Teen Read Week is officially October 16th through 22nd, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating all month long with 31 Days of Authors. On each day in October, we’ll bring you author interviews and profiles and reflections on what YALSA-recognized books have meant to us.
Nick Podehl is the hilarious, talented and award-winning audiobook narrator of The Knife of Never Letting Go, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Carter Finally Gets It, Swim the Fly and more. After seeing him at the 2011 Odyssey Award Reception in June, I knew this was someone The Hub readers needed to know better.
I have heard some interesting rumors about how you got involved in narrating for Brilliance Audio. But can you set the record straight and tell us how you started your illustrious career? Was it something you aspired to? Something that happened on accident?
For the record, I can wholly thank my mother and my grandparents for getting me involved in audio book recording. They have been listening to audio books since they were on cassette tapes! I thought it was crazy to even try. How could I get into this kind of business? But they kept on telling me I could do it. I was in a dead-end job, just getting ready to graduate from college and really wasn’t sure I could make a living as an actor, so I finally decided to make a demo using my mother’s computer, and sent it into Brilliance Audio. I lived near their studio and figured, â€œwhat have I got to lose?â€ I was amazed and giddy when they called me back and said they wanted me to come in for an audition for a Mercedes Lackey book. I got the job and they have been calling me for the last three years. With the support of my family and my loving wife, I have been living this dream.
Can you give us some insight into the world of a narrator? What does a typical day look like for you?
The work begins the moment I get the script in my hands. I begin by reading the script in detail, figuring out character voices, moods, tones and the like, getting a list of words or names I need to find meanings for, and looking up dialects, accents, and other details that bring the story to life. I work closely with my directors in this capacity and they do far more of the legwork that makes an audio book the production that it is. When it comes to recording, the director, engineer, and myself all get together in the studio and begin bringing the story to life as we lay it down in its digital format. Depending on how long the book is, we might spend an afternoon in the studio or up to three weeks, eight hours a day for one of the longest books I have worked on.
I love all the voices you have created for your characters, after listening to Will Grayson, Will Grayson [a book that appears on the 2011 Odyssey, Amazing Audiobooks, and Best Fiction for Young Adults lists), I couldn’t believe it was the same person reading The Knife of Never Letting Go [which appears on the 2011 Amazing Audiobooks, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, Odyssey and 2009 Best Books for Young Adults lists]. How do you create the voices for your characters? Who has been your favorite character to narrate?
The characters for the books I work on come from a combination of celebrity voices I know and people in my every day life that I come in contact with. I try to mimic the sounds I hear around me and when I am preparing a script, I will hear the tone of the character or the way they say a certain thing and think â€œthat sounds like this one person I heard in line waiting for coffee…â€ or something of that nature. I take interesting voices that I hear in my daily life and try to catalog them so that I can some day use them in a book. I get my inspiration from life around me.
My favorite character to narrate so far has to be Manchee the dog from The Knife of Never Letting Go because it was so fun to get into the mind of a dog! I love dogs and have always wondered what they were thinking. Patrick Ness did a wonderful job fleshing that out. My other favorite character would have to be Carter in Carter Finally Gets It. Brent Crawford captured the mind of a fourteen year old boy in a way I have never read before. The timing in that book was just perfect and I really felt like I was reading my own thoughts from when I was fourteen and it just came so naturally to me.
What was the most challenging book you have recorded so far and why?
I would say that The Name of the Wind, and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss would have to be my two most challenging books to record for the simple fact that they were each more than two weeks of recording. Rothfuss wrote some epic stories, which were amazing tales, but so grand in their scope that it was a test of my abilities. I had to come up with more than one hundred seventy characters for each book! Keeping all those characters straight and making sure they were differentiated enough was a challenge. But thanks to my wonderful director, Colleen Willits, we succeeded.
You have done solo projects, and worked with other narrators. Which do you prefer? Any especially great stories to tell about your fellow narrators? (Come on, there have to be a few good ones about you and MacLeod Andrews.)
Getting schedules to match up can sometimes be a problem, but I really enjoy working with other narrators. More often than not, we will each record our own portions separately, on different days, sometimes in different locations. But MacLeod and I got the unique opportunity to record in the same studio, same day, same time! We traded off sitting in the sound booth and director’s chair and got to direct each other for a portion of the book Will Grayson, Will Grayson. He is a most talented actor and hilarious coworker. There was not a moment that went by that those of us not in the sound booth were either on the edge of our seats, or in tears we were laughing so hard. I think my favorite memory of that project was when MacLeod was teaching me the rhythms and tempo to the songs he created based on the lyrics from Will Grayson, Will Grayson. He spent the previous evening recording whispered versions of the songs into his computer in his hotel room at eleven o’clock at night.
What audiobook are you most looking forward to recording?
I enjoy any audiobook that comes my way and I truly look forward to every project that comes across my desk. Doing this kind of work is a dream come true for me. It also happens that my wife is a book fanatic, so she enjoys the work I do as well. We both hope that I get to record another Carter book as well as continuing the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss.
— Kate Pickett is currently laughing her way through the audiobook of Zombies Vs. Unicorns, which features the voice of Nick Podehl.