Today I am so pleased to welcome Morgan Brice and Kale Williams to Joyfully Jay. Morgan and Kale have come to talk to us about their latest releases, the Badlands and Witchbane audiobooks. Please join me in giving them a big welcome!
Morgan Brice—Author Q&A
1. How involved do you get in the audiobook process?
I recommended Kale to Tantor as my preferred narrator, and I was thrilled when it worked out! I also get input into the audiobook covers. Other than that, it’s a process that Tantor handles. So it’s not quite as hands-on as it is for some people, but I’m really happy with the results!
2. Do you think about the audiobook while you’re writing the story?
I’ve learned the hard way not to put in things that will be difficult for narrators to read! So no more than a few foreign or made-up words, no names that sound too much alike, no really obscure accents. As Kale points out, I don’t always succeed! Usually, the narrator will do either a phone call or an email with a list of words to confirm pronunciation. Those are often names or places, and most of the time I have the answer. Once or twice in the past, I’ve had to ask the narrator to find a native speaker for a foreign word that I can spell but not pronounce!
3. Why do you think audiobooks are so popular?
For those of us who grew up with someone reading to us, I think it’s very calming to listen to a story. Whether you’re driving or doing chores, hearing someone read aloud is a human touch, a type of companionship. I think it’s like comfort food. I also hear from readers who have long commutes or who have jobs where they are moving around all day, and audiobooks help to pass the time in situations where they can’t read. Of course, as Kale mentioned, there are also folks who have difficulty for many reasons with printed books or ebooks, and audiobooks make stories accessible to them. I’m just happy that people have options for enjoying the story!
4. What’s coming up next on audiobook?
Witchbane and Burn are out on audio, and Dark Rivers is in production. Badlands and Lucky Town are out, and The Rising is in production. So both series should be caught up on audio very soon! (I don’t know release dates in advance—I find out when someone spots it on Amazon!)
5. What’s next for Morgan Brice?
I’m excited about bringing another Badlands book and two more Witchbane books out this year, plus three books that are firsts in new series. So there should be plenty of new stories coming!
Kale Williams—Narrator Interview
1. How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance? What skill/tool helped you the most when getting started?
If you told me 6 years ago when I started that I’d be recording audiobooks full time, I would have though you were crazy. When I started, I was recording textbooks for the blind & dyslexic in my free time between theatre gigs. My SO was actually the one with the drive to record audiobooks, so I built a makeshift studio in our tiny NYC apartment closet and we each did our respective work.
I started to dabble in more mainstream audio as the market opened up, and I started to fall in love not only with the work itself — I was learning new things every day and telling fun stories where I got to play every character — but also with the lifestyle — a 15ft commute, more creative control and collaboration, more flexibility with my schedule, and I get to read books every day!
It’s tough to say what the most helpful skill was when starting. From a performance standpoint, certainly my theatre background, for storytelling, character building, physical stamina, vocal health, consistency, and a love of the written & spoken word. On the logistical end, an understanding of entrepreneurship and a tenacity to learn every aspect of the business in as much detail as possible.
2. A lot of narrators seem to have a background in theatre. Is that something you think is essential to a successful narration career?
I don’t think it’s essential, but it definitely sets you up with so many transferable skills, like I mentioned before. It’s sometimes like doing a one-man show in the booth to me. I’m creating and playing all the characters, and I think that’s a thrill for most theatre actors. Like Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That said, I’ve listened narrators with no theatre background who just have a natural storytelling ability. And on the flip side, I know plenty of theatre actors who don’t have the patience to sit still for the time it takes to record an audiobook.
3. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of narrating an audiobook?
My favorite part of narrating is that I make my living reading books, which is one of my favorite things to do. And on top of that, the fact that we make books accessible to many who cannot read otherwise is something I don’t take lightly. One of my authors recently forwarded me an email he received from a reader that said her husband had some major medical complications that left him with vision issues. He was previously a very active man who loved to read, but was becoming depressed in his recovery. When they found audiobooks, they started listening together and it made that recovery time much more bearable. And as I mentioned, when I started I was reading textbooks for the blind & dyslexic. If there’s ever a day when I feel fatigued or unmotivated, I just remember these readers and those feelings disappear immediately.
My least favorite parts of narrating are the sedentary and solitary nature of it. Narrating requires sitting in one place for hours on end with very little movement. I have to make a concerted effort to get regular exercise, and if I’m in the middle of a particularly engaging book, I have to remind myself to take breaks throughout the day! And while I relish the creative freedom I have in the booth, I also miss the joys of greater collaboration, as there is in the theatre.
4. Who are your “accent inspirations”?
I grew up watching lots of Robin Williams movies and listening to his stand-up. I even got to see him perform when I was in high school. He had such a knack for all sorts of voices and accents. And the amazing part is they were all grounded in character. As outlandish as they could be, it was never just a voice, it was a fully realized character with intention and feeling, sometimes devastatingly so.
And also Mel Blanc. I loved Looney Tunes cartoons, and the versatility of that man is simply astounding. But again, always solidly grounded in character. The voice gives great clues into who a character is, and I always take that with me into the booth.
5. How did you decide how each character should sound in this title? How do you determine ways to differentiate characters who aren’t noted as having an accent or a particular speaking style?
In these series there are some very specific regional aspects to the characters, so I had to start with that. If someone is a native of a place with a very specific accent, or has deep roots in a place and has rarely left it, there will often be more of an accent. Plus older characters are also more prone to regionalisms as they may not have had the overwhelming media exposure that a younger generation has to Standard American English.
Then, as I mentioned, it’s all grounded in character. So, what drives each person, what is their general temperament, how do they relate to others, that sort of thing. And when the characters are well-drawn, like in these books, they kind of reveal themselves to me from there.
In general, it’s more instinctive as I do my first pre-read. I may look do some accent research before I jump in, but otherwise I hear the voices as I read and try to let those voices flow out of me. On a rare occasion, a character may remind me so much of somebody I know and their voice may slip in for that character. But I’ll never tell who!
6. If you could narrate one book from your youth what would it be and why?
What a great question, I’ve never been asked that. I used to read a lot of science fiction as a kid, especially Star Wars books. I love what they do with the audiobooks for those so it would be cool to have a part in one of those. Or something epic like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. To sustain something that long, with so many characters and even its own made up languages?! That would be an amazing challenge.
7. What bits of advice would you give to aspiring audiobook narrators?
The first thing I would say is, if you don’t have an acting background, take some classes in that. Many people think it’s all about the voice, but that’s really a small part of it. You need to be a good storyteller. Once they’re comfortable with that, I’d say listen to as many audiobooks as you can and start reading out loud whenever possible. Then try it sitting in one place, not moving your head. Some weeks I can be reading aloud for 30-40 hours. It’s a stamina I had to build up and it’s not an easy thing.
8. Any funny anecdotes from inside the recording studio?
Oh there are tongue twisters I come across every day. One I found: “I cautiously sloshed my way to the stairs.” And various words and word combinations that often trip me up. I should really write them down so I can share them. Sometimes it’s little things, like in the Witchbane series, having a main character named Seth can be fatiguing when I’m saying Seth’s this and Seth’s that. I have to make sure my tongue is warmed up before recording those books!
9. How do you get yourself into the headspace to record a book? Does it vary by genre?
Once I’ve done my pre-read, I’ve got a pretty good idea of where I need to be mentally. At the start of each day, I’ll look back at maybe the last 5 minutes I recorded the previous day and what is to come. If I know there’s a chapter coming up with a lot of characters, I may review voices first. I keep short voice files for all my characters, especially for the series I do. I’ve been surprised to find what I consider to be a minor character in one book crop up as a major player in future books.
Seth Tanner and his brother Jesse’s fun evening debunking local urban legends ends with Jesse’s gruesome murder. Seth vows revenge on Jesse’s killer – too bad the murderer has been dead for a hundred years. Seth uncovers a cycle of ritual killings that feed the power of a dark warlock’s immortal witch-disciples, and he’s hell bent on stopping Jackson Malone from becoming the next victim. He’s used to risking his neck. He never intended to risk his heart.
Medium and clairvoyant Simon Kincaide owns a Myrtle Beach boardwalk shop where he runs ghost tours, holds séances, and offers private psychic readings, making a fresh start after his abilities cost him his lover and his job as a folklore professor. Jaded cop Vic D’Amato saw something supernatural he couldn’t explain during a shootout several years ago in Pittsburgh and relocated to Myrtle Beach to leave the past behind, still skeptical about the paranormal. But when the search for a serial killer hits a dead end, Vic battles his skepticism to ask Simon for help. As the body count rises, Simon’s involvement makes him a target, and a suspect. But Simon can’t say no, even if it costs him his life and heart.
Morgan Brice is the romance pen name of bestselling author Gail Z. Martin. Morgan writes urban fantasy male/male paranormal romance, with plenty of action, adventure and supernatural thrills to go with the happily ever after. Gail writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy, and together with co-author hubby Larry N. Martin, steampunk and comedic horror, all of which have less romance, more explosions. Characters from her Gail books make frequent appearances in secondary roles in her Morgan books, and vice versa.On the rare occasions Morgan isn’t writing, she’s either reading, cooking, or spoiling two very pampered dogs. Books include Witchbane, Burn, Dark Rivers, Badlands, Lucky Town and The Rising. Watch for more in these series, plus new series coming soon!
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Kale Williams is a NYC-based narrator specializing in romance books of all stripes. In addition to voicing Morgan Brice’s Badlands and Witchbane series, he has been the voice of authors such as Josh Lanyon, Felice Stevens, S.C. Wynne, Tara Lain, Christina Lee, Riley Hart, Robert Winter, and Sara York. He has worked with major publishers such as Simon & Schuster, Audible Studios, Tantor, and Dreamspinner Press. In addition to narrating over 100 audiobooks, he has been seen and heard on film, television, video games, and stages in New York City and across the country. When not in the booth, you can find him buried in genealogy research, out exploring our National Parks, and raising an amazing daughter alongside his partner, also an audiobook narrator.