Today I’m very pleased to welcome one of my favorite audiobook narrators to The Reading Date! Kirby Heyborne is an award-winning narrator of over 200 audiobooks, and chances are you’ve listened to at least one of them. He took time out of the recording booth to answer some questions about his very interesting job. Please welcome Kirby to the blog:
Lucy: Kirby, you have had some awesome success over the last year! You were nominated for an Audie for The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance, people are gearing up for the Gone Girl movie by listening to your performance in the audiobook, Scowler won the 2014 ALA Odyssey award recently, and you made many top 10 lists with your performance of the Jim Henson bio. Congrats! How has your life as an audiobook performer changed over the past year?
Kirby: I have been constantly busy! The past few years have seen me living in my studio. The only time I see daylight is when I go out to get the mail.
I love my job as a narrator. Look at the titles I’ve been fortunate to narrate! Jim Henson! Gone Girl! Scowler! I am a very blessed man.
Lucy: Can you tell us what’s coming up soon for you that we won’t want to miss?
Kirby: I have been working on an epic fantasy series for Tantor, The Saga of Recluce, for the past year and a half. I’ve been so immersed for such a long time in the world that L.E. Modesitt, Jr. created that I sometimes forget that others don’t know it as intimately as I do. I’ll often make references to characters or ancient Westwind tomes that blow over other people’s heads. I think that if you were looking for something worthy to invest a lot of time in, it would be this series.
Here are some more titles that I loved doing that are out or coming out soon: Noggin, Rule of the Bone, Ender’s Game Alive, Phoenix Island, AHA, Taipei, Hollow City, Evil and the Mask, and Sidekicked.
Lucy: How did you get your start as an audiobook performer? And what are your favorite/least favorite parts of the job?
Kirby: About 10 years ago, Orson Scott Card cast me in a play here in LA. Scott’s friend, Dan Mussleman was the sound designer. Dan also happened to be an executive at Books on Tape. He said I had a youthful voice and should try audiobook narration. He had a project that my voice suited (Clay Aiken’s autobiography). So I met with Dan at Books on Tape and learned how to narrate audiobooks from the great Dan Mussleman himself!
Incidentally, the other cast members in that play are the narrating giants and dear friends Stephan Rudnicki, Scott Brick, and Emily Card Rankin.
I love my job as a narrator. I am so fortunate that I get to do something so satisfying and challenging. The community of narrators, publishers, producers, and authors is unparalleled. Everyone is encouraging and supportive. And to top it off, I love good books!
I think the worst part of the job is trying to keep up with all of the deadlines. It’s hard to pass up a great book!
Lucy: Walk us through the process from booking a job to completing the audiobook performance. What is your prep process like, and what are your comfort/must-haves in the studio?
Kirby: A publisher contacts me with a possible title to see if I’m interested and if the schedule works. Or a publisher asks me to submit a selection for the author to hear. Once it’s agreed that I’m the voice for the book, I read through the manuscript to look for tone and characters. I take notes and keep those notes with me while I’m recording. As I’m recording, I’ll write down additional notes and time codes for specific characters. Once I’ve finished recording, I will upload the file to an FTP. Then an editor/proofer will check for mispronunciations or errors and send me back notes on sections that need to be fixed. I fix them and upload the corrected file.
I always have a big glass of water, my notes, and comfortable clothes.
Lucy: You have a diverse body of work – what is your favorite genre to perform? Any dialects or genres make you want to run for the hills?
Kirby: I love young adult.
I’m not too keen on erotica.
I love dialects. I love researching regions and listening to people with different accents speak.
Lucy: What performance are you most proud of? Who is your dream author to record?
Kirby: I loved the Jim Henson bio. That was a dream come true.
Listen to an excerpt of the Jim Henson bio:
I also love all of the work I’ve done for Orson Scott Card. I’m a huge fan of his material and I love playing his complex characters.
Lucy: Scowler won the 2014 Odyssey award- congrats! I’ve gotta say your performance is scary good. I was constantly looking over my shoulder as I was listening though. How did you get into character for Scowler? Did you know when you were recording that this book was something really special?
Kirby: I love Daniel Kraus’ work. He creates such unforgettably dark characters and I love giving them a voice! Daniel sent an image to my producer, Kelly Gildea, of what he imagined Scowler to look like. That image coupled with the text really gave me an idea of how Scowler should be voiced: No vocal vibrations at all. I tried to make Scowler sound as insect-like as possible.
Any time I’m challenged like I was with both Scowler and Daniel’s other amazing book Rotters, I know it’s going to be special. You have to give it your all and hope for the best!
Listen to an excerpt of Scowler:
Lucy: Don’t ever show me that picture of Scowler! I’m scared enough already 🙂 I know you are super busy in the recording studio, but do you listen to audiobooks in your free time? What /who are some of your favorite books/performers?
Kirby: I don’t listen too much to audiobooks. I don’t read that much outside of the booth either. When I do get a chance, I love to listen to the greats: Simon Vance, Stephan Rudnicki, Scott Brick, and Emily Rankin.
Lucy: June is audiobook month. How would you sell the audiobook experience to someone who only wants to read print books?
Kirby: Give a well-reviewed book 5 minutes. You’ll be hooked.
Lucy: What’s coming up next for you that we can look forward to? I’m personally eyeing The Fever by Megan Abbott.
Kirby: That’s a good one. I just finished a title called The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone. The format of the book was so unique. I’m excited to see how it all comes together.
Lucy: That book does sound very intriguing! Can’t wait to check it out.
Thanks for the chat, Kirby! I appreciate you taking a little time away from the booth to fill us in on your audiobook recording endeavors.
Find all of Kirby’s audiobooks on Audible.
The giveaway has ended. Congrats to Melissa who wins a Kirby Heyborne narrated audiobook of her choice!