Finding the perfect voice to narrate your audiobook sounds like a simple task, right? I mean, after all, it’s just someone reading your words. As a newcomer to the audiobook scene, I quickly realized how wrong I was. A narrator must be able to convert your words into a mental portrait, enabling the listener to see the characters, as well as their settings, and he must do this entirely using nothing but his voice.
J Bruce McRell IS that narrator. His voice is like none other I have ever come across, and he has done an outstanding job of bringing my characters in The Monster of Silver Creek to life. I had the pleasure of working with him closely for several months and found him not only to be extremely professional, but respectful to my wishes as well. J put his heart and soul into narrating my book, as his desire to make it great matched, if not surpassed my own. As an author, I hear the words in my head as I write them down, and J nailed every breath, and every gesture, that my characters made, as well as captured every inflection in their voices. Not an easy task, I assure you. If you click on the cover image on the left, you can listen to the five-minute sample that J produced for the audiobook and hear for yourself what the voice of a great narrator sounds like.
During his work on my book, I discovered that he brings new meaning to the phrase, “Mobile Office.” Below is my off the cuff interview I had with him regarding the aforementioned subject, as well as how he came to be a narrator.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your family, J.
My wife and I just celebrated our 20th anniversary. We are a blended family. I brought four girls, she brought three boys to the union. And we just celebrated grandchild number nine. We were both born in Massachusetts, me in Boston, she in Worcester.
Being a narrator is a tough market to crack. Can you tell me why, and how, you came to be one?
I have 25 years experience as a radio announcer, and 19 years as an electronic media writer/producer for an advertising agency in the Boston area. Back in the day, I’d go from agency to agency looking for work as a voice talent. That taught me the discipline of the audition process, which is how I’ve connected with authors seeking to create audio versions of their work.
What are some of your credits?
I’ve always looked for books that match my style. I consider myself a fairly straightforward announcer from anywhere USA. I’ve recorded non-fiction and fiction works and have enjoyed bringing these books to life.
About 5 years ago, you and your wife made a life-changing decision. What led you to that choice?
When my wife Paula and I first started dating, we talked about someday traveling this country in an RV. Through our married life, we enjoyed camping, first in tents, then a pop-up, then a travel trailer, and then back to tenting. When I decided to retire from full-time agency work, we decided it was time to start living the dream. With six months to retirement, we bought a motorhome and cleaned out our house of everything we couldn’t take with us.
How did you decide what type of RV to buy? What were some of the amenities you were wanting, and did you do a lot of research before purchasing?
We opted for a 36-foot Class A motorhome which gave us a good amount of kitchen space to cook our own meals. And we also liked towing our Honda Civic Hybrid along to do exploring once we were parked. My wife scoured floor plans for a decent amount of closet space as well. We found our first motorhome in Pennsylvania after some serious online research.
When you pulled out of your driveway for what would be the last time, did you think to yourself, ‘What the heck am I doing?’
I retired from agency work on 3 Dec 2010. We hit the road one week later with a huge winter storm bearing down on us. We traveled from Boston down the East Coast trying to outrun the winter weather. The last sleet and snow we saw was in Fayetteville, NC, and we slowed down when we got to Jacksonville, FL where we left the sub-freezing temperatures behind. Wearing a t-shirt in the middle of winter made it all worthwhile.
I wish I’d remembered to unplug the motorhome when we left a park outside Philadelphia in 2012. No damage done, and it’s part of the learning experience. And I thank the kind people in the park who waved at me to let me know I was dragging my power cord.
What is the best part of living life on the open road?
We love seeing new places, discovering historic downtowns, and fascinating back roads. One of our continuing enjoyments is dining al fresco any time of the year. It’s a special community of travelers – some working, some retired, all friendly and there to help or just chat.
Do you have a plan mapped out for where you’re going next, or do you just go where the road takes you?
Although we traveled way too much in the first couple of years, moving from place to place twice a week, we’ve slowed down, opting to spend at least a week and up to a month in one spot. We make our plans a week at a time usually, except for the big summer holidays when you have to book well in advance to find a good spot. As always, our plans are written in Jello.
Describe a typical day for you.
I have always risen early, usually around 5 AM. After checking emails and catching up with news and weather, we use every other day for checking out the area, looking for historic sites, jaw-dropping vistas, and a good local cafe. We also like to hang in and enjoy the campground, relaxing with a good book, Facetiming with grandkids, taking walks to explore the area.
Did you have to make any modifications to your RV to outfit your recording studio?
Motorhomes are generally cozy which provides a quiet environment for recording – if you’re not right off the Interstate. When properly set up, it’s like a rolling studio. We always look for parks that have good wifi service as well as a good Verizon signal so we can stay in touch.
What do you enjoy most about being a narrator?
I’ve always enjoyed a measure of autonomy in my work. Narrating allows a disciplined person to set a comfortable schedule of recording and editing to meet an author’s schedule.
Do you, yourself, like to listen to audiobooks? If so, do you listen to them while driving in your RV? What are your favorite types to listen to? (Mystery, science fiction, etc.)
I enjoy fiction, usually action/adventure/crime works. Because of the concentration required driving an RV while towing a car, I stick to music when we’re rolling. My wife and I share the driving.
5 years ago, did you ever think you would be where you are now?
I’m amazed that we’re now in our fifth year of RVing. It’s been time well spent, having made memories and friends in all directions. We’ve discovered places we really like and some not so much. Right now, we’re discovering California with plans to head east to New England when weather permits.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Having only scratched the surface so far, we anticipate still wandering and discovering this great land five years from now. But our pace will be slower. We’ve learned this is not a race from sea to sea.
I hope you take the time to give a listen to the sample. I promise that you will be wowed by J’s performance. The Monster of Silver Creek audiobook version is available for download at Audible.com, Amazon, & itunes. If you are an author and are interested in having J narrate your audiobook, you can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
~Note: Belinda G. Buchanan is an author of edgy women’s fiction, & mystery romance. Books include: After All Is Said And Done: a Novel of Infidelity, Healing & Forgiveness, Seasons of Darkness, and the previously mentioned The Monster of Silver Creek.
All are available in Paperback and e-book from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, itunes, and Kobo.