Earlier this year I had the opportunity to chat with AK Benedict about audiobooks. She had just released her fantastic new novel Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts and had also written a Torchwood audio play for Big Finish productions – she was telling Captain Jack Harkness what to say! Our chat covered what it was like for an author to pass their work to a team to turn it into an audiobook. You can read that interview here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=1419
Now I am delighted to be able to bring you the other side of the story. Today’s guest, Steve Worsley, is a narrator of audiobooks and has spent hours in a studio to give a voice to the books we listen to. Down the years I have listened to many, many audiobooks so I was keen to learn a little more about how the audiobooks come together.
My first question is never actually a question, this is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give you the opportunity to get a few plugs in!
I am Steve Worsley. I’m a Scottish actor/singer. Originally from Aberdeen but now living in Falkirk with my wife and step children. I sing with a rat pack vocal trio called Ocean’s 3. I also perform improvised comedy with an Edinburgh improv troupe called Men With Coconuts. We perform at the Edinburgh Fringe, Prague Fringe and currently have a residency at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh.
How do you become the voice of an audiobook?
For me it kind of happened by accident. I was working with another actor who specialises in voice over work. He mentioned that he had been asked to narrate an audiobook. It was Shatter the Bones by Stuart MacBride. He said he didn’t really fancy it as he was from Glasgow and the Stuart MacBride books were set in Aberdeen (my home town). I jokingly said I’d do it if he didn’t fancy it. He took me up on the offer and helped me record a short demo to be approved by the publisher (HarperCollins). To my surprise they did and before I knew it I was off to a studio in Manchester to record my first unabridged audiobook. On the back of that I approached another publisher, who as luck would have it had just listened to Shatter the Bones. I was immediately offered another audiobook. The rather wonderful crime thriller The Blackhouse by Peter May. Due to reader popularity I have now become the voice of all the Logan MacRae series of books by Stuart MacBride. Since then I have gathered together all the equipment needed to make a wee home studio, and now produce my own audiobooks through an online company called ACX where writers submit their novels, and narrators can then audition for the roles.
I know all books will vary in length but if you have narrated a story with a 10-hour running time how long may you have spent in a studio to get that recorded?
I usually spend about 3-4 days in a studio, reading from 9-5 with regular breaks. My longest book so far is The Missing and the Dead by Stuart MacBride which came in at just over 17 hours. That took about 4 days in a studio in London. That was a real challenge to complete as the studio had booked me for 4 days but then found out that the book was about 150 pages longer than estimated! Luckily I’ve been told by several sound engineers that my sight reading rate is unusually high. I can comfortably read about 150 pages in a single day. Of course home recording is a different matter as I not only have to read but edit the whole book myself. And I can only record when the kids are at school! It can take me up to 2 months to produce a home recording.
Do you need to be able to voice different accents?
Oh yes! The Stuart MacBride books were great for me as they are all set in my home town. Until I took over on book 7 his books had never been narrated by a native Aberdonian (except the two he did himself). But even in his books there are loads of different accents. Some of them particularly specific. One character spoke with a mix of Aberdonian and Brummie!!. I’ve also had to do American, regional English accents and few others from around the world. In The Blackhouse by Peter May the whole book was set in Stornoway and was littered with Gaelic phrases and names. That was a real challenge! Not to mention reading different gendered characters as well.
Is a book recorded sequentially?
Yes. You start at chapter 1 and keep going to the end.
(I think I know the answer to this but…) Can you just show up at a recording session and start reading or would you expect to have read the book beforehand?
I always read the book at least once (twice if possible) and allow time to makes notes. Unfortunately that it not always possible. Particularly with the big publishers. In the past I’ve received a manuscript on a Friday or Saturday and been in the studio on the Monday!
Do you ever meet any of the authors or get feedback from them?
I’m good friends on Facebook with Peter May. He lives in France. My wife and his daughter are also now best friends as they are both artists. Most of the authors I home record for live in the States but again we stay in touch through Facebook. I’ve been lucky enough to have had some lovely things said about my work from the authors. Which is not only an honour but a huge relief!! It can be pretty nerve-wracking being entrusted with someone’s baby!!!
Are you a reader? If so then what types of books do you enjoy?
I love to read when I can find the time. I like a bit of everything but have been a lifelong Stephen King fan. He truly is one of the great writers of the last century. I also love Clive Barker (I do love a bit of horror). And of course The Lord of the Rings gets an outing every few years. And if I am in the mood then you can’t beat Matthew Reilly for just pure entertainment and non-stop action.
Have you have to narrate books which you really didn’t enjoy (and I am not asking you to name them) but would that make the experience seem longer?
All I will say is yes and YES! However so far I have been very lucky to have read some wonderful books by extremely talented authors.
Steve – thank you! I have spent hours/weeks/days of my life listening to audiobooks have not given much consideration to all the work that goes into making that possible. As a skim reader (who doesn’t like to say much) I am in awe of how much work you have to do to bring us these audio delights.
You can find Steve’s audiobooks on the Audible website here: http://www.audible.co.uk/search/ref=a_pd_Crime-_tseft?advsearchKeywords=steve+worsley&filterby=field-keywords&sprefixRefmarker=nb_sb_ss_i_0_8&sprefix=steve+wo
More information about Men With Coconuts on this link: http://www.menwithcoconuts.com/