Author: Stacy Bennett
Narrator: Zachary Johnson
Length: 14 hours 49 minutes
Publisher: Miramae Press⎮2017
Series: The Corthan Legacy, Book 1
Release date: May 5, 2017
Cara has been a prisoner all her life, shackled by a broken soul and fear of her father's temper. When a mercenary captain is taken prisoner, he sparks something in her she doesn't recognize - rebellion. Determined to save the captain's life, she flees with him intent on leaving her past behind. It isn't love that drives her father's zealous pursuit, but a hidden magical birthright she never knew about. Now she must solve the puzzle of her past before her father kills everyone she loves in his bid to reclaim her.
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Stacy has always been a nomad, but is currently residing in New Jersey. For now.
She enjoys multilayered tales with simple structure and deeper intent, stories of soul and psyche and heart. There’s nothing better than a book that convinces you its inhabitants are as real as you are. Then again, maybe we are only characters in someone else’s tale.
About the Narrator: Zachary Johnson
Lover of mathematics, devourer of science fiction, and connoisseur of the dad joke. When he's not doing math for business or fun, he's devouring science fiction and fantasy, reading up on scientific advancements, going for a jog, or, on all too rare occasions, taking a refreshing swim at the beach. At your service, you shall have an able storyteller and gifted conveyor of information. Experienced in narrating fiction, from the romantic to the post-apocalyptic, and nonfiction, from the historical to the corporate, and armed with the tools to make it all sound great, Zachary promises that, no matter the job, you'll be
I don’t think I really knew that I wanted to do it for a living until I had done it on and off for a few years. I dabbled with 4 or 5 a year for 5 or so years, sort of getting to know the craft, albeit very slowly. I walked away from it a couple of times, not really thinking I could make a living at it. Then COVID hit, and I took some time off from my day job, and right before my leave of absence started, I got an email from an author I worked with briefly in the past that basically said “Hey, I’ve got these 10 books I want to pay you a lot for. Want ‘em?” So I took some time to think about it, by which I mean I almost immediately said to myself “Guess I’m a narrator now!”
A lot of narrators seem to have a background in theatre. Is that something you think is essential to a successful narration career?
Any acting experience is a boon, for sure; I have two years of training in on-stage acting myself, and it’s been nothing but helpful. But there are narrators who I know and others who I don’t who are widely respected experts at their jobs who have no theater background at all. And besides those stage acting classes and a play or two I was in in middle school (one of which involved me playing an extra with no lines), I don’t have any background in theater whatsoever. I’m just some math geek who pretty much fell into this line of work. I think that it’s mostly about finding the right people to teach you the craft, developing an appreciation for said craft, and then learning how to bring your personality and uniqueness to the story and characters more than anything else. A theater background or some stage training certainly helps with that; they’re invaluable for learning how to fully explore your psyche in ways that enable a person to bring interesting aspects of themselves to each story and character, but even then, there’s a learning curve involved in transitioning from the stage to the booth. On stage, you have fellow cast members to act off of, the freedom to explore your vocal range volume-wise and plenty of space to move and gesticulate. In the booth, it’s all you (unless you live stream your readings on Discord, which I do, and which anyone reading should totally come to; it’s a fun time!), space is limited, and moving too far off mic, hitting your equipment by mistake if your gestures are too wild, or unleashing your full vocal power might result in unusable audio. I guess the TL;DR is, in my opinion: Very helpful, but not essential.
How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for narrating?
It’s really important for me to do the things that everyone always says you should do when you’re in business for yourself, of course. Sleep, eat right, get outside, exercise, devote time to taking days off and spending time with people I love, find hobbies and interests outside of my work (card magic is a new favorite of mine, and I also blog from time to time to satisfy my urge to write stuff), and so on. Anything that provides a healthy distance from my work for a little while and mitigates some of the more isolating aspects of it. But I think what’s most important for me is to never forget how fundamentally fun my job is. Sometimes I get incredibly lucky and just fall in love with a story I’m narrating, as was the case for “Quest of the Dreamwalker,” and really anything Stacy Bennett writes, as is currently the case for “Golden Darkness Descends” by JMD Reid and “Into Neon” by Matthew Goodwin, two incredible tales I’m in the process of narrating at the time of this interview, and it’s just so easy to look forward to work. Who wouldn’t want to play around like a kid and pretend to be all sorts of fun things, from evil goddesses to cyborgs, to fire conjurers, and all manner of awesome stuff. But it’s ultimately still a job, and it’s inevitable that once work and pleasure mix, there’s this almost Pavlovian association with stress that one can develop that really erodes one’s enjoyment of their vocation if they’re not careful. I think one way I’ve learned to combat that is to play with ways that make my work fun again. For example, I’m in the process of introducing narration to my blog posts, and making YouTube videos to show off my skills, and maybe even doing some content that showcases other aspects of voiceover, and that’s all very low stakes and fun and doable on my days off and reminds me to be grateful for the job I have.
What about this title compelled you to audition as narrator?
Stacy actually reached out to me, and I have to admit I was intimidated. Up until then, I hadn’t taken on a project more than ten or so hours, and I really didn’t know if I could handle a project that was upwards of fourteen hours, especially because I was still doing my own editing at the time. But then I read the audition script and knew I had to do it. It was just brilliant. Within a page I was immersed in this world she’d clearly spent so much time and energy and love creating and I was so honored she wanted to entrust this no-name narrator with it that I almost immediately said yes and sent her an audition. And the rest is history. And there’s Call of the Huntress in my future, so it was easily one of the best decisions I ever made.
How did you decide how each character should sound in this title?
I do have a repertoire of archetypes, accents, and vocal quirks and qualities, like pitch, gravel, breathiness, nasality, and so on that I can adjust, combine, and really just play with to suit each person, but I realized over time that a character is more than simply an amalgam of vocal qualities. Those are more just toys to play with once an examination of the character done during prep gives proper insight into their personality, motivation, and so on (and sometimes if you’re lucky, the text will just plainly tell you what the character sounds like). That inner “soul” of the character is going to inform how they sound more than anything else. It’s often the case that the right tools to polish the voice to the proper shine, like the aforementioned vocal idiosyncrasies, will follow naturally from that study. One of my favorite things to do, though, is play with tonal contrast. I love, for example, having a character who’s on the small side have a deep, rumbling baritone (if it suits their personality), or a gentle talking panda with the over-the-top accent of New York City beat cop (which may or may not be an upcoming project of mine that I may or may not be REALLY excited about). It’s just fun to me. I also like to assemble a list of major and recurring characters in a story and compile a demo reel of what each one is going to sound like before I ever start narrating. That way I can keep things consistent. But of course, you also have to look at how a character develops throughout the novel or series you’re reading. They may me a completely different person, and, for (a rather depressing) example, that innocent kid at the start, might be jaded and brooding by the end, so even things that might seem inherent to that character’s voice, like pitch and cadence, might change pretty strikingly by the time you get to the end of their story. It might go the other way, too. Maybe the brooding bad boy learns to lighten up a bit! For this specific title, I leaned pretty heavily on certain archetypes, like the booming British baritone for the antagonist, but that’s in large part because the character read that way when I was preparing the text. There was also a sort of domino effect in some cases. Like when I decided Archer should have a quasi-Scottish sound to his voice, it necessarily followed that so would everyone from his home village. Which made at least part of the process of choosing voices for them at least a bit simpler, but each still had a unique vibe to their personalities depending on age, status, life experience, and so on.