June is Audiobook month (JIAM 2013). The audiobook community is giving back by teaming with the Going Public Project by offering a serialized audio story collection. All proceeds will go to Reach Out and Read literacy advocacy organization. Throughout June, 1-2 stories will be released each day on the Going Public blog and on author/book blogs. The story will be free (online only – no downloads) for one week. In collaboration with Blackstone Audio, all the stories will be available for download via Downpour. The full compilation will be ready June 30th.
The full schedule of the story release dates and narrators are at Going Public. Engineering and Mastering are provided by Jeffrey Kafer and SpringBrook Audio. Graphic design provided by f power design and published by Blackstone Audio. Project coordination and executive production by Xe Sands.
Today is the last day of June is Audiobook Month and the last day of Xe’s Going Public promotion. I can think of no better way to spend my time than with Dion Graham. To me, he’s all narrator, but those of you much more in tune to the larger entertainment world may also know him for his character Rupert Bond on HBO’s The Wire or as the voice of The First 48. I was lucky enough to have met Dion in person last year during BEA and he is most charming. He collected girlfriends (and even Daniel Handler) left and right while he was there. His charisma carries over into his work in audiobooks as you can tell as you listen to his reading of President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.
Literate Housewife: Dion, it is a pleasure to have you here today as we celebrate the last day of Going Public…In Shorts. This is such a wonderful program that Xe put together and I’m proud to have been a part with both you and Coleen Marlo.
I want to start by thanking you for selecting President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address for Going Public…In Shorts. You couldn’t have known it at the time, but having it playing in the back of my mind as we prepared for today has been appropriate for framing my thoughts on the events of this week, especially the recent Supreme Court rulings. Why did you select this speech?
Dion Graham: Well, at the time that Xe asked me to be a part of the project I’d been thinking a lot about Lincoln. Last year was a big year for our sixteenth president in the popular consciousness. I guess I was musing on his role in history. But I was also thinking about the forces working on the person Abraham Lincoln. A few years ago I narrated Reconstruction: The Second Civil War for PBS.It looked at the period after the war in which President Lincoln (and others) tried to enfranchise the former slaves and bring the country back together. He died for his efforts as did the process of reconstruction. The loss set the country back and many problems that we still struggle with can be traced to the ‘unhealing’ from that time. Lincoln’s second inaugural address has always struck me as a call to reach across boundaries towards healing. Considering the times we are in, it seemed like a worthy choice.
LH: I had the good fortune to meet you in person a year ago at BEA, but we never really got the opportunity to talk in depth about how you got started in the audiobook industry. Tell us a little about your background how you found your way into the audiobook industry.
DG: Having already had a rich career as an actor I met a friend of a friend who narrated audiobooks. As a lifelong reader and lover of literature it sounded like great fun. Little did I know that through his introduction of me to the good folks at Recorded Books I would set off on a fantastic journey marrying two great passions of mine, acting and reading, into the art of storytelling through narration.
LH: Do you enjoying reading outside of work?
DG: Uh…Yeah! I love to read.
LH: If you were a reader from an early age, is there any one person who helped make you the reader you are today?
DG: Not really. As a kid I was always falling into different worlds through books. Besides other kid stuff it’s just what I did. I can remember my dad yelling at me one summer (probably because I hadn’t cut the grass or something) that all I wanted to do was “a little acting and a little reading”. Ha! I guess he was right.
DG: Wow, that’s impossible to answer. I’d have to say I have lots of ‘favorites’. Thinking about this question reminds me of a favorite childhood sci-fi series: the Tyco Bass books by Eleanor Cameron. These are the first books that I remember capturing my imagination. I’ve got a big grin on my face because I just looked them up on Wikipedia. Seeing the covers brings back a flood of memories. Summer and school and the library and my reading buddy best friend Ricky… Through them came Arthur C. Clake’s Childhood’s End, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Mary Staton’s From the Legend of Biel and many others.
LH: What aspect of audiobook narration feeds you as an artist?
DG: All of them. Everything feeds me as an artist.
LH: Are there any aspects that make you want to pull your hair out?
DG: Limited thinking in casting.
LH: Do you typically do your recording at home or do you use a studio?
DG: I record in various studios.
LH: Congratulations on your awards from last year. You were named Booklist’s Voice of Choice and I cheered when I saw that you were awarded THREE Listen-Up Awards for Miles: The Autobiography from Publisher’s Weekly in Nonfiction, Audiobook Reader of the Year (for A Hologram for the King as well), and Audiobook of the Year Award. That is outstanding! You were nominated for a fourth Listen-Up Award for A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. You also won two Audie Awards for your collaborations on Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner (Audio Drama) and Astray by Emma Donaghue (Short Stories/Collections) and were twice nominated for We Are America, including the prestigious Distinguished Achievement in Production award. Let’s not forget about your Golden Voice. You must be proud of what you’ve accomplished over the last year. Did you get a sense that those projects were going to be special while you were working on them?
DG: All of those were great project’s and I did feel that they were special. And worthy. Miles is a singular achievement, an honor. And it’s gratifying to continue my ongoing collaboration with Dave on A Hologram for the King and with Arnie and Debra Cardillo of Live Oak Media on We Are America. I’m very proud of them, glad to have been able to bring them to life.
LH: Both Swordspoint and Astray were audiobooks narrated by full casts. From a performer’s perspective, is there a difference for you when you’re working with other narrators as compared to when you’re working alone as you did on Miles or A Hologram for the King?
DG: Well, the difference is that on something like Swordspoint we recorded with all of the narrators in the studio together. So we were able to work off of each other. Each section of Astray was recorded separately. It’s fun both ways.
LH: When you’re not recording an audiobook or lending your “velvet voice” to The First 48, how do you like to spend your time?
DG: I’m a big nature boy so whenever I can get out on the trail it’s a good day. In fact, I’m about to celebrate my 5th anniversary of having climbed Kilimanjaro! What an experience. I love to travel. Friends joke about starting a show called ‘Where’s Dion?’. I’ve had the opportunity to spend significant time in various different cultures and am grateful for that. I also like photography. I like kids. I like older people. I guess I like a lot of different things. Oh yeah, and I like to read. But I guess you know that, huh??
LH: Finally, the most important question. If I do ever make it to the Audies and Daniel Handler isn’t around, would you be my date? Just like I did as a kid, I like to call shotgun early…
DG: Jen, I would be delighted.
LH: Thank you, Dion! I am now accepting donations to my “Send Jennifer to the Audies fund.”