Today I am so pleased to welcome Julian G. Simmons to Joyfully Jay. Julian has come to talk to us about narrating the Whyborne and Griffin series by Jordan L. Hawk and his latest audio release, Balefire. He has also brought along some exclusive excerpts and a copy to give away! Please join me in giving Julian a big welcome!
I’m a romantic. That’s what drew me into Jordan L. Hawk’s “Whyborne and Griffin” book series. I remember when I read “Widdershins,” the first story in the lives and adventures of Percival Endicott Whyborne and Griffin Flaherty, how these characters immediately came alive in me. As an audiobook narrator and actor, I know that connection is what makes the difference between merely reading lines and really doing an exceptional job, when the characters come alive inside me. Whyborne, Griffin, Christine and all the other characters did that for me, and I “become” them when I read the extraordinary adventures Jordan conjures up for them.
It’s interesting for me when I hear people’s reactions to my reading of “Widdershins”, the first in the series and also my very first audiobook narration. Some people love it, some don’t like it at all. There is an awkwardness to Whyborne and Griffin’s interaction that some listeners found unsettling, but it was intentional. To me, this first book was really Whyborne’s story. I put that awkwardness into my performance because so much about Whyborne was just that. I can’t speak for Jordan’s intentions in creating the richly nuanced characters, but only my interpretation.
In “Widdershins,” Whyborne is living a tenuous life; his hidden sorrow over the tragic death of his secret love seems to constantly prey on his thoughts. He is uncomfortable with his burgeoning homosexuality. I even sensed the physical insecurity he feels; his height makes him feel freakish, his unruly hair refuses to be tamed, all this conspires to make him feel inelegant and clumsy in every respect, and I put that into his awkward way of speaking. It was in fact, that very awkwardness that made me so enamored with him. I wanted to put all of that into my portrayal of this sweetly sensitive, incredibly smart, and acutely intuitive character. That is always tricky, especially if you’ve read the book beforehand. When we do that, subconsciously we start giving these characters a voice we create in our head for each them. My job is to convince you that my interpretative narration is adaptable to yours. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.
There are many ways a narrator can create characters, and it really depends on getting a sense of the author’s intention. I do not believe an audiobook narrator should ever merely recite the words on the page. What I love about Jordan’s W&G books is that the characters are so unique, they each burst off the page full of vivid personality. That gives me the exciting challenge of creating characters that are just as unique, just as bold as my voice can make them, whether male or female, young or old, roaring monsters or whispering spectral beings. Jordan’s writing gives me an amazing palette with which to exercise my craft to the fullest.
“Balefire,” the most recent of Jordan’s W&G books that I’ve narrated (released on Audible June 28th, 2019), was the most challenging, as well as the most fun to narrate. Many of the characters are British and although I lived and studied in the UK, I am American. Just like in the United States, each area of Britain has its own dialect. Add to that British class structure, which especially in the Victorian era dictated how people spoke, the different ages, different sexes, and the fun fact that many characters are not human or only part human, and I was faced with a ton of challenges that could have been incredibly daunting. For me, vocalizing that wide variety was great fun. The trick is allowing Jordan’s words, characters and story to be my guide.
I really don’t have a favorite character. I love them all because they are so different and fun to portray, but I probably relate to Whyborne the most. Looking back over these ten books, his story touches me personally; he’s mercurial, sensitive, intelligent, stubborn, and when he allows himself to be, playful. I’m a bit like that myself.
I want to touch on one other thing, and that’s you, the listener of LGBTQ audiobooks. I’m not sure you realize how important you are to the success of audiobooks like the Whyborne and Griffinseries. Without you I wouldn’t be writing this guest post. Without websites like this, we would get very little coverage. The mainstream press rarely covers LGBTQ romance, paranormal, murder mysteries, drama, or poetry. Most journalists are mainly interested in thepolitics of the LGBTQ experience, how we relate to the dominant straight culture, how we are perceived, accepted, supported, et cetera. They are not really interested in what we like or create. We are, collectively, treated as a demographic lump. You and I know that we are so much more than that, and I feel strongly that we need to do everything we can to support the LGBTQ area of the arts. I also know that my listeners are not only LGBT listeners, but people of both genders and sexual identities. You are all important to our success. If authors, poets, narrators of these great stories can’t financially survive, it is very difficult to keep producing the books and audiobooks that we love, that you love.
What you can do as a reader and listener of these stories is simple and takes very little time; support these stories by talking them up through social media posts, and rating them on mega-sites like Audible, Amazon, and Apple. Ask the LGBTQ press, reviewers of romance books and audiobooks to review the ones you like so we can survive and grow our audience. Let people know these stories matter to you, that they are worth writing about, worth reading, and worth listening to. Together, we can make them come to us.
Speaking of reviewers, I am so grateful to Jay for this opportunity! She is a big reason these stories are being read and heard. Thank you!
I am including a link to an exclusive clip from my latest W&G of “Balefire” and a few other samples of my narrations available on Audible.
If you’re new to the Whyborne & Griffin audiobook series or to audible.com you can get started by visiting this link! https://www.audible.com/pd/B00CYRDVS0/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWU-BK-ACX0-007230&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_007230_pd_us
Please also visit and “LIKE” my Facebook page () or visit my Twitter page (@juliangsimmons), join my family of followers!
You can visit my website at”
And please enter the contest on this page for a free copy of the “Balefire” audiobook!
Whyborne’s Endicott relatives have returned to collect on the promise he made to help them take back their ancestral manor from an evil cult. In exchange, they’ll give him the key to deciphering the Wisborg Codex, which Whyborne needs to learn how to stop the masters.
To that end, Whyborne, his husband Griffin, and their friends Iskander and Christine travel to a small island off the coast of Cornwall. But when they arrive at Balefire Manor, Whyborne must not only face the evil within the ancient mansion, but the painful truth about his own destiny.
Julian G. Simmons is an actor, writer, VO artist, and audiobook narrator. He will soon be hosting the new podcast “talkin’ ‘bout Our Generation” premiering August 15th (they are praying!) with three episodes on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. (www.talkinboutourgeneration.
Julian has brought an audiobook copy of Balefire to give away to one lucky listener. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Monday, August 5th at 11:59 pm ET.
- 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.