In the second part of our series looking into audiobook options now available for authors via ACX, we talk to narrator, Paul Hodgson, who has recently done a superb job narrating the first of JD Smith's epic historical fiction novels - The Rise of Zenobia.
Hi, welcome to Triskele Books blog. I’d like to ask first a little about your background and how you became a professional narrator?
I trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama – not that I’m Welsh, they were the only ones who’d have me – and worked professionally in theatre, TV and radio in London for a while before moving on to a writing career. On moving to the US (I married an American in the meantime) I returned to acting and founded a professional company, the Everyman Repertory Theatre, in Camden, on the coast of Maine in the far North East of the country, at the same time as holding down a full-time writing position. When I got fired from that – who needs journalists any more – the consequent drop in income precipitated me into doing what people have been telling me I should be doing for a long time – reading audiobooks. I started with a mammoth 22 hour commission of Alec Waugh’s The Balliols – a much better book than anything Evelyn ever wrote, and just continued from there.
What do you enjoy about narrating novels?
I love the preparation, research and character work. I’ve always spent a lot of time mastering accents – the Maine accent is a tough one and I’d only ever do it among friends or out of the state – and voices, especially when reading to my kids when they were growing up that it is that piece I enjoy the most. It’s like any performance, acting isn’t about pretending, it’s about making it real. Finding the emotion inside you that already exists and using it for the narration.
Obviously, with the creation of ACX there’s now more focus and opportunity for indie-authors to get involved in audiobooks, how do you see this change in the process affecting the market?
It seems to me that any change that opens up the market is a good change. The “mainstream” publishing business is a tough one, but people still really enjoy reading and listening to books so the demand is much wider than the mainstream business recognises.
When you’re searching for a new project, or considering author approaches, do you look at whether they are indie or traditionally published and would this affect your decision?
I’m just looking for a great story with cracking dialect.
What do you look for in a book to narrate?
Do you think audiobooks will become more popular, and so more profitable with easier access to services like ACX?
I do. ACX is a great system for marrying authors with narrators. Most of my books so far have been direct commissions from Audible, but that’s a one-time fee, however successful the book is. I’d far rather share in the book’s success. That way I care more about how it’s doing.
What do you think makes a successful relationship between author and narrator?
Communication, communication, communication. Of course, if the author loves everything you’re doing, the communication piece is less important, but if there are issues then it is essential.
As an author, I’ve found the whole experience of working with yourself via ACX stress-free and enjoyable. How have you found working within the new service via ACX?
Without my studio and my proof/editor it would have been incredibly stressful, but fortunately they know what they are doing and I can just sit and read. Working with you has been a breeze and a pleasure. Don’t forget I’m an actor, a little praise goes a long way. As Laurence Olivier said in answer to Dustin Hoffman when he asked him why actors did what they did: “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me…!”
OK, we’re not that bad.
The Rise of Zenobia is available via Audible