Scott Brick has narrated more than 500 books. Along the way, he's been feted (with 40 Earphones Awards, PW's own Listen Up Awards, and an Audie Award) and challenged (Scandinavian pronunciation). He shares his enthusiasm for the industry and lets us in on his preparation process (horror movies help).
What drew you to audiobooks? How did you get your start?
There's no purer form of storytelling than audiobooks; it's just the narrator's voice and the listener's ear. I got my start when an old buddy of mine from UCLA got me an audition at Dove Audio, where he'd been working. Stefan Rudnicki was running it at the time and hired me for a few short stories. The day I went in to record them, Dan Musselman was leaving Dove Audio to become executive producer at Books on Tape. Stefan suggested to Dan that he listen to me in the studio before he left, Dan liked what he heard and gave me his card. Since then, of the 500 or so titles I've recorded, easily 300 have been for Books on Tape. I wonder every day what would have happened had I not met Dan that day. I owe that man my career.
Did anything in your background, aside from formal training, come in useful?
Other than my acting training, the thing that came in most handy was my passion for books. I know lots of people love books. I'm not unique there, but I was voracious in how I'd devour them. I'd set goals, challenge myself to see how much I could read. A hundred books a year was pretty much standard for me, and absorbing that many books, you tend to get an instinctive feel for how stories play out, their pacing, their resolution, character development, etc. That helps tremendously when narrating a book, because you really have to be aware of the ending of the story, even when you're narrating the beginning.
Can you tell us about any of your memorable—especially any particularly rewarding—recording experiences? What about any especially challenging or demanding ones?
I've had a number of times when authors got in touch with me to tell me they enjoyed my work, and I'm blessed to hear from listeners quite often who enjoy the books I do—that's easily the most rewarding aspect of narrating audiobooks. I've also had authors stop by and spend time with me in the booth, which is always terrific. And once I even had an author come by and ask if he could listen to the climactic scene of his novel, which we had just recorded. When I played it for him, he sat and listened to it for 20 minutes, and he just cried and cried. I was really blown away by that.
As for challenging experiences, I'd have to point to The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, which I just finished a few days ago. I'm a huge science fiction fan, and as always when working on SF, I try my darnedest to make certain I'm pronouncing the names exactly as the author intends. Well, in this case it was tough because Hannu is Finnish, and that's by no means a language I'm an expert with! But he was so giving of his time, we spent about an hour talking via Skype before I started recording, and he went over all of these words and phrases with me, which was invaluable. I can't describe how vital that was to the process of making the audiobook, because it would have been absolutely awful if it were left up to me to guess about how all of this stuff should have been pronounced. Still, I worried constantly as to whether or not I was pronouncing them well enough, because this is one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read, let alone narrated, and I wanted it to be done perfectly.
Do you have a dream project, a book you'd love to record?
I actually just recorded my dream project recently, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson. They were my favorite books of all time, and no one had ever recorded them, so I licensed them myself, sat down in my studio, and published them through my own imprint, Brick by Brick Audiobooks. I can't tell you what a thrill that was, talking to the author, somebody whose work I had revered for nearly 30 years. Truly a dream come true.
Whose work or narration abilities do you particularly admire? Why?
There are a number of narrators whose work I admire, so it's hard to pick just one. David Warner immediately comes to mind, because he doesn't do character voices, yet makes every one of them separate and distinct. He's so adept at subtle variations in pace and tone that you forget he isn't doing voices. I love his work, I could listen to him all day, every day. His narration of Alexander Perez-Reverte's The Club Dumas is one of the all-time great audiobook productions, in my opinion.
What do you do to prepare before going into the recording booth?
There's all sorts of research you can do while preparing the text, but one thing I try to make sure to do whenever possible is to prepare my mind, or perhaps I should say my mood, as well. While recording Richard Matheson's Stir of Echoes, a terrific horror novel, I knew I had to convey a powerful sense of being frightened, so the night before I started the book I watched the film. It's a really good, really scary film. After the first night of recording, I watched The Ring, then the next night, The Shining. I can't do that every time, but whenever possible, I really like to prepare that way. I figure if I can be scared, the listener will be too.