Photo credit: Pierre Gautreau
Stung is about an oddball group of ecology-minded people who determine that a chemical factory is producing an agricultural pesticide that is also killing bees, and decide to sabotage its manufacture. Criminal lawyer Arthur Beauchamp is tasked with their defense in a tense, hang-by-the-fingernails trial.
What is the most challenging part of recording an audiobook? Conversely, what is the most enjoyable part?
The most challenging thing for me is accepting the claustrophobic nature of the job. There’s a real feeling of isolation, at times. But there’s where a great director can smooth out the experience. What I enjoy most, is illuminating great writing, and helping to tell a great story.
How did you prepare to record this audiobook?
I read the whole book. Twice. Then I set a narrator voice, which was not far from Detective Maguire’s voice. Then I figured out how many other voices I was doing — I think it came out to about 28. Then I set to work coming up with their voices, using their dialogue as clues to how they might speak. I read my sections out loud often to prepare for the following day’s work — wrapping my mind and my mouth around challenging sections, ie. multi-character dialogue. I also worked hard at solidifying my vocal choices for each character.
What was your favourite part of this book?
I really enjoyed the 3D humanity of Bill’s characters. I had no trouble visualizing them and their voices leapt out of me fully formed based on how they were written. I felt I knew them. I also loved how Maguire, like most of us, deals with change only through catastrophe, and then makes an effort to make things right.
What did you learn while reading or recording this book?
I learned to let go of pre-set ideas and go in a different direction or to be flexible; something I constantly have to re-learn, it seems.
What was your first audiobook, or the first audiobook you fell in love with?
The first audiobook I did was Jeffrey Round’s Lake On The Mountain.
What advice would you give a new audiobook narrator?
My niece, Gwenlyn Cumyn, has just been hired to do her first audiobook, an all-in-the-family effort called The Taste Of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners Of War Cookbook, a wonderful biography written by Gwen’s Mom, Suzanne Evans. Yes, she auditioned and won the job. She asked me for advice, and the best I could give her, for her first go at this, was to get used to flubbing. There isn’t an actor alive who can get through a whole book without flubbing. So I would say, spend zero time beating yourself up — practice Instant Forgiveness, get used to how the sound technician punches you back in and just stay in the story. It’s amazing how once you accept that you will make mistakes, you will relax and make fewer mistakes.
Tell us a fun fact or anecdote about your experience recording this.
I was delighted to work with Laura Kyswaty as my director for this project. We had worked together doing Standardized Patient work for The University of Toronto for years, along with many other Canadian actors, trying to make a living, but also being part of improving medical care by helping young medical students learn how to communicate effectively. So, it was really fun to put on different hats with Laura and work on something purely creative together.
What made you want to become an actor/voice actor?
The idea of transforming into someone or something else and being completely believable and convincing. Being unrecognizable from role to role. Those were the things that attracted me at first. Now, it has grown into being part of illuminating aspects of the ever-evolving human condition.
Who do you think this audiobook would appeal to?
This story is inter-generational. In fact, it’s about different generations of people who care about the state that the earth is in because of our short-sightedness, and our greed. So, it should appeal to anyone who cares about this.