Voice Range: Adolescent to Elderly
Accents: british, Latino, Scottish, Russian, mid-Atlantic, Asian, American-Southern, Cowboy
Genres: non-fiction, horror, mystery-thriller, comedy, general fiction, children’s
Fluent Languages: English, German
Awards: None, yet…
Born and raised in southern Wisconsin, the youngest of five, S.W. Salzman has been performing voices from early childhood on, gradually honing his craft and developing a broad range – from a child to elderly, gentle and kind to foreboding and evil. He is also the author of a handful of novels and several screenplays as well as a composer and musician. He currently resides in southern Wisconsin with his wife and their five children… and all of the neighbor kids that frequent the Salzman household.
How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
Well, it all started a few years back. I picked up a copy of World War Z from my local library, tossed it in the cd player and was just taken in by the cast and the production, in general. I think that is the basis for where it all started. Later on, when I made the push to get into voice acting, after I had done some voice work for several internet videos, etc., I decided that I’d give audiobook narration a shot and I fell in love with it.
What do you do when you are not narrating?:
Aside from five kiddos that keep me on my toes all the time, I love writing (screenwriting in particular). I also enjoy writing and recording music. And, always ongoing, I have been slowly but surely remodeling my early 19th century home.
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 have been in several internet videos, ranging from targeted channels to spoof videos to Minecraft stuff. I’ve also done some video game work, most notably THE THING II RPG, which is based off the 1982 John Carpenter film, in which I was cast to reprise Kurt Russell’s role as R.J. MacReady from the film. I have also done some fandub work with a lot of talented individuals and, most recently, I was cast in the lead role of an animated feature which is currently in pre-production. I should be able to divulge more information on that one as I am allowed! Lol.
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?:
I have to say that so far, I have been pretty lucky to not only be able to pick and choose which projects I take on, I have also been able to amass a great amount of work in the process, more than enough to keep me busy.
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?:
This is both easy and difficult at the same time. I would say that I like to lean for that edge-of-your-seat style narration, kind of like sitting around a campfire, telling a tale and relishing in the fact that everyone is on edge, waiting to hear what is going to happen next! As far as a voice goes, it depends on the project. Every one is different. Some listeners would tend to say a narrator hasn’t found their voice if there are varying tonal and delivery qualities from production to production but that isn’t true. I have my voice, and that voice is whatever the project requires to tell it in the most entertaining and effective manner for the listeners.
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?:
There have been a few productions where I have been paid a set amount. The majority of them have been purely royalty deals, which are great in themselves as they allow you to establish a good residual income. And, I think it is key for any narrator to find a good balance between the two… Balance is key.
I can’t say that I’ve really had any books that I wished were one way or another. Like any business venture, you assume any risks anytime you take on a project. I mean, sure, if I got paid upfront for a project and it went on to sell thousands upon thousands of copies, I would be like, “man, I should have negotiated a royalty deal on that one”, but that’s about as far as it goes. Hindsight is 20/20. lol.
What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?:
I can’t say that I have reached my greatest achievement. Every book I do, at that time, I see as my greatest achievement. Then, as always, the inner critic comes out and a couple of books down the road, I’ll revisit the past ones and think that I could have done this better, or different. But, it’s no different than doing a film or a game or commercial. You do the absolute best that you can at the time. It’s an ongoing learning experience!
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?:
Ash from the Evil Dead series. Does supernatural hero count?
If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?:
Stay back and remain alert, may revert back and forth between multiple personalities at any given moment.
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 took my boys to Comic-con in Madison, WI. It wasn’t so much of a gushing moment as it was just a moment I will never forget. We got to meet Bruce Campbell (of Burn Notice/Ash vs. Evil Dead, etc.) and get our picture taken with him. He shakes my youngest son’s hand and pulls him up in front of him, then looks at me and my oldest son and says, “Alright, let’s get in close and make this like one of those great, dysfunctional family photos!” Just a great time with one of the coolest guys on the planet!
What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?:
I constantly debate with anyone who’s seen John Carpenter’s The Thing about who became a thing first, whether Keith David or Kurt Russell are things or not at the end of the film, etc. There’s also a never-ending “Who would win in a fight?” debate with every character ever created in book and film. lol.
What is the first book you remember reading on your own? What do you remember most about the experience?:
The first book I remember reading on my own was a book by Bill Wallace called “Trapped In Death Cave.” It was such an amazing experience. I felt like I was in the story to a point that I don’t think I’ve ever felt since. The characters, the dialogue, the sense of adventure and danger was just incredible.
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?:
Hmm… let’s see… Well, I guess it wouldn’t matter who I had along, except you gotta have the Hulk. The way I see it, if you can’t get past the obstacle, he could at least obliterate it for you!
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?:
Writers always have ideas on how they want their material read. Sometimes its helpful and sometimes its downright ridiculous. Usually, though, after they hear your interpretation of their material, they tend to surrender their ideas in favor of yours.
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 like to read the material in its entirety at least once, maybe twice if it is a complicated narrative. That way you can real get the feel for the flow of the story, character nuances, etc. I will make notes on occasion, but not too often.
How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?:
The first thing I do is pay close attention to the character’s actions throughout the story, their mannerisms and such and then look into what voices I’ve heard that remind of this character, etc. For instance, in the last book I narrated, two of the main characters reminded me of some characters I’d seen on television a long time ago: Andy Griffith was one and Sonny from “In The Heat of the Night” was another. So, I contacted the author and asked him what he thought. It so turned out that he envisioned the same character while writing the book!
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. When I first started out, I used my office at work after hours to record. Having a home studio is great, but I find that I still have to work very late at night to escape the daily dose of interfering noises that make recording with any quality a living hell! lol.
What is the atmosphere like in your studio when you record. What’s it like, and are things very serious or not very serious?:
Most of the time, I try to keep it as light and relaxed as possible. I built my studio in my basement and I call it “The Dungeon”. A lot of times, it is definitely easy to feel like I’m trapped in one!
How long do you record at a time, on average? What is it about a book that will shorten or lengthen this?:
I usually spend about four to six hours in the studio recording. It depends, really. If things are going well and I’m really into the material and really feeling good about my performance, I may go longer. Other times, if I’m having an off day, I may stop after an hour. Trying to force a performance isn’t doing the material any justice.
What is your favorite genre to narrate? Why?:
I’ve always been a horror buff. Mysteries and thrillers, too. So, those are the genres that I tend to gravitate towards.
What has been your favorite character? What character has given you the most grief?:
My absolute favorite character has been Scratch Sullivan from the series I did for M.D. Massey called THEM. Love that character and series. I also really love the cryptozoologist character, Ian McDermott, from “Loup-Garou: The Beast of Harmony Falls” which is the first part of an ongoing series that I am doing with author David Reuben Aslin.
As far as grief characters go, I would say the hardest one that I had to play was President Dwight Eisenhower. No matter how much I studied video clips of him to try to replicate his voice, I was never happy with the result. Finally, I had to go with what I call a “generic presidential voice” for him. Just a very unpleasant experience.
How do you stop yourself from laughing or crying at some of the things authors write?:
I just laugh… then re-record. Repeat, if necessary… a lot!
I have heard that many in the industry dislike the term narrator. What do you prefer and why?:
We will always be called narrators. That’s just the way it is. However, in my mind, we are like an entire cast and crew. We are directors and actors. We are performers in the truest sense of the word.
How do you view audiobook narration/production: Art or Science?:
Both. Definitely an art form with the performances, character and narrative. Science in terms of the sound spectrum and editing.
Do you have a philosophy of how to create the perfect audiobook experience?:
I’m always trying to create the best audiobook experience. The goal is always to give the listener such an experience that it bends their perception of reality for that time they are listening and leaves them in awe when it’s over. Someday…
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 am a fiction guy. I live with reality every day, day in and day out. Fiction is an escape from reality.
Of course, I would love to always do an audiobook of what I like to read. It’s not always the case, but more so than not, I’ve been very lucky thus far.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring narrators?:
Learn, keep learning and never stop. Also, never stop performing to learn, if that makes sense. Hone your skills. Master the art of performance. The day you stop striving to be a better narrator is the day you should stop altogether. And, last but not least, get ready for the most amazing journey you will ever have!
What has been your favorite project and why?:
My favorite project thus far has been the series that began my narration path. THEM by M.D. Massey. The atmosphere and the ambiance of the material is just great. I love the characters and the entire story progression.
Do you believe that listening to an audiobook should be considered reading? Why or why not?:
Yes and no. On one hand, you are experiencing the story in its entirety. On the other hand, the story you are experiencing is an “interpretation” of the story and you may or may not have the same experience as you would if you physically read the written word. Just like a Hollywood movie, you may find the “Book” to be better than the audiobook.
Are you working on any special projects?:
Other than the animated feature of which I am not able to divulge much info, no. lol
Have you ever gotten a poor review on your narration? What do you do with such reviews?:
Oh yeah, I’ve gotten a few. I just go sit in the corner, tuck my knees to my chest and bawl like a baby! No, actually you need to look at their review objectively. Try to figure out exactly why they disliked it. It could turn into a good learning experience. Then again, it could turn into just personal preference that you just take with a grain of salt and move on.
How do you feel about authors that choose to narrate their own audiobooks? Any advice to them?:
I more than welcome them to narrate their own books. After all, they are the one’s who know their material inside and out, and sometime’s audiences like to hear the stories from the author’s mouths. On the other hand, authors need to be open-minded about their material and whether it would be better to have an outside performer tell their story.
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