Narrator: Trenton Bennett

Posted January 18, 2017 by Paul (Audiobook Reviewer) in Interview, Reviews / 0 Comments


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Voice Range: Tenor
Accents: American – General, Southern, Northern Urban
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Drama, Romance
Fluent Languages: English, French
Awards: ACX Master Class Graduate

Bio:
With a variety of audio, video, and related work, Trenton most recently graduated the ACX Master Class and is professionally trained in the production of Audiobooks.

How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
It was important to me! I'd always enjoyed using my voice, but I needed to properly, and professionally, get out there and start making things. I love working on audiobooks!
I did make it a point to do this right: I enrolled in the ACX Master Class ( http://www.acxmasterclass.com ) which was a fantastic experience.

What do you do when you are not narrating?:
I love gaming, and I exercise to stay in shape. I have practiced Shotokan (Traditional Japanese Karate) for 27 years now, and I hope to be doing so the rest of my life.

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?:
Coming soon! My formal career is still fairly new. I've done training videos internal to various companies, but my next step will be to get into voice acting, interactive voice menus, and whatever other interesting opportunities may come my way.

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 definitely have to pick and choose, and an important part of that is the time factor–there are some projects I'd love to do but it's not fair to take them if I can't make the deadline. I'm really conscientious about getting the job done when I'm expected to.

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 can talk (and sing!) in a fairly wide range, but the best way to hear me is in "Slingshot", by Robert G. Williscroft. That book has over 60 characters, varying accents, and I had a number of "New York" accents I had to make stand out from each other.

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?:
I do $200-400 per finished hour and also take projects on royalty. I don't have a preference because I believe a solid career should have a variety. I like having a good stable of both long-term and short-term gains, almost like building a stock portfolio.

What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?:
I loved the wide variety of people in Slingshot, and the challenge of providing detailed technical descriptions of advanced scientific concepts. The book is extremely well written, and I feel I've lived up to the author's vision. There's always some give and take because a good author knows that a narrator can only give you the narrator's best interpretation of the work–and the spoken audiobook will never perfectly match what the author (or reader) has uniquely imagined.
My most difficult moment was having to cancel a project because it just wasn't going to work. I don't want to say 'No' to people but I realized that the vision for this project was going to continue to change and it wasn't going to get done. The rights holder needed to go back to square one and get right in their mind what exactly they were wanting out of the book–it's hard to change and re-do an entire audiobook! And it's not fair to anyone if we produce something that isn't what the rights holder or the listeners want.

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?:
Tough! I'd say space alien because said alien would then have me asking a half-zillion questions about what they know.

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?:
Not easily fit into any one box

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?:
I've been pretty good about containing my geek-out (I hope!) and I really don't have a fan base yet…but I will say the funniest awkward moment about having a great voice is using the telephone! It's pretty common for people to start off a conversation with, "Is this a real person? Omigosh! I thought this was a recording!" There are times I'm talking in a public place and I see people actively listening–hard to describe, except that you feel weird about their body language. This must be what it's like for a famous actor when they're trying not to be seen and people are looking them over…

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?:
I had a favorite genius developer I used to enjoy "locking up and crashing" by giving him deeply-woven technical jokes that required unraveling, the more bizarre the better. And I had a good friend of mine wound up for half a day when I suggested that binary computing might also be trinary if you assumed the logic gates had three states: ON, OFF, and UNREAD. He got totally wrapped around the axle about how much that would change computing and what it would do to processors.

If you were to create a narrating playlist, what artists and songs would be on it?
I can't do that! I'm all about my voice and paying attention to the monitors and how it's coming through. I'll re-record passages if I don't think I'm hitting the pickup at the right angle. But I guess if I had to pick Music to Work My Voice By, it'd be Panic! at the Disco, My Chemical Romance, Rush, and Nine Inch Nails. I recently discovered the show 'Supernatural' and it's had me listening to a lot of classic rock from the '70s and '80s while I do the production work.

You are hosting a dinner party and must invite 3 famous people (real or fictional). Who would you choose and why?
The Master Chief, because I've spent enough time playing the guy that I'm sure we'd both have some great stories to tell–and I suspect he could use a chance to unwind.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to ask him how in the world to hold fast to social justice when sometimes the world seems determined to be unjust. I don't think that answer's in one of his many quotes; I think it would have to come from an actual conversation.
Arthur C. Clarke, because I really loved his inquisitive mind and skeptical attitude.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another narrator?
"You must give the listener a fighting chance to absorb all of the information that you are throwing at them." I read very well, so I try to narrate my words for someone who maybe isn't a fast reader, and hearing my voice is going to be harder to process. I want their ears and their mind to relax and absorb the story instead of feeling like they have to hyper-focus to catch it all. And I slow down a bit when things get complicated, such as the technical passages I recently did in Slingshot.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own? What do you remember most about the experience?:
I don't remember the book, just that I was 6, I'd gotten it at my birthday party, and it was also a pop-up book. I couldn't stop reading and re-reading the book because, even though I'm sure I'd read other books before, THAT ONE stuck in my mind. The experience of walking through the story (that I also don't remember) seized hold of me, and I've been an avid reader ever since.

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?:
Batman (for the gadgets) or Lara Croft (for "Acrobatics plus the option to just shoot a hole in everything and walk through it"). Caffeine at the beginning (guest's pick), maybe a beer at the end.

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?:
All the time! Just like e-mails, the written word can sometimes be hard to draw the original meaning from. Usually it's word emphasis, like so:
"Well, I was going to tell him about that…"
"Well, I *was* going to tell him about that…"
"Well, I was *going* to tell *him* about that…"
Almost everyone I work with has been fantastic. "Less helpful" doesn't happen much, but usually the symptom is that there is no WHY. For example, "I don't like this voice." (WHY?) Missing information is a problem–if I didn't know then, I won't know now unless you tell me! "I don't know if I'm comfortable with you doing this voice" (now that we're 6 chapters in) doesn't explain what needs to be fixed, or why it is a problem.

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?:
No markup! It's too confusing and doesn't let me feel the joy of putting voice to my excellent reading skills. 🙂
First, I read a little bit ahead and look for ":speed bumps": anything I might need to ask the rights holder about or requires some research.
Then, I read the story properly, getting a feel for the characters and their motivations and asking the author any questions.
Last, I deliberately do not read the ending until I'm ready to really knock out the last leg of the audiobook. There needs to be some element of surprise and excitement!

How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?:
First, their motivations–I may ask the author for background information or if they have anything in mind for the voice. Next though, I need to factor in whether their voice is going to need some work to be distinctive–you don't want voices to overlap and sound alike and you definitely want main characters to be engaging. Last, if there's an accent, I study and practice. Accents can vary. For example, Slingshot has a German character whose English is based on a good friend of mine from Germany. My current book has a German character whose voice 'has a German burr' – it has to be a much thicker (and very different) accent.

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?:
Yes! Having a home studio is incredibly useful. I'm lucky that there are few disadvantages: the occasional police car, barking dog, low-flying plane…even professional studios have this happen though.
There is one unique item I built myself: it's a rack for my tablet that I had to put together from completely unrelated items around the house just wracking my brain for "I need something that's shaped like this, and does this, and I think these things can go together to make that happen."

What is the atmosphere like in your studio when you record. What’s it like, and are things very serious or not very serious?:
I work alone in the dark. The glow of my Surface Pro 2, positioned in just such a way that I keep my head slightly raised, my voice going into the mic at the right angle, and a lovely set of Yamaha in-ear monitors. Things are serious in that I want to get the recording done and done well–I'm listening to myself and analyzing inflections and delivery…and carefully modifying things when I need to make a whisper or shout that doesn't blow out the recording. They're not very serious in that if I make a goofy mistake, I laugh and I might even deliberately poke fun at the weird blooper. I save these if they're funny enough.

How long do you record at a time, on average? What is it about a book that will shorten or lengthen this?:
I'll do an hour, take a short break of at least 10 minutes or so, then go back in and do another hour. I'll get pretty burned if I do more than 4 hours, even though I take mini-breaks and drink lots of water. Chapter length is a big factor to session length, but I might also decide that a set of chapters should all be done together because of the dramatic tension, or that one chapter deserves special attention. I had one chapter in Slingshot that required me to handle multiple thick New York Accents *and* throw in dialogue in Mohawk. That was tough, and I spent a lot of time on it because I wanted to get all the pieces as complete as possible in one session.

What is your favorite genre to narrate? Why?:
So far, I think Science Fiction is here to stay! I'll do plenty of other things, but that was always my favorite thing to read, so I find I can easily slip into the material and enjoy it.

What has been your favorite character? What character has given you the most grief?:
I loved voicing Heather (in Bridgebreaker) because she's a magic geek with a know-it-all tone of voice, some sarcasm…and yet, she also has a moment where she has to ooze charm to try to seduce a character–I felt like bringing that tone out in her voice was going to be a fun surprise to the listener (I hope so!). I also enjoyed Alex (in Slingshot) because his was probably the richest voice I've had to do. This is a man who manages the largest project in the world, and he has to be smart, personable, and have a commanding voice. I based him on Rex Reason's portrayal of the character Cal Meacham in "This Island Earth". It required effort to maintain that vocal depth for a main character, but it was worth it.
I can't call it 'grief' – but how about 'work'? The most work I've had to do for a character was a talking ancient tree in Bridgebreaker. I wanted to make something reedy but not the proverbial 'thin and reedy'; wise; timeless…and yet, there is a scene in which I have to voice an entirely different aspect of him–his voice needs to sound like the same pitch but coming from a normal human body. It was quite a challenge! I put extra effort into carrying his huge passages of dialogue as consistently as possible.

How do you stop yourself from laughing or crying at some of the things authors write?:
Reading ahead helps. Expressing emotions through the characters works better when the narrator doesn't sound like he's chuckling along with them…and yet, like a newscaster delivering bad news, I do think it's important to slightly alter the tone in an intense or tragic scene. The less you do of that, the better.
I'm so impressed by anyone who has great ideas, picks up the proverbial pen, and writes down an entire story, that I respect the craft. Some authors are better at it than others, but if they try, and you can get the story out of their words, it's worth of your respect.

I have heard that many in the industry dislike the term narrator. What do you prefer and why?:
I'm fine with narrator, though the hair-splitting is when I talk about 'narrative' or 'the narrative style'' and I'm specifically trying to talk about the words that aren't the dialogue. There are some books where the narrative style is flatter than others. I am a voiceover professional. A voice artist looking to become a voice actor as well. Whatever terms describe it, if I'm telling you a story, if I'm reading a story to you, I am *narrating* it. Thus, I am a narrator. it fits!

How do you view audiobook narration/production: Art or Science?:
Both! There's an art to speaking naturally and clearly saying words without sounding stiff. There's definitely an art to breathing life into character voices. Then the science is the technical aspect, the recording and production, and especially the research and the rehearsals! Practicing an accent and learning the nuances of language is a discipline.

Do you have a philosophy of how to create the perfect audiobook experience?:
I need to engage the audience, capture the author's vision, and make all the words easy to follow: not just easy to absorb, but to give you that same thrill that you get when you read a good book and get caught up in it. It isn't always about action, either! Sometimes it's just got to be interesting to hear.

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 used to love fiction most, but as I got older I found I also enjoyed nonfiction and philosophy. I also work a lot with technology, so most of my reading in the last 25 years has included having to learn technical information of all sorts. And yes, I'd still prefer my 'read for pleasure' stack as my 'audiobooks for pleasure' stack.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring narrators?:
Have a plan. Get good training. Don't spend ridiculous amounts of money on equipment you don't need. And most of all, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND NEVER STOP. You have a skill that's good enough that you wanted to make something of it. Now, you have to remember that, as you go out there and make mistakes, learn lessons, run into bumps…and get better and better as you go. Don't ever downplay what you do, because even if it seems easy to you, for many people it isn't easy.

What has been your favorite project and why?:
Slingshot has definitely been it. The story so closely matches the science fiction I loved reading as a kid, from Arthur C. Clark, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, and many more, that it reminded me what I loved about science fiction. It's also got story elements that remind me of Neal Stephenson's "Zodiac" and bits of Tom Clancy to it.

Do you believe that listening to an audiobook should be considered reading? Why or why not?:
It really depends. Is the book abridged? Did you get everything out of it or just have it on in the background while you did something else? How engaged were you? When there's a book in front of your eyes, you know you have to put your attention to it.
There are some really impressive audiobooks out there that have multiple actors, sound effects, a score…and honestly, they sound more to me like radio plays. (and that's fine!) What they do is amazing, but if I'm going to think about 'audio' plus 'book', I'd rather have a single narrator telling me the story and have that seem feel of 'I'm reading…with my ears!' 🙂

Are you working on any special projects?:
Yes! A training regimen to boost my voiceover career in 2017. Training videos for some tech companies. Random bits of comedy whenever the mood strikes me. And if I'm really, really lucky, I just might get to see The Starchild Compact series of books all the way through to the end. I'd love to be the one voice for a series, especially one as fun and interesting as this one ("Slingshot" is its prequel).

Have you ever gotten a poor review on your narration? What do you do with such reviews?:
Not yet, but I've had plenty poor reviews of my Amazon Product Reviews (I used to be in the top 500). Like feedback from an author, I'd like to hear details about what they didn't like. And if I think they'll appreciate it, I'll thank them for the feedback. I want people to enjoy my work, but I know not everyone will. I can learn from them, and maybe sometimes I'll realize that the narration just wasn't a good fit for them. It's more important to focus on the positives, learn from the negatives, and never stop trying to improve.

How do you feel about authors that choose to narrate their own audiobooks? Any advice to them?:
Some can do it and some can't; it's as simple as that. I'd give them the same advice as any narrator: get training. Work your voice and refine it for your listeners. I love Douglas Adams. I have an audiocassette of him narrating 'The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul." It was fun to hear his voice, but at times it was hard to follow; he didn't have that sense of voice narration as well as he could jot down the printed word.

This is for the question you wish I would have asked but didn’t.:
Good lord! You asked me everything! "If you were a tree, which tree would you be?" Read 'Bridgebreaker' and find out! 😛

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About Trenton Bennett

With a variety of audio, video, and related work, Trenton most recently graduated the ACX Master Class and is professionally trained in the production of Audiobooks.

About Paul (Audiobook Reviewer)

Paul is a quiet man who shares his passion of books through reviews assisting others select books through honest and professional reviews. Having built a team of professional reviewers, Audiobookreviewer (ABR) is the result of his passion of reading/listening of books. His family consists of a wife, 2 cats, and 2 African Grey parrots (https://www.facebook.com/tuckertheafricangrey). More frequently than not, you will see Paul plugged into the audio of his technology listening to books while riding his bike 100+ miles, tending to a huge fruit and vegetable garden, growing bonsai trees and operating his own largest online bonsai magazine (http://ofbonsai.org).

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