Audiobooks – narration technique – part 2


I am currently finishing up my fifth and most recent project – The Last Roundhead, by Jemahl Evans – and as ever, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the production process, to identify issues and improve performance.

Here’s a plug for the book:



I’m hoping that the audiobook will get on sale before Christmas – on Amazon, Audible and iTunes.

I have noticed that my voice has changed, compared to my earlier efforts this year. I think this may be due to several things:

  • Microphone technique – having spent (too) many hours in taking out mouth noises and inappropriate breaths in post production, I’ve had to take a serious look at being properly prepared for a recording session and have settled on taking a mug of hot water into the booth with me. This prevents a dry mouth and dry throat producing strange noises that only the mic seems to pick up. Rumbling stomach noises are another matter, however.
  • Rehearsing the script – where possible, I now read the script out loud before recording, to identify tricky emphases and phrases, and mark up the script accordingly. This saves a lot of time during post-production.
  • Being more relaxed – one crazy misapprehension I had when I first started recording was that, once the ‘record’ button is pressed, an imaginary red light went on in my head and I was nervous of disturbing the performance. True, it is a performance but in the booth I am the audience and the performer and I have control – if I need to, I’ll have a drink, burp, cough, clear my throat and carry on.
  • Practice – the production of five books on the trot has been great practice in breathing, relaxing, enunciation and pronunciation, as well as stretching my abilities. With each book, I can only aim to improve.
  • Pauses and pacing – I am more aware of this, having compared my current with my former efforts. This is an aspect that I am still getting used to, but I have to constantly remind myself to listen to the recording from the point of the view of the customer. Is the production pleasant to listen to? is a question that is separate from enjoying the story, in that the narration should not get in the way and should, as far as possible, serve the story and honour the author.


I also thought it might be interesting to include a couple of pics of the recording space I currently use (I hesitate to call it a ‘studio’ for obvious reasons). It’s basically an awkwardly-shaped cupboard under the stairs. Here is a ‘before’ pic:



With a bit of carpeting, acoustic tiling and some decent kit (Rode NT1 condenser mic, if you must know), I now work with this:


It seems to work fine for me but I’d like to replace the screen at some point. A larger recording space would depend on either moving house or one of the children moving out

I’ll have to think about raising the rent….

Count Arthur Strong rules…

Last night I went to see the actor Steve Delaney perform his character Count Arthur Strong, at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. It has to be one of the greatest comic creations of modern times alongside, in my opinion, Alan Partridge and many of Steve Coogan’s other creations. I managed to meet up with him after the show:


From a performance point of view, I was impressed by the amount of energy and invention that went into it. OK, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea and many people just don’t get it – an ex-variety hall performer, suffering from some form of dementia, or at least a severe form of malapropism/tourette’s, with a generous helping of Dunning/Kruger effect thrown in. Sounds weird put like that, but I guess you just have to be there.

He just didn’t stop moving, jerking around the stage as if he had an electric coat hanger caught in the back of his jacket. A stream of (well-rehearsed, I should imagine) unconscious word-association based on space-themed confectionery was the high point of the show.

Above all, it was innocent humour – no nastiness and the swearing kept to a very British 1950’s minimum.

As I said, I guess you just had to be there.


Audiobooks – narration technique (part 1)

I thought I might write a few words on how my learning and thinking about narration technique has changed since I started down this road earlier this year. But first, some basics.

On commencing a project, a narrator has several priorities and obligations to meet. The way I see it, the narrator firstly is obligated to the listener, secondly the author, thirdly to him or herself and, last but not least, to the company publishing the audiobook.

The listener is the customer, the person handing over cash in one form or another, for an enjoyable experience, an experience that one hopes will transport them to an imaginary world. The end product has to be a professional, seamless experience, in which the narrator’s vocal performance does justice to the work of the author. It must not get in the way or distract the listener from the story. There are some narrators who could read a phone directory and still attract an audience, their voices being their fortune, as it were. We’re not all like that, unfortunately, and have to work that much harder at the craft (not that such pro’s don’t work hard, of course).

The narrator or audio performer is obligated to honour the author’s work and to perform it well. And it is a performance, in that the narrator takes the elements of story, atmosphere, mood and character and weaves them into an enjoyable listening experience. The author has already laid out these elements and the narrator must find them, interpret them and develop them for a listening audience.

Thirdly, the narrator cannot be satisfied with ‘that’ll do’. If the narrator adopts the attitude of an artist – becomes an artist – second best is unacceptable. It follows that, even though the narrator is starting from a low base point, he or she is obliged to move forward and acquire and develop skills and techniques, in order to fulfil their role.

Finally, the publisher has exacting demands on what is essentially a commercial product, so that it meets certain standards related to quality and technical consistency. A bad product reflects badly on the narrator, author and publisher.

So…big talk from a relative beginner like me, isn’t it? Yes, but I think it’s important to acknowledge these basics, as a framework on which to hang a nascent audiobook career.

Part 2 of this particular blog will follow as soon as I’ve completed my quota of recording and editing today, but if you wished to see some samples of this ‘nascent career’ please have a look at Audible or iTunes for my work. Links are shown below.



the inquisitive witch cover




To be published this week:



On sale in December 2019 and January 2020:

The Last Roundhead – book 1 of the Sir Blandford Candy series, by Jemahl Evans. Books 2, 3,& 4 will follow next year.



Windrush – Blood Price – book 3 in the Jack Windrush series, by Malcolm Archibald. Books 4, 5 & 6 will also follow next year.

Windrush book 4


Special guests

Not really an acting story (well, sort of) and I guess I’m basking in reflected glory here, but my daughter recently served a special guest at the hotel where she works.

Sophie and DJD

Dame Judi was staying at the hotel in Sussex with Isla Fisher, whilst filming nearby.



Audiobooks: plans for the future

My work in producing audiobooks so far has been a great learning experience. I was attracted to it because, first and foremost, I am an actor who enjoys reading and performing. This goes for stage work as well as books. It’s been a year since I gave up the day job, in the hopes of obtaining paid acting work and I have been moderately successful, but only moderately. This has consisted of a brief but successful run of ‘Skerryvore’ at the Barnstaple Fringe Festival, a longer run of ‘Twelfth Night’ at the Ellen Terry Barn Theatre in Smallhythe, a very short run at the Brighton Scratch Nights this week and an upcoming live performance of a radio play in Hastings in December. But it’s not enough to pay the bills, so that’s why I thought I would branch out into voiceover and audiobooks.

Again, some moderate success. In July I got a couple of voiceover jobs but since then I’ve had three audiobooks published, with a fourth to be published, I hope, this week. Fortunately, these are not one-offs: the Nature’s Magic series should have a third instalment coming out soon; I have contracts for four more Windrush books and, if the first Candy book is a success, there will be three more of those. My aim is to build up a fairly decent back catalogue of 12-13 books by summer next year. However, I need to put in some variety as historical fiction is not as popular as biography or romantic fiction (or erotic fiction, but let’s not go there). A broad spectrum of genres is what I’m aiming for and I’ll put an update on here every so often.

Brighton Scratch Nights

This week I have taken part in the presentation of new writing at the Brighton Scratch Nights held at the Rialto Theatre in Brighton. Some friends who run a theatre company (‘George Lassos the Moon’)  asked me to play one of the roles in a new play called ‘Sammy’, written by Christopher Owen. Have a look here for further details:

It’s an intriguing piece, addressing issues such as Pro-life, religious views on the treatment of apparently untreatable childhood illnesses and the dilemmas parents have to face in terribly difficult circumstances. I don’t think we won the popularity contest but our performances were strong, on the whole. The winner’s piece will be developed and presented at the Brighton Fringe Festival next year.

Here’s a link for a review:

The Brighton Scratch Night 2019

It was an interesting experience – the Rialto is a tiny theatre and the first night was made even more interesting by six theatre groups all vying for dressing rooms, prop storage and rehearsal space.

The Last Roundhead

I have now started work on the next audiobook – The Last Roundhead, by Jemahl Evans.


This is the first of a series of four books, being the fictional memoires of Sir Blandford Candy who is relating his experiences, adventures and escapades during the English Civil War.

Here is some information about the hard/paperbacks:

England has been plunged into a Civil War.
Blandford Candy is sent to London, after an illicit affair, and joins the Roundhead army to fight against the King, taking part in the Battle of Edgehill.
A reluctant hero if ever there was one, he becomes a spy for the cause – and, through luck or judgement, uncovers more than one Royalist plot. His love of wine and the fairer sex prove both a curse and a blessing for the agent. Blandford soon earns the enmity of the King’s spy mistress Jane Whorwood, and patronage of the great parliamentarian leader John Hampden.
As well as navigating the politics and perils of the Civil War Blandford must also deal with members of his family, who turn out to be to be far more duplicitous and ruthless than any rival agent.
To survive, Blandford must choose a side.

The Last Roundhead is the first book in the acclaimed series of novels, charting the adventures of Sir Blandford Candy during the English Civil War.

Recommended reading for fans of Bernard Cornwell, Michael Jecks and George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman books.

Praise for Jemahl Evans and the Blandford Candy series:
“Blandford Candy is as endearing a rogue as you are likely to find in any work of literature.” Matthew Harffy author of the Bernicia Chronicles.
“The research is impeccable and the writing full of verve.” Antonia Senior, The Times.
“It’s great fun and a rollicking good read.” Historical Novel Society.
“Frankly, glorious.” Michael Jecks.

Jemahl Evans is the author of the acclaimed Sir Blandford Candy series of novel. He lives in West Wales.

My task is to bring to life Candy’s story, as if he was speaking directly into the listener’s ear. He is a bit of a lovable rogue, as a youngster, and a bit of a curmudgeon in his old age – he has led a very interesting life, during violent and troubling times. The research that has gone into this book is amazingly thorough and is done to enhance the story, rather than weigh it down. I hope I can do it justice.

This and all my other audiobooks may be found via Amazon, Audible and iTunes. Here is a link: