Today I am so pleased to welcome Joel Leslie to Joyfully Jay. Joel has come to talk to us about two of his recent audio releases, Mark Cooper Vs. America by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock, and Spencer Cohen by N.R Walker. She has also brought along some excerpts and copies to give away! Please join me in giving Joel a big welcome!
First of all, hugeeee thanks to Jay for inviting me to her bloggerverse.
Just last month, Jay came and stayed with my husband Rich and I. Along with uber fabulous author Anna Martin we attacked Disney World together. There is not a single carb left in Florida… and we are proud of our achievement. #Itsasmallworldbutmywaistisnot #drunkondolewhip
And if you haven’t walked through a Disney store with a margarita-tipsy Jay, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Anyhoooo….I have two new releases out this month that share something in common, so I thought it might be fun to talk about both projects and what made each of them so fun to bring to life.
As a narrator, I am kind of known as a dialect guy. This all began because I grew up in a British commonwealth, attending an all British school, BUT I have American and Canadian parents. So my natural accent is basically the vocal equivalent of a mutt… And, my ear became quite arruned to different accents at a young age. For years I was working in New York as a dialect coach, teaching at NYU and coaching celebrities and Broadway peeps. So, when my narrating career took off, accents became my niche.
In particular, when there are two lead characters with different accents, it can be a great fit for my skill set. With m/m titles, you’re juggling two lead male characters, and almost always you need one narrator voicing the dialogue of both. If it is 3rd or all 1st person from one point of view, that’s how you need to cast the audio. THEN… sometimes authors like to really make things fun and write alternate dual 1st person POV (where characters trade off 1st person chapters). For me, books like that are honestly EASIER to handle when there is a difference in dialect, because there is an inherent factor making the two voices discernable from each other. (1st person alternating alpha-male All-American books are trickyyyyyyyy for a single narrator and give me agita).
By pure coincidence, in the past month I had releases of two books about Australians who are living in the States and fall for an American guy. One of them is the SPENCER COHEN series, by NR Walker, and the other is MARK COOPER vs. AMERICA by Lisa Henry and JA Rock (book one of the Prescott College Series). It was super weird that although both of these books came on my radar years apart, they both released at the same time. The lovely Amelia Vaughn played matchmaker two years ago at GRL with Lisa Henry and I, but it took another year for the project to come to fruition. That book had proved really tricky for her to cast because it’s alternating 1st POV – Mark is a fabulous and sassy Australian while Deacon is a studious American frat boy.
Although NR Walker and I had done eight books together already, Spencer Cohen came along when Tantor audio offered to produce the series. NR has been the greatest gift to my audio career, and she keeps throwing brilliant material my way.
Even though both of these books are Aussie fish-out-of-water stories, the characters, lucky for me, couldn’t be more different. You can never play a dialect or an accent AS a character choice. It’s simply one facet of a character’s personality. And, apart from being from the same country (and gay) Spencer and Mark couldn’t be more different. Although, they are both very frustrated that Americans can’t learn proper words for things! Both of these characters are survivors and have put up a lot of walls around themselves for protection. Both of the books deal with pain and rejection but are more feel-good than angsty. All three of the writers have a great gift for humor… In this book NR’s characters are both hipster-smart and witty and there is a lot of banter. Mark Cooper is an outrageous personality and there are hilarious hijinks and sass.
For Mark Cooper we actually had to make it even more complicated. The whole book is in 3rd person BUT each chapter alternates from Mark and Deacon’s perspective. And the narrator’s way of speaking completely changes… he thinks like each of the characters. So, we had to decide how to proceed. All three of us agreed that we should alternate between an American 3rd person narrator and an Australian 3rd person narrator. You can imagine by the end of this book, my brain was slightly fried.
Finally, after doing alllllll of these Australian books for NR Walker, in Spencer Cohen, I get to be a swoon-worthy Australian male. Charlie in Red Dirt Heart is sexy, but in his own head he is awkward and not terribly confident. Henry in Weight of It All was a hyper, hilarious mess. Spencer Cohen is my first Helmsworth. And I loved it.
Spencer is a fake-boyfriend for hire. People who want to get back their ex and make them jealous hire Spencer to pretend he is their new lover. So, he has to have a voice that would make people melt… basically the kind of Aussie sound that women hear and go “oohhh my ovariesssssss”. I based Spencer on a video of Chris Helmsworth reading the dictionary. No, seriously…
You’re welcome. Now go take a cold shower.
The great thing is that since the book is all 1st POV in Spencer’s head, and because NR writes freaking amazing characters, there were tons of levels, and vulnerability and warmth to flesh out the outward ‘sex on legs’ image of Spencer. It was a challenge, but Spencer definitely doesn’t sound like me, or Charlie, or Henry… and I wish I could be him in real life!
For Lisa and JA’s book, Mark Cooper is a polar opposite. I often ask my m/m authors, if someone heard the character speak on the phone would they guess that they were a top or a bottom. And Mark would definitely fall in the ‘power bottom’ category. He’s totally in touch with his inner pixie-dust, he’s sparkly and sassy and outspoken and fabulous. He’s a huge personality – (although he is also covering up a lot of hurt and loneliness). I wanted him to be over the top, but still feel honest and endearing… he couldn’t be silly.
If Adam Rippon was Australian… that would be my dream Mark. One of my all-time favorite movies (and one of those lightbulb-life-changing-moments for me) is Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Guy Pierce plays a character named Adam in that movie who the minute he came on screen every synapse in my body told me I was as gay as a French horn. He was FABULOUS and irrepressible and fierce. So, I basically took the essence of Guy Pierce, imagined him being a college Freshman, and that was my springboard. He would be my personal catnip. That was fun to voice.
It was actually harder to voice the two American boyfriends! Here’s what Lisa and JA told me for Deacon: “Calm, studious. Compassionate but no-nonsense. Can definitely stand up for himself when necessary. Worries about protecting the people he cares about–goes home every weekend from college to care for his mom. Has a brother in the military whose absence is rough on him and his Mother. From south-central PA.” I kind of went with young Mark Wahlburg in my imagination. He’s the fulcrum around which Mark can spin in a tizzy. I feel like he’s the older brother that every gay kid wishes they’d had. Deacon has to be the rock for a lot of people.
Spencer Cohen’s love interest, Andrew, on the other hand is not solid. He’s a gentle soul. He doesn’t have great self esteem. He’s a brilliant animator, very artsy and cultured. He is a sexy nerd. BUT we discover that he can be very dominant and in-charge in the bedroom. So, he had to have a voice that could take Spencer by surprise and make HIM weak at the knees. I went with Matt Bomer. I’ve used his voice once before as the basis of a character (not telling which series), but there is a warmth and kindness to it that I thought was great for Andrew. Here’s the thing…Sometimes choosing voices is like casting from a repertory company of actors. You have certain people in your arsenal, and when they are perfect for a role, you use them. I have narrators that I adore, and when I listen to them over and over you sometimes hear similar characters (Simon Vance has an ‘stately old guy’ character that I love… he uses him a lot). And now, I don’t think “oh, he used that voice already”, but, “Oh, he cast that actor”. When you go to the movies you don’t get pissed off that Helen Mirren is in more than one film you’ve seen, right?
Of course, the aim isn’t to do any kind of a vocal impression. It’s just an attitude, a tone that I can keep as a specific touchstone in my mind. Working like that helps me visualize the characters as very different, fully-formed people. When narrating really clicks for me, often it’s like I’m just parroting out a movie that I’m imagining in my head starring people way more talented than me!
However, none of these vocal challenges compared to narrating one particularly memorable sex scene in Mark Cooper… Thanks for that, Lisa and JA. Suffice it to say that our blog queen Jay just finished listening to the audiobook and texted me “Thank God I didn’t listen to this before I came to visit!”.
Both of these books are utterly wonderful pieces of writing. They will give you the warm and fuzzies and make you laugh and hurt and melt in totally different ways. I was pretty darn lucky to bring both of these books to life.
I am excited to give away a copy of Mark Cooper and a copy of Spencer Cohen – hopefully you’ll love these boys as much as I did.
Audio clip from Mark Cooper:
Audio Clip from Spencer Cohen:
Spencer Cohen is the guy who gets answers to relationship questions. Playing the role of the new lover, his job is to make his client’s ex realize one of two things: he doesn’t want to break up or he really does. Either way, his client gets answers.
The ex would either apologize and beg, or turn and walk. But in the end, Spencer’s client won. If he wanted his ex back and got him, it was great. If the guy walked away, then as hard it was for the client, he knew it was over. Regardless of the outcome, Spencer’s work was done.
Andrew Landon’s ex left him without so much as an explanation. But his sister can’t stand to see him miserable, so, much to Andrew’s dismay, they hire Spencer to be Andrew’s new boyfriend to get the ex back.
For Spencer, it is never personal. Merely a business transaction. No emotions, no strings, no complications. Yeah right. Even a blind man could see how this would end.
Buy link: Amazon/Audio
MARK COOPER VS AMERICA
Mark Cooper is angry, homesick, and about to take his stepdad’s dubious advice and rush Prescott College’s biggest party fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi. Greek life is as foreign to Aussie transplant Mark as Pennsylvania’s snowstorms and bear sightings. So, when the fraternity extends Mark a bid, Mark vows to get himself kicked out by the end of pledge period. But then he’s drawn into Alpha Delt’s feud with a neighboring fraternity.
Studious Deacon Holt is disappointed to learn Mark’s pledging Alpha Delt, his fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa’s sworn enemy. Mark is too beautiful for Deacon to pass up an invitation for sex, but beyond sex, Deacon’s not sure. He wants a relationship, but a difficult family situation prevents him from pursuing anything beyond his studies.
Mark and Deacon’s affair heats up as the war between their fraternities escalates. They explore kinks they didn’t know they had while keeping their liaison a secret from their brothers. But what Romeo and Juliet didn’t teach these star-crossed lovers is how to move beyond sex and into a place where they share more than a bed. That’s something they’ll have to figure out on their own – if the friction between their houses, and between Mark and America, doesn’t tear them apart.
Buy link: Amazon/Audible
Joel Leslie (and his alter-ego, Joel Froomkin) is a four-time Audiofile Earphones Award-winning narrator. He has narrated over 150 titles. You can find him at https://www.joelleslienarration.com.
Joel has brought audio copies of Mark Cooper and Spencer Cohen to give away. There will be two winners, each who will receive one audio book. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Tuesday, March 13th at 11:59 pm ET.
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