I've just had one of my most enjoyable experiences as an author - working with an actor to have three of my books turned into audiobooks. Turning one book into audio is a challenge, but turning a trilogy into three - four with an extra omnibus edition - was a big job. But it was a great joy to work with the actor Matt Jamie - Coronation Street, Emmerdale and other TV credits - who takes on the persona of Colin Crampton, and amazingly 67 other characters, in his readings. I was fascinated by his skill as a narrator and thought you might like to know how he does it. So I put my old journalist's hat on and asked him some questions.
Peter: The Crampton books are narrated in Colin Crampton’s voice – how did you set about capturing his voice so well?
Matt: With Colin I went for a slightly more stylised kind of voice for the narration. As he's working for a newspaper - and also something of a detective - I played on the idea of his vocal style being a bit "journalistic" or slightly sensationalised - and sometimes with a hint of a '60s detective film voice-over about it. It was fun to be able to have a narrative character and not just a sort of "neutral" narration with character voices throughout.
Peter: What are some of the actor's techniques you’ve used to make the Crampton books easy to listen to?
Matt: There are a few simple tricks with how close or far I am to the microphone which can affect the listeners' relationship with the character. I move in close for more intimate moments - whether they're romantic or threatening - and further away for a sense of space. One of the main challenges with the Crampton books was keeping the pace up throughout - they really have to rattle along. So it's important to stay focussed.
Peter: You give each character in the books a different voice – how do you do that?
Matt: Deciding on a voice for each character can be a challenge. There will often be clues in the text about what they sound like, even if it's just a description of what they look like. For example, Evening Chronicle news editor Frank Figgis is described as "a small man with a wizened face and hard little eyes which constantly darted about. He had black hair which he parted straight down the middle. His sixty-a-day habit meant he leaked smoke like a Puffing Billy."
Peter: Once you've recorded a character's voice is that fixed for the rest of the book?
Matt: Occasionally, I might decide to change a character's voice once the recording is complete. I'll do that if a couple of characters end up sounding similar. Or if I suddenly find out where the character comes from. There was an American character in Murder in the Afternoon Extra who began with a New York accent, and then a few pages on he mentioned he was from Louisiana, so I had to re-record him.
Peter: How do you remember how to do the voice when the character reappears, perhaps dozens of pages later?
Matt: Remembering which voice belongs to which character can be quite a challenge - especially when they're spread over three books like in this trilogy. It's harder for some of the minor characters. For example, some of the characters who work at the Chronicle newspaper might only have said one or two lines several chapters - or even several books - ago. Quite often I had to look back through the text to see if someone had appeared before and then search through the audio files to find out what voice I'd given them.
Peter: Apart from Colin, which was the most enjoyable character to voice and why?
Matt: I think probably Frank Figgis was the most fun - and occasionally painful - voice to create. The wheezing sixty-a-day habit was amusing to try to capture, and his weary put-upon attitude was a joy to work with - even if Figgis himself wouldn't have been a joy to work with!
So, thank you Matt, for answering the questions. If you'd like to hear Matt reading the Morning, Noon & Night trilogy, you can find at omnibus edition of the trilogy at these links:
The individual books in the trilogy - Murder in the Morning Edition, Murder in the Afternoon Extra and Murder in the Night Final are also available from Amazon, Audible or iTunes.