The Narrator and Audiobooks – Our Interview with Narrator Joel Leslie (Audiobooks Part II)
Last Sunday, I started our conversation about the fast-rising audiobook industry with my blog Are You Listening Now? The Popularity of Audiobooks. This Sunday, that conversation continues with The Narrator and Audiobooks – Our Interview with Narrator Joel Leslie (Audiobooks Part II).
As I have said before, and as reviewers/listeners we have noted many times in our reviews, a good or great narrator makes or breaks an audiobook. It doesn’t matter that you have read it before. Listening to a book makes it fresh once more. It gives a reader a new and different perspective. Often times I hear things I missed in the story, or catch things from a narrator’s inflection that highlights a previously hidden element. I love that about this format.
Also the opposite is true. A narrator you don’t connect with, or one with a flat delivery, or monotone voice…well, that can sink a terrific story faster than a lead anchor. So what’s the key? How to get some insight into those people behind the voices we love to listen to?
Well I was so lucky to hook up with the very talented Joel Leslie who agreed to answer some questions for me. A favorite narrator for both Barb, our Zany Old Lady and Ali, I was delighted to have this chance to talk audiobooks, voices and favorite genres. Here is my interview with Theatrical Director, Designer, and Audiobook Narrator Joel Froomkin , known to most of the LGBTQIA listeners of audiobooks as Narrator Joel Leslie. For you authors out there thinking of putting your story out on audio? Hmmm, I think you might find this as enlightening as our readers.
Welcome, Joel, to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. We love our audiobooks here, including several you have narrated including Dinner at Fiorello’s by Rick R. Reed and Ali’s Audiobook Review of Desert Heat and Native Tongue by Lucy Felthouse. I have so many questions for you but these were the first ones that came to mind.
My Interview with Joel Leslie
- How did you get started with narrating audiobooks?
Long answer… lol…
It was a long and winding road actually – but I’m so grateful to have landed here. My undergrad was in performance at USC and then I did my MFA there in design and directing. My entire professional career up until the past few years has been concentrated on directing… I did a lot of assisting as well, working on shows with Dame Maggie Smith and lots of other amazing folks. About ten years ago my partner and I started a theatre company in Indiana. It was a labor of love, but despite our efforts the community wasn’t able to financially support the scale of professional productions we aimed to do. I have also been a college professor, teaching dialects at NYU and I was the Director of Drama at a university here in Indiana for a while.
While we were doing shows, in between productions I would sometimes present one-man radio dramas… I would abridge classics like Christmas Carol, Treasure Island, Jekyll and Hyde and do them for a few nights. The audiences loved them. As we were looking to be able to move the theatre company to another area, one of my long time friends who is a fantastic female narrator suggested I give it a try. So I began auditioning and the first contract I landed has actually been most successful series (the SkylerGo Foxe Mysteries by Haley Walsh
It is a perfect blend of skills really – because 99% of the time with audiobooks you are directing yourself… so my performer background is obviously helpful, but also being able to listen to yourself with a critical ear and shape the performance I think is a terribly useful tool. And now it’s a full time job. I’m booked through February at the moment! Eep.
- Do you listen to audiobooks yourself and was that an element in your career or just a plus?
I came to audiobooks largely because I was a huge fan of them. I have always loved the theatricality of an actor playing multiple roles in front of an audience… the ability to be a chameleon. And I fell in love with audiobooks because of that. My favorites were Jim Dale, Davina Porter and Roy Dotrice… they don’t just read a story – they perform it for you. I listen to an audiobook every night… I think that one of the trickiest things is actually working of authors who AREN’T listeners to audiobooks, because they don’t really have a familiarity with the art form and what the audience wants.
- What is the hardest part of narrating a story?
Gosh – great question. I narrate under two names… Joel Froomkin for most of my material and Joel Leslie for my m/m material (simply so that I have a consistent brand for my m/m listeners). But Joel Froomkin does a lot of historical and fantasy stuff – and I hate doing battle scenes. It’s difficulty to not try to over act them, or speed up to make it seem exciting… and those are traps. I just think they are hard. Maybe cuz I’m not into sports lol! Other than that, I have a tough time when there are a lot of alpha american men in conversation with each other in a scene. Flamboyant characters can have quirks and personality that make them easily identifiable… and when you are doing a British book it’s so much easier because class and level of education is so distinctive with their speech and also dialects change in England every 21 miles… so you have great variety for how you make characters sound to pull them out for the listener. But if I have a bunch of super-butch American alpha males in a room having a conversation in a book I usually have a panic attack.
It’s also very challenging to do a series where the author gives you multiple POV chapters. Usually you would make your main character your own voice… because it’s going to be the most authentic and resonate as the most truthful with the reader… but when you have a bunch of characters speaking in first person… you can’t do that. And it can be a real challenge. I’ve had two like that recently (“Absolution (The Protectors #1)” by Sloane Kennedy
(which is the first in an amazing series) and “Guns Blazing
” by Eva Lenoir and Andrea Smith) that I sweated bullets over.
People are so shocked to hear this…but the sex scenes. Because usually there isn’t that much dialogue and it’s all descriptive. So you can just settle back and read… it’s kind of like putting your car on cruise control. And after doing this for almost two years now, there really isn’t much I can read that will make me blush!
- I can remember listening to books being read to me as a child. How they were read had a huge impact on me. Using different voices, no matter how silly it might have seen to the adult (bears, rabbits…you know…childrens books). The same carries over here. In some stories, you play many characters where there are different pov. Or do you only narrate stories with a singular pov?
It depends on the narrator… but I am very much a narrator who creates characters. It’s funny that you mention animals, because when I first get a book I send the author a bunch of questions and one of them is “if your character was an animal what would they be”… Finding the voice for someone is much easier if you know the author thinks they are a ferret vs. a hamster or a Persian cat. But I think the m/m listeners that really respond to my work usually do so because they enjoy how much individuality I try to give my characters. Also, because I grew up in the UK with American parents, I’m kind of a dialect ambidextrous lol. I jump between authentic British and American accents and I do as much British work for British authors as I do for American authors. Listeners who have tried multiple books of mine are often confused about what my real voice sounds like.
- I would imagine, being a narrator lets you go into any genre you want…am I correct in that? Or do you have a particular favorite
Well I love that I get to do so much m/m work. I find it really important and empowering to be able to put those kind of stories out into the world. I know the main audience is female for m/m romance, but I also think about the young adults who are struggling to feel ok with themselves and they might discover one of these stories by the brilliant authors I get to work for and find some hope. And the thing about audio is it’s so private… you really are one-on-one with the listener. So it means a lot to be able to give voice to m/m romance. I also love doing fantasy stuff because it means you can use every dialect in the universe and play with crazy voices. You don’t get to do everything you want – I think you can get pigeonholed as a narrator. But I’m luckily not in that place yet, and my audiobook career has a lot of room to grow.
- What’s your favorite types of stories to read or listen to?
I am such a sucker for cozy mysteries. I don’t know why. I LOVE MC Beaton and the Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin books. I think that’s why I love doing Haley Walsh’s Skyler Foxe so much…because it really is a gay spin on that type of mystery. I think TJ Klune is one of the most amazing authors out there in any genre. I don’t think I could ever get tired of listening to Jim Dale doing Harry Potter or Roy Dotrice doing Game of Thrones… they are just extraordinary examples of old-school storytelling. I’m also so lucky to have an ongoing relationship with authors like N.R Walker, Kim Fielding, Andrea Smith, Kiernan Kelly, TM Smith and Grace R Duncan – they always seem to have something wonderful for me to play with.
- What current projects are you working on that you want to share with our readers?
Absolution, the first in the protectors series by Sloane Kennedy just came out, as did Fame and Fortune by TM Smith. Upcoming things I’m really excited about are the sequel to Black Balled called Hard Edit by Andrea Smith and Eva Lenoir, the second book in the Red Dirt Heart series by NR Walker and The Naked Prince and Other Fairy Tales by Joe Cosentino.
- If you were an bard of old….how would you start your story of your life and what would it be called?
“Once upon a time there was a kid who could never keep his big mouth shut… It took two decades for him to realize there was a career for that.”
Thank you, Joel, that was a wonderful interview. I’m sure there are many more questions rumbling about inside my head. I hope you will stop back by Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for another conversation about narration and audiobooks and any future projects you want to share with us.
To listen to Joel, here are three different excerpts:
If you want to reach out to Joel, we have listed his contacts below. We also have a giveaway today for our readers brought to you by Joel who is giving away 10 copies, yes 10 winners… the winners could choose the first book in any of my series they wanted to try (Skyler Foxe, The Protectors, Jimmy McSwain Mysteries, All Cocks, or Black Balled)!
About Joel Froomkin
Joel is a UK transplant, growing up with an American parents in a British commonwealth. He is often cast for his unique ability to deliver native, authentic combinations of both American and British sounds. His wit and comedic timing also appeal to producers. He has developed a strong body of work for young audience, historical, fantasy, new-adult, romance and m/m fiction.
His author’s have praised him as “a narrator among narrators, a man whose ability to create different characters rests on the power of his voice and his impeccable delivery”, and a “true delight…” “legendary, and his professionalism, good humor, and charm make him a dream to work with”, “Anyone else would only be second best”.
Joel records under two names, for mainstream and children’s fiction as Joel Froomkin, and for m/m and adult material under Joel Leslie and has consistent access to home studio for all production needs.
You can contact Joel Froomkin at:
We are giving away 10 copies (1 copy a winner so 10 winners overall) , all thanks to Joel Froomkin! The 10 people chosen will get to chose from the first book in any of Joel’s series they wanted to try (Skyler Foxe, The Protectors, Jimmy McSwain Mysteries, All Cocks, or Black Balled).
To be entered, tell us who’s your favorite narrator or narrators are. Tell us what you like best about a narrator and maybe name some of your favorite audiobooks. New to audiobooks? OK, name the ones you’d love to be able to listen to if you had a way to listen to audiobooks. And after you do that, make sure you leave a contact name and email address where you can be reached if chosen. Contest is open until midnight, September 30th. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.
(Special Note: If you are a Amazon Prime user, Audible is now free with your account.)
This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
Sunday, September 18:
- The Narrator and Audiobooks – Our Interview with Narrator Joel Froomkin (also known as Joel Leslie)(Audiobooks Part II)
- This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
- A Paul B Audiobook Review: The Autumn Lands by J Scott Coatsworth
Monday, September 19:
- Riptide Tour and Giveaway ~ Bitterwood by Rowan Speedwell
- A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Dad’s Nerdy New Boyfriend by JM Snyder
- An Alisa Release Day Review: Power Bottom by Rowan McAllister
- A Lila Release Day Review: Safe House (Buchanan House #4) by Charley Descoteaux
- A Paul Review: Orion’s Circle (Sirius Wolves # 1) byVictoria Sue
Tuesday, September 20:
- Release Blitz & Tour – Sweet Summer Sweat by Clare London
- An Alisa Review: Broke by Amanda Young
- A MelanieM Release Day Review: The Pill Bugs of Time (Offbeat Crimes #2) by Angel Martinez
- An Ali Review: Looking for Group by Alexis Hall
- A Stella Review: Three More Wishes by Sean Michael
Wednesday, September 21:
- Its Release Day for Flight: Queer Sci Fi’s Third Annual Flash Fiction Contest Anthology (QSF Flash Fiction #2) by J. Scott Coatsworth , Angel Martinez , et al.
- Series Recap Tour – Guns n’ Boys by KA Merikan
- A Stella Review: Resistance (Village Love #1) by Lillian Francis
- A MelanieM Release Day Review: Taming the Wyld by Lucie Archer
- A Ali Review: David, Renewed by Diana Copland
Thursday, September 22:
- Riptide Tour and Giveaway: Gambling on Love by Jane Davitt
- A Stella Review: Gambling on Love by by Jane Davitt
- A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Run for it All by Carolyn Levine Topol
- An Alisa Audiobook Review: The Queen & the Homo Jock King (At First Sight #2) by T.J. Klune and Michael Lesley (Narrator)
Friday, September 23:
- Keep Me In Mind tour: Deanna Wadsworth ‘Too Good To Be True‘ (Excerpt and Giveaway)
- In the Spotlight: Immortal Watch by Olivia Helling (blitz, excerpt and giveaway)
- An Alisa Audiobook Review: Breakaway (Scoring Chances #1) by Avon Gale and Scott R. Smith (Narrator)
- An Ali Releases Day Review: Raven’s Rest by Stephen Osborne
- An Alisa Audiobook Review: Model Citizen (Haven Investigations #1) by Lissa Kasey and Mike Pohlable (Narrator)
Saturday, September 24:
- A MelanieM Review: Wriggle & Sparkle by Megan Derr