Voice Range: Middle of the road
Accents: American southern variants, New York, British/Irish/Scottish, French, Italian, Greek, Cajun, Russian, Mexican — give me a few days and I can get close on anything
Genres: I like them all, but I seem to have carved out a niche in Military, Business, and Politics in non-fiction, and Action Thriller Mystery and Southern Crime in fiction
Fluent Languages: English, and just barely
Awards: Give Us A Kiss was selected by Library Journal as one of the best audiobooks of 2012
Brian Troxell is an actor and voice talent who can be seen and heard on TV, film, radio, podcasts, and the live stage. Brian is an actor, director, and producer with the Sketchworks sketch comedy troupe. He has performed with the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company and dies often on The Harry Strange Radio Drama. He lives in Atlanta with his two cats, Freya and Winston.
How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
I was always an audiobook fan and thought it might be something I’d like to try someday, so when ListenUp Audiobooks started up here in Atlanta in 2011, I auditioned for them and they liked me enough to keep me busy.
What do you do when you are not narrating?:
I narrate five days a week, since I’m the voice of the daily Wall Street Journal on Audible under the name Alexander Quincy. I’m also an on-camera actor, so I spend a lot of time keeping up with that side of my career. I’m also a producer with the Sketchworks sketch comedy troupe here in Atlanta, so I’m always working on our live comedy shows as well.
My degree is in computer science, and I spent 20 years as a software engineer and manager before deciding in 2009 to try out this acting and voiceover thing. Better to try and fail than regret not trying at all. In 2013, acting started paying the bills well enough to allow me to quit my day job and focus on my new life full-time.
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?:
Random commercial taglines and legalese. I’ll also happily lend my voice talents to any of my filmmaker friends here in Atlanta.
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?:
Most of the time I get offered a title because a publisher or author has specifically asked for me, or the casting director at ListenUp thinks I’ll be a good fit, and other times I audition like any other gig. I don’t think I’ve ever turned down an audiobook, because I enjoy the work!
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?:
My single best work, in my mind, is Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich. However, that’s not really my natural voice — I’ve lived in Atlanta for 30 years now, so I can turn my southern accent on and off. I would recommend any of my non-fiction titles for hearing what my “natural” voice sounds like.
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? Has there ever been an per finished hour book that you wish was a royalty deal, what book? Or vise versa?:
All of the work I’ve done so far has been per finished hour. Of course, some of those I wish were royalty deals, and some of them I’m glad weren’t.
What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?:
My favorite moments are hearing from authors who absolutely love how I have interpreted their writing. My most difficult moment was when I was three days into a book and I realized that what I was doing simply wasn’t working. I made the hard decision to start all over again, and I’m very glad I did, because it turned out much better than had I continued along with what I was doing.
If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?:
I would choose a superhero who had the specific powers needed to defeat whatever was causing me certain death.
If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?:
What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?:
It’s usually debating the different Doctors over the history of Doctor Who.
If you were to create a narrating playlist, what artists and songs would be on it?
I will usually have a playlist of some sort while I’m prepping a book, but it totally depends on the mood of the writing. Brian Panowich actually put a playlist together for his novel Bull Mountain, and was a great mood-setter while I was doing prep for it.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another narrator?
Don’t read, act
What is the first book you remember reading on your own? What do you remember most about the experience?:
According to my mother, I would read everything out loud when I was very small — especially road signs while in the car. Apparently it was good practice for the future!
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 always enjoy getting notes from the author, and having conversations via email or over the phone. I think every note I’ve gotten from an author has been helpful to some degree, but if they have a specific actor in their dream cast, that’s probably the most helpful, since I can just distill that essence.
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 make all my notes in a spiral notebook while I’m reading the book — I just think it’s a pain marking up a PDF. As I read, I jot down every character, any descriptions of them, how often they appear, background facts, pronunciations, and the like. I also flag pages that contain truly important passages or writing that is so amazing that I want to spend more time on it when I get there to make it really shine.
How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?:
Ideally it all comes from the writing. As I prep, I’ll read some of the main characters lines out loud and play around with their voice to see what feels right. For generic minor characters or one-liners, sometimes I’ll just see what comes out on the day.
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 that I use for the Wall Street Journal (since I narrate that overnight) and auditions, but I do all of my audiobook narrating at the ListenUp studios. The advantage at home is the convenience, the disadvantage is I also have to be the engineer and I have to deal with more environmental sounds.
What is the atmosphere like in your studio when you record. What’s it like, and are things very serious or not very serious?:
In general I’m a very silly person, so things aren’t very serious, but I am extremely hard on myself, so if I’m going through a rough patch, I’ll fling F-bombs all over the place.
How long do you record at a time, on average? What is it about a book that will shorten or lengthen this?:
I will usually narrate for five or six hours at a time, but that’s variable since I have to narrate overnight as well.
What is your favorite genre to narrate? Why?:
If the writing is good, it doesn’t matter to me what the genre is.
What has been your favorite character? What character has given you the most grief?:
I narrated all seven books in D.J. Donaldson’s New Orleans Forensic Mysteries series, so his eccentric hero Andy Broussard is probably my favorite character because I’ve spent so much time with him. One of the secondary characters from that series, Bubba Oustelette, gave me the most grief because I didn’t really find him for the first couple of books — totally my fault. My engineer and I joked that I should just give him a completely different voice in each book.
How do you stop yourself from laughing or crying at some of the things authors write?:
I don’t stop myself. I have been emotionally moved many times by good writing and sad situations, and as long as I don’t start blubbering or sniffling, I will ride the wave and leave all that in the recording. Quite a few times I’ve finished a scene with tears running down my face and I’ve had to take a break to collect myself. A sign of powerful writing is, after I get home, when I can think back on a scene I performed earlier in the day and it brings the emotions and tears rushing back.
I have heard that many in the industry dislike the term narrator. What do you prefer and why?:
Makes no difference to me at all.
How do you view audiobook narration/production: Art or Science?:
Both. Luckily, I have an engineer and other talented people who do the science part, which lets me focus all my effort on the art.
Do you have a philosophy of how to create the perfect audiobook experience?:
Serve the material, yet stay out of the way.
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?:
Unfortunately, most times I try to read fiction for pleasure now, I get in a prep mindset and mentally take notes instead of just enjoying the story.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring narrators?:
Listen to good narrators, and practice reading out loud as much as you can.
What has been your favorite project and why?:
I would say Bull Mountain because (a) it’s the best-written book I’ve had the pleasure to narrate, and (b) the author was a fan of mine who insisted that I narrate it, and we’ve since become friends. Can’t ask for more than that.
Do you believe that listening to an audiobook should be considered reading? Why or why not?:
No, I don’t think so. When you read, you’re in total control of the experience in your mind. When you’re listening to an audiobook, that’s filtered through the narrator.
Are you working on any special projects?:
Not at the moment.
Have you ever gotten a poor review on your narration? What do you do with such reviews?:
Of course — that’s part of the game. Fortunately I get many more positive reviews than negative ones. If the negative ones are entertaining or constructive, I actually quite enjoy them!
How do you feel about authors that choose to narrate their own audiobooks? Any advice to them?:
It’s certainly their right to do so if they want. But unless others are also hiring them to narrate audiobooks, it’s probably not the best decision.
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