Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Interview with Robert Neil DeVoe, Part 1

Howdy there, Blogosphere! Today I have a special treat for you. But first a quick update. I've begun working on the final draft of Interstellar Dad, which I'm hoping to have done by January 7th. We'll see how it goes. I'll make sure to keep you posted!

Second, my audio producer and I have completed the production of the audio book for Optical Osmosis. We're just waiting for ACX, the company we've gone through to produce the audio book, to validate Optical so we can have it on sale. The site says it'll be upwards of 14 to 20 business days. Based on this, it looks like it might be ready in time for Christmas Eve. If not, well I guess Interstellar Dad will have an audio cousin joining it on the promotional circuit come the start of 2014.

Now for that treat I mentioned! Recently, I sent a few questions to my audio producer, Robert DeVoe. For length purposes, today will be the first of two installments. So without further ado, here's Robert!

1.  Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Robert. How did you get become an audio producer?

You're very welcome, Jeff! Well, I started out my acting career doing an indie film in Seattle that ended up being somewhat successful and that encouraged me to pursue acting to a level somewhat beyond just a hobby. Fast forward a few years and I was doing a lot of acting for television in Singapore and Malaysia. I was most well known for a role I played in the 2011 drama series "Love Thy Neighbour" on Singapore's Channel 8 network. The role was entirely in Chinese and it was pretty difficult for me, but it was also a lot of fun. After that I started getting interested in voice work, and I did the voices for a couple of iPhone and iPad games. That got me interested in audio books, being the avid reader that I am.

2. Describe the process you take when approaching characterization in the material you’re presented with. Have there been any characters that have proven challenging for you?

I think that for starters, when I read a book, I always hear a voice in my head. That could be either the narrator voice, which of course is usually my own voice, or a character voice with specific speech traits. When I'm doing an audio book, what I do is first read through the material to get a feel for it, and through that process I just sort of "hear" the voices in my head, and then reproduce them.

For Optical Osmosis, it was very easy for me to choose voices for Greg and Serenity. It was clear from the start that Greg was an out of work construction worker who lives his life coffee cup to coffee cup, and has a sort of loner mentality at least towards people outside of his social circle. As such, I put together a voice that was deep and strong but also careless and passive sounding, which really doesn't change much until later in the story when he needs to do more to take charge of his life. Serenity would be this sort of husky, breathy, mystical woman who takes her own words very seriously and speaks a little like she imagines she is royalty.

The voice I enjoyed doing the most for Optical Osmosis was definitely Flint. For him I built an arrogant surfer dude hipster mixed with an 80's valley girl accent to give his voice that bite that just makes you want to punch him after every single word he says. Now when I hear recordings of myself reading in Flint's voice, I have a hard time even thinking of it as something that came out of my own mouth. I had a little trouble coming up with the voice of Butri. I figured I had no chance of really making a believable Thai accent, so I just came up with this voice that had these really odd cadences and speed shifts and was kind of sing-songy, and oddly enough it came out really good!

As far as the hardest voice I ever did, I recently did a book called The Nacogdoches Trail, which is a Western that takes place in Texas. As you can imagine, it was full of Texas accents. I needed to voice a character named Morris Birdwell, and it took me quite a few days of experimenting to give him a voice that sounded tough and strong, but also loveable and friendly, and most importantly, Texan! The other issue was that he needed to sound distinctly different than any other voice I had done for the project. I solved the problem by talking out of the side of my mouth, which made the character sound a bit more weathered and experienced. My author was from Texas, so he was able to approve my accents, so at least that made me feel better about getting the accent at least mostly right.

3. Okay, I’ve just got to know this. What was it about Optical Osmosis, or any other book for that matter, that made you audition to be the narrator for it? 

What attracts me to a book is simply this: If I saw it in a book store, would I pick it up and look at it more closely? I thought the catchy title, as well as the great cover art by S.A. Hunt (Whose novel I'm reading now in my spare time) just makes a great combo to get people interested in it, including myself. Once I'm sufficiently interested, then I'll go into the actual audition text to get a feel for the writing style and see if it fits with how I like to read, and that it's not loaded with mistakes.

Stay tuned for the second part of my interview with Robert, coming up tomorrow!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I wonder if I have any iPad apps with his voice?
Must be fun trying out different voices to see what fits. I imagine the Texan one was difficult!
Would be cool to hear my books read by someone. (Or maybe not.) My publisher said it wasn't worth the cost though.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Well, ACX lets you do the royalty split with the audio narrator, although it might not be quite so easy for you since your books are with a small press. Still, the experience has been a great one for me.

Donna Hole said...

I've been wanting to get some audio books to listen to while I'm working, but I think that if I tune out music, I'd either tune out or be distracted by the story.

I have to disagree with Alex just a little here. There may be a limited audience, but an audience. There are a lot of people who listen to audio books exclusively. People with visual disabilities or motor skills disabilities. People with driving or production jobs that would rather "read" a book than listen to music on their iPod.

My brother is a long haul truck driver and he constantly complains that his "reading" options are limited on audio.

Of course, an author does have to look after their income. Was it expensive to produce the novel on audio? It sounds like you are satisfied with the outcome.

Hmm, if I could put my women's fiction trilogy (as yet unpublished) on audio, I think I'd like Robert to narrate it. I like a narrator who "gets" the characters, and can read with distinctive voices. It would be nice to have someone read the work who also liked the story.