Interview with Joel Leslie
Join me for an exclusive interview with the amazing narrator of Hidden in Darkness and A Light in the Darkness. And have a chance to win a free copy of A Light in the Darkness audiobook to see how amazing Joel is as he narrates Felix! If you haven't already listened to it, you're missing out. Joel truly brings Felix to life.
Alice: When we get an audiobook, we only see the final project. How much time and commitment does it take each time you start a reading?
Joel: It depends on the project and the circumstances under which I’m recording it. Almost always I’m recording at home, on my own schedule (which is regimented, but at the pace I set myself). In that case I’ll usually read the first 30 pages and then get a feel for any specific questions I need to ask the author. When I’m working on an indie project the author input is usually more detailed, I send them a whole questionnaire about every character that speaks. When I am working for a publisher, like Tantor, they need the process to be more streamlined, so my questions will usually go through them and be more succinct. For instance, right now I’m narrating a series about a biker gang in Maine, but the authors are from the UK and didn’t really have any familiarity with the Maine accent when they wrote the characters… so we are navigating that a bit and trying to find the right levels. Once I know I’m on the right footing I’ll then read the whole title through on my ‘days off’ (I have three recording days, followed by a prep-day of vocal rest), make notes, decide on character choices etc.
The actual recording depends on the particular title. The more dialogue heavy the book, the longer it will take me to record because I’m very didactic and a bit too much of a perfectionist for my own good. I usually record just under two finished hours of audio a day, and my work day is usually from 10am until about 6pm. There are a lot of narrators who are a lot faster than me!
Alice: What’s your favorite part of narrating? Hardest part? I can’t imagine how hard it would be to do accents or dialects, but you seem to do them with ease. What’s your secret?
Joel: Well, I’ve always been a huge fan of audiobooks… so it’s really a dream job. My favorite part is getting to ‘play’ and perform colorful characters. I love it when a book is inhabited by quirky personalities. I also love that I get to use almost all my theatre muscles… I was a director for years (and with audio you have to listen to yourself with a critical ear and embrace self-directing), my acting skills (my undergrad was in performance), and my dialect background. IN terms of the accents, I was very lucky… I have American parents, but I grew up in Bermuda, which is a British commonwealth. I went to an all-British school with teachers from everywhere in the Uk – Wales, Manchester, Scotland, Ireland… all over. So, at a tender age my ear became attuned to multiple accents in a way that most people don’t. Even thought my natural speaking voice is Standard American (learned at school), it’s actually regional Southern and Midwestern American accents that I have the most challenge with!
The hardest part? Hmmm…I think that I hate repeating myself. I always want the characters to feel fresh and not like I’m just recycling voices. But as my career progresses, I’ve now done about 200 books, and over a 100 of those are m/m romance. And obviously there are tropes, and certain kinds of characters that recur. So, I’m accepting that a voice doesn’t have to be different for the sake of being different… I have to think of it as a repertory of actors. No one minds if Chris Helmsworth appears in more than one movie, lol. One of the most joyous things for me about Hidden in Darkness was how unique the characters were. It took me a while to find the voice for Felix, but when I did, it was so much fun because I’ve never had a character sound like him.
Alice: If you could narrate any book in the world (even if it’s already an audiobook) what would it be?
Joel: Game of Thrones or Harry Potter. I know, cheesiest answers ever. But definitely something British. I also adore cozy mysteries and hardly anyone writes them for male voices. It’s always plucky females. Dang.
Alice: What is your process for impersonating a character? You were able to capture Felix’s personality so perfectly that you made it look easy. How hard is it to narrate characters you have nothing in common with?
Joel: Felix was very, very animated when I was recording him. I kept hitting the microphone lol. When I get a character right, when they really connect, it’s like I’m hearing a movie and I’m just translating what I hear in my head. It’s like I can already hear the actors doing it, and I just have to try and channel that. Once I figured out that the key to Felix was a kind of Chicago street moxy, but in a small scrappy package, it clicked. And Lane’s energy just kind of came out of the polar opposite of that.
In terms of narrating characters that I have nothing in common with… it depends. I get really stressed out narrating books where there are gaggle of tough Alpha males. That’s not my own natural voice, and I know guys that do that beautifully. I can comfortably perform a couple of characters in that feel, but if I’m never one to jump at the chance to narrate books about an entire posse of ex-Navy Seals. Sometimes you get notes back from an author and almost every character they describe as sounding ‘low and growly. And you’re like “I’m one person… how am I gonna delineate these guys to the listener if they are ALLLL ‘low and growly’. I like to remind people that some of the sexiest movie stars don’t actually have deep intimidating voices… Ryan Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon… these guys are all tenors.
Alice: You asked me the torturous question of who I’d cast as Felix and Lane. I dedicated a huge chunk of my life giving you a super serious answer. Now, it’s your turn. Who do you think would play Felix and Lane in a TV series?
Joel: Ok – my answer is super weird. And it doesn’t even make sense, but it’s how I found the pocket. For some reason I kept thinking of Marty McFly’s voice in Back to the Future, but then channeled through Chicago as Scrappy Doo. But I would NEVER cast him as Felix. For looks, I was actually thinking of a lovely actor named Andrew Keenan Bolger who is small and scrappy and utterly adorable with this insatiable energy. I think he would be an amazing Felix. Also, his Instagram is so cute you would die. For Lane, and again, this is odd, I thought of a younger Patrick Warburton (who voices Joe on Family Guy). His voice is so strong, and solid, and yet has this wry weariness to it that I thought just personified his exasperation with Lane. His performance as Cronk in Emperor’s New Groove is perfection.
Alice: Alright, I have to ask. You left a comment somewhere about having to stop recording a few times because you were laughing while reading one my In Darkness books. Where can I listen to the bloopers? I’m just joking (kind of). I can only imagine how torturous it was for you. Some of the things Felix said were embarrassing for me to write, I can’t imagine reading them out loud. Alright, real question: how can people who enjoy your work follow you and learn about your upcoming projects?
Joel: I wish the bloopers existed. They get erased as I go along.
If they wanna follow me… I love getting facebook friends (Joel Leslie Froomkin). I just ask that people send me a little note letting me know that they are listeners and wanna connect, so that I don’t accept requests from weird spam robots! On twitter I’m joellesliefro, and my Instagram – which, disclaimer, is a bit saucy, is jojofro1.
Thanks again for one of favorite narrations everrrrr. You better send some more Felix and Lane my way soon, or I’ll go into withdrawal!
If you want to check out Joel asking me some questions, check out his blog at: http://lovebytesreviews.com/2018/11/14/shedding-some-light-on-alice-winters-and-hidden-in-darkness/
You can check out the audiobooks on Audible https://www.audible.com/series?asin=B07HKQPQ1S&ref=a_pd_A-Ligh_c1_series_1&pf_rd_p=52918805-f7fc-40f4-a76b-cf1c79f7d10a&pf_rd_r=175WWGRYBBZKMYYRS58X&
If you would like a chance to win an audiobook version of A Light in the Darkness, fill out the form here! Drawing will take place on Sunday December 2 . You will be contacted by email if you won.
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