My special guest today is actor and audiobook narrator, Steve Marvel, who has recently completed the audio production of Teton Sunrise. I’m happy to say that he will be the voice for the entire Teton Romance Trilogy.
Thank you for the interview, Steve. Tell us about yourself. What else do you do besides VO?
I’ve been a professional actor for thirty years, which means, as is typical within “the Biz”, I act in a variety of media. I have a very strong stage background, but I’ve done soap operas, a network drama, and commercials on television, and right now I’m shooting a feature film. Within VO, I also tend to do video games, particularly those with character voices. So I do a lot of different acting jobs.
Avocationally, I enjoy tinkering with my web site and those I’ve helped others put together, and I practice Aikido, an all-defensive martial art.
What made you decide to become a voice actor?
An audition, actually. I was called to read for the part of a talking peacock in a feature-length cartoon for Mattel, Barbie as the Island Princess. The company liked the character I did and the fact that I can sing, so they hired me. From there, I started developing a reputation as someone who can create characters vocally.
When you are reading the script, do you become animated? Describe what we would see.
My booth is pretty closed in, so I don’t do a lot of body movement, though I will move at times when the character is described in motion—running, in a fight, etc. Most of the time, you’d see me seated before my mic and the script, the feelings of the characters showing on my face, with perhaps my hands gesturing, till I accidentally bump the mic. And curse.
What is your favorite type of story to which you lend your voice talents?
I suppose I prefer contemporary thrillers though, as I’ve said elsewhere, anything with good, tight writing and an engaging story is fun to read.
Well, you did a great job narrating a historical romance novel! What drew you to narrate Teton Sunrise?
The writing. I’m continually on the lookout for new projects, so I read a lot of auditions scripts. When I come across one in which I feel I can relax with what the author’s written—when I know she’s telling a coherent, intelligent story—then I know I’ll be able to do my job more fluently, without getting caught in plot or language gaps.
Also, the audience—your books are popular and well-reviewed. Hopefully, that translates to greater audiobook sales.
Do you do anything to prepare for a narrating session?
Of course, I read the book first. As I read, I make note of who all the characters are, their relationships to one another, and any accents or explicit speech characteristics. I also look for any physical descriptions which might give clues as to how a character should sound—a “broad, barrel-chested man” likely has a deep, full voice; a “wizened old woman”, a reedy, scratchy voice. I also read for theme and tone—is this light-hearted or serious? What’s the narrator’s attitude? (From the actor’s perspective, the narrator is a character, too.)
When it comes to the actual recording, I just make sure to bring enough water to sip liberally through the session. I also use a technique Scott Brick taught me: apply lip balm to keep lip smacking to a minimum. First session of the day, I’ll also “wake up” my mouth with a few tongue twisters.
What sets you apart as a voice actor?
I think with me, its two things: versatility and sensitivity. I’m pretty skilled at differentiating characters with my voice, which originates from early childhood, when my parents used to play the Vaughn Meader “First Family” record album—a send-up of the Kennedy clan—and I would mimic the voices. They thought that was great, so I did it a lot. Time on stage further developed that skill.
I’ve also spent a lot of time meditating, which tends to give one greater insight into human needs and motivations, I think. I tend to identify fairly easily with what characters are thinking and feeling. Again, stage training has helped with that ability, as well.
What was your favorite part of narrating Teton Sunrise?
I’m sorry to say it, but I really enjoyed voicing Laurent (folks who’ve read the story will understand both parts of that statement). Such a jovial, full-of-life character with a French accent, no less, which performers love to do. Big characters like that are very forgiving—you can go way out on a limb, and they still sound real.
Yes, he was a favorite character for a lot of people. Your portrayal of Laurent was absolutely brilliant!
What was the most challenging part in this story?
Honestly, not one particular character or passage, but certain sections of description. In a lot of books—less so with this one, frankly, but still present to an extent—there are passages of description that go on for longer than anyone would normally speak them in a single sentence. The narrator has to find places to pause and breathe which sound natural—essentially, adding punctuation where isn’t there. Those things can be tricky.
What do you hope the listeners will take away from your delivery?
Fundamentally, I hope they’ll be as moved and excited by the story as they would were they reading it from the page. More so, actually. I hope my descriptions and characterizations bring the story alive in ways they might not experience from reading alone.
Describe your work space. Do you work in a studio, or from home? What sort of equipment is needed to narrate an audio book?
I have a recording booth in my home, which is where I do the bulk of my narration work. We’ve converted half of a walk-in closet, via theatrical drape and foam panels. The space is just large enough for me to sit, facing a mic and, about foot behind that, a reading stand holding my Kindle and, beside that, a monitor. I also have a keyboard and mouse in there, which is attached to the computer that sits outside the booth proper, so that I don’t record the fan noise.
At minimum, an audiobook narrator needs a quiet space (sound “dead” inside and reasonably quiet outside), a microphone and audio interface (so-called “USB mics” combine both), a computer on which to record the sound, and the software to do the recording.
Can you share an unusual experience that happened during or as a result of narrating.
Something that doesn’t happen every day and which makes me proud occurred as I was recording my very first audiobook. Audible.com (which most of your readers probably know is the “leading seller and producer of spoken audio entertainment on the Internet”) sponsored a contest for new narrators. The prize was to record The Leavenworth Case, one of the earliest detective novels ever written (and, interestingly, penned by an American woman!). I submitted my audition, and I won! Nice to have that kind of validation, especially that early on.
Thank you so much for being here today, Steve, and for giving us some insights into producing an audiobook!
To find out more about Steve, please visit his website.
Please scroll down to listen to an extended sample of Teton Sunrise.