Viviana, from Enchantress of Books and I am so excited to have Roger Wayne on our Audio Book Lovin’ Series.
Roger Wayne was born in Wadena, Minnesota. He was raised in rural farm country, and attended K-12 in the small towns of Northwestern MN. He moved on to Community College for a year, and then decided to join the Air Force. Out of 170 that were available, he couldn’t find a job in the military that he wanted. When his recruiter mentioned one last position he could apply for, he was intrigued. This was to be his first ever audition. Roger was escorted into a radio studio, read the given script, and got the part. . . he was on his way to becoming a broadcaster in the United States Military. In the Summer of 2004 he joined the Air Force as a Radio & Television Broadcast Journalist.
After Basic Training in San Antonio, TX, he moved to Fort Meade, MD, to train for military broadcasting, and was then stationed in Osan Air Base, South Korea. He won several awards including Best Radio Commercial military wide in 2006, and Best Feature Story for the Air Force, and his story on the local football team won an award as well. He became close friends with his work partner Luka, who was originally from Poland, but had grown up in Detroit. Through him he gained a respect and appreciation for Arabic, Lebanese, and Jewish culture, and music. To this day his favorite female artist is the Lebanese singer, Najwa Karam.
After completing his tour in Korea, his next assignment was to be in Italy, which is where his father had been stationed when he worked in Intelligence many years prior. At that time, several contractors were taking over positions in broadcasting so Roger made the choice to come back home. With a background in Journalism and a more worldly perspective under his belt he headed back to Minnesota to finish school. During his two years in Community College, he participated in several plays, mostly Shakespeare, and worked with drama teacher Ert Hermerding. Previously Ert had worked with Actor Steve Zahn, who is also from Minnesota.
To satisfy a desire to speak his opinion on the mistreating of civilians in the Middle East and the stereotypes many people had formed over Muslims because of the terrorist attacks, Roger aced his speech class, when he did his final speech on Muslims in the Middle East and America, citing differences between extremists, and normal . During this time he also wrote papers in regards to the mistreatment of the Native Americans, and although patriotism is part of what led him into the military, he felt a need to talk about much of the destruction the United States had caused to such an important culture. He finished his second year in Community College, and then went on to Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN.
He was awarded an Acting Scholarship to attend Augsburg. He completed two shows there, including Checkhov’s “Three Sisters,” where he received praise for his portrayal of ‘Vershinin’. Although he had his scholarship, ultimately the theater program did not hold much interest, and instead attained his degree in Communications & Journalism, and graduated with honors. He then began to work as a Journalist in the Civilian market. Telling stories was a passion, but it wasn’t enough, he wanted to continue playing characters, exploring new worlds, and ultimately take on the life of a professional actor. He made a quick transition, became involved in the local acting scene, and worked with local Talent Agents for Commercials and Print Modeling work. He completed many Independent student, and professional film projects, several commercials, and plays, including work at the Guthrie Theater. He continued to get good marks, while playing roles like ‘Mortimer’ in “Arsenic & Old Lace,” ‘Uncle Louie’ in “Lost in Yonkers,” and others. He also worked with a Voiceover Agent, and started doing Radio and TV Commercial voice work.
After spending two years working in Minneapolis, he knew it was time to make a change, and move to a bigger market. He made the decision to move to New York City. The move has offered him a chance to hone his skills on a much higher level in all aspects of the business.
Roger now lives in New York City, actively working in Voice Industry, Film, Television, and Theater. Roger consistently performs audiobooks for various production companies including Tantor Media, Audible.com, and does voice commercials for Radio, TV, as well as characters for Animation, and Video Games. Voice work has become the backbone of his career. He has also completed several Independent Features and Short Film projects, a Webseries, and is active in the Theater community as well, staying true to his roots and further challenging his craft on the stage. Roger just booked his first TV Co-Star role in 2015 for HBO. He is also the spokesperson for “Renter’s Warehouse.” Recently, the feature film, “The Center,” of which he performed in, executive produced by Jonathan Demme (Silence of The Lambs) , made it’s debut as an official selection at the “Cinequest Film Festival” in San Jose, CA. The film will also be shown as an official selection in the “Minneapolis/ St. Paul International Film Festival,” and is selected for the “Byron Bay Film Festival,” in Australia.
Kelly: Hi Roger, Thank you so much for joining us on our Audio Book Lovin’ series.Can you tell us how does an author/narrator relationship begin?
Roger: Well, typically, for more anyway, it starts with me forming a relationship with the folks at places Audible, Tantor Media, etc., and they find ways of connecting the authors with the narrators in the casting process. For instance with Tantor, who I do most of my books through, submits some samples of my work to certain authors that are looking for my particular style, or they may see a description of a book and think that I would be good for it, and then submit me that way. There have been occasions where, after being cast, I am in contact with the author, maybe asking specific questions, and chatting through e-mail or a phone call.
Also, authors may seek out a certain voice, if they’ve heard the persons work. I’ve had authors specifically say they wanted to have me narrate their book, and that’s always cool to hear. It’s nice to be submitted and picked out of a group of people, but feels even better when someone says, “I already know who I want… that guy!”
That’s how the process has usually started for me, though I suppose I could reach out to an author myself if I would like to narrate their book, that’s something I haven’t done, but generally it’s a casting process like anything else for actors: you’re chosen from a pool of people, and you either get the gig or you don’t!
There is always the possibility of meeting an author in person and forming a relationship from there, but I think more often than not, it comes down to casting.
Kelly: What sort of information does the author you provide prior to starting the narrating process of book(s)?
The main thing is, if I have a question about the material, such as the story, or a particular character, pronunciation of a word.. that’s when I would contact the author. Or, sometimes the author wants to contact me to make sure I say something in a particular way. There are a couple of authors I’ve contacted beforehand, and a few that have wanted to speak with me before, but for the most part, I just do the book, without having a dialogue, unless necessary. Which I kind of like too. I think most authors understand that it’s a different medium. Yes, I’m performing your book, word for word, but, even though I might do a great job, it’s still your book, your baby essentially, and so in that regard maybe it’s never good enough! So I think for that reason, some authors maybe keep a bit of a distance in terms of connecting with the narrator.
Kelly: How do you go about selecting how each of the character are going to sound like?
Like any kind of character work, acting work, you find the essence of the character, find a uniqueness to them, and bring that to life. The thing is, with a book, it’s all there, there’s not much that’s not on the page, especially if it’s well-written. A great book, generally makes a great audiobook, much like a great screenplay makes a great film, (if done properly of course, and not mucked up in the process). Something that reads well, sound good generally. The words are there, but it’s the actors job to find the ‘breath’ of it, I guess you could say. What I mean by that is, the cadence, the timing, the inflection in the voice, and of course the actual sound of it.. all of those things make that character.
It’s about creating that world, thinking about it, forming it in my mind of course, and maybe if I can taking my own life experience, especially with accents. That’s huge. The experience I’ve gained, from being a child to now, using my voice, playing with character, it’s tremendously helpful. And at the end of the day I think that’s how actors get involved with this. When you can really mold your voice, it’s because you’ve been doing it since the beginning of time. There are always challenges, but that ability becomes instinctual over time.
I try my best to make all characters unique, and sometimes, depending on the number of characters, I’m really stretching some limits, because given the genre, you can only go so far. Especially with the main characters, it’s all about giving each and every one that unique personality. Playing with it, molding it, injecting the fun and life into it. With secondary, and very minor characters, my main concern is to make it sound a bit different of course, as much as I can to really separate them from the main cast. But I would say some of the most fun is had by fleshing out the main cast. When you have 4 or 5 distinct characters that all sound very different and have their own mood, it’s great. I love that. I make those distinctions, and just run with it. I have those voices in my pocket, and know them well enough I can just do it, and gel it together, so when those characters have so much dialogue and they are conversing together, it has a nice flow to it. When you have the main character talking to the big Russian guy, the sexy chick, and the pudgy cop all at once, it’s great fun, because those characters are extremely distinct, and fun to do.
On the other hand, if you are voicing three Turkish guys, all within 20 to 30 years of the same age, and they are talking together, along with the main character, and 3 or 4 other major to minor characters, (one Chinese, one German, and others) then things can get a bit complex. I do my best. J
Kelly: Along the lines of the previous question, how do you manage or what is your process of remember what the character from a previous book sounds like when they reappear in a new book?
This is something that us narrators always have to be careful about, and it’s funny this question was brought up, because I was actually chosen to be the narrator of the third book in a trilogy, and when I did it, many folks were NOT happy, needless to say.
It still got decent reviews, but the fans of the 2 previous audio versions, basically hated me, and I don’t blame them.. I mean, I was the ‘new guy,’ what the hell?! But I did what I could do, and I think it stands well on it’s own.
But generally, the voice always comes back to me. Unless it’s been a good long while, I don’t have to go back and listen to anything to get that voice again. But in case I do, it’s just a quick listen, and then I have it. Consistency is important.
Kelly: Roger, can you tell us about the narrating process (i.e. do you read the book before narrating it? How long are the recording sessions per day? How long does it take for you to narrator a book? If you make a mistake while recording, what happens?)
Most of the time, I do not read the whole book before narrating it. Most of the time, there just isn’t the time to do it, because of my schedule, etc. Life gets in the way. Being a full-time actor, and doing plays, film/tv, plus books, it’s a lot to take on. So being able to consume all that material, can be nearly impossible, especially if I’m doing multiple books back to back.
I do my best to go through the material, try to find the clues, and the bits and pieces that inform me about the main characters specifically, and other characters if I can, although there are many minor characters that I come up with on the fly, that happens all the time. The other thing is just technical, researching words I don’t know, things like that, to make the process a more smooth experience
I also like to be surprised a bit when I read, it’s something I enjoy. When I know the characters, it just flows, and the story unfolds whether I know it or not.
Recording sessions are typically 6 or so hrs. a day, but I am generally in the book about 7-8 hrs. a day, for 3 days, on average. A typical book will be around 8 hrs., so you’re looking at about 18-20 hrs. or so in the booth. That of course can change depending on the length of the book, but most books take me about 3 working days to complete, maybe 4, or 5 if it’s REALLY massive.
If I screw up? Not a big deal. Most of the time I engineer my own books, meaning if I make a mistake I can easily go back and re-record. If I’m recording with another engineer, he/ she is listening the whole time to my read, so if I make a mistake, they stop me, and we go again. And mistakes will be made, time and time again, but that’s normal. I try to keep it to a minimum, but there is always an extra session added to do the ‘repairs’ for the book. This is the final stage to patch it up before release.
Kelly: Roger, I listened to Maplecroft by Cherie Priest a few months back. You narrated this book with Johanna Parker. I loved this book. Loved that this book was narrated by a male and female. Can you tell me what it is like to narrate with two narrators? Do you work together? Separately? Do you listen to each other’s work?
Doing a book with two narrators is for the most part I think a cool experience. We’re not actually in the booth together working at the same time, we do it separately, but listening to the final product it’s interesting how it sounds chained together. It’s necessary I think for some titles that have entire chapters from very specific perspectives. It just makes it more real, and fun for the listener. It’s the proper way to do it.
The challenge is making sure that each person is kind of on the same page. That just requires me to speak with the person and say, ok, this is how I’m thinking I’ll do this voice, and so they do something similar, or vice versa. I mean, the books I’ve done with two narrators it’s always been me, and then a woman doing the other voices, so huge differences obviously. Her voice is going to go places that I may not reach, and likewise the other way around, but you try to meet in the middle. As long as one person isn’t doing a wacky accent, that doesn’t match with the other actor, it’s a pretty solid experience. But it’s good to talk to each other, and make sure there are not glaring differences, especially with main characters. You don’t want anything jarring the listener out of the experience.
We do work separately on the book. I do my sessions in the booth, and they do theirs. With “Maplecroft,” Johanna and I e-mailed each other prior to recording, so we had an idea of where we would go with it. I had not listened to her work before, but I listened to some samples and heard what her voice was like, and I was able to hear some of what she recorded for “Maplecroft,” while I was doing it at the same time, so that can inform a little bit as well.
How about a little sample of Maplecroft.
Also make sure to check out my interview with Johanna Parker I ask her the same question and there is a sample of her narrating Maplecroft. You can find her post HERE
Kelly: We know what authors have writer’s cave, do narrators have something similar?
I guess if I were to say I have a cave, it’s whenever I’m in that booth doing my thing. I’m in my own world, in a bit of a trance, just working, hashing it out. I have my desk at home, my PC, all that stuff, but it’s a pretty basic space, nothing too special. I don’t have any crazy posters, or post-its, or quotations anywhere. Everything just kind of exists in my head. I may make some notes, but otherwise, my cave is my brain, and all the ridiculous things that happen inside it.
Kelly: Here’s a fun question for Narrator name that both Viviana and I have been wondering… as a narrator, do you get “oh say it in ‘the voice’” question often?
Actually, I’ve never had anyone tell me to say it in a particular voice, but I did have one or two authors who eluded to how I should make the character sound. They didn’t say, “do it like this,” but they gave me the clue that I was like, “oh, I see what they’re getting at, he needs to sound like how I did this other character..” that kind of thing. But maybe in the future, as I do more books, more authors will ask to use a particular voice.
Kelly: Roger, of all of books you have narrated, which one has been your favorite to narrate and why?
So far, I would have to say, “Gaining Ground,” by Forrest Pritchard. At first glance, I never thought this title would be such a fun and enlightening read, but there were moments that I really connected with it, that made it a hit for me. There were some really tough emotional parts in the book as well, that brought out a very real performance. I won’t go into what those are, but it worked. The characters are so unique, the story is grounded, real, honest, and hits home on nearly every level, very relatable in a lot of ways. It’s very well-written, and in that way, it practically performed itself. I was fortunate to do it, and the author was pleased with my work. That was a homerun for me.
Kelly, Roger, if someone has not listened to any audio book before what would you tell them?
Listen to one of Roger Wayne’s books… 😉 lol. Hmmm, not sure what I would say. Although I have suggested to people to check out my books if they haven’t before. The first thing I would ask is what kind of books they’re into. That being said, there are good audiobooks in every genre and type so it’s hard to say. I would probably tell them to order it from Tantor Media, because Tantor has been so good to me J
Regardless, I think for those people who are on the move, which is most of us, if you want to still enjoy books, or be educated on the go, audiobooks are a great choice. It’s great for the car commute, the subway commute, while cleaning the house, or have it on outside while gardening, etc. No matter where you are the world, or what your life is like, you can do so many things, while enjoying a book at the same time.
And especially for someone who wants to stay an avid reader, but is just too damn busy, it’s kind of a no-brainer!
Check out more of Roger’s books HERE