Gay Book Reviews is thrilled to welcome T.J. Klune and Kirt Graves today, answering questions from our reviewer staff about the Wolfsong audiobook.
Questions for Kirt Graves and TJ Klune re: Wolfsong audiobook
Stephanie wants to know:
How do you decide what books are developed into audiobooks?
TJ Klune: Honestly, a few years ago, when Dreamspinner was first producing audiobooks, it was based on sales. If a book sold well, it was turned into an audiobook, usually a year after release. But I think DSP has seen just how big the MM audiobook market can be, and has become much more proactive about releasing the books. Case in point: Wolfsong came out in June, and the audiobook was released in October. I’d like to get to the point where we can release a book and the audiobook on the same day. It might delay the title a little, but I think it’d be interesting to see how well a paired launch like that could go.
Kristin wants to know:
I would be interested in knowing how [the] narrators are chosen. Do authors pick, the audio book publisher, combination? And, what attributes does an author want in a narrator voice if they are allowed to pick?
TJ Klune: Dreamspinner puts up notice that they are holding narrator auditions, and then the narrators can read the given excerpt, record it without any input from the author, interpreting the text their own way. Sometimes, they are right on the money. Other times, they are way, waaaaaay off.
Once the auditions are received, DSP forwards them to me, and then I go through them one by one. Some, I can strike from consideration within the first couple of seconds. Others, I listen all the way through.
When I come across one I like, I mark their name, and then rate them on a scale of 1-5, 1 being they caught my eye and five being the Jesus of audiobook narrators. I’ve never given anyone a five, because Jesus has never recorded an audiobook. BUT. I gave Kirt a 4+++, and kept coming back to his audition. I had the most auditions I’d ever gotten with Wolfsong, and it was a long, long process to select the right voice.
Also, as an aside, something I thought was really cool. I had a woman send in an audition for Wolfsong as well. And she was awesome. Her masculine voices were incredible, and I was shocked, because I’d never had a woman audition for an MM romance before. Obviously, she didn’t get the part, but I think paired with the right book, that could be something to look into in the future. Because if a man can play female parts, why can’t a woman read the male parts?
Belen wants to know:
Kirt – Wolfsong is your first audio, do you have other voice actor experience, or was this your version of jumping in the deep end of the ocean?
Kirt Graves: I had no previous experience specifically as a voice actor for audiobooks. My experience is as a stage actor and forensics (speech & acting) coach, so I have over a decade of experience creating characters. I also host and produce a couple podcasts, so I know my way around a microphone and editing software. That being said, ignorance was bliss as I started auditioning for various projects, and I was extremely lucky to have TJ put his faith in a first-time narrator for Wolfsong. Even TJ doesn’t know this, but Wolfsong was a sign from above that a huge change I was making in my life was the right decision. I had been working as a general manager for an IT company for six years, and I couldn’t find the joy in that work any longer, and I was pretty miserable. So my partner and I decided that the time had come for me to quit my job. I planned to give my notice on a Friday, so on Thursday night, I went to our home office, wrote my letter of resignation and pressed print. When I closed the window in which I’d been writing that letter, I saw the email from Dreamspinner offering me the job for Wolfsong. It was kismet.
Belen wants to know:
TJ – We know you listened to dozens of auditions, what specifically about Kirt drew you to choosing him to voice these already well-beloved characters?
TJ Klune: His voice for Gordo. Because even though this story was about Ox and Joe, I knew Gordo was going to play a very important role in this book, and in the next, which will be from his perspective. I was thinking ahead, because the narrator I chose was going to have to be ready to do voices for a dozen pack members, but also be able to sustain that through a potential four book series.
I emailed Andrew Grey (who handles the audio process for DSP), and asked him to find out more info about this Kirt Graves fellow, as it was between him and a much more established narrator. I wanted to know what else he’d worked on.
Andrew wrote back and said, “This will be his first book.”
I said, “Whaaaaaat.”
And I was nervous about it, because Wolfsong was my baby, and could I really trust it to some newbie?
But then I remembered I’d done the same with Michael Lesley, and we all know how that turned out.
So I went back and listened to the two auditions once more, and Kirt’s Gordo voice won me over. So I took the chance, gave him the book, and he just nailed it, exceeding my every expectation. (And also, how great was his take on Richard Collins? I got goosebumps listening to that). I’ve been very lucky in the narrators I’ve had, given that they seem to give their all in their performances, and I’m pleased that Kirt is now a part of the group of narrators I plan on using in the future.
Belen wants to know:
Kirt – There are a lot of characters in this story (lol)…what was your process to choosing a particular voice?
Kirt Graves: I’ve since worked on other audiobooks in which I’ve had to assign character traits to characters, so I understand your question. However, with Wolfsong, I didn’t choose anything. I just heard the voices in my head and read them that way. Gordo, Maggie, and Elizabeth were the clearest to me. It’s a testament to TJ’s writing that the characters came to me so clearly, and apparently my interpretations synched up with the versions of those characters in his mind to a degree that made him pick me for the book.
What I did spend a lot of time processing was how to age characters. The two main characters of Wolfsong both start as young boys, we follow them through their teenage years, and then they grow into men. So those transitions were something I considered carefully, because I never wanted the listener to disconnect from the story just because a character’s voice changed suddenly.
Belen wants to know:
And did you know before or during when this was recorded that it’s going to be a series, and did that have any effect on a particular voice (i.e. Gordo, Mark, Kelly)?
Kirt Graves: I had no idea, and it’s good that I didn’t. In fact, I had no idea how big TJ’s fan base is or how beloved Wolfsong had become since its release earlier this year. In my mind, I was just reading a little novel about a boy who falls for a werewolf, and I think the pressure of knowing how many people I could have let down would have been crippling. I was well into editing by the time TJ and I connected on social media and his fans started weighing in, and I think my performance benefited from my naivety.
That being said, I’m so happy TJ is writing more books in this world. And I don’t mean that as the guy who gets to narrate them, I mean it as a guy who cares about these characters and wants to know more about them. I’m hooked on TJ Klune now. Does this fandom have a name? Am I a Klune-y? Or a Klune-head?
Belen wants to know:
TJ – How important was it for you to have Kirt get certain voices just right?
TJ Klune: It was of the utmost importance. As I said before, this is a book with a large cast of characters, all of which will be seen again in subsequent books, in some form or another. When I get a narrator, I don’t want them to do just a reading, I need them to do a performance. Look at Michael Lesley and The Lightning Struck Heart. That’s not a reading of a book. That’s a freaking audio play.
And if a certain voice (say, one of the two leads) ring false, then that’s going to ruin the experience for the listener. If a voice is grating or has a terrible accent, it’s going to take away from the story.
Belen wants to know:
Kirt – Is there anything you wish you could change about your performance?
Kirt Graves: Yes, there are a thousand things I would change. Literally. I am my own worst critic, and I think you’re all nuts for rating this audiobook so well. *wink*
The thing about acting on stage is that you can learn from each performance and make adjustments as you go. The same is true when I’m coaching my students for weekly competition. You are always improving. With an audiobook, it’s one take, and then you have to move on. So, in retrospect, there are a thousand little moments I’d read differently. And in a month, I’d probably find another thousand things to change. An audiobook is a snapshot of how I interpreted the book at that moment in time, and I’m still learning how to be okay with that.
Vallie wants to know:
What scene was the hardest for Kirk to narrate and why?
Kirt Graves: Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t already read/listened to the book, the penultimate chapter in which Ox experiences a, let’s say, significant character development was very difficult to interpret for audio. Much of that chapter is written like poetry, in which the structure is part of the expression. On the page, it makes sense. As I read it out loud, I sounded like a crazy person. So I had to make some choices as to when my reading would mimic the style of writing on the page and when to deviate. My forensics background came in handy again.
TJ and Kirt – With the overwhelmingly positive reaction to both the story and audio I just want to wish you both very hearty congratulations and say I’m especially looking forward to getting more stories and audio from this series!
TJ Klune: Thank you so much! I’ve been thrilled by the response to both the book and the audio. So much so, in fact, that I’ve asked Kirt to do the narration for Murmuration. He’s agreed, much to my delight, so we should see that at some point in 2017.
Kirt Graves: Thanks! I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to work with Dreamspinner and TJ, and I’m excited to do it again.
Title: Wolfsong Audiobook
Author: T.J. Klune amd Kirk Graves
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: June 20th 2016
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary/Shifter/Paranormal
Page Count: 400 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.
Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road. The little boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the little boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the little boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.
Ox was seventeen when he found out the little boy’s secret and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.
Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.
It’s been four years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.
Buy LinksDreamspinner Audible Amazon Global GoodReads
Wolfsong Audio Sample #1
Wolfsong Audio Sample #2
Wolfsong Audio Sample #3
Kirt Graves Social Media
When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write.
Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.
And one of those things isn’t true.
(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)
T.J. Klune Social Media