Bringing Great Storybook Characters to Life, or Parents’ Little Helpers

Welcome to the deep end of the pool, also known as Instant Home Schooling, COVID-19-style. Not only do parents have to figure out how to work with whatever digital school provisions are available, but with the kiddos home all day, the grown-ups need help with entertaining and encouraging their readers. When (or if) parents also need to work remotely, there just may not be enough hours in the day to read together every day, but fear not: there is a solution at hand!

With the release of the fourth audiobook in the Sir Kaye the Boy Knight series, I interviewed narrator Stephen Marsden about what goes into producing an audiobook and his overall experience narrating all four books in the Sir Kaye series. During this unprecedented time when most children are unexpectedly home from school, I am re-sharing the interview with Stephen Marsden. And it gets better: I’m happy to announce that there are a limited number of free promo codes available for all my audiobooks.

If you’d like a free promo code for books for your child, please email me using the Contact form on this blog.

So what does go into producing an audiobook? Here is the Stephen Marsden interview originally published on October 25, 2017. And at the end of the interview I’ve provided details on all my audiobooks and information on how you can get a free promo code. Act now! This is a limited-time offer. There are no better books out there for encouraging struggling readers to love great stories!

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 master’s degree 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 master’s degree 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?

Stephen: 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 audiobooks 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 audiobook 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 plotline 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 my 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.

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 plotline. 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 audiobooks fill especially well?

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

Audiobooks 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 audiobook 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 audiobook.

Picture of five kids chapter books in the Sir Kaye the Boy Knight series by Don M. Winn

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

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.


I’d like to thank Stephen Marsden for sharing his creative process with us and for his excellent work on all of the Cardboard Box Adventures audiobooks.

Below is a list of all the available CBA audiobooks. You can listen to a sample reading for each book on my Audible Author Page. If you’d like a free promo code for books for your child, please email me using the Contact form on this blog. Children will not only enjoy the stories and characters but will be encouraged to read more books on their own or via audio, and all the while parents can get their own work done! And what a help it will be to other parents and educators if you share a few words about how your child enjoys the books in a brief review! Thanks in advance for your feedback.

Audio book cover of Sir Kaye the Boy Knight book 1 The Knighting of Sir Kaye by Don M. Winn
Sir Kaye the Boy Knight Book 1: The Knighting of Sir Kaye by Don M. Winn, is the tale of a young, new-to-the-job queen who takes a risk and knights twelve-year-old Kaye for doing a brave deed. Now Kaye must triumph over his father’s enemy—the mighty Sir Melchor—in a tournament, or disgrace the queen forever in the eyes of her new subjects.
Audio book cover of Sir Kaye the Boy Knight book 2 The Lost Castle Treasure by Don M. Winn
Sir Kaye the Boy Knight Book 2: The Lost Castle Treasure by Don M. Winn tells how the new queen of Knox discovers that Knox owes a lot of money to the neighboring country of Eldridge. To make things worse, the previous king hid all the treasure from the castle’s treasure house. The rotten Sir Melchor offers to pay the debt for the queen—if she promises to un-knight Kaye. Can Kaye find the missing treasure before he loses his knighthood forever?
Audio book cover of Sir Kaye the Boy Knight book 3 Legend of the Forest Beast by Don M. Winn
In Sir Kaye the Boy Knight Book 3: Legend of the Forest Beast by Don M. Winn, Kaye must find his missing tutor, investigate rumors of a terrible monster in the forest, attempt to live down a humiliating nickname, stop a shipment of valuable jewels from leaving Knox, and prevent the rebel knight Bragwayne from overthrowing the queen.
Audio book cover of Sir Kaye the Boy Knight book 4 The Eldridge Conspiracy by Don M. Winn
In Sir Kaye the Boy Knight Book 2: The Eldridge Conspiracy by Don M. Winn, Kaye learns there is a plot against his father’s life. Now he must leave Knox to find the mysterious foreign man who can tell him the details of the plot so Kaye can prevent the ambitious Baron Thomas and his henchmen from assassinating his father and the king of Eldridge at a grand festival tournament. The only problem? This man is the Baron’s most trusted employee.
Cover of the audio book Mystery of the White Knight by Don M. Winn
In Mystery of the White Knight by Don M.Winn (a shorter, standalone chapter book featuring characters from the Sir Kaye series) a mysterious villain ruins fields so nothing can grow, burns down entire villages, and terrifies the people of Knox. People say it’s the new queen’s fault—that she’s a bad ruler. They want to take her throne away and give it to someone else. But she’s only been ruling for one month! When disaster strikes, can her nephew Beau save the throne for the queen and solve the mystery of the White Knight?

Don’t forget, even the nonfiction books on audio are included in this free promotion. If you’d like to learn more about how kids learn to read, or about how to support your dyslexic child or students, email me (via the Contact form) for a promo code for Failing Students or Failing Schools: A Parent’s Guide to Reading Instruction and Intervention by Faith Borkowsky or my award-winning book, Raising a Child With Dyslexia, What Every Parent Needs to Know. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Failing Students or Failing Schools? A Parent’s Guide to Reading Instruction and Intervention by Faith Borkowsky reveals behind-the-scenes information, an inside look at educational policies and procedures, and practical advice for overwhelmed parents of struggling readers in this groundbreaking book. Borkowsky’s book explores the reasons why so many children have difficulty learning to read using the current methods in vogue in American schools and describes how those difficulties often result in behavioral problems, low self-esteem, or apparent difficulties in other subjects, such as math and science. Borkowsky also explains the best way of teaching reading, why schools don’t change their methods, and what parents need to know if their child is receiving reading intervention, as well as what they can do in the home to help supplement and support their child’s reading education or intervention program.
Audio book cover of the book Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know by Don M. Winn
Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know by Don M. Winn provides detailed assistance to parents and educators who want to help dyslexic children achieve their best life. Topics include symptoms that warrant diagnosis by a professional, what to expect during the testing process, how parents can help their child at home, tips on working with the school to create an optimal learning environment, and most importantly, how to offer a dyslexic child a safe, encouraging emotional space in which to cope with the emotional fallout of the dyslexic struggle. The book is keyed to current, cutting-edge research and testing methods for dyslexia and all of its attendant conditions, and also includes coping strategies to help those who did not get an early diagnosis or support.

About Stephen Marsden

After graduating from Michigan State and earning his PhD, 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 audio books, 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.

Cardboard Box Adventures picture books are great for shared reading and can help parents establish a strong preliteracy foundation for their children. Check out the new CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators.