Behind the Audio: Stung

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.

 

Website: authorchrishumphreys.com

Instagram: @c.c.humphreys

Twitter: @HumphreysCC

What is the most challenging part of recording an audiobook? Conversely, what is the most enjoyable part?
Making sure the voices of the various characters you play are consistent.
Being able to really tell the story just using the voice.
How did you prepare to record this audiobook?
Read the book and made some choices around the characters. Also had to liaise with the director as each of us played each others’ characters as well.
What was your first audiobook, or the first audiobook you fell in love with?
20 years ago, I recorded the first novel I’d written, The French Executioner. I fell in love because I discovered that I really write to be read aloud … by me!
What was your favourite part of this book?
Since like Bill I live on a Gulf Island, I really enjoyed all the descriptions and actions of the odd characters you find here.
What did you learn while reading or recording this book?
I learned a lot about how Big Pharma damages the environment.
What advice would you give a new audiobook narrator?
Have fun! You can always do a retake.
Tell us a fun fact or anecdote about your experience recording this.
I really enjoyed working with Laura, the director — me in my duvet fort on Salt Spring, her on a telephone in Toronto. I grew up in both North America and the UK and occasionally a Brit inflexion would appear in the Canadian narrative. We had some interesting discussions around that! 
What made you want to become an actor/voice actor?
I come from a family of actors so it was always there in the blood. I’d always done a bit of voice work but lately the idea of working from home really appealed!
Who do you think this audiobook would appeal to? 
Anyone who likes a cracking story with some social conscience thrown in. Bill is a master.

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