear!

I have a long running struggle with “un-“ words. Uninterested, untangled, uninformed – often come out of my mouth as oninterested, ontangled, oninformed.

Josh Lanyon finally broke me of mixing up weary and wary, and I no longer mispronounce mischievous.

I’ve been mispronouncing ogle and tousled my entire life, and everyone says timbre, bade, and forte incorrectly (it’s “tamber”, “bad”, and “fort”, by the way). And the “t” is silent in often.

THEN there’s the words that are just difficult to enunciate properly, that you don’t really think about until you start talking into a microphone for a living…

Grasped. Gasped. Clasped. Asked.

Neither, either, and data are special frustrations because there’s multiple ways to say them and I always question myself now.

Pronunciations and enunciations aren’t something I used to think about much as an avid reader, but they’re a major part of the narrator’s life. And we discover “new” life long mistakes almost every day.


You’ve collaborated on two of TJ’s books now, excluding Lightning (which I believe you auditioned initially for), what other books of TJ’s do you wish you’d been able to narrate?

I did indeed audition for The Lightning-Struck Heart – as did many narrators I know – but all of us agree that Michael Lesley was absolutely the best possible choice for that one.

I would say Wolfsong is the one that I would’ve most loved to narrate. I rather enjoy paranormal stories, and to combine that with TJ Klune’s writing? YES PLEASE. However, his narrator choice was yet again absolutely fantastic.


What – outside of the obvious things like recording equipment, water, and the book itself – do you have in your booth? What could you not record without? Any good luck charms? Knick-knacks? Resource books?

Ugh, I’m so boring. I got nothing. I need something though. Gonna keep my eyes out for some cool swag to turn into a lucky charm at GRL this year.


Let’s Get Personal

What do you like to read? 

Between narrating and proofing audiobooks, I so very rarely read for pleasure these days – though I get pleasure from the reading I do for work, if that makes sense.

Gay romance really is a favorite of mine, which is a big part of the reason I keep narrating it. I also really enjoy fantasy – I’m a big D&D nerd – and am really tempted to check out some LitRPG one of these days.


Do you have a boyfriend, girlfriend… or whatever?

A husband, actually. We just got married last April on our 6th anniversary.

Fun Fact: I am/was his first love and boyfriend. So he’s never known heartbreak, the lucky bastard, and if I have anything to say about it never will.

Fun Fact 2: I know m/m narrators who are solidly straight, solidly gay, and everything in between. You definitely don’t have to be into m/m sex yourself to narrate it well.




Olive JuiceIt begins with a message that David cannot ignore:

I want to see you.

He agrees, and on a cold winter’s night, David and Phillip will come together to sift through the wreckage of the memory of a life no longer lived.

David is burdened, carrying with him the heavy guilt of the past six years upon his shoulders.

Phillip offers redemption.

©2017 TJ Klune (P)2017 Dreamspinner Press


Derrick McClainAfter 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 husband and two 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.


Derrick has brought five Audible copies of Olive Juice to give away to five lucky readers. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Sunday, September 10th at 11:59 pm EST.

  • By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Winners will be selected by random number. No purchase necessary to win.  The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
  • If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner may be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay.
  • Winners may be announced on the blog following the contest. By entering the contest you are agreeing to allow your name to be posted and promoted as the contest winner by Joyfully Jay.
  • Prizes will be distributed following the giveaway either by Joyfully Jay or the person/organization donating the prize.
  • All book prizes are in electronic format unless otherwise specified.
  • By entering you are agreeing to hold Joyfully Jay harmless if the prize or giveaway in some way negatively impacts the winner.
  • Readers may only enter once for each contest.  Duplicate entries for the same giveaway will be ignored. In the event of technical problems with the blog during the contest, every effort will be made to extend the contest deadline to allow for additional entries.
  • Void where prohibited by law.


  1. Neta Berkovich says:

    I want to get the audiobook so bad! It sounds amazing#

  2. Would love to listen to Olive Juice. Loved your narration in “Let the Wrong Light In” and “How to be a Normal Person”!

  3. Lynn Schmitz says:

    I would love to hear you read this book to me! It was one of my favorites! I loved how you voiced Gus and Casey – amazeballs as Tj would say! Pick me pick me!

  4. Colette Flaherty says:

    I can’t imagine how hard it must be to bring this book to life! Reading it just about finished me off. Much respect to you!

  5. I understand the way you feel about Gus and HTBANP. It literally changed the way I see myself. You narration was spot on, IMHO. Looking forward to listening to Olive Juice, whether I win a free copy or not, it’s next on my list.

  6. Thank you for sharing. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand all that goes into the making of an audiobook.

  7. No heartbreak. Excellent and sweet goal to strive for! My husband and I are each other’s first loves and we work for that same goal every day. Very much appreciated the interview, especially the closer, inside look at the audio side of things. How to Be a Normal Person remains one of my favorites, and while I’m sure I’ll have to brace (and seclude) myself for Olive Juice, I’m definitely game. Congrats and wishes for happiness to you and your new husband!

  8. Emma Anderson says:

    Thanks for answering my question. It makes sense that you’re occupied with so many things there is a certain detachment.
    Thank you for sharing your private life as well. The pictures are wonderful!! It’s lovely to know true love is still alive and well.
    And finally take care with this hurricane coming!! Be safe.

  9. Angie Malone says:

    Great interview! Thanks for sharing your process. I love audiobooks & enjoyed learning more about how they are created.
    Have a great day!

  10. Great interview! I hadn’t thought about how many things a narrator has to focus on as they read, and how it can give you a bit of an emotional buffer when doing some of the heavier scenes.

  11. Jessica Rosario says:

    I love Tj, and I love Derrick. It would be so awesome to win this. Thanks for the chance!

  12. Leigh Ann Wallace says:

    Olive Juice is a wonderful book. Tore my heart out. I have no clue how I managed not to cry until the last quarter of the book.

  13. Mia Sciberras says:

    Not entering the comp but just wanted to say thanks for answering our questions and congratulations again on the phenomenal job you did with Olive Juice, Derrick. An absolutely brilliant performance.

  14. Gail Wright says:

    You have an amazing talent! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Much love. 

  15. This is the best interview I’ve read in a long, long time. Very informative.
    I’ll have to be sure to listen to this one when I’m by myself…I hate crying over
    books or movies in front of anyone. 😉

  16. I’d known little about what a narration entails, but now I feel better informed. Thanks very much, Derrick. Much joy to your and your husband, and thanks for sharing your wedding photos.

  17. Chris Myles-Davies says:

    I loved reading Olive Juice the first time and can’t wait to hear it in audio!

  18. Thank you for this interview!!
    I loved his reading on ‘How to be a Normal Person’ and I cant wait to hear his reading for ‘Olive Juice’!

    I hope to win 🙂

  19. Christine Armstrong says:

    Love audiobooks and both how to be a normal person and lightning struck heart are 2 of my favourites – I cried through olive juice reading it so imagine I will listening as well

  20. Jessica Mason says:

    Lovely interview 🙂
    Thanks for all the hard work you put into your narrations, they are always a joy to listen to!

  21. Lili Kakatics says:

    Thanks for the giveaway! I ‘d love to hear this book. 🙂

  22. I waited for the audio of Olive Juice so I haven’t read it yet and I think you are a new to me narrator so I am super excited for this. Thanks for answering questions and letting those of us unfamiliar with you to get to know the man behind the voice.

  23. Stacie Stanley says:

    I’m a fan of TJ Klune AND Derrick McClain, so this should be a surefire good time–good time meaning sobbing into my hankie and questioning my life choices. Oh my gosh, my heart is pounding at the thought of diving into this one…

  24. I enjoyed the interview <3 , thank you for the chance!

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