Welcome to one of the July 2nd stops on the blog tour for Villain’s Vacation by Andy Zach with Audiobookworm Promotions. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for spotlights, reviews, audio excerpts, and bonus content with the author and narrator!
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Interview with the Narrator
When did you know you wanted to be an audiobook narrator?
I got into voiceover work and audiobook narration a couple years ago. Before that, it was something I had always appreciated, but not thought about pursuing.
How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?
I discovered audiobook narration as part of my research on voiceover marketplaces. I immediately started auditioning.
Did you find it difficult to “break into” audiobook narration? What skill/tool helped you the most when getting started?
It did take several auditions before I began getting jobs. Learning some basic audio editing techniques helped me develop a more professional sound.
A lot of narrators seem to have a background in theatre. Is that something you think is essential to a successful narration career?
I wouldn’t say it’s required, but a theatre background is so impactful in narration because it develops the same skill set. Script analysis, character analysis, emotional portrayal, vocal, diction, and accent training, and vocal health are all essential narration skills that are developed in the theatre.
What type of training have you undergone?
I have a B.F.A. in Theatre, with a concentration in Acting. I am also good friends with an audio engineer and sound designer, who graciously listened to my first narration attempts and gave me great feedback.
How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for narrating?
Choosing the right projects and managing pacing are the two biggest factors in avoiding burn-out. I try to take on a variety of projects, so I don’t feel like I’m doing the same old thing. I also must find the book interesting. If I’m not engaged reading an audition sample, I’m going to dread reading and listening to the material for hours.
Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
I do listen to audiobooks, although sparingly. I like being able to listen to an audiobook while doing something else, like chores around the house. My favorite way to listen to an audiobook is with my family or a group, so we get to experience the story all at once.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of narrating an audiobook?
It’s hard to choose a favorite aspect, but I think I would have to choose developing the voices for all of the characters. It’s a fun challenge trying to create a vocal character that’s unique from all the others in the story. My least favorite part of narrating is sitting down for the first editing session, where I take out the mistakes, misreads, or choose between different takes. It’s a long process that takes a lot of brain power.
What would you say are your strongest narration abilities?
I think I’m strongest at creating vocally interesting characters, and I try to give the narration a personality as well.
Is there a particular genre you feel unsuited for? Have you ever declined a project because you didn’t think you were right for it?
Thankfully with the audition process I’m usually able to determine if I want to handle a project after reading a sample, but I have turned down a project that just didn’t fit me.
What about this title compelled you to audition as narrator?
I had previously worked with Andy Zach on Oops!: Tales of the Zombie Turkey Apocalypse. Andy is great to work with, and when he approached me about doing another title, I was happy to audition.
How closely do you prefer to work with authors?
I like working with authors who can communicate how they imagined their characters. I also appreciate authors who will listen to chapters or sections as I finish them, so I can adjust as I go, rather than having to address a piece of feedback across the entire book.
Who are your “accent inspirations”?
I try to pull from my own life as much as possible. I once worked with an Australian man who is now absolutely the basis for any Australian accent I work on. If I don’t have a strong connection or memory to work with, I find someone with the native accent to listen to. There’s a great informal series on YouTube that gives a standard prompt for people to record themselves reading.
How did you decide how each character should sound in this title?
I usually start with some improvisation, using characteristics as a guide. For example, in this title, Aubrey is usually bright and enthusiastic, which I tried to build her voice around. Once I have a good idea for a character voice, I try it out on a selection of their lines.
What types of things are harmful to your voice?
All of the standards like overuse and yelling of course. One thing I have to be careful of is singing along to music, particularly in the car. I tend to try to match the voice of the singer, rather than singing in my own voice, which wears my voice out faster.
Has anyone ever recognized you from your voice?
I haven’t been recognized from my voice work, but I have had coworkers listen to me speak and tell me I would be great on the radio!
Have there been any characters that you really connected with?
I have characters that I’ve really enjoyed creating, but I wouldn’t say that I’ve personally connected to any of them.
If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
My initial thought is going back to change the course of history, but that opens a rabbit hole of “what if”s and paradoxes. If I had the opportunity, I would travel to different points of my family’s history, just to observe and learn about the people I never met.
How does audiobook narration differ from other types of voiceover work you’ve done?
The audiobook narration process is much longer, of course, but it also requires more endurance and more creativity. Most other voiceover work is very quick, and has a handful of characters, if any. With an audiobook, you can have dozens of voices that you want to sound believable, but also unique.
Do you read reviews for your audiobooks?
If I do, it’s usually right around the book release.
If so, which ones stand out to you most, positive or negative?
The positive reviews stand out because they let me know what people are connecting with in the story. Negative reviews are typically one of two categories: taste, which can be forgotten about, or critique, which I take as feedback and try to improve on.
What type of the review comments do you find most constructive?
The best review comments are the ones that give specific feedback, like a certain section, character, or tone.
Who is your “dream author” that you would like to record for?
It’s hard to say, really. There are a lot of actors and comedians who have written excellent autobiographies or scripts. I’d love to work with them on an original fiction piece, because their style and voice would be great fun.
If you could narrate one book from your youth what would it be and why?
I would love to narrate Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It’s a great story, and there’s a wealth of characters to develop.
What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
One thing I’ve learned is that in an educational setting, reading a book is a different skill than listening to an audiobook, and we want to develop that skill. However, people process information in different ways, and an audiobook may just flow into one’s brain easier than words off a page. In an educational setting, I’d encourage both teachers and students to use audiobooks as a supplement or companion to reading. Outside of education, any form that lets you retain information or enjoy a story is a form you should engage in.
What bits of advice would you give to aspiring audiobook narrators?
First of all, nothing beats experience. Narrate a few pages, and then a chapter. Look through one of the tons of guides on audio editing and give it a shot. Also, don’t worry about having a professional setup. If all you have is your phone and a blanket, use that. You won’t build up your skills if you’re always waiting for the right time to start.
What’s next for you?
I began teaching this year, so voiceover work has taken a bit of a backseat. I want to use this summer to experiment and learn some new skills, while also getting back into a regular voiceover schedule.
Bonus question: Any funny anecdotes from inside the recording studio?
Since audiobooks take such a large amount of recording time, you’re bound to get some odd noises and bodily functions. I save clips of ones that could be used as a sound effect later. Also, I set my playback speed to 1.75x during the first editing pass, to speed through the correct parts and find the sections I need to address. That can give serious moments a “chipmunk” feel, and I save any I find particularly amusing.
About the Book
Secret Supers Book Two
by Andy Zach
Published 27 August 2020
Page Count: 120
Published 5 May 2021
Narrator: Michael Stafford
Length: 3 hours and 10 minutes
Genre: MG Science Fiction
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
Four disabled seventh graders with superpowers take a vacation at Coaster World. They need a break from fighting criminals. Ever since the beginning of the school year when they acquired their unusual abilities, they’ve been training and using those powers to fight crime in their town.
Little do they know, the arch villain they recently defeated also loves coasters and is vacationing at Coaster World. Worse, the villain wants revenge. Nothing less than turning these teens to a life of crime will satisfy.
Can Jeremy, Dan, Kayla, and Aubrey withstand the villain’s attacks? Or will they become Super Villains?
You can only find out by listening to Villain’s Vacation.
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My Rating: 4 Stars
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I was granted complimentary audiobook access to Villain’s Vacation as part of my participation in a blog tour for this title with Audiobookworm Promotions. Thank you to all involved in affording me this opportunity! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
Villain’s Vacation is the second book in the Secret Supers series. I admit I haven’t read the first book, but I didn’t feel lost at all. Clearly the first book was the introduction to the human characters, and possibly the team’s formation, but there isn’t any critical information left out. Four disabled preteens are saving the world X-Men style and their handler writes their adventures as fiction novels.
In this instalment, the team gets a mascot in the form of Dancer, a hamster owned by one of the team members who also gained special abilities along with the team but no one noticed before now. He’s literate! Dancer reads everything he can get his paws on and ends up communicating with the team via cellphone.
I love all the positive disability representation in this book full of unstoppable kids with powers that replace and complement what they’ve lost. The addition of a talking hamster is adorable and will definitely make this book more appealing to the kids who might have been hesitant to read a superhero book.
My one criticism of the book itself is that the dialogue, though definitely reading level appropriate for a middle-grade audience, sometimes ventures into painfully blatant exposition territory. Middle-grade readers might not mind, but the parents and teachers reading along with them (if this is a group or family read) probably will.
On the flip side, there are so many pop culture references in this that those adult reading buddies will catch onto and laugh at. Scooby-Doo fans? There are easter eggs in here for you!
The audiobook narration was good overall and I appreciated the narrator’s effort to make the different characters sound distinct. With that said, I nearly turned it off in the beginning when Dancer the hamster was thinking his dialogue rather than typing it. Thank goodness his voice shifted when he started using technology because the pitch-shifted squeaky rodent voice was indecipherable at my preferred 2x listening speed!
Overall this is a cute superhero story with a lot of important positive representation, and I highly recommend these books to scifi and superhero fans looking for a good middle-grade series.
About the Author
Andy Zach was born Anastasius Zacharias, in Greece. His parents were both zombies. Growing up, he loved animals of all kinds. After moving to the United States as a child, in high school, he won a science fair by bringing toads back from suspended animation. Before turning to fiction, Andy published his Ph.D. thesis “Methods of Revivification for Various Species of the Kingdom Animalia” in the prestigious JAPM, Journal of Paranormal Medicine. Andy, in addition to being the foremost expert on paranormal animals, enjoys breeding phoenixes. He lives in Illinois with his five phoenixes.
With his first book, “Zombie Turkeys” Andy blazed new ground in paranormal humor. The second book in his Life After Life Chronicles, “My Undead Mother-in-law” expands the zombie plague from turkeys to humans, with hilarious results. You can find both volumes on Amazon Kindle, Createspace print, and Audible audiobook editions.
Not content to keep in zombies earthbound, Andy puts them afloat in his third book, “Paranormal Privateers”. Just when you thought every funny zombie trope had been explored, new humorous horizons open up. You can get “Paranormal Privateers” in Kindle and print formats. The audiobook is available now on Audible.
Having conquered paranormal animal humor in his first series, Andy Zach launches into middle school superhero genre with Secret Supers. Four disabled seventh graders all get superpowers. Who knew a disability could be so useful for hiding a superpower? But the four friends, Jeremy, Dan, Kayla, and Aubrey confront problems that can’t be solved by superpowers.
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About the Narrator
Michael Stafford received his Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in 2017 from ACU. He has been performing professionally since 2013. He has performed in regional and educational theaters across Texas for over a decade. In addition to his voiceover and narration work, Michael teaches Theatre and Technical Theatre in Amarillo. Michael would like to thank Andy for being flexible and so great to work with. Michael would also like to thank his wife and daughter for their continuous love and support.
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Comments on “Villain’s Vacation – 4 Star Book Review”
Author Andy Zach here. Thanks so much for hosting me, my narrator, and my book! I’m delighted you liked our book. I’ve shared your post on Twitter and Facebook and I’ve subscribed to your blog.
If any of your readers have any questions about me, narrator Michael Stafford, my books, or writing in general, just reply to this blog and I’ll answer.
And for just commenting, I’ll give you a free ebook of mine.
Finally, you’ll get much more of my work here, through my newsletter. https://mailchi.mp/22d3daf2a1b7/get-your-books-by-andy-zach