Narrator: James Foster
Voice Range: Young adult to Elderly.
Accents: Most European accents, Western and Eastern – RP English, with some “generic” regional UK accents. Irish and Scottish, after I’d spent a little time brushing up… and my “Eastern Europe” accents are all fairly ‘nondescript Slavic.’ Some regional USA accents, though my “southern” states all sound about the same, as do all my “New England” accents.
Genres: “Non-Fiction (historical, political, memoir, educational, etc.);
Fiction – I love contemporary fantasy and sci-fi; urban paranormal; zombie apocalypse, mysteries… you name it. I’ve always loved to read and have been a voracious reader for as long as I can remember. If it’s well written, I’ll love reading it!”
Fluent Languages: I was conversational in German (Bavarian) back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, when I lived in southern Germany, but I haven’t used it since. My accent is probably still decent, though.
Awards: Nominated for three Society of Voice Arts and Sciences Voice Arts Awards in 2015 for best audiobook narration in the science-fiction, fantasy, and mystery categories
Tell us a little about yourself.
James was born and raised on the west coast, and even though he’s lived in the Midwest for over a decade now, still considers Oregon “home.” Nominated for three Voice Arts Awards in 2015 for best audiobook narration in the science-fiction, fantasy, and mystery categories, James has been praised for his conversational delivery and ability to sound exactly like the voice you were imagining in your head.
How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
It was the logical choice after a graduate degree and psychology and a career in User Experience design!
Seriously though, I started stage acting waaaaaaay back in 1984 – by which I mean I lettered in “”drama”” in High School! After graduation, there was the military (I was in a rapid deployment cavalry unit that spearheaded the VIIth corps invasion of Iraq during the first Gulf War), followed by a few years as a monk (yes, this is actually, honestly true)… and by the time I finally got around to getting back to my education and living a normal life, it seemed the “”acting bug”” was long forgotten.
A few years ago, though, I was driving across the country and decided to try listening to some audiobooks on the 19 hour drive, and was blown away. I remember, it was Luke Daniels narrating the Iron Druid books and MacLeod Andrews narrating Sandman Slim and at some point I transitioned mentally from “”man, how great would it be to have a gig like that?”” to “”Wait, maybe I *could* have a gig like that!””
The rest is (relatively recent) history!
What do you do when you are not narrating?
I have two great sons, 10 years old and 10 months old (yeah, I know) that keep me pretty busy! I also apparently spend WAY too much time in various audiobook narration related Facebook groups!
I was also serious about that graduate degree in psychology, and in my spare time I’m engaged in research and publishing (a couple peer-reviewed articles, and even a chapter for a psych textbook).
Many audiobook narrators do other voice over work, where else could we hear your work? Do you find there to any big hurdles to jump when going from audiobooks to something else or vise versa?
I’ve also narrated nearly 100 essays for a podcast put out by the Cato Institute (Excursions), and I’ve done one corporate training video voice-over. Otherwise, it’s all audiobooks.
Do you have the luxury of picking and choosing the projects that you work on or do you take as many as you have time for?
If it’s well written, I think I can do the book justice, and I have time for it – I’ll take the project. If I can’t say “yes” to all three of those criteria, then it’s a pass from me.
For those of us that are unfamiliar with your work. How would you describe your narration style and voice? What would the one audiobook you would suggest for people to listen to your best work?
You know, Sean Allen Pratt (brilliant narrator and coach extraordinaire) once told me I “”narrate in a minor key.”” I’d never thought of it like that before (my wife and #1 son are the musical folks in the family) – but it sounds about right to me!
As far as my “”best”” work? Man, that’s a tough one. We’re always our own harshest critic, right? I’d say give the whole Adrian’s Undead Diary series a listen… or any of the Occult Assassin books? Those are great.
As a narrator, do you get compensated in a set amount or do you also receive royalties from the individual sales? Do you like one more than the other?
It’s a mix of both, and I’ve been extremely lucky with some of the Royalty Share projects I’ve taken on. As for which I prefer… well, a bird in the hand and all, but again there are a decent number of books I’ve done on a royalty share where I’ve made FAR more than my per finished hour rate would have brought in – and they’re still selling!
What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?
At this point, so early in my narration career, I think I probably have multiple “great-ish” achievements, rather than a single greatest! That said, being nominated for awards alongside such talented performers as George Guidall, Simon Vance, Grover Gardner, Bronson Pinchot, and so many other amazingly brilliant narrators certainly *feels* pretty darned great!
Do you have a list of your own favorite narrators, who inspires you? Do you have a list of favorite audiobook that you have listened to?
Absolutely, and the list seems ever expanding! I love James Marster’s work on the Dresden books, and of course Luke Daniels and MacLeod Andrews – and frankly, I’ll listen to absolutely anything narrated by Scott Brick any time and any where.
What is your favorite thing to do? Pastime, hobby, obsession, etc.
Do people still have time for things like that? If I have anything close to an obsession, it’s probably books and reading for pleasure – which I still occasionally have time to do. And movies – LOVE movies!
Do you ever get specific notes or ideas from the writer about how something should be read? What is a helpful note, and what is, shall we say, less helpful?
I have, yeah. I think the most helpful notes are the ones that help round-out the character – as opposed to note where the writer is clearly trying to act *through* you (i.e. “no, say that line THIS way…”)
Do you have an initial process or routine by which you get to know the book you’re going to be reading? Do you mark them up, for example?
I don’t generally do a lot of marking – unless it’s a rather dense non-fiction title, or maybe to clarify who’s speaking during dialogue if the author hasn’t made that explicitly clear through their writing. Otherwise, I just pre-read the book, making notes (I keep a little narration notebook) to myself about characters, plot-lines, words to look-up for pronunciation, etc. and try to get a feel for the rhythm of the author’s writing.
How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?
I think I “cast” actors (or sometimes even just people I know) for characters quite a bit. I don’t try to mimic those people as I narrate the character, but there are certain qualities that I think (hope?) come through, whether it’s in their pitch, or speech tempo, or general attitude.
Is your studio in your home? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this? Do you have something that you would consider unique in your setup? What is it?
I do have a home studio, yes – though I don’t think there’s anything particularly unique in its setup. I like being able to “commute” down to the basement to work, certainly.
What is the atmosphere like in your studio when you record. What’s it like, and are things very serious or not very serious?
It really depends on what I’m narrating at the moment – it can be serious, or silly.
How long do you record at a time, on average? What is it about a book that will shorten or lengthen this?
In general, I think about 6 to 8 hours in the booth is a pretty decent day. I think the biggest impact the book itself might have on how long I keep at it comes from how well it is (or isn’t) written, how “dense” it is, and how much I’m enjoying the read.
What is your favorite genre to narrate? Why?
I’m a sucker for a good 1st person urban paranormal with just the right amount of action and wit.
I have heard that many in the industry dislike the term narrator. What do you prefer and why?
I have no problem with narrator… I think it certainly sounds better than “reader.”
Do you have a philosophy of how to create the perfect audiobook experience?
Not really, no. I think as long as I’m not doing anything to jar the listener out of the experience they’re having, and can facilitate the author’s story as much as I can, it’ll be okay.
Do you have a preference for reading fiction or nonfiction for pleasure? And is what you read for pleasure what you’d prefer to read for audiobooks?
It’s a decent mix for me, and I’m pretty lucky in that there’s a lot of overlap with what I’d read for pleasure and what I narrate.
What has been your favorite project and why?
I love all my children equally.
Do you believe that listening to an audiobook should be considered reading? Why or why not?
No, of course not – you know, because it’s just not. Reading and listening use entirely different sense organs, and parts of the brain – they’re just different things and different experiences.
That said, they can certainly be complimentary, and either can be an effective means to enjoying a good story or acquiring information.
Are you working on any special projects?
I am, actually! However I don’t want to jinx anything by saying anything too soon, so – no details for you on this just yet!
Have you ever gotten a poor review on your narration? What do you do with such reviews?
Everyone gets a bad review or two – what can you do? When I see them, I try to remind myself that this person took the time to experience my performance – and even if the review is critical without being “helpful” – I can still be appreciative of that fact.
How do you feel about authors that choose to narrate their own audiobooks? Any advice to them?
If you absolutely must narrate your own book, do it in a professional studio with a director and engineer.
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