1. Was it hard getting into the character personalities? Or intimidating even, since we love them so much?
Sure. I think when you read a good work of fiction for the first time, the characters have something you can relate to, some quality or attribute you can connect with. Good or bad. And some characters you can identify with better than others. And then there are those characters that are far removed from what you as a reader and actor think or feel or believe. I try to find their core by looking for similarities. Robin Goodfellow, for instance, is somebody I identify with. His humor is a sword and shield against the outside world but underneath is a lot of complex feelings and emotions, and some sensitive tenderness’s that only we as readers get to see. And I feel for his love of Meghan, even though he is fighting an uphill battle. Ash is fierce, passionate, and loyal on the inside but outside, at least to Robin Goodfellow, cold as ice. And the relationship between Puck and Ash itself is complex and fun to explore. Queen Titania was really fun, because she is just, wow, she has a lot of vanity (well, don’t we all to some degree). Oberon is strong, commanding, and very intimidating. Playing him—that’s not me so much, so I drew on people that I knew had those qualities. My dad was one of those kinds of guys. You really respected him and he was really generous and kind but as a kid, I did not look forward to the days my mom would say “Dad’s not gonna be happy about this when he gets home”.
I think you find in most great books that stay with you long after you read the last page have characters you can’t quite put your finger on. There’s no clear cut good guy or bad guy—a collage of grey as opposed to clear cut black and white—these creatures are always much more identifiable (and a lot more fun to play) than the archetype hero who can do no wrong or the villain who can do no right. I Think Julie has given us some great characters in the Iron Fey series; wonderful and complex—exciting and mysterious, yet familiar and relatable. So when I get to play well written, multi faceted characters, there is a definite surge of nervous/excited energy I get. And when you have characters that are as loved and well known as Puck, Ash, Meghan and the entire cast of the Iron Fey—yeah, you want to represent them all as best you can. Because the readers know—they know details, they know what the characters sound like in their head, and they can easily call you out if you’re not giving it your all.
2. Do you read the books for fun, as opposed to a job/audiobook?
Yes, I read them for fun, always. I believe that reading a good book (or acting, or singing, or standing on your head, or any creative endeavor) should be done in a spirit of fun and should forever trump critique, or “ the job”, or deconstruction because in my opinion that is what they are made for-- to enjoy. I think anything created in a state of joy brings more joy, so a book or story-- especially works of fantasy-- are perfect examples of creation borne from joy. Even if the story itself is sad, or terrifying, or dramatic, heavy, heartbreaking (hopefully, all of those things combined), it should still feel in some way good to read. It’s enlightening, suspenseful, or something like that, otherwise why not read a math book, or a McDonalds menu, or a how-to manual on building tree-houses, right? But that doesn’t mean it can’t teach us something in the process because good fiction always does. For me, understanding and really delving into the world of the story (here, the Iron Fey realm) is a key to playing each character, but unless you are really having fun, enjoying the reading inside that recording booth, you’re in big trouble. I think work and play should be an awesome, complimentary combination, like strawberries and whip cream, p.b. & j., or macaroni & cheese (I love food metaphors).
3. Who [is your] favorite character(s) from the books?
I really do like Puck (he said, with unabashed bias). I feel like he is someone I can relate to and he’s got a great, razor sharp wit that I love. An outsider in his own world, yet one who really sees things for what they are, he has a unique view of everything that’s going on around him. Also, I love the Seelie Royalty, because they’re larger than life characters and so fascinating—Oberon and Titana, their relationship with each other is really electric.
4. What do you have in common with Ash/Puck?
A four letter first name?
Well, I guess I would say that Puck’s main weapon is his wit and humor--this endless desire to joke and mock the hand that feeds him. I can definitely relate to that. In jr high and some of high-school, I was kind of geeky kid, certainly not one of the “populars”. And in that sense I was an outsider—but I did find that if I was IN on the joke, by default I was in with the other kids. It was US (the students) against THEM (the teachers), and not me vs the other kids. So, when, I was supposed to be quiet or study at my desk, that’s when I would pipe up— and the other kids were happy to reinforce my insubordination with the best kind of currency a slightly insecure jr high school kid could have—laughter. The teacher would say one thing, and I would try, as fast as I could, to say another. I guess I was the class—not so much clown—but the class smartass (Heck, Shakespeare’s Puck even turns someone INTO an ass). Not mean humor, I hated the idea of being MEAN or hurting anyone-- just really abrasive, rebellious, and goofy. It made me somewhat unpopular amongst my teachers. To me, Puck and Titana (Puck and anyone, really) are always playing a similar game-- attitude vs. power. Puck’s trying to outdo, outwit the powers that be-- he with commentary, the others with rank and force. I love that his weapon is his brain and his ingenuity. And often, IT WORKS! Also, Puck’s pure love for Meghan. His hurt when it doesn’t go his way. Sometimes, caring about someone really sucks. I definitely understand that, too.
Oh, and one more thing-- I refer to all my brooding, male friends as “ice boy”.
5. What were their favorite moments of the audiobook? What was the most fun to record?
I really loved all the exchanges between Puck and Ash. Those two I could watch all day, verbally sparring with each other, because there is history between them and so much complexity, but also they make me think of some of the friendships I’ve had-- how sometimes people we may think we “like” least are people who end up teaching us and helping us the most. For me, a huge source of fun is getting to play with different voices.
Also, I really love making voices. Ever since I was a kid I loved hearing and imitating other peoples sound. At 8 years old I remember being thrilled when I thought I had learned to imitate tv host Robin Leach (this dates me, oh man does it date me, but look him up on Youtube anyway, he has a really crazy voice). I would do my impression of him at the drop of a hat for everyone, everywhere (which, for an 8 year old, was really just my parents, brother, my best friend who lived next door, and a few politely interested relatives). I thought that if you could really make your voice sound like someone elses, it was so much easier to pretend to be them. Honestly, I still believe that. My love for voice mimicry still motivates me today, as does my politely interested relatives polite interest.
6. Whenever they are given the voicing over job, do they get to know the characters first?
Yes, definitely. I think Anthony Hopkins said something to the effect that he reads and rereads his the script he’s working on over a hundred times just to become familiar with it. I certainly haven’t mastered that level of commitment, but knowing your characters is your job as an actor. So I try to dig as deep as I can. But funny enough, sometimes, after getting to know each character so well, the actor knows far more than the character that he/she is playing, but here’s the tough part-- you can’t play omniscience for each character—you have to let each one have their secrets, and each one discover things along the way. The character has been created and fleshed out already by the author. So I’m just there to try and make them speak in their own unique way and to do it the best I can. I was trained in improv. A great bit of wisdom from Del Close, a revered and brilliant improv mentor is, “Always play to the top of your intelligence”. I think he meant that you, the actor, should never play “dumb” in a scene where you clearly understand what’s going on. That’s condescending to the audience and to the other characters. I think that carries over to acting in audiobooks—play each character to the top of your intelligence. In that way, you really get to know them because you are discovering right along with them.
7. How's was it like to portray/read Puck/Ash?
I think in some ways Puck was easy and in some ways more challenging. Puck, the great character (both in this series, Shakespeare, and beyond) is known for his slyness, trickery, and love of shaking things up. But underneath all of that, he has a soft, vulnerable spot-- a heart-- and that heart of his is in love. It was fun to play him because at times he would let down his guard and we could see him and and empathize with him. I have a friend, Nick, also an actor/comedian friend of mine, who is very Puckish in nature, and I used a little of his essence to bring out the prankster/trickster of Puck. Thanks Nick!
8. What scene did they have most difficulty narrating?
I have to say that the beginning of Summers Crossing, where Puck is addressing the readers, was more challenging for me than other parts of the book. I’ll be honest, I really enjoy recording solo, it gives you so much freedom to explore, but I really love working with other performers in the room— the collaboration and play off each other is something I really thrive on. As far as human contact is concerned, recording an audio book can be very lonely in the recording booth (aside from the words on the page and the always present and most always friendly sound technician) so when the characters are talking to each other or communicating with each other, it was like playing off other actors, only I guess I was the only one playing. I talk to myself. Does that make me sound crazy? Probably. But it’s really true, reacting to something (even if it is your own strange voice coming back to you in the headphones) is far more interesting to me than acting something without any feedback. But that’s one of the beauties of literature; the author and characters are having a communication, only instead of it being between other performers, it’s between the unseen reader and the unseen narrator. There is a constant dialogue there. As an actor you have to find a happy medium.
9. Do they do any preparations before recording?
I eat a lot of apples.
Actually, one thing I did was listen to Khristine Hvam reading the other books, just to get a sense of her tone and to make sure I wasn’t totally departing from what was already established audio-book wise. Which by the way Khristine is great…so talented-- I even spoke to her briefly via phone and she was so nice and accommodating. Her voice is very intoxicating when reading, I got drawn in right away. And reading and rereading the story, letting it sink in. I will say I don’t like to overdo the research because I want it to be fresh, ya know? Try to surprise myself in the reading. But I want to do enough that I feel comfortable in the characters skin and most of all, that I’m being true to Julie’s words. Great writing does so much of the heavy lifting for you, I just did everything I could to keep it that way-- the polish on the silver—er…Iron.
And the recording process itself is so fun-- so relaxed and enjoyable. Mike, Kat, the technician in the booth with you, and everyone at Audible (where I recorded Summers Crossing) made the process so relaxed and enjoyable- I feel very lucky to work with them. They are true professionals so that makes it easy to ‘play’ in the recording booth.
Also I’m very lucky two of my roomies, who happen to be two of my best friends and fellow actors, Mike Brown and Tracy Mull, have been so helpful. They’ve been very generous listening to me bounce voices off and giving me their very honest opinions. They are troopers- It’d be like 2AM and I’d be talking like a fawn or a nymph, saying, “And how about THIS one!?!” Like I said, I love working with others and they are two of the people I trust to bounce ideas off. Also, a few times I’ve felt creatively stagnant, so Tracy would do these fun voice drills with me—she’ll go, “Now do it like a werewolf in the circus…now do it like your drowning…now do it like you’re Mrs. Doubtfire on fire…”crazy stuff, but it really gets the creative juices going, and usually produces some laughter as a bonus.
10. If you were fey, would you be Seelie, Unseelie, or Iron?
This is a great question—very tough actually. Well, my hometown is Pocatello, Idaho, and I love it there. Idaho is really a mix of all three (yes even the Iron realm, sadly). Winters there are very cold, brisk, and dark, but beautiful, snowy, and wondrous. Very Tir Na Nog-ish. And I love the winter season (I especially miss downhill skiing) so temperature wise, Unseelie would suit me just fine. But spring in Idaho is beautiful, refreshing, and clear, and certainly my favorite season. Spring leads right into Summer, so Seelie fits me like a glove. But Iron— there’s something wild, crazy, and appealing about the barron jagged desolation there. A tough call. Can I say all three? I’ll travel between them. No? Ok…well, then it’s between Seelie and Unseelie… I’ll say--
But you can bet I’d still have a lot of Frequent Fey’er Miles.
THANKS JULIE!!! :D
Thank YOU, Josh! And if you want to know more, Josh's twitter tag is @Joshuwhaaat, and he will be more then happy to answer all of your Puckish questions. ;-)
And check out Josh on Audible.com. You can even listen to a snippet of Summer's Crossing here