Tell us a little about yourself.
Chris Barnes is an Audio Book narrator and producer from Scotland. He has narrated several horror genre novels and is the voice of the High Moor series. You can usually find him in a small soundproofed cupboard finding new ways to terrify audiences.
How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
Legend tells of a hyperactive child, that never let his mother get a full nights sleep until he was five. The mother bought for her son a cassette recorder, some audiobooks and the rest is all history. I’ve now been listening to audiobooks for over 30 years and always dreamed of being able to read and produce one.
I started out doing voice over work for various online Audio Drama groups like Brokensea Audio Productions, and from there progressed into the production side of things and learned how to mix.
In 2012 I went on holiday to a remote Scottish Island, zero internet, unpredictable weather, lots of reading time. I had a load of kindle freebies on my phone and I picked up one called The Cold Beneath by Tonia Brown, I finished it in an afternoon and I knew – I KNEW – the time had come. I was going to narrate this book!
I had to wait 6 days until we got home to do anything. I recorded a sample and sent it off to the writer, not knowing if they already had a deal in place or not. The response came back fairly quickly – “Yes please”
The rest is history.
What do you do when you are not narrating?
My day job is in IT. Delivering IT projects has actually been a good thing for me in terms of planning and delivering audiobooks. I’d still rather be narrating though!
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?
Batman. No question. Okay, so he’s not really a superhero, he has no powers but at least I might get a ride in the Batmobile, grab some drive-thru and kick back with a legend.
If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?
Caution : Excessive consumption may lead to loss of sanity
Care to share an awkward fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your narration/acting…..or one where you were gushing over another narrator/actor’s work?
When I first met Graeme Reynolds in person, that was a fanboy moment. Coherent speech and thought were hard to come by. I’m fairly sure I made a tit of myself but he was too nice to say anything.
What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?
The ‘why didn’t the eagles just fly the ring into Mordor’ argument comes up a lot. Even thinking about it brings me out in hives!
What is the first book you remember reading on your own? What do you remember most about the experience?
The very first book I ever read on my own was a Star Wars read along. I loved that book!
You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?
I’d invite Marie from High Moor, she’s quick, agile and kickass! Everything I’m not
You are also an audiobook producer, was it much of a jump from narration? What made you decide to go there?
Actually, if you are working as a narrator on ACX you are a producer too, sometimes I do the editing and mixing for other narrators where ACX is not available as I am an Audible content partner.
What’s your usual process for starting narrating project? Do you read the book first to get a feel for it then dive in? Do you read chapters in an entire sitting or do you break it up?
Read it. Read it again and mark dialogue. Set realistic targets for each recording session in terms of number of pages read. I’ll then read chapter by chapter, breaking when required for water/honey/energy changes.
How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?
I’m one of those readers who is always performing the characters in my head. They really tell me how they want to sound and I do my best to accommodate them. A lot of the time, if it’s an accent I’ve never done before I’ll spend a lot of time on Youtube watching videos containing those accents until I can mimic them.
Do you usually get feedback from an author of how they envision their characters sounding?
Occasionally. Most of the time the author is happy to trust my judgement on it. If they come to me and say that this character should sound a certain way, then I can do my best to try and make that happen.
What has been your favorite character? What character has given you the most grief?
My favourite character is definitely Marie from the High Moor series. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and as one friend pointed out “You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a 37 year old Scotsman talk like an 8 year old Geordie lass”. The character that’s given me the most heartache is definitely Marie too. Learning the Geordie accent was a challenge in itself, then to be able to be a believable 8 year old girl in the first part of the book and maintain her cadence through to the end was hard. I recorded the book start to finish three times before I was happy with how it sounded.
What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?
At this point, my greatest achievement was being named on a recent Top Narrator/Author combinations blog post for High Moor. I was really very proud that the author of the post was so moved by our little audiobook. My most difficult moment was being labelled a ‘Bad Narrator’ for the same book by someone else who didn’t like my accent.
How do you stop yourself from laughing at some of the things authors write?
You don’t. If it’s funny, you laugh, then punch in the retake once you’ve stopped. If the writing makes you laugh out loud, embrace it, the author doesn’t need to know.
Do you have a list of your own favorite narrators, who inspires you?
As I mentioned, I’ve been listening to Audiobooks for 30-odd years now a few names that spring to mind would be:
Sir Michael Hordern
Neil Gaiman (Very few authors can narrate the way that man can)
Do you have any advice for other aspiring narrators?
In China, aspiring table tennis players don’t get a ball in their hand until they have mastered the different grips on a paddle and learned all of their uses. For narrators there are a few things you need to know
Not every book will sell
Not every review will be good
Invest in your kit
Invest in yourself by getting a coach
Treat your room
Perform, don’t read
Many audiobook narrators do other voice over work, where else could we hear your work?
I’m currently part of the cast of Edict Zero FIS and also in Aftermath, a post apocalyptic drama set in Scotland.
What has been your favorite project and why?
High Moor and Moonstruck have been great. It was nice to see the whole thing come together and just be this, living, breathing thing that people have enjoyed. It was hard work, blood, sweat and tears but it taught me a lot about myself. I’m a much better narrator for having done them.
Are you working on any special projects?
Every project is special but there’s a certain 3rd part of a trilogy I’m learning how to speak in a welsh accent for.
As a narrator, do you get compensated in a set amount or do you also receive royalties from the individual sales?
A bit of both.
Would you be willing to record a unique greeting to fans of AudioBook Reviewer?
Is having a natural Scottish accent a help or a hindrance?
Well, for the most part, folks love the Scottish voice and since hardly anybody can impersonate it without it sounding really fake it really gives me an edge in some projects. There are times though when being born in Maine would have been a distinct positive!
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