Here’s listening to…

By Brett Battles

I’ve always been a big fan of audiobooks. I used to listen to them as I sat in near motionless traffic every day during the morning commute on Los Angeles freeways. One thing I learned early on was that a good book could be ruined by a bad narrator, and a so-so book could actually come across pretty entertaining with a decent one. And when you had good on both ends?…Wow!

When I finally got my deal at Random House, one of the things I secretly hoped for was an audio deal. It would be a dream come true, kind of a full circle thing for me. I was lucky, that dream did come true when my debut novel was picked up by Books on Tape.

And to top it off, I was truly honored to have the great Scott Brick on board as narrator.

For those of you unfamiliar with Scott, he is one of the top narrators in the audiobook business. Quite simply, he is fantastic. And as an added bonus, he also brings along a built in fan base that follows his work.

The audiobook of THE CLEANER was a big enough success that Books on Tape signed up for my follow up, THE DECEIVED. Unfortunately, Scott was over booked last year, so he was not able to narrator. The person who did was good, but I have to say that I was ecstatic when it came time to record this year’s release – SHADOW OF BETRAYAL – Scott was once again onboard.

But that wasn’t all …

I then found out that they would be recording here in Los Angeles. A couple of quick emails later, I was invited to observe for a couple of hours! I could hardly wait.

Finally, when the date arrived, I made my way to the Random House Audio studios in Woodland Hills, and I brought with me our own Robert Gregory Browne.

The studio is located in a well landscaped business park that houses God know what else, but I imagine the same kind of businesses that populate similar parks across the country. Though few, I’m willing to bet, have audio studios as tenants.

On the day of our visit, Rob and I were a little early, so we got something to drink at the café located next door, then showed up right at the appointed time. We were led back to a small studio that consisted of a sound proof booth, and a larger space for the director and guests (us.)

Studio

The first person we met was Tony Hudz, director and recording engineer. He’s been in the audiobook business for many years, and he and Scott have recorded over 30 books together. We didn’t meet Scott right away, but we could see him on the other side of the large window in the wall that separated the sound booth from us. He was in the middle of reading, but soon he came out and joined us.

Both Scott and Tony made us feel right at home. We spent a good fifteen minutes talking and joking and getting to know each other. Then Rob and I settled back in a couch along the wall, and Scott went back in the booth to continue reading.

It’s a truly surreal experience to listen to a trained actor read your work. There were times when I couldn’t even remember writing the words, and one time when I realized I’d used the word “still” in to successive sentences, making me cringe.

Scott is amazing. He reads near flawlessly. Occasionally he’ll stop and re-read a sentence, but that is more to give different emphasis than he did the first time instead of stopping for a mistake. The way he works is to read two pages, then take a break, and look over the next two pages. The whole process was a complete pleasure to watch.

As the recording went on, Tony would explain some of the finer details to us, telling us about his role, and describing Scott’s methods. I don’t know about Rob, but I learned a helluva lot that day.

About twenty minutes before we were to break for lunch, Scott came out of the booth, and I went in. See, since I was there they wanted to interview me. The interview will be included at the end of the book. So for about ten or fifteen minutes, I was the one behind the mike, while Scott fired questions at me from the other room. I was a little nervous at first, but it turned out to be a ton of fun. Not sure how well I did…guess Rob can speak to that.

Second Career? Doubtful…

When I was done, the four of us went back to the café Rob and I had stopped in earlier. We had a great lunch. For the most part I just listened as Tony and Scott told us stories of recordings they’d done in the past. Then Scott and I realized we shared a love of sci-fi, and talked about that for a while.

As you can imagine, it was a fantastic day, and one I will not soon forget.

Here are a few more pics:

Scott Brick and Me

Me, Scott, Tony Hudz, and Rob

If you’re interested in audiobooks, here are a few links to check out:

scottbrickpresents.com – Scott has his own company that he uses to record some of his favorite books, you can learn more about him and those book here.
Buy THE CLEANER at Audible.com
Buy THE CLEANER at Booksontape.com
Buy THE DECEIVED at Audible.com
Buy THE DECEIVED at Booksontape.com

So, do you enjoy audiobooks? Do you have a favorite narrator? Is there an audiobook you’d suggest those here who read Murderati might want to check out?

19 thoughts on “Here’s listening to…

  1. J.D. Rhoades

    I don’t do a lot of audiobooks, but I have really enjoyed Stephen Briggs’ narration on the audio versions of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.

    I agree, a narrator can make a huge difference. I was turned off Sarah Paretsky for years because the first book of hers I "read" was on audiobook, and the narrator’s version of V.I Warshawski was so arch and smarmy that that was the voice I heard in my head whenever I tried to read Paretsky afterward. Fortunately, I got over it after a while.

    Reply
  2. Wilfred Bereswill

    Brett, how exciting.

    I bought one book from Audible for my iPod. Listened to about 20 minutes of it and never went back. Maybe I need to give it a try with something I’d really care about… like say, The Cleaner or The Deceived?

    Reply
  3. R.J. Mangahas

    Brett —

    I have to agree. Scott Brick is probably one of the best narrators I’ve heard on audio books. I first heard him when I listened to an audio version of Mystic River.

    As far as an overall narrator for books, I really do think it makes a difference. There was one audio book I listened to where the narrator made every character sound like they were whining about something. I wanted to throttle every single one of them, including the protag who we are supposed to be "rooting" for.

    Reply
  4. PK the Bookeemonster

    How fun to see behind the scenes and do the author questions! Those added bonuses to the audiobook are terrific. And Scott Brick is one of the best.
    For some reason I could never "read" Jasper Fforde’s books until I heard them on audio. The British humor really came through. Loved them.
    I’m not usually a fan of "cast" audios or productions but the audios of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books is very well done.
    I don’t care for abridged audiobooks and thankfully they seem to be mostly the older titles; new releases are much more likely to unabridged.
    Audiobooks for me are just a nice way to make time to read when one doesn’t really have the time. Yay multitasking.

    Reply
  5. Dana King

    I used to listen to quite a few audio books, and you’re absolutely right: the narrator can make or break the book.

    Thanks for a look behind the curtain, so to speak. I’ve often wondered about how these recordings get made.

    Reply
  6. Karen in Ohio

    Thanks for the glimpse into the process. I love audiobooks when I travel, and a couple of friends are fans, as well. Nothing like losing yourself in a good story while driving across the middle of the country. It sure beats the heck out of talk radio!

    One of the best was Annie Proulx’s Open Range, which is a collection of short stories, including Brokeback Mountain. There are several readers, and all of them good.

    Reply
  7. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Congratulations, Brett! What an awesome experience that must have been. I can’t wait to hear your words read, and I’m especially interested in hearing the interview. Is it common with audiobooks to have an author interview at the end?

    Reply
  8. Louise Ure

    This is a great glimpse behind the scenes, Brett. And it sounds like a hell of a lot more fun than recording all those radio commercials I had to do over the years!

    Reply
  9. JT Ellison

    Dude, sweet!!!

    I’m not an audiobook person, my attention wanders too much if I’m not focused on the page. But I’ve heard good things about Scott Brick. Congrats on all the success.

    Reply
  10. gregory huffstutter

    Did you happen to take any video? That would be interesting if you could post a clip of Scott reading SHADOW OF BETRAYAL.

    Reply
  11. Sylvia

    I do like audiobooks and used to by CD’s by the truckload for long drives between No. Cal and So. Cal. I couldn’t tell you for the life of me who the narrators were. Shameful I guess! I had to go look one up… the narrator of David Baldacci’s books, Ron McLarty.

    In the past month I did download both of Cornelia’s books to my iPod and yes, Hillary Huber does a great job.

    Reply
  12. Brett Battles

    Thanks, everyone, for chiming in. Apologies if I don’t respond in a timely matter today. Up visiting my parents…my dad had hip replacement surgery Tuesday (he’s doing fine, but I’m off line a lot.)

    Reply
  13. Steve in Germany

    I have a bit of a hearing problem and stick to reading off of the paper. Glad you got Scott for it. Rob looks like he is putting on a few pounds. Best wishes to you dad.

    Reply
  14. Scott Parker

    Great post! I liked the behind the scenes aspect. Never knew how long the readers read. Brick is consummate performer. I first heard Brick on the unabridged version of Mystic River. Since that book set me on my crime fiction course, it’s special, as is Brick’s reading. For his performance of Philip K. Dick’s Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep, Brick’s slower, melancholy delivery helped me to understand how and why the book was different than the movie Blade Runner. Even when Brick does non-fiction, like Salt: A World History or Alexander Hamilton, he reads the text in such a fun, natural way you get the impression that he, like us, is learning as he goes. He is, quite simply, one of the best narrators out there.

    I’ve become a better writer for listening to audiobooks. Like you, Brett, one of my dreams is to get a book deal with audio. Great story and thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  15. Allison Brennan

    Wow, what a great story!!! Random House Audio does my books, too . . . my first 9 aren’t on audio, but my last three are. I started listening to SUDDEN DEATH on my iPod and it freaked me out too much. I think I got to the end of chapter one and thought, "OMG, whoever wrote this is a freak, it couldn’t have been me!" I scared myself. It was a total trip listening to my words spoken by someone else. I don’t know if I can listen to the whole book anymore than I can read one of my books after it’s been published.

    I don’t listen to a lot of books because I can read faster than I can listen, but when on long drives (before kids) I often listened to audio books. And I have Stephen King narrating his ON WRITING which I absolutely love because it sounds like he’s just sitting in the passenger seat talking to me.

    Reply

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