We are happy to shine our spotlight on actor Greg Tremblay, voice actor and the special guest of our Rainbow Readers book club this Saturday, from 2:00 – 4:00 PM.
Greg is an actor specializing in audiobook narration and other voiceover work. He studied theater and vocal performance, as well as computer science in college. He’s worked in e-learning, commercial and long form narration, but has found his passion in audiobooks. To date, he has narrated over sixty books and works primarily in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and romance.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your narration style? Do you have your own or do you adjust to the project—or is it a mix? What can you tell us about your most recent project?
I am inspired by the acting side of things above all… so while I desperately avoid melodrama in my work, I am definitely a dramatic read narrator as opposed to an eloquent flat read. I put emotion, dialect and voices into my work. My most recent project as of the event is/will be Fish out of Water for author Amy Laine of Dreamspinner press. It’s a lawyer/PI crime drama with a spicy romance through plot. Wrongly accused prisoners, dirty cops, bullets flying… ya know. The usual day in the life of a PI. It’s a nice cross section of characters, anglo, latino, Asian, African Amercian… there’s cops and hookers and lawyers and pizza guys, and the whole gamut of people.
What inspired you to go into voice work? What was your path from first inspiration to being a narrator?
Actually my desire being a theater major was to do voice acting… I fell in love with the work that animation actors and audiobook people did when I was young, I loved the skill of Jim Henson’s people (who are not only actors but also puppeteers… whoah) but yeah. Honestly, I thought that in order to be “allowed” to record audiobooks, I had to become a famous actor first!
When you’re working with an author for a book, how does the relationship develop? How does it vary between projects? What’s your preferred relationship with an author on a project?
It depends a bit on how the project comes about. Publishers prefer to handle their authors themselves, and there’s often good reason for it. I like to be friendly with my authors via social media… I love to appreciate what they’ve done, but also for them to appreciate what I have done with their material. Ideally, the author gives me extra background info that isn’t already in the text, and then turns me loose. Too much hands-on control often robs the work of the life that makes it really shine…but working in a vacuum without the author there at all is…unfulfilling.
What is the biggest challenge in creating a narration? How did you overcome that challenge?
Research to make sure you nail as much as possible vis a vis pronunciation. Sometimes, I’ll do my best and then be told later “Oh, no… that name isn’t pronounced that way” and if the author or agent is insistent, we have to re-record sections. I want to make sure that locals aren’t going “Ohhh MAANN!!! THAT’S not how that’s pronounced!!!” I know I have messed up on occasion, and will continue… but I try really hard not to.
Are there any particular scenes you love or hate narrating the most? And why?
People think the love scenes must be hard, but they’re actually the easiest to do. It’s a dialogue or a conversation, and frankly, it’s very natural. Occasionally, I will hit a section where the craft was just a bit rough, where something doesn’t work or there are internal inconsistencies. Those are a challenge because you can’t just “fix” the text because that’s not your job… but you have to make it sound like it was meant to be there.
What’s your recording set-up like? What tools / programs/ tech do you use?
Though I’m bicomptual, I use a PC for the most part. I have a purpose-built room in my house which is my personal studio, and I record with a program called “Reaper” and a combination of a couple different large diaphragm condenser microphones depending on the project.
What changes have you seen in audio book narration and voice work over the past few years? How have they helped or hindered working in the field?
We’ve seen a LOT more books being made, and I’m happy in that for the sake of the readers. However, much as the increase in independent publishing has diluted the book market a bit, and allowed things to come to market before they were ready, the increased independent audiobook market does it as well. It’s OK in that people know when they got something they didn’t like, they can bail and not go back… but it does tend to create a sense that people only want to spend $1 or $2 on a book, or an audiobook, because they have been burned a bit. That means it’s very hard for a narrator, who needs to maintain a portfolio, to either earn their living on royalties or to be providing good value for their authors. I like the $10-15 range for audiobooks; I think it’s a “sweet spot” in cost being low enough to be palatable, and high enough to mean some returns for authors.
What is your favorite part of voice work? Of the whole creative process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
I think the ability to get lost in the medium, to become drunk on the story and the characters, is the finest form of mind altering reality ever created. I love swimming in a book for hours on end, and it’s really rewarding. I find myself borrowing aspects of the characters for a week or so, thinking about things I may never have considered, and just exploring new avenues.
I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned is to never stop growing and improving, and also to believe in your art. You may not do it the same way next year, and you shouldn’t… but that doesn’t mean that every time you make art, it’s without value. It is, and it will be its own thing…. And next time, you do it even better.
What piece of advice would you want to share with others looking to get into voice work or narration?
Absolutely pursue it from an acting perspective. Read Sanford Meisner, Uta Hagen, Augusto Boal, Stella Adler. Take acting and improv classes. And if you want to do narration, understand that it’s the triple marathon of voice work; it’s a stamina challenge for sure.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask you, and what would the answer be?
*Laugh* I’m such a story fiend that it’s hard not to talk about things. I guess… maybe, what’s the book you’ve listened to that made the biggest impact on you? I guess that’s an offshoot of what inspires me… but I will never waste a chance to talk about the work of my heroes. Frank Mueller, Simon Vance, Katy Kellgren, Kate Reading, Barbara Rosenblatt and more. Frank Mueller read Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, which was one of the first audiobooks I recall hearing, and it was just so excellent. He did things you should NOT be able to do… but made them work.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
Fish out of Water should be out in mid-late October, and then in rapid succession I’ve got the third book in Adam Wright’s Harbinger PI series coming out, it’s called Dark Magic then a hilarious bizarre, rollick of a Tennis Spy Thriller called Rubber Match for Marcus Costoona, and then the next in Rhys Ford’s Kai Gracen series Mad Lizard Mambo.
What is/are your passions when you’re not working? How do you make time for your hobbies/things you love?
I play guitar and sing American and British folk, cook, am an artisan blacksmith, and my family does medieval re-enacting. I’m more successful with hobby time now that I’m a full time narrator instead of splitting time with IT work.
What does your recording space look like? What do you need to have around you while working?
My booth is small, only 4 foot by 5 and a half by 6 and a half, but I’m not a huge guy, so it works. I must have lip balm (Incidentally Dreamspinner has awesome lip balm; I scrounge tubes from them every time I see them) and water on hand. I drink a solid 1-1.5 gallons a day while I’m recording.
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
Uhhhmmmmm… Well, I guess that I fall on the pansexual wheel? That’s something people wouldn’t know. I read a lot of M/M romance, and people figure I’m gay, but I’m married to a woman, and then people figure I’m straight… I think it’s a lot more complicated than that – and than simple Gay/Straight/Bi. I’ve been happy to hear in my daughter’s circle of friends (she’s 12) a lot more of them rejecting a binary identity in many ways… I think it’s much healthier to let go of boxes and labels where we can.
What has been your favorite adventure during your career?
I have had amazing times talking with people in so many places… I think in many ways my first Gay Rom Lit convention was my favorite moment… I got to meet Rhys Ford for the first time, and Mary Calmes in person and… yeah. That was grand.
Writers and artists very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your work?
Ha! Jett is my studio dog and buddy. He’s a pureblood dingbat. (seriously, no idea. The vet looked at him and said “uhh -i-unno”) and likes to curl up outside the door to the booth. Sometimes I’ll let him in, but he gets wiggly, so. *shrug*
Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re performing?
A solid breakfast is vital… partly for the energy, but mainly to stop the stomach rumbles. I like breakfast salads with eggs. You will hear lots of things are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for the voice, but it’s kinda bollocks. Really it comes down to what is good for your hydration, and what manages mucus better. Ok… smoking is legit bad for the voice, but food wise? It doesn’t touch your vocal cords anyway… so sure, drink lemon water if it floats your boat. Avoid milk if you like. It all depends on how your body handles it. I’m not much of a milk drinker anyway, so.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your voice career?
Honor the work, and commit. If you really honor what you’re doing, you identify with those characters and commit to it… you will give it life, and you won’t overact it. You just won’t.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to others that have helped you in your career?
The Audio Publisher’s Association is huge; they’re the audiobook world’s backbone. I’m not currently a member of SAG-AFTRA, but I’m in the initial stages, and they have a huge impact on the industry period. They allow my colleagues without a spouse in the private sector to have health insurance, and not be on social security only when they retire. WoVo, the World Organization of Voice Over professionals is great. I’m one of the inaugural year members of that… and we tend to create small support and development groups as we go. Those are also enormous.
Where can people find your work?
Audible.com, Amazon, iTunes, and through publisher sites such as Dreamspinner Press, Podium Publishing etc.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
I welcome connecting with readers, authors, actors, and other story enthusiasts on Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn, Google Plus, and via my website. (@gtremblayvoice, gregtremblay.com, etc)