Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in narrating/producing audio books? How many audio books have you narrated?
Sure, pull up a seat. By day I was working in corporate middle management and watching my creative soul atrophy. By night I was playing guitar and singing in the now defunct rock band “Divided Sky” for almost ten years. After some gigs I would be approached by folks who complimented my voice and would occasionally offer me voice over jobs on the side. That sparked an idea in my lil’ brain that wouldn’t really ignite until years later, when the band dissolved and I couldn’t take another minute of going into an office everyday.
I was fortunate to have appeared in a few commercials and films by that point and was interested in cultivating myself as an actor. However, the part of me that likes to sleep and stay in my jammies was at odds with the travel, early calls and time spent primping and preening to be camera ready. It occurred to me that I could use the perfect storm of my skills with audio engineering, my voice and wearing pajamas as much as possible and make a go of it as a voice talent. I paused all other creative pursuits and dug in like an overzealous backhoe and within a month I had landed some decent gigs as well as my first audiobook (M/M erotic as it turned out). I quickly discovered that I absolutely adored narrating audiobooks and apparently folks agreed as I haven’t stopped since. Audiobooks are my bread and butter as a full time voice talent today.
So far I’ve narrated 108 audiobooks since November 2010 and my session queue is packed into the future so hopefully I don’t think I’ll be giving my tongue a rest for some time.
How much acting is involved in narrating a story?
A good deal. Storytelling itself is an art and acting is certainly involved, although not always in the ways that we initially think. Bringing characters to life is half the job and being able to tell a story is the other. I often imagine myself as some sage, wizened grandfather figure sitting in a well worn comfy recliner in front of a fireplace while swirling a drink in a tumbler. No better way to spin a yarn unless you work in textiles.
I've worked with a number of narrators and you are probably one of, if not *the* single best prepared and professional. What kind of prep do you do before you start a project?
Well gawrsh, you do know how to flatter a guy. Dedication and strong work ethic all begin with wearing Spongebob pajamas to work.
Truthfully (not that my previous statement is fallacy) being organized and professional in any business venture is a firm part of the equation for success. Sometimes it’s not easy to remember that this is in a fact a business of which I am the owner, proprietor, representative and CEO. Perhaps from my years in the corporate world or just from what dear ol’ Mom instilled in me when I was young, I always strive to present the best representation of myself and my efforts. That means following best practices and going the extra mile to make sure that things not only go smoothly and efficiently but also bring a smile to face of all involved whenever possible.
On the actual process of prep, I always begin by reading the story and feeling the intent and direction of the author and the characters. I make notes where appropriate and list any trouble spots such as pronunciation queries or general questions. After I’ve digested the story and it’s nuances I begin narration, which for me is where the real fun begins. PJs optional.
James Winter makes a series of moral compromises in The Dickens With Love. Did you make any conscious vocal decisions on how to keep his character sympathetic and engaging to the reader?
I simply put myself into the shoes of James Winter and let my vocal reactions reflect how I feel I would react within the context of the given situation. James is a really likable guy in a position that many of us have been or will be in in our lives; a dilemma that pits our livelihood against our moral compass. He’s vulnerable and very fallibly human, which most of us can relate to.
What character was the most fun to narrate? Why?
In this case, I would have to say Crisparkle. I love accent work ;-)
Which character was the most difficult to narrate? Why?
Good question. While I wouldn’t classify any of them as difficult per se, I did want to take care with Professor Crisparkle as he evolves from a stuffed shirt to a much more relaxed and caring character. Of course, for those of you who haven’t read or listened to the book yet maaaaybe that happens and maaaybe it doesn’t.
Was there a particular scene you think you read especially well? Or that you particularly enjoyed reading?
One word for you: “ocelot”.
You are probably the foremost narrator of M/M Romance, which means you've read a LOT of sex scenes. How awkward is it to read erotic scenes aloud?
Well, I haven’t seen the data on that claim yet but thank you it is rather flattering. I was skeptical myself initially about narrating such steamy material. My first erotic narration was loads of fun (pun intended?) and I realized that it is in fact wonderfully thrilling and an art all of its own. I think the only time I feel any sense of awkwardness is when I’m in the booth and someone comes into the studio and observes during the narration for whatever reason. I’m a very...physical...narrator.
What’s the most satisfying or rewarding part of narrating/producing an audio book?
My ongoing joke is that my favorite part of the process is when I get to read “thank you for listening to…”. In fact, I have a distinct feeling of tingly goodness that usually starts around the 3rd page of narration for each title and lasts through the remainder of it. This is the point when suddenly my brain shifts gears and I can feel the storyteller come out. I’m used to many short scripts and narrations in my corner of the VO biz, so it seems to be around the third page that my brain smiles and says (thinks) “hey, we may get to do this for a while.”
Does it make the process easier if you enjoy the stories you narrate or is the process fairly detached?
Absolutely. There is a higher reward from giving life to a finely written story penned by a masterful writer. Obviously not all writers are the same and aside from uninspired work there are also some recurring writer quirks that really get my goat: punishingly tired cliches, brain-dead repetition and have pretending to have never heard of a thesaurus. Good golly if you think its irksome as a reader try reading it and then narrating it! All in all however, no matter the content, prose style or caliber of the author it’s always a pleasure to narrate. Just lemme’ at Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey!
Where can readers/listeners find out more about you and your work?
My website is www.seancrisden.com and I do try to keep it updated. Well, updated-ish. I’m usually a few months behind with titles and projects simply because I’m too busy working on said titles and projects. A search on Audible.com for me is always good too. Likewise you can find me on Twitter under seancrisden. As a bonus I occasionally have something worthwhile to say! I do always encourage folks to contact me and let me know their thoughts, good or ill. After all, I narrate for listeners to enjoy it. Drop me a line. It’s lonely sitting in a box all day talking to myself ;-)