When Golden Voice Narrator John Lee agreed to hop onto Goodreads for a narrator interview, we couldn’t believe our luck! John Lee is famous for his resonant voice, thoughtful characterizations, range, and stamina. He’s won awards for everything from serious history books to mysteries to Ken Follett’s sprawling novels. He has had many titles reviewed by AudioFile reviewers over the years, including the Earphones Award Winner Sweetland. Read a selection of our readers’ questions and John’s thoughtful answers below.
Q: I adored your performance of Georgina Harding’s The Solitude of Thomas Cave: A Novel, which takes place mostly in the Arctic winter. How did the situational details affect you while you were narrating?
John Lee: Some books excel at what I call mood. The Solitude of Thomas Cave seemed to have a sort of mournful music under the whole thing. It’s not quite the same as having an imagined soundtrack, it’s more like that unidentifiable hum you hear sometimes which catches your attention and you can never quite figure out where it’s coming from. That tone informs the whole reading and a book such as this requires a poetic approach or perhaps it might better be described as a musical approach: my tone needs to match what feels like the tone of the book. I certainly ended recording sessions on Thomas Cave with a sense that I was emerging from another world. It was very immersive.
Q: You are the historical fiction king—in my (audio)book. How do you decide if you’ll use an accent for characters or the narrative text? How do you prepare for speaking in an accent?
John Lee: The decision to use accents is always a tricky one. I just did a book about a historical Irish character and it was clear that both the narration and the characters needed to be in an Irish accent. Yet, if I am doing something like the Ken Follett’s The Century Trilogy there are dozens of accents and the narration needs to be in my voice simply to distinguish it from the Welsh and the German and the Boston ones. I prepare for doing accents mostly by trying to call up the voices of people who speak that way. It’s partly a visual recall of the people and partly a sort of recording I have in my head of their way of speaking.
Q: Can you tell us how you engage emotionally with your characters and how you manage tension and pacing?
John Lee: Pace is the heart of the matter. There are two basic schools of thought—one that the ear or brain takes in information at a certain speed, and that speed is quicker than you might think. The other is that a book is different from pure information and needs to be read a little slower. Because English people tend to speak more quickly than Americans, directors are always asking me to slow down. Speed, though, helps raise tension in the right places. And tension is that indefinable middle ground where the silence and the speed are just right. Engaging emotionally is a matter of basic acting. I am a creature of the theatre and came to audiobooks from a world where you know if you’ve paced yourself and held the tension well simply by sensing the audience’s reaction. I think of audiobooks as my personal theater space.
Hear John Lee’s performances of The Century Trilogy that includes FALL OF GIANTS, WINTER OF THE WORLD, EDGE OF ETERNITY.
Succeeding against all odds. These Hot Picks may have a rocky road to romance… but it’s all worth it.
Four Weddings and a Sixpence
by Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, Stefanie Sloane, read by Mary Jane Wells
Four young ladies at a boarding school hope a lucky sixpence will help them find husbands.
Someone to Love: Westcott Novel, Book 1
by Mary Balogh, read by Rosalyn Landor
An orphan becomes an earl’s daughter but needs the help of the Duke of Netherby to fit in.
Man on the Run
by Carl Weber, read by Kevin Free
Jailed unjustly, Jay enlists his three friends to help him turn his life around.
Special agents, spies, and GIs, oh my! The nominees for the 2017 Thriller/Suspense Audie Awards keep listeners on the edge of their seats. James Patterson’s 23rd installment in the long-running Alex Cross series vies with Matthew FitzSimmons’s debut of Marine Gibson Vaughn. This category is chock-full of adrenaline-producing audiobooks. The full list of nominees includes:
by James Patterson, read by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jefferson Mays
AudioFile Earphones Award
The Fall of Moscow Station
by Mark Henshaw, read by Eric G. Dove
by Caroline Kepnes, read by Santino Fontana
Simon & Schuster Audio
AudioFile Earphones Award
by Harlan Coben, read by Steven Weber
The Short Drop
by Matthew FitzSimmons, read by James Patrick Cronin
The winner in this and the 25 other Audie Awards categories will be announced June 1st. In the meantime, let us know who you’re rooting for in this category. Which of these audiobooks really got your blood pumping?
2017 marks the 22nd year of the Audio Publishers Association’s recognition of the best in audiobook productions — The Audies. This year’s mystery category hosts some tough competition; from much beloved series to a debut, the field is varied and reflective of the genre’s wide range. The nominees include:
by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, read by Rene Auberjonois
by Michael Connelly, read by Titus Welliver
A Great Reckoning
by Louise Penny, read by Robert Bathurst
Earphones Award Winner
The Heavens May Fall
By Allen Eskens, read by R.C. Bray, David Colacci, Amy McFadden
by Joe Ide, read by Sulllivan Jones
Earphones Award Winner
The winner in this and the other 25 categories won’t be announced until June 1st. Do you have a favorite horse in this race? Who would you like to see take home the 2017 Audie Award for Best Mystery Audiobook?
Women work to overcome cultural and internal barriers. Listeners will think about the abundance of career options for women today, the stubborn persistence of workplace insults and obstacles, and the empowerment women feel to break through and correct these barriers as they explore these audios. All written and performed by women, they focus on women’s continuing struggle to actualize their talents, balance their lives, and contribute in the public arena as respected, capable players.
THE BITCH IS BACK by Cathi Hanauer, read by Teri Schnaubelt, Harper Audio
DARING: My Passages by Gail Sheehy, read by Bernadette Dunn, Harper Audio/ Blackstone Audio
EARNING IT: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World, by Joann S. Lublin, read by Kirsten Potter, Harper Audio
FEMINIST FIGHT CLUB: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace, by Jessica Bennett, read by Bahni Turpin, Harper Audio
#GIRLBOSS: How to Write Your Own Rules While Turning Heads and Turning Profits, Sophia Amoruso, read by Sara Jes Austell, Penguin Audio / Books on Tape
HOW TO WIN AT FEMINISM: The Definitive Guide to Having It All–and Then Some!, by Beth Newell,Sarah Pappalardo, read by Anna Drezen, Nicole Silverberg, Harper Audio
LEAN IN: Woman, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell, read by Elisa Donovan, Random House Audio/ Books on Tape
LEAP: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want, by Tess Vigeland, read by Tess Vigeland, Blackstone Audio
SHRILL: Notes from a Loud Woman, by Lindy West, read by Lindy West, Hachette Audio
WHAT I TOLD MY DAUGHTER: Lessons from Leaders on Raising the Next Generation of Empowered Women, by Nina Tassler, Cynthia Littleton [Eds.], read by Madeleine Maby, Janina Edwards, Fiona Hardingham, Amanda Carlin, Joy Osmanski, Simon & Schuster Audio
YEAR OF YES: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person, by Shonda Rhimes, read by Shonda Rhimes, Simon & Schuster Audio
YOU ARE A BADASS: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Live an Awesome Life, Jen Sincero, read by Jen Sincero, Tantor Media
A few of the writers are accomplished female executives, like television producer Nina Tassler (WHAT I TOLD MY DAUGHTER), screenwriter Shonda Rhimes (YEAR OF YES), and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (LEAN IN). Some are by younger authors whose snappy writing and counter-culture tone make their messages sound revolutionary, energizing, impossible to ignore. Combining such messages with the distinctive power of the human voice creates audiobooks that go beyond intellectual stimulation; they’ll help a lot of women take notice, take names, and take on anyone who gets in their way.
What makes the audio productions of these books so arresting is that the stories they tell are not only personal but also delivered by voices that sound engaged and empowered by what they are sharing. These voices make the audiobooks sound as authentic as they are enlightening.
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