The Narrating Life by Narrator Patrick Lawlor
Audio book month continues and so do the narrator posts and audiobooks and of course, the giveaway that goes along with it. Please welcome narrator Patrick Lawlor. I did not have a lot of time to chat with him in New York but now he will share his narrating life with us:
My name is Patrick Lawlor and I have been narrating audiobooks since 2001. Full-time since 2004. This is what I do, this is my job. How lucky am I that I have a job that combines two of my favorite things, reading and talking?!
I have recorded over 325 books. in every genre. Some of my favorites include Merle’s Door, Lessons From a Free Thinking Dog, by Ted Kerasote, Adam Canfield of the Slash, by Michael Winerip, Timecasters by Joe Kimball (J.A. Konrath), The Troubleshooters series by Suzanne Brockmann, The Darwin Awards series by Wendy Northcutt and the controversial Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.
I was very lucky to get into audiobooks at a time when there were a lot fewer people trying to do this for a living. The Audio Publishers’ Association held a yearly job market, which was, in essence, a chance for prospective narrators to audition for a bunch of publishers at once, and then have several opportunities to socialize with them and start to get to know them. I was able to make several lasting relationships and got my first gig halfway through the day!
I completed 5 books my first year, 9 my second year, and about 12 my third. Since then, I average between 25 and 30 books a year. This has become my full-time job and I couldn’t be happier about it. I still do theatre when I can, that’s where my roots are, and that was my primary focus before audiobooks, but mainly I record. I have a studio in my home, and these days, record most of my work there. This is probably the biggest change in the industry since I began. There is a huge movement toward narrators recording themselves at home. Digital technology has made it relatively easy to get professional-quality results at home for relatively little money. The internet and things like ISDN and ftp sites, make remote recording and moving around sound files quite do-able. There is a certain, undeniable convenience about recording at home, to be sure, but I do miss going into the studio and working with a director and an engineer. I am, after all, a performer, and I enjoy having others around. Books DO still get done in studios, and I go in every chance I get, but the market being what it is, and the sheer number of narrators entering the business each year, means I need every advantage I can get, and home recording is a big one.
This is probably the biggest change in the industry since I began. There is a huge movement toward narrators recording themselves at home.
Through the years, as I have been exposed to more and various material, I have gone through a process of discovery. For the most part, I have been making this up as I’ve gone along. I have had some wonderful directors who have guided me in the right direction, but I am definitely a work in progress. I have matured, certainly, and learned many techniques that have made me a better story-teller. I generally read slower and more clearly. There was a tendency in earlier books to speed up. My voice also had a tendency to get a little high-pitched when excited. I have much more control these days. At the same time, I am getting older, and so is my voice. I like to think it’s getting better, richer, but those female characters are certainly having to evolve a bit! Altogether, I think I’ve remained pretty consistent, though along the way, I have experimented quite a bit with how to narrate a book, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Sometimes REALLY…not. It has been a challenging and thoroughly enjoyable ride!
My first audiobook recording gig will always be one of my more fun memories, no matter how many books I record. I was attending the APA Job Market in New York, in early 2001, and I had just auditioned for a room of publishers and producers, when one of them, a producer named John McElroy, caught me in the hall and said he had a short project I would be perfect for. Was I interested? “Of course”, I said and he promised to get me the script by the end of the day. It would require extending my stay in NYC by a day, so I would basically break even, but I was getting my start! And in New York City! (I lived in Los Angeles at the time.) I was ecstatic! I continued the day on a cloud.
When I read the script later in my hotel room, however, that cloud did that little “poof” disappearing thing you see in cartoons. What I had was a chapter from a book of erotica. It resembled nothing so much as a 30 minute Letter to Penthouse. I am certainly not prudish in the least, and I have nothing against erotica, and this wasn’t especially hardcore or anything, but I DID start to wonder about the ease with which I got this gig. And what, exactly in my audition made John consider me ‘perfect” for this? Well, maybe this was normal. What did I know? I had never done a book before.
The next day I went downtown to “the studio.” When I arrived at the address, it was a small, unmarked door between a Bodega and a nail place. I went up to the 3rd floor and entered what seemed to be a travel agency, where Russian seemed to be the primary language and a lot of big, swarthy gentlemen looked dully uninterested in my arrival. I had flashes of that scene in the movie FAME, where the girl goes to her first on-screen gig.. A good quart of flop-sweat released itself into the sleeves of my shirt. After ten minutes or so of trying to get the receptionist to understand what I was looking for (words like “recording,” “audiobook” and “studio” were not among the dozen or so words of English she knew, and that angered her), I decided to call the studio. Outside. At a pay phone. It turns out I had transposed two numbers in the address, and the beautiful, professional studio was across the street!
I had a nice conversation with the director John. In the end John said very nice things about my work and handed me a check and that was that. I was a paid audiobook narrator! I had done my first project! As it turns out, the first of many to come. And no, they have not all been like that.
Please watch this site for June audio book related posts, like this one. For every post you comment on in June that has this audio book symbol:
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