Voice Range: 18-40
Accents: Standard American, Southern, New York, Californian, Received Pronunciation, Australian, Cockney, Dublin Irish, Glasgow Scottish, General French, General German, General Russian, and I attempt many others.
Genres: Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Mysteries & Thrillers, Teens, Bios & Memoirs
Fluent Languages: English
Awards: Alan Baily Award for Excellence in Film (AOF 2013) Best Comedy Ensemble (NOVA 2015) Runner Up for Best Film Noir (NOVA 2015)
Ryan Burke is Canadian, his parents and extended family are Australian and he lives in America pursuing a career in entertainment. His eclectic background is reflected by his career. Having worked in both Canada and the US as an actor, producer and stuntman he is now working in VO and Audiobooks. During his years of study abroad he has earned both a BFA from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and an MBA from Argosy University. Ryan is an award winning producer, actor and is a current top seller for Audiobooks. You can find his titles by simply browsing his name on Audible.
How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
In 2012 a good friend of mine, Andrew Eiden, got me a job at Deyan Audio. Deyan Audio has been production since 1990 and has over 10,000 audiobook titles to its credit. There I was caught up in the Audiobook boom as a session director and engineer. This job has given me 200 over titles of directing experience over the last 4 years and a lot of training from some of the best technicians and narrators in the business. I work mostly from home now, but they keep me on the roster as a director whenever they need me.
What do you do when you are not narrating?:
I do a lot of things that keep me active. I love acting, stunts and martial arts, video games, board games, role-playing games and reading.
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?:
My relationship with VO is very new even though I’ve been narrating for 2 years and directing for 4. Many professionals I work with describe narration as a marathon and VO as a sprint. Both trades require using your voice but not necessarily in the same way. The VO opportunities I’ve had taught me I need new artistic muscles to hit the director’s objectives.
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?:
Thanks to ACX and the popularity I’ve garnered with Audible consumers I am now in a position to negotiate for the price and projects I like doing. Many of my current clients are people I love working with on a regular basis and I don’t see that changing any time soon!
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?:
I love using character, humor and suspense to inspire the audiences’ connection to the book. Some genres lend more to my style like Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Fiction and Sit-com Romance. As I get more experienced as a narrator I look forward to stretching my style.
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?:
My contracts are flexible to the relationship I have with the author and their work. In some cases royalty share is mutually beneficial because we have a plan for pushing the Audiobook to maximum sales. However in cases where authors are starting out or are passive about their products’ long term sales its better to go for per finished hour rates.
What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?:
There is a death scene in “No Mere Zombie” where two lovers have to say good bye to each other. This scene resonated with me because of the events in my life at the time and in many ways it was one of he hardest chapters I’ve ever done, but also the most cathartic.
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… that is all.
If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?:
“Alright you Primitive Screwheads, listen up! You see this? This… is my boomstick! The twelve-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart’s top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That’s right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retails for about a hundred and nine, ninety five. It’s got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel, and a hair trigger. That’s right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that?”
Care to share an awkward fanboy/fangirl moment, either one where someone was gushing over your narration/acting…..or one where you were gushing over another narrator/actor’s work?:
Last year I got really lucky and directed Mia Barron on a title at Deyan Audio. For those who know, she’s the voice of Molotov Cocktease/Sally Impossible/Girl Hitler/… on Venture Bros, and instantly couldn’t resist quoting Brock Sampson from the show:
“I THOUGHT THE COLD WAR WAS OVER!?!?!” and she swiftly answered: “It’s always cold in Siberia!”
She is awesome!
What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?:
What ships would win a battle between Star Wars and Star Trek. I cited an episode of Star Trek TNG that addressed this very heated Dilemna: Season 5 Episode 14 “Conundrum”. I’ll let your readers decide for themselves.
What is the first book you remember reading on your own? What do you remember most about the experience?:
“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien changed my life. I was in Grade 2 and it took me a long time to make it all the way through. I remember thinking this is the biggest book I will ever read and after this I will never read again! I was so wrong… I’ve been reading ever since and it all started with Bilbo.
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?:
Spider-Man, The Flash, Batman, Superman, Ash, MacGyver, K.C. Jones, Cynthia Rothrock, Cat Woman, Gina Carano, Jessica Jones, Elastigirl, Mystique and the Black Widow.
I assume everyone would get their courage from Whiskey and Beer. (and some water… for hydration purposes)
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 love authors who can explain their books in a way that helps me deliver what they want.
Auditioning helps me get in tune with the author’s tone and line of departure, but I find following up is necessary for making sure the rest of the Audiobook is congruent with the authors vision. It is critical that I solicit the author for pre-production notes addressing: character information, main plot, sub-plots, preceding events setting up the book and possible sequels.
Information is power!
The most damaging thing to an Audiobook production relationship is to receive critical notes after full-production has taken place. For example: “I don’t like how the main character sounds”, “I think that (made-up/multiple pronunciation) name said a thousand times is wrong”, or “I didn’t tell you that this book had a 1000 languages in it before we signed the contract and they have to be 100% correct.”
Often in these situations I’m forced to push the completed production ‘as is’ or bill for re-production, but sometimes drop the production all together. As a rule for me: When sunk costs are cheaper than the cost of correction and there is no middle ground, sometimes its easier for everyone to drop the contract.
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 always start with correspondence with author and then read the book! YES, I read it on my own and begin annotation.
Annotation involves: finding words that I never say and underlining them for a word-list, then I highlight characters in different colors. As I learn about characters I add notes on a separate page to determine who and what they’d sound like. SOMETIMES, after I’ve done all of this I send these notes off to the author for approval. Most of the time though authors tell me what they want, upfront.
How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?:
I mine both the Author and the Source Material for: Regional sounds, character experience, age, relationship, and who (if they cast the movie of their book) they think would play those characters.
I had an author tell me Burt Reynolds for her main character I instantly knew what she wanted. (Even though my Burt Reynolds is weak, I think I was able to channel his essence.)
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 have a home studio! It’s awesome! I converted a walk-in closet and I can record without a commute or the cost of renting a booth. The downside is I live in an apartment and this means my hours of clean room tone are from 10PM to 6AM. Sometimes I get lucky and my building is quiet, but for the most part I’m a nocturnal narrator.
What is the atmosphere like in your studio when you record. What’s it like, and are things very serious or not very serious?:
Material determines mood! Some books make me laugh while I do them, others make me sad and I have to take breaks to get through them.
How long do you record at a time, on average? What is it about a book that will shorten or lengthen this?:
I record for about 4-5 hours a session with breaks to rest my voice and eyes.
If I am reading a book and the author’s voice matches mine then the production is a blast. However if we are not a good match… it’s going to be a slaughter! Which means I could be punch recording each sentence to get each one right… THAT’S A SLAUGHTER.
What is your favorite genre to narrate? Why?:
Science Fiction & Fantasy, and Sit-Com Romance are my favorites because I get to ham it up! Also sometimes these gems are great escapes from everyday life.
What has been your favorite character? What character has given you the most grief?:
My favorite character I’ve done to date is Commander Jordan from Chris Fox’s “Deathless Collection”. His attitude and voice just resonated with me and I really enjoyed playing the grisly militant who hates academic types. (I’m an academic type and I totally know why he would… *wink*.)
The most challenging character was Ka from the same series. Because he was an advanced and delinquent AI and his motives are hard to grasp initially. So I found playing him neutrally and analytically to be the best choices for him. I didn’t know his motives until Book 3 and I found myself punching-recording his dialogue after every sentence because I had keep finding a sustainable objective.
How do you stop yourself from laughing or crying at some of the things authors write?:
I don’t! I just let it go! My editor, Vanessa Melendez (she’s awesome by the way!), has plenty of off cuts of my melt-downs and laugh fits… In the world of digital editing its better to just be real! Record it all, just cut it out after. 😉
I have heard that many in the industry dislike the term narrator. What do you prefer and why?:
Narrator… I’ve never heard that issue before! (That narrator sounds like he has a problem with his i.d.e.n.t.i.t.y…)
How do you view audiobook narration/production: Art or Science?:
Art and science! Art is the expression, science is the process of honing quality into the final product. I think this is true in every part of the entertainment industry now.
Do you have a philosophy of how to create the perfect audiobook experience?:
Always ask myself if I’d buy my own work… if not… I do it until you know I’d buy it!
My second line of support on this philosophy is my editor’s opinion. I’ve been working with Vanessa Melendez for a while now and she is a tough bird with great ears and a no-nonsense opinion about Audiobooks. Most of the time she focuses purely on finding my errors, but sometimes I will get that urgent text or email that tells me I’m off the mark. If I get a ‘thumbs down’ from her I need to step it up!
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?:
I prefer fiction because I can take more artistic liberties with characters. Nonfiction is very “radio” or “BBC” by contrast. You have to maintain a reporter’s neutrality and that tends to get fatiguing for me after a few hours.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring narrators?:
Listen to the best, turn to YouTube for tutorials and attend classes. This is becoming a very competitive industry and it is essential you keep up with performance trends as well as technological innovations.
If you are in the LA area, try hitting up the Deyan Institute:
What has been your favorite project and why?:
“The Deathless Collection” is my favorite project. This is over 40 hours of Sci-Fi & Fantasy awesomeness. I’ve done many different things in my acting career and this is one of my most cherished projects. Chris Fox was a blast to work with and we nerd-connected from day one. I think I had an email response from him within an hour of my audition and from then on we’ve been teaming up on all of his books.
Do you believe that listening to an audiobook should be considered reading? Why or why not?:
Yes and here’s why: hearing, reading and speaking are all parts of literacy.
Are you working on any special projects?:
“Hero Born” is book 1 to Chris Fox’s next big series! This will be huge and is part of the same Sci-Fi & Fantasy universe as “The Deathless Collection”.
Have you ever gotten a poor review on your narration? What do you do with such reviews?:
I realize I’m not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ so I do my best to select a retail sample that previews the Audiobook product and my style of narration. However, on Rich Amooi’s “Kissing Frogs” I got a pretty nasty review and I literally laughed out loud because they guy pulled no punches! The reviewer slaughtered me but I realized that this poor guy must have bought the book without hearing the sample.
Or maybe he did… decided to buy the book, listen to the whole thing and then slag me afterward… you gotta have hobbies I guess.
How do you feel about authors that choose to narrate their own audiobooks? Any advice to them?:
It’s your book! Do whatever you want!
However if you want to step into a trade you don’t do often, some training and technological know-how might be worth the investment beforehand. Just remember, it is harder to fix something catastrophic after its all done. PRE-Production is key!
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