A closet readers take on: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Romance, Erotica, YA Fiction & Audiobooks

Thursday, July 21, 2011

GUEST BLOG & GIVEAWAY: Xe Sands - Narrator of Jacquelyn Frank's Nightwalker Series

In celebration of the release of GIDEON (book 2 in the Nightwalker Series) by Jacquelyn Frank, I have invited the series' narrator Xe Sands to discuss taking on this dark, sexy series. Also, scroll down to the bottom of this blog post to enter to win GIDEON on audiobook.

I am currently sitting in my home studio, taking a break from recording Elijah, the third book in Jacquelyn Frank's Nightwalkers series. “Taking a break” for me is akin to a forced march through the desert wearing a parka. I despise taking breaks from recording, whether for five minutes, five hours or five days. I always feel the project tugging at me, whispering to me about the next scene, luring me back in. At the moment, however, I am plagued by temporarily insurmountable digestive rumblings, which unfortunately add unwanted dialog to the recording.

Witness the last few minutes:

Siena: You must let me tell you how sorry I am.

Elijah: There will be time for that. Later.

Stomach: Mwraoroararahrahahor!

Not exactly in line with the author's intent. But, think I’ll use this forced break to reflect on what an interesting ride narrating the Nightwalkers series has been. The process has certainly differed from other projects I’ve done, and not just because of the extraordinarily hot demons.

When I was first offered Nightwalkers by Tantor Audio, I wasn’t sure what to think. This is an established series with a devoted fan base, and approaching an existing series can be a bit daunting. I know that devoted readers have a very clear voice in mind for every character…could I meet their expectations? Do justice to their favorite characters and storylines? Many of the main characters are deeply voiced, richly accented males (wait, Croatian/Eastern European? What?!); would I be able to credibly bring those accents in while carrying the emotional content of the dialog?

Signing on for this series was an honor...it was also rife with the sort of anxiety you feel when you are just one shot away from being ushered into the front car of the rollercoaster. You watch others get on, they climb out of sight, then the screaming begins - and you know you're next. After an indepth conversation with Jacquelyn Frank about characterizations and accents used throughout the series, I swear I could hear the telltale “tick tick tick” of the coaster car ascending toward the sky.

In the words of Gideon the Ancient, "Run, run, as fast as you can..."

Know what else it felt like? Delicious. Exhilarating.

Something to know about me: like the heroines in this series, the more I feel like running away screaming – the better it’s going to be when I give myself over to it. The challenges simply meant this would be an amazing project to work on. And I wasn't wrong.

Of course, also like these same heroines, there is a whole bunch of plot between waiting in line for that ride, and getting out of the car at the end…

After that conversation with Frank, I realized two things. One, I needed to shed the pressure associated with trying to match others' imaginings of the characters' voices and just discover them for myself - first as a reader, then as a narrator. Two, the accents required to truly do justice to the text would need a bit of coaxing to come out of my mouth. To that end, I sought direction from (and continue to work with) a dialect coach. I wanted to develop a natural, accented manner of speaking for the characters – one that wouldn’t detract from the listening experience, but simply embody personality as intended. After meeting with the coach (and watching a possibly unhealthy number of interviews with Goran Visjnic), I spent an entire day speaking with the accent, much to the delight and horror of my family. I needed the accent to be easily accessible while performing dialog, and to be able to broaden it to fit a range of characters. Over the course of the day, the accent settled into something natural...so natural in fact that I started inadvertently using it in public! Point being that once it became a part of my natural speech pattern, the narration of Jacob as a whole began to take shape.

And there is a unique challenge to recording a series: having to design vocal characterizations that can stand for the entire series – that can grow/shrink with the character. This series compounds that difference in that character traits are not always presented in the book in which the character first appears – they might appear later in the series (Noah’s accent and vocal characteristics for example, are not presented until Noah, the fifth book). I recently commented that prepping characters for this series was akin to reading one, 2,000 page epic to glean all the characteristics for the main character of the first 350 pages - and it's true. But being forced to review all five books in at least a cursory fashion in prep for recording Jacob and Gideon has been a blessing. It has given me a perspective on the characters and the overall arc that I would not have had, had I not peeked ahead. That insight helps informs the tone I use and the vocal nuances of the characters.

Also, true to the genre, the romantic leads change with each book. What I've found intriguing is that, because the leads differ greatly in temperament (and even species) between books, the emotional tone of the narrative shifts, aligned with the personality of the leads. As a narrator, this is a tasty challenge – to subtly shift the emotional delivery of the narrative within a series to match the shift intended by the author. To date, this has been most challenging with Elijah. Elijah has become a bit of an obsession during the recording process. I eat and breathe this project, muttering to myself about it. It has even begun to bleed into my dreams (though not in the way you might imagine), as I process what is working and what isn’t. And I’m loving it. The harder it is to achieve, the more satisfying it is in the end.

However, while Elijah currently has my attention, Gideon is actually next to release. Although somewhat similar in feel to Jacob because it features known demon characters as the leads and of course shares the same world, Gideon will likely feel a bit different to readers as well. The difference comes courtesy of Gideon himself. He is a very intellectual, controlled man, which is, of course, his flaw…and it means that a great deal of the action of this book happens in dialog and mental musings between him and his intended, Magdalena (Legna). For me, this made for a more cerebral, interesting tale. Do not mistake me: there is still plenty of action…of all sorts. And the story arc that moves through the entire series is further delineated in Gideon.

And now, I can feel Elijah pacing the perimeter of my consciousness, daring me to come back and finish what we started. Can’t let a challenge like that go unanswered.

So yes, a rollercoaster ride of a process…and just like the ride, by the end, I feel blown away, glad I got in the dang car, and completely ALIVE. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thanks Xe Sands for stopping by!

Nightwalker Series

Jacob, #1
Gideon, #2
Elijah, #3
Damien, #4
Noah, #5
Adam, #6

Related Websites

Xe Sands - Website
Xe Sands - Twitter

Xe Sands - Tantor Bio
Jacquelyn Frank - Website
Jacquelyn Frank - Twitter
Tantor Audio


Enter below for the chance to win Jacquelyn Frank's GIDEON audiobook from Tantor Audio. The contest closes Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at midnight. The winner will be notified via e-mail and will have FIVE days to respond & claim their prize!

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