Meet J. Rodney Turner, Narrator in VINTAGE LOVE STORIES
Blunder Woman Productions, with the help of eight talented authors and nine equally talented narrators, will be releasing a remarkable volume of short tales set before the age of the internet and cell phones. Vintage Love Stories features J Rodney’s narration of She Screams.
We were able to chat with him and find out a little more about him and his process.
What has been your favorite book to narrate?
So far, in my short career my favorite is a crime drama, The American Outlaw, authored by John Stonehouse
Have you had any funny or interesting things happen while recording?
Nothing really out of the ordinary – I’ve narrated chapters I’ve already completed because I wasn’t paying attention to my progress; I’ve had words that I’ve stumbled across so poorly that I needed to simply walk out of the booth in order to regroup; and I experience the same noises from my body and mouth that most narrators suffer from every now and then.
How do you get into a book/story?
I enjoy the preparation phase of my work because I get to learn who the characters are and how they fold into the arc of the storyline. And I like to place myself in the role of the character to see if I would behave the way the author has portrayed them or if maybe I might have behaved differently in specific cases.
How do you prepare for all the different characters and their tones/vocal ranges?
During the preparation phase, I take notes on each characters’ relationship to the main character(s), their respective attitudes during specific scenes, the characteristics provided to them by the author and I think of someone I my have known in my life or someone I may have encountered with similar physical attributes or character flaws and I provide a voice based on those qualities and enough pitch differentiation to allow the listener to know that someone different is speaking
How many books have you narrated and do they have a common thread or theme?
I’m approaching my 100th title in the next month or two, depending on how productive I am and how I manage my time. The vast majority of my early titles were of the Western or Historical Fiction set in the post Civil War (1865 and later) West or South. Good guys, Bad Guys, overcoming adversity, even a little falling in love now and then.
What do you like most about narrating audiobooks?
I love the stories and I love to tell them.
What do you like least about narrating audiobooks?
There’s not much I “don’t” like about narration. I enjoy auditioning, preparing a title for production, narration and making sure it’s fit for release form the technical aspects.
During your downtime, do you prefer to read in print or listen to stories in audio?
I like listening to narrators that do the kind of work I want to do and are successful.
How do you select a book to narrate?
I like to find work that I “like”. I don’t audition for work I’m pretty sure would bore me or would not fit who I am or my voice profile. I don’t “fake it” well.
Do you prefer a specific genre or types of characters?
I enjoy Mystery / Thrillers; Crime Drama; Westerns; Historical Fiction; and I love Romance
Do you read a book several times before you record the audio?
No. As a general rule, I prepare a title for production just before I produce it. So there is not a great time gap between completing the preparation phase and beginning to produce and narrate a title.
How do you decide on the specific voice and tone to do for each character?
I like to make that decision once the preparation has been completed. This way I know if the character changes any during the arc of the storyline. If, for example the character is an evil, nasty bad guy from start to finish with no real redeeming human qualities then that’s one voice – however, if that character is simply flawed in some way and does, in fact, redeem him or herself sometime during the story then that’s probably a different voice. Plus, as I mentioned in another question, I like to “cast” the voices based on the qualities provided to them by the author while comparing those qualities to people I may know or I may have seen in a move or TV show or maybe even grew up with in real life.
Do you have a ritual or routine you do before sitting down to record the audio (such as vocal exercises or warm-ups to strengthen your vocal cords)?
I use the vocal warm-up exercises created by Rodney Saulsberry in his book, You Can Bank on Your Voice. Rodney is one of what I call my “founding” coaches. A very talented voice actor and coach in the Los Angeles area and I’ve found these exercises have served me well.
Is there an audiobook you just loved listening to? What about that narration makes it special?
There are three audiobooks that stand out to me so far in my career – the first is a series of thriller novels (Jake Pendleton Series) written by Chuck Barrett and narrated by Scott Brick. I know Chuck and worked with him in my first career and his writing is very well done…and hearing a great coach like Scott Brick narrate his work let me know two things – Chucks a great writer and Scott’s a great narrator.
Next is pretty much any title narrated by Johnny Heller – I’ve listened to six or seven of these titles and none of them fail to provide me with joy and an opportunity to learn – I’m currently listening to The Kolchak Collection and it’s great
And David H. Lawrence XVII’s narration of League of Denial; The NFL, Concussions, and The Battle for Truthwas awesome. I’ve loved watching football for as long as I can remember and this insight is both enlightening and less than surprising when considering that each believes is at stake.
What qualities make a great narrator? If you like, share some tips for aspiring voice actors.
I believe patience, attention to detail and the ability to understand that your voice will not fit every title nor will you always be able to guess what that voice in the author’s head sounds like.
Attention to detail is important because in order to tell the story properly and to deliver on the author’s truth. You must play close attention to every aspect of the story.
In my opinion, patience encompasses most of developing a long lasting career in the audiobook industry. Believing that because your friends or even strangers you may meet tell you that you have a cool sounding voice doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be the voice that author hears in his or her head. Plus, you must receive quality coaching from quality coaches who actually work and are successful in this industry.
Patience also comes in when building relationships with the large audiobook publishing houses. These relationships are not built overnight. Quality relationships are not built by simply attending one APAC or one mixer and handing out your business card. It takes time, perseverance and the willingness to go the extra mile to stay in touch and be available and honest about what you’re able to provide.
Is there a scene you just loved to narrate?
I enjoy the climactic moment in the story when the bad guy is discovered or the mystery is revealed or justice is properly and coldly served or when the two characters finally get out of the way and allow themselves to fall in love, like it was meant to be.
Is there a scene that was especially difficult to narrate?
I’ve had some scenes where I had to start and stop more than once because real emotion from me was making the narration poor. No one wants to hear that kind of blubbering or over exuberance in an audiobook.
Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents? If so, what are they?
I’m not sure if what little talent I have is unhidden. I enjoy singing Bass in gospel and country quartets but that’s mostly limited to time in the church I attend with my family.