I’ll be honest with you – I am weirded out by listening to my own books read aloud. When the voices that up until now have existed solely in my head are suddenly thrust out into the real world and adopt actual tones and cadences, it generally makes me want to squish myself up into a ball and camp out for several days in a Tent Of Awkwardness™.
I have, however, been blessed with very good narrators who make all of the icky dissipate real quick. The narrator of HELLHOLE, MacLeod Andrews, did such an amazing job that I just had to pester him with all of my questions about how he made the magic happen.
How did you get into audiobook narration?
I was living in NYC doing theater and while catching up with a classmate from college learned she was recording audiobooks at Brilliance Audio. I asked if she would put me in touch and I was sent an audition for a children’s/young-adult title by Joseph Helgerson called Crows and Cards. Really fun book. From there I continued to narrate more and more titles and began working for more and more publishers.
Do you do anything else besides voice work?
Yes, I also work in theater and film. Currently I’m in a new play by Charlotte Miller called Thieves. It runs March 18-April 4 in Los Angeles at the El Portal Theater.
I also recently starred in and co-produced a feature film They Look Like People which is touring the festival circuit at the moment.
Your reading of Burg is so deliciously evil. How did you develop his voice?
I didn’t have to go much farther than your writing. He seemed so clear to me from your hilarious scenes. I heard him as part Beetlejuice, part Satan from South Park, but at times more genuinely sinister than either.
Your Max sounds different from the Max I had in my head when I was writing him – but in a great way. I always thought of him of being a little nerdier-sounding, but in your reading he’s more cool-but-awkward, and you make him sound so heartbreaking when things start to go terribly wrong. What I’m getting at is that I love your Max. What was your thought process in approaching his character?
Thank you. I think I wanted to keep him in a slightly lower register for a couple reasons. I think I have a tendency to forget that teens (at least older teens) often have dropped into their voice for the most part. I also didn’t see him as a typical nerd or poindexter; he’s a funny, awkward, sensitive kid who’s growing up in a really difficult circumstance. I felt like a more archetypal “nerd voice” might have limited his presence. As our protagonist, I think it was important to keep him as earnest as possible and leave room for a wide range of expressiveness. It also leaves room for smaller characters to pop a bit more, and fill more specific roles, like Paul.
Speaking of Paul, you totally nailed his geekiness, plus Lore’s deadpan-ness, Audie’s perkiness, and Wall’s bro-ness. I threw a lot of teenage characters at you here, and you made each one sound very distinctive – and all them still set apart from your narrator voice. How do you juggle all those multiple personalities?
Yeah, distinction is always tough. My nightmare in the booth is a scene with any more than one 14-year-old girl. There are a couple of tools to go to. Dialect, pitch, volume, rhythm, mic placement, voice placement, attitude. I think Lloyd/Burg/John Cusack gave me the most trouble. He’s an every-man but so is my narrator and Max to a certain degree.
It’s kind of obnoxious for an author to laugh at their own writing, but listening to the audiobook I busted a gut over and over again because of the way you read a line – either your inflection or emphasis was new to my ears, or the timing was perfect – and there were also many times I had a mini-celebration when you nailed a punchline perfectly. Do you approach comic writing differently than other genres? How do you adjust your narration and tone to incorporate humor?
Don’t worry, I was laughing my way through the entire Hamlet/Hot Pocket scene. When it’s funny, it’s funny. I just try to make sure I’m having as much fun as I can when I get a comic title. And sometimes you do just have to go back and nail the rhythm of a joke. Humor can be very technical at times.
Who was your favorite character to voice, and why?
Burg…He exists for nothing but his own pleasure. Utterly unsympathetic and capable of just about anything. I almost couldn’t go too far with him. He was just perfectly written.
MacLeod Andrews is an award winning audiobook narrator. He is a company member of Rising Phoenix Rep Theater Company with whom he has performed in many shows premiering Off-Broadway and in LA, including Slipping by Daniel Talbott and Thieves by Charlotte Miller (March 2015 LA). He has starred in and been featured in a number of independent films including They Look Like People (which he also co-produced), Split, andFound In Time. He is a “lunatic” at Lunacy Unlimited Productions (kind of like a company member, but for film and web) where he makes fun sketches with writer/director Stu Pollard. He was born and raised in Louisville, KY and has a BA from Middlebury College.
Find MacLeod around the web on Twitter, Instagram, and on his website. Buy the HELLHOLE audiobook on Audible. Want to hear how fabulous he is first? Listen to a sample of the HELLHOLE audiobook right here:
Oh wait THERE IS MORE. I’m giving away free audiobooks to five lucky listeners out there! To enter, simply fill out the form below. Good luck!