#MTW Interview Jake Urry about all things ‘narrator’

Interview conducted by TBBManiac Kim

How long have you been narrating books?

I started narrating in February last year, and had a very busy 2016 narrating 15 audiobooks in total!

How did you become a narrator (the process you used)?

After training as an actor and starting my own theatre company, I decided to turn my love of listening to audiobooks into a career narrating them! I’d always loved listening to audiobooks, from Hardy Potter to classics like Nineteen  Eighty-Four and David Copperfield, but it wasn’t until I discovered ACX – Audible’s Audiobook Creation Exchange – that I realised I could actually be a narrator myself. I sent of 3 auditions recorded from home and was over the moon when I got offers to produce all 3 of the books!

Do you have any tips for anyone wanting to become a narrator?

I’d advise starting small, by taking on a couple of books around 10,000 words and seeing how it goes. If you jump in with a 20 hour book it will probably overwhelm you and you might struggle to hit the deadline. If the first one goes well take it up a step, and always be realistic about deadlines – if someone wants a 100,000 word title within a week then be careful, the last thing you want is to rush out a sub-standard audiobook!

How do you prepare for a narration?

I tend to read through a few pages of each chapter and find the character voices, then do some of the vocal warm-ups I use for theatre work to make sure I’m on form. If I have time I’ll call someone for a chat before recording, just to practice speaking naturally!

Do you have a particular genre you prefer to narrate?

I love Mystery, as I like the suspense it creates, but anything with strong, distinct characters is fun to narrate. I like books that offer me a challenge, like learning a new accent, because it keeps me on my toes!

For #MTW I listened to White is the Coldest Colour and Portraits of the Dead by John Nicholl.  Both were interesting stories with characters with different voices – how do you decide on the ‘voices’ for the characters? How do you maintain the ‘voices’ throughout the recording process?

It’s different from character to character, and I find it easiest to voice ‘big’ characters like the villains in horror stories. But when it comes to more delicate subject matter (like White is the Coldest Colour and Portraits of the Dead), I try to go for a more subtle approach. Dr. Galbraith for instance was no ordinary ‘villain’, he was in a position of trust and put on a mask of kindness to the outside world. For him, I used a voice not too far from my natural accent, and focused on the moments where his saccharine mask slips and the monster beneath is revealed. For other characters in John Nicholl’s work, I tried to find one strong ‘feeling’ to focus on for each character, and made it a priority to get that across in the reading. For instance, Anthony Mailer is ‘vulnerable’, D.I. Gravel is ‘unbending’, and so on.

White is the Coldest Colour is 282 pages in print format and the audio is 9 hours 11 minutes.  How long did it take for you to prepare, narrate and then edit the recording?  This will give us an idea of the time taken on the average book.

White was the longest book I’d narrated at that point, and I was only 3 months into narrating when I took it on, so it wouldn’t take me as long if I did it now! But at the time I spent a few days reading over and finding the character voices, then two weeks narrating. But I would be doing other work too, and spending just a couple of hours a day recording. The editing process took a couple of weeks, as I was using an external editor and had to work around his schedule. If I was to do a novel of the same length now (working from a studio instead of from home) I would prep it in 2 days, spend 4-5 days in a hired studio and have the finished version ready within a couple of days.

What is your recording process?(eg. narrate for 20 minutes, rehydrate/ stretch/ bathroom for 5, return and repeat)

It varies from day to day, and whether I’m working from home or a local studio, but usually I’ll warm up in the morning, make sure I’m well fed, then read a few pages in the booth without recording, try out all the voices I’ll be using, then hit record and read until I get hungry! I’ll pause every few pages for a sip of water but when I’m settled into it I like to keep going. I’m a night owl so I make up for my lazy mornings by recording until 2am sometimes, or working on the editing process in the evenings.

Does anyone else in your family narrate books?  and how do they support you during your working time?

I’m the first narrator in the family as far as I know, but I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of great storytellers while growing up! I learned at a young age from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles that you can entertain and captivate with a good story, whether it’s true life or fiction. I guess if I hadn’t had Rupert Bear read to me, or been told my Grandad’s war stories, I might not have the passion for storytelling that I have now!

With regard to support, I’ve been lucky again to have a very supportive family – it’s taken a long time and a lot of ups and downs to actually earn a living out of acting and narrating, and my family have supported me 100% all the way. I’ve known a couple of people who tried to talk me out of it when it didn’t look so hopeful, but it wasn’t difficult to ignore their pessimism!

Are there any food or drink items you have to avoid when you are in the process of narrating a book? 

Anything sugary is usually a bad idea (sadly), and anything that makes me too sluggish, like a huge breakfast. I just try to keep my energy up with bananas, and drink enough water to keep a clear voice and prevent a sore throat!

I’m sure there are many more questions I can ask relating to narration but the post can only be so long!!  Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thanks for the opportunity!





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