Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Scott Brick on DUNE and Capote

Before winning an Audio Publishers Association's Audie award in 2003 for narrating Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, Scott Brick was already one the most prolific narrators in the business. A former Shakespearean actor turned film actor and writer, the versatile 43-year old has been featured on Page 1 of the Wall Street Journal for his studious interpretations of over 400 books by authors from Brad Meltzer and Clive Cussler to Orson Scott Card and Isaac Asimov. Chosen as "Narrator of the Year" by Publishers Weekly in 2007, Scott has also won over 40 Earphones awards from AudioFile magazine, along with several Audie awards. He has also begun recording books under his own label, Brick by Brick Audiobooks, including the works of Stephen R. Donaldson. His website is ScottBrickPresents.com.

TOWER REVIEW: How do you handle accents, and make them distinguishable?

SCOTT BRICK: Making accents distinguishable is easiest when there are a lot of nationalities in the book you're working on. Whereas I love doing a New York accent, I hate it when there's twenty characters in a book and they're ALL from New York, it makes it much tougher to make them sound different from one another. Ultimately, it's going to be how different they all are from my own voice that's going to distinguish them, so you just have to practice, practice, practice. In one of my very first books, THE SOLDIER SPIES, there were about two dozen characters who were all from Nazi Germany. I've got a good German accent, but to have two dozen of them, and make them sound different from one another? Unless you're randomly assigning your characters alter egos in your head, you know, saying, "Okay, this one's Colonel Klink from Hogan's Heroes, this one's General Burkhalter, I'll make this one Major Hockstetter," you're going to languish in a title like that.

Q: What makes audiobooks so popular these days?

A: I got into this business because of my passion for old time radio. Audiobooks are the closest thing we have to that, anymore. It's the simple art of storytelling, in its most basic form. I can't get enough of it. I think long commutes and the proliferation of iPods have contributed hugely to the success of the audiobook industry, but more than anything else I think they've become popular because, as children, we had stories read to us, but we don't anymore, and I think we miss that.

Q: Do fans seek you out, rather than their favorite authors?

A: Yeah, I have fans who search out only the titles I do, which was really odd when I first heard of that. As a huge book fan myself, I'm used to readers following authors -- if you like an author's work you'll search out other titles they've written, you know? But now listeners are following the narrators. People email me constantly to tell me they listened to a book only because I read it, and it's funny, I used to think authors might resent that, but in truth, they tell me they love it. They're always thrilled to have new readers, and whatever gets them there is fine by them. The first time I realized people could track me was when I was doing research at my local library. Typing in a friend's name, it came up as a little blue icon, and when I clicked it, I saw all the books they'd narrated. "Wow," I thought, "I wonder if MY name is an icon?" And lo and behold, when I typed it in, it showed up in blue. I called a buddy of mine and told him about it, then joked, "Hey, if I'm an icon in the LA Public Library system, does that mean I've made it?" He said, "No, when you've been worked over by Disney, THEN you've made it, but being an icon is a nice second."

Q: I enjoyed hearing you read the book version of Sideways recently.  What others have you recorded recently?

A: The Pat Tillman book by Jon Krakauer was an amazing experience to work on. I'd narrated the unabridged version of Under The Banner of Heaven years ago, and really grew to love Krakauer's writing, so when Random House came to me and said they wanted me to do this one, I was just stunned. Couldn't believe my ears, you know? I remember very clearly the day Pat Tillman quit the Arizona Cardinals and enlisted in the military, I can recall the thrill I felt when I learned of this man making such a huge financial sacrifice, then of course the depression I felt when I heard of his passing. To finally learn exactly what happened was so long overdue, and I felt privileged that it was John Krakauer who got to the bottom of it for all of us. And even more privileged to have my name in any way associated with it. Great, great book.

(UPDATE: One of Scott's most recent recordings is The Early Stories of Truman Capote, of which he told me: “The Early Stories of Truman Capote is a great new collection, filled with stories that had only been previously published in the author's school magazine. They're not as polished as we've come to expect from him, but even in the those that appear the most raw, they've still got that flair, you can still see the spark that will ultimately flame in his best known work. One of the great privileges of my life was to narrate In Cold Blood, and it was absolutely delightful to be back on board, not for new Capote, but on stories that the public will certainly never have seen before. Every page was a treat, just a delightful read.” 

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