Bringing Stories to Life: Interview with Narrator Stephen Marsden

giving the gift of timeI loved being read to when I was a kid. I’ve often mentioned that some of my favorite childhood memories include the times I spent with my grandmother in shared reading. And later, after I started school, I vividly remember story time, where the teacher would read to the class a chapter or two a day from a popular book. I was transfixed by every word and visualized the story being played out in my imagination. There is no better way to encourage reading and to build a love of story than to read aloud with our young ones. This is especially important for children who really struggle with reading to the point where they cannot imagine reading ever being pleasurable.

In today’s hectic world, it’s becoming more and more of a challenge for many parents to find sufficient time to read to their children. So what can help? Audio books! Listening to books can be a real inroad into the heart of the challenged reader. The more they can develop a love of story, the more they will be inspired to discern their own learning and reading style and overcome their limitations. If they enjoy audio books, it can help dispel some negative emotions they may have previously associated with the idea of reading for pleasure.

What goes into producing an audio book? To answer that question, Stephen Marsden, the narrator of the Sir Kaye series, has graciously agreed to answer a few a questions about producing audio books.

Don: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Stephen: I graduated from Michigan State University and I entered the United States Army as a newly commissioned officer. One of my first placements was at Fort Knox where I was an instructor in McNamara’s “Project 100,000.” This program taught basic trainees how to read. Because of this assignment, I decided that I wanted to become a teacher. After my tour of duty ended in Vietnam, I enrolled in a graduate program to earn my teaching certificate and a Masters in the Teaching of Reading.

I spent the next 15 years teaching reading in junior high school. During this time I returned to graduate school and earned my Masters in Special Education. I then moved up to the high school and taught special education for eight years. My last ten years were spent in school administration and I was the assistant principal of the high school. I retired from public education after 36 years.

I am married to my beautiful wife Kristine and we have three grown children, four grandchildren and two cats. I babysit for my grandkids two days a week.

Don: How did you get started with audio book narration? Was there special training?

Audio Books Concept smallStephen: After retirement from public education, I decided to take a course in voice overs. My desire to pursue this new career resulted from having done all the announcements at the junior and senior high school. People often told me I had a good “radio” voice. The voice over course was offered by the Michigan’s Actors Studio. After completing this course, I began private tutoring with my instructor. This educational process took about a year.

I have always been a fan of listening to audio books as I commuted to and from work, and whenever my wife and I took vacations. An author, Terry Newberry, heard a sample of my voice overs and contacted me to narrate his first book Almost There. I was hooked on audio book narrations. I have completed over two dozen books. In addition to narration, I have done voice overs for commercials and political ads, and I’ve had the lead role in two independent films.

Don: Please describe the narrating process: preparation, characterization, performance, and a little about the technical side.

Stephen: My first step in the process is to read the book in its entirety. This gives me an idea of the plot line and the characters. I picture the characters in my mind as to what they would look like and how they would interact with the other characters. I guess it’s like watching a play in my head.

Then I read each chapter through three times to become familiar with the wording. I record each chapter in my home studio. I have one room dedicated to recording, which houses all of my recording equipment (iMac computer, preamp, microphone, playback equipment and audio software.) After recording the chapter, I begin the editing process. This involves playing the chapter back and listening for errors made during the recording. This is a slow process. When reading aloud, my mind sometimes goes faster than your eyes and it is very easy to misread a sentence and substitute a word such as “the” with “a.” When I discover an error, I select the sentence in the recorded file, delete it, and then re-record that particular sentence and place it back into the recorded file.

I also have to thank your editor Elizabeth, who reviews my recorded chapters for any errors. She does a wonderful job in keeping me abreast of changes that need correcting.

The final phase of editing is going through each chapter and removing unwanted noise, such as breaths, background noise, or whatever else I see on the visual rendition of the audible track. To complete one chapter takes about three hours.

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Don: What aspects of your work do you find most enjoyable?

Stephen: I enjoy reading the book the most and visualizing the interaction between the characters and the plot line. I also strive to make the characters seem real to the reader—or should I say listener. I get great pleasure in listening to the final product.

Don: With print and digital books available, what role or niche do you feel audio books fill especially well?

Stephen: Audio books have been in existence for many, many years. I first became aware of audio books during my career in public education. Books on Tape were available for special needs students with visual impairments.

Audio books are a tremendous resource for everyone: the reluctant reader, the beginning reader, teens, adults and seniors. Young readers and reluctant readers are able to listen to the book and to follow along, thus increasing word recognition and developing their skills with visualization. Today in our very busy lives, we often don’t have time to sit down with a good book and a quiet place to read. The audio book provides us the opportunity to enjoy good stories while we are in the car, cooking meals, mowing the lawn, or relaxing before we retire from the day’s activities. I highly recommend that everyone take advantage of the marvelous audio book.

Don: What do you love most about working on the Sir Kaye series? Do you have a favorite?

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Stephen: I love this series!!!! Your books are extremely well-written. The plot lines keep the reader interested and wondering what will happen next. The dialogue is rich, fast paced, and realistic for the characters conversing with each other.

The messages provided in these stories are excellent and relevant for readers and listeners. They provide much needed awareness about personal success, never giving up, to take risks, to believe in yourself, and to always strive to do your best.

My personal favorite character is Reggie. He is believable and exhibits common personal qualities that are to be admired. He is caring, considerate, honest, and likable. The Sir Kaye series is a must have in every home. Readers of all ages will definitely enjoy this series.

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Conclusion
I’d like to thank Stephan Marsden for taking the time to be interviewed and for his excellent work on the Sir Kaye series.

If you’re looking for a series of exciting adventure books that helps reluctant readers, take a peek at the award-winning Sir Kaye series published by Progressive Rising Phoenix Press. The audio editions of the Sir Kaye books are available on Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes.

headshotstephenmarsdenAbout Stephen Marsden
After graduating from Michigan State and earning his Ph.D., Stephen worked for thirty-six years in public education as an educator and administrator, even being honored as the State of Michigan’s Assistant Principal of the year. Upon retirement, he pursued his lifelong dream of entering the field of acting and voice overs, honing his skills through the Michigan Actors Studio. Stephen has narrated over two dozen audiobooks, appeared in TV commercials, and has performed in the lead role in two independent films. Stephen is a Vietnam Veteran and was awarded the Bronze Star in service of his country. He currently resides in Northville, MI, with his wife, Kristine Frogner and their two cats Elmo and Niles. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.

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