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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Guest Blog:Sharon Hamilton: The Storyteller is a Character in the Story

I asked my narrator, J.D. Hart, to help me put together this post. This is the first line he came up with. It was brilliant. And it illustrates why we get along so well, and why our collaboration has been a wonderful experience. I’m not going to lie to say that everything has been perfect on all levels, but we’ve both learned in this process. Creating art is a process, after all.

I had never considered that the narrator would become one of the characters, but after he pointed it out, it was so obvious I wondered why I never thought of it that way.

“The storyteller takes the reader by the hand, pulls them in, strings them along, pushes them forward, dangles them over a cliff, finally, giving them resolution. The storyteller must make a connection with the reader to create empathy. Empathy is achieved by the storyteller becoming a complete and full character, first, and then who performs his job of storytelling, second.”


Isn’t that what we want to hear in a story? We want the speaker to disappear. We want the listener to get into the story, not merely listen to the narrator. We want them inside the story and playing with the characters. In romance, we want the reader to feel the hero’s lips on her flesh.

“The storyteller’s voice is how the storyteller delivers the story to the reader’s ear. Not only does the narrator say what they are reading from the page, but how they say it brings the story to life. Breathes life into the words the way a symphony would play a composer’s work. The author creates the lyrics and the storyteller creates the music.”

This is an artistic relationship/collaboration, in that the combination of the two parts will yield something different than either storyteller or author would give on their own, or find in another collaboration. It is a learned experience, the collaboration, and if it is a good one, grows and gets stronger, just like any relationship.

“Narrating a book is so much like when an actor gets a script for a film. There has to be a common ground understanding between the writer, the actor and the director. They are all working together to bring to life what the writer had envisioned and that is a collaborative effort.”

There are a lot of other points we could share, including the importance of having a trained actor as your narrator, not only for the lead roles, but for all the interesting secondary characters writers have in their books. There are accents, age, points of view to take into account when the narrator “acts” to bring the story to life. There are also audio components like phone calls, intercom or announcer blurbs. Some things in print don’t lend themselves to narration, and some extra narration is needed to clarify certain things that appear in print to give the listener direction they would normally get just by the format of the print word.

We have more material we could post, perhaps at a future date, so if you came away with something new today, let Marianne know and we’ll be back.

We have learned many things after having done three books together. The author sets the tone and gives the descriptions of the characters and the arc of the story, but ultimately the narrator is an actor, taking that direction and bringing his/her own experiences into the story, interpreting the author’s direction just like an actor would on a movie shoot.

I am fortunate to have met and chosen J.D. to produce my audio books. Hearing my hero’s voice come to life is such an amazing experience for me, I encourage everyone to try it. And it has affected my writing, in a positive way. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but then, writing isn’t either. Just like any good performance, where there is collaboration between dancers, scenery, music and other cast members, not everyone will come away with the same perspective and interpretation.

But our job is to delight and surprise the listener, entertain them. It brings a third dimension to a reader’s enjoyment of a good story.

And that is about as satisfying as it gets.
 

 



              GIVEAWAY ALERT!







J.D. Hart and I will be available today to answer any questions you might have about this process. We will take the comments, and choose two winners at random. Each of those people will win an audio book of either Accidental SEAL or Fallen SEAL Legacy. But you must make a comment or ask a question. We will attempt to answer all of your questions by stopping by from time to time during the day.


We also have a little treat, a preview of J.D.’s beautiful read of a sex scene from the upcoming book, Cruisin’ For A SEAL, which will be released February 5. You can hear the short piece by clicking here. Our gift to you for showing up.


Sharon Hamilton
Life is one fool thing after another.
Love is two fool things after each other.

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J.D. Hart BIO and Links:
J.D. Hart has been stabbed, choked, shot, beaten, poisoned and buried alive as an actor in horror films. He has acted along side scream queens Betsy Palmer, Debbie Rochon, Leslie Easterbrook and the King of screams himself, Friday the 13th Jason Kane Hodder. He has acted in over 22 films and over 5,000 commercials.

J.D. began his career in television at the age of 18 as an on-camera host for TV station WCCB in Charlotte, N.C.

After moving to Nashville, J.D. became an MCA recording artist and a songwriter for Milene Music Group. He penned the theme song for NBC's "Man Of The People" starring James Garner. He also was the vocal artist on several national jingle campaigns including "The Heartbeat Of America" for Chevrolet. Hart also appeared as a TV spokesperson for Chevrolet.

Making the transition from TV to film, he has garnered several awards, including Best Actor. This background in film, TV and theater makes it easy for him to adapt to any style, any character, any accent in his narration.

J.D. is an Audible Approved narrator and producer and has narrated and produced over 54 audio books with a complete professional recording studio he owns.

His voice is often noted for it’s unique blend of passion, believability, grace and fire! His romance novel clients describe it as golden and buttery. J.D.’s resonant, husky and masculine tone makes especially female readers weak at the knees.

He loves to hear from fans and authors.


http://www.jdhart.net/
http://www.thebookvoice.com/
http://www.facebook.com/#!/jdhart2000

62 comments:

E.L. F. said...

Fascinating interview. Does the narrator read the entire book before starting to record the audio? Or a chapter at a time? Thanks for giving insight into an intriguing process.

Marianne Stephens said...

Thank you both for being on RB4U and sharing your information. I'm sure there are many readers and authors interested in the process of creating an audio book.
I don't think I've read anything as informative as your blog about this subject before.

Fran Lee said...

I have never had the experience of an audiobook, so I hope I don't sound TOO ridiculous. As a narrator, does JD do the entire book as narrator without other actors involved? A marvelous male voice can do a great deal for a book in the eyes and ears of female readers, but how does it work when he narrates the female's thoughts, etc? Thanks for the in-depth interview, Sharon. I never realized the intricacy of audiobooks and their production. I was always surprised by the prices, but now I understand. They are well worth it.

Sharon Hamilton said...

E.L. F. I know JD will stop by in the morning and will have some input to your question. As the writer, I try to read ahead and look for things that might be odd like accents or pronunciation of foreign names, etc. We do review each chapter at a time because if there's a particular item with a character, you don't want to have to make the narrator re-record half the book.

If there are things that have to be fixed, a good narrator can do so seamlessly. I can not tell where he's made the change I've requested. It's just there.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Marianne, our pleasure to be here today. Our goal was to help authors and readers understand the process, and we have even more material to share, so if your readers are interested, we'd love to come back.

And I give JD credit for coming up with at least half of this material. Like I said, though we've worked together now for a few months, he has a different perspective on the process, and those are so important to the writer's understanding of what it takes to work on a collaboration with another artist. The work becomes the joint "art" of both the writer and the narrator, if it is done correctly.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Fran, I will let JD answer that better than I can. In my books, he is the only actor I hired. But he has, however, done collaborations with others, and yes, female actors for the female parts.

A male narrator will not sound like a female actor (well, not usually, anyway). But since, as you so well said, most our listeners are female, having a male narrator speak into their ear for 8-11 hours, reading a beautiful love story I think achieves the desired effect. I personally didn't want another voice, only his. But there are authors who might not want that. I know JD has done it both ways.

And you are so right, Fran, about the intimacy factor. Just as two dancers on a stage that perform, or the composer and the symphony, it is a collaboration that yields more than just the sum of the parts. I'm glad you understand and have appreciation for this creative process.

Karen Henderson said...

I LOVED how you did Accident Seal. Your voice made it come to life for me and made great pictures in my head. Sharon you know I adore your books and JD I am such a fan of the awesome job you have done bringing her books to life. I never know if a book I read in print is going to be good on audio until I hear the narrators voice but with JD doing the other Seal books I know I am in for a treat when I get to read them,
JD how did get into doing audio books?
PS I love your voice :)

Katie F said...

Oh my!!!!!!! I just listened to the sample and I CANNOT wait to read/hear your new book!!!! I can feel the emotion of it already!!!! Great job to you AND Mr. Hart!!!! (Sorry for all the !!!!!!!, I'm a bit excited!) Lol.....

Katie F said...

Oh my!!!!!!! I just listened to the sample and I CANNOT wait to read/hear your new book!!!! I can feel the emotion of it already!!!! Great job to you AND Mr. Hart!!!! (Sorry for all the !!!!!!!, I'm a bit excited!) Lol.....

Rose Anderson said...

Great post, Sharon. Thanks for joining us and sharing those insights.

Liz said...

I agree 100%. In my busy life I have turned more and more to audio books and in the last couple of years have spent many pleasurable hours being drawn in by narrators. I've had my 1st 3 books of the STewart Realty series recorded and loved listening to them as well. It does help as an author to image a "voice" for your work. I'm looking for an male narrator for the 4th book…hmmm….anyway, thanks guys for this post. It was beautifully spoken and as a consumer and producer of audio books (the script writer I guess) myself I really appreciate all of your insights. best of luck to you both in your careers! (I am currently a huge fan of Will Patton as a narrator. He's making Stephen King's new book like listening to a radio play!)
Liz

Liz said...

I agree 100%. In my busy life I have turned more and more to audio books and in the last couple of years have spent many pleasurable hours being drawn in by narrators. I've had my 1st 3 books of the STewart Realty series recorded and loved listening to them as well. It does help as an author to image a "voice" for your work. I'm looking for an male narrator for the 4th book…hmmm….anyway, thanks guys for this post. It was beautifully spoken and as a consumer and producer of audio books (the script writer I guess) myself I really appreciate all of your insights. best of luck to you both in your careers! (I am currently a huge fan of Will Patton as a narrator. He's making Stephen King's new book like listening to a radio play!)
Liz

Debby said...

I love what is said about the storyteller. So very true. Thanks so much for the insight.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Karen,
Thanks for stopping by today. I know JD will love reading your comments, and I agree, he is the perfect voice for my heroes, as well as for the other characters in the stories.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Katie F!!!!!
I like excited!!!! What writer doesn't!!!! That emotional connection with the author, the narrator, the story, is what we aim to achieve. No worries here about having a huge emotional (positive) experience with our collaboration. That's why we do it!

Sharon Hamilton said...

Liz,
My pleasure. So glad I could be here today and briing JD with me.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Liz, I am not familiar with that narrator, but for me, there is only one!! Not only is he very talented, but he's very easy to work with. It's been a true labor of love. Good luck to you in your ventures as well...thanks for saying hi.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Debby,
Isn't that brilliant, JD's comment about the storyteller being a character in the book? I agree, right on.

Lori Ryan said...

Hi Sharon! Great post. How long did it take you and JD to finish the audio version?

J.D. Hart said...

E.L.F,
Thank you and that's a great question. The first thing that Sharon and I talk about is the story, plot, subplots and the characters. I make notes regarding the age and background of the characters and work on finding a voice for them that Sharon and I can agree on. I always read about three chapters ahead before recording.I enjoy the element of surprise in the final chapters myself.

J.D. Hart said...

Hi Fran,

There is no such thing as a ridiculous question, only ridiculous answers. As for me, I narrate and create the character voices. There is a fine line in creating a female voice. I don't won't to change the pitch of my voice so much that she sounds week. I want to give her strength is she is a strong character. As far as knowing what her thoughts are, Sharon and I are in close contact on that one.

J.D. Hart said...

Hi Karen,

You are too kind. Thank you very much. I started out in radio when I was just 18 years old. Later on, I was contracted as a TV Spokesperson for Chevrolet commercials. I had to do the voice-overs for some of the :30 commercials which is very typical in the commercial business. I fell in love with the work. I built my own studio just for commercial voice-over work. Then one day, an author heard my voice on a commercial and asked me if I would be interested in narrating a book. I agreed and have been passionate about the work ever since.

J.D. Hart said...

Hi Lori,

Depending on the complexity of the book and how many characters are involved, it usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to narrate, edit, make revisions, master and upload.
Thanks for your question.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Lori,
We've worked at two speeds. Generally 2-3 weeks, but sometimes we have other issues, such as my recent lack of internet during my long cruise from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Both of us agree on the timing before we begin so there are no misunderstandings. We both have a lot of work outside our collaboration, which is a good thing.

My only complaint is that I can't write faster! I want more of these out there, darn it!! But I'm working on it.

J.D. Hart said...

Working with Sharon has been a dream come true. Her writing, story lines and plots are off the charts brilliant and engaging. I have always been a lover of romance since I read "Romeo and Juliet" as a kid. Then there was "Love Story". Sharon has a special gift for understanding human nature. She understands how males and females think and act out emotionally in any kind of situation. When a storyteller such as myself gets to narrate Sharon's stories and act out her characters, it is simply heaven for me. We are a collaborative close knit team. We understand each other very well and work together to create the best product that we possible can.

Marliss Melton said...

I'm so glad you found a narrator to fit your niche. How clever to post the excerpt on YouTube. Here's to great sales at ACX!-Marliss

Lori Ryan said...

Wow! That's much faster than I thought it would be. I thought you'd say months. Maybe it's not such a daunting project to undertake after all:) I'm scheduled to write four new books this year, so I don't know if I'm up to it this year, but you're giving me hope....

Sharon Hamilton said...

Marliss,
Thank you so much. As a great admirer of your work, that means a lot to me. The YouTube was JD's doing (as you know, I am rather challenged in this arena).

Sandy said...

Wow! I really enjoyed this post. Loved the excerpt and I'm not an audio person. Thanks for sharing and opening our ears to what could be.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Sandy,
Welcome to the dark side!

Sharon Hamilton said...

Lori,
Something I think every author should do, as long as you have the right narrator. I have listened to some horrible narrations by some really big time authors. If you ever have questions on the process, always know you can ask me any time.

Adelle Laudan said...

As an author, I have learned to find people who 'speak my language'. Somebody who understands where I'm going with a story and why. I am intrigued with the idea of putting one of my books in audio format. The burning question, can I afford it?

Cara Marsi said...

Wow, very interesting about the narrator and audio books. I love your SEAL books, Sharon.

Nicole Garcia said...

Loved this interview. I like knowing the back story into how a book is brought to life. I have listened to JD on Accidental Seal and he was just fabulous. Sharon, what is the first step into making an audio book?

Nicole Morgan said...

J.D. I am so very sorry to hear that you have been injured so many times! How resilient you are, stabbing, choking, being shot. You are Superman! LOL jk I think it's awesome that Sharon has found you to tell her story. I've listened to a dozen audio books in my entire life and sadly only found 2 that were done well. I'm excited to hear what you have done. As I'm sure with your track record it will be fantastic! :)

Sharon Hamilton said...

Adele,
I was told by others that it takes 3-4 months to earn out what you spend for the narration. In my case, I earned it the first 30 days. That means earned, since there's a delay in getting you the funds, just like on our books. I was pleased. I think you cannot afford not to.

J.D. Hart said...

Nicole,

Although that only happened to me in the movies, lol still after you've done it for about 20 takes, if feels as though you have actually been through it. I've left the scenes with many scrapes, bruises and other things I probably shouldn't go into here.
Thank you for your awesome comment and for reaching out today.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Cara,
So honored you would say that. Having heard you speak very early in my career, that means a lot to me. I love how my SEALs have come to life with this beautiful narration.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Nicole,
Yes, Accidental SEAL was our first collaboration, and I'm thrilled you loved it. There will be lots more. Two down, one finishing up this weekend, soon to be on Audible. That will be 4 yummy books to listen to!

Sharon Hamilton said...

Just to be clear, Nicole Morgan, I don't beat him up too much, not sayin' that I don't occasionally cause him some emotional scars. LOL. We both work very hard to work without pain, but sometimes it's just not avoidable!

Gayle Latreille said...

Sharon ... These audio books with the sexy voice of JD Hart (oh, did I just say that out loud) are FANTABULOUS!! Listening to these audios just brings to life the wonderful experience previously reading these wonderful books.

Thank you Sharon for sharing your wonderful talent, and to JD for bring Sharon's stories to life. *hugs to you both*

Gayle Latreille said...

Sorry about the grammar ... there should be an edit button so I could fix those blatant spelling/grammar errors

Sharon Hamilton said...

LOL Gayle. You're secret's save with me (the out loud part)...
Yes, he has brought the characters and the story to life, and in a way I could never do. There are more coming, too!!

J.D. Hart said...

Gayle,

Thank you for the kind words. I'm just a lucky man to have the opportunity to work with Sharon and be able to be the storyteller of writing that is truly inspirational to me and speaks to my heart. I am a hopeful romantic after all and that gives Sharon and I a lot in common. Many thanks to you for making my day Gayle.

Sharon Hamilton said...

JD, you are that, indeed! Such a rare thing, too. Thank you.

robinofrockridge.com said...

What a gift to share with your readers and listeners, Sharon! Thank you!
See you Thursday.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Thanks, Robin.

julie beasley said...

I loved J D narrative. His voice gives me sensual shivers. I'd like to ask him does it take long to perfect the voice to the particular SEAL. Armando voice was so seductive did it take longer than the others. Sharon and JD your doing a marvellous job, cant wait to hear more.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Thanks, Julie. We aim to keep 'em coming. I think that is the genius of what JD does. He gets the characters, and really lives inside the story. That is so important in hiring a narrator. And I didn't know how important it was until I was (luckily) right in the middle of the first one. Had I made a different choice, it could have been a disaster. I got lucky that his skills matched the quality of his voice. You don't know that until you start working with someone.

Melissa Keir said...

Wonderful post. I know with audio books there's a choice between paying the narrator or taking a cut of the profits. What do you think works best? Or does it depend on the book?

Sharon, how many narrators did you look through before you decided on JD?

Sharon Hamilton said...

Melissa, I opted to pay him, instead of doing the percentage. My first book was longer than the subsequent ones, over 11 hours, and so I didn't want someone to put that much work into it, since I didn't have a track record I was comfortable with. And I wanted to hire someone good, and I figured the good ones would not do it on spec.

I listened to probably 40-50 narrators. I narrowed it down to about 10, including a couple of women and ultimately ruled them out right away. They were good, but it didn't work for my book. JD was at the top of my list, but several said they were interested, so I chose JD first, and kept my fingers crossed. It was a great day when he accepted my offer. I was on cloud 9.

Sandy said...

I'm late getting in here, but I really found this post interesting. Sharon and J.D., thanks for sharing this information.

Cris Anson said...

I never thought of a narrator as a character in a book, but it's true. And with a voice as sexy as JD's, it can take your experience to new heights. Thanks for sharing his point of view!

Sharon Hamilton said...

Not too late, Sandy. Thanks for stopping by to leave a message. I'm glad you liked it, and I hope we gave you information you can think about.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Cris, Thanks for stopping by. and I agree with you, "new heights" is what we're aiming to achieve here. After all, the reader hears the story in her own head, but the listener hears the story through the narrator's voice. If it's going to be hot or erotic romance, that voice better be sexy.

J.D. Hart said...

Hi Julie, thank you for the kind words and your question. I have been an actor for 25 years and played many different character type roles. I have a lot of different voices rambling around in my head. They're like old friends that just continue to hang out with you. Sharon makes it easy for me by offering a character breakdown with great detail regarding the characters in the story. She knows her characters so well and is able to convey to me not only the physicality of each character but their psyche as well. Sometimes we do character voice testing. She allows me to give first interpretation and then we tweak as necessary. I only wish I could offer better female voices. That is so difficult for a male narrator to do. I don't want to make the female sound weak or cartoonish, so I change the pitch of my voice only slightly.

seelk said...

Loved the post, awesome as usual Sharon! I am always curious about how things work. Thanks for the insight, very informative. Sharon you know I am a big fan of your SEALs and adding JDs voice has made them even better. I can totally tell when listening to the books, that JD that is so immersed in the story, and doing all those voices and accents so beautifully makes for a great experience.

Gemma Juliana said...

I'm late reading your interview, but it is terrific. I'm collecting 'how to' info on doing audio books and this is such useful info. I hope you do come back with more! Sharon and JD, thanks for sharing the process.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Eniko, I knew you'd be here! I so agree with you. It's like we have the books, and then we get the added dimension of the audio book. It makes the one medium into two art forms. And because it's a collaborative effort, both affect the other and make them different than each by themselves. Really a fascinating phenom.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Gemma, I'm so glad to hear it was meaningful. That was our goal. Please feel free to ask any further questions of me or of J.D. in the future. I love sharing what I've learned.

Sharon Hamilton said...

WINNER ALERT:

Neither J.D. nor I chose these winners. It is a random pick!

I am so excited to inform you that Karen Henderson and Julie Beasley are the winners of the two audio books. I will email you individually. You have your choice of any of the (now 3) audio books available. Or, you can wait for the 4th audio book, SEAL The Deal, sometime later in the month.

CONGRATULATIONS LADIES!

julie beasley said...

Thrilled to bits thank you

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