I am super excited to be a part of the blog tour for Rootless by Nick Podehl, who is the audiobook narrator of Rootless. How cool is that?
I was fortunate enough to work with people on the ROOTLESS audiobook who really wanted my input. The Executive Producer, Paul Gagne, said he wanted the narrator to sound as close as possible to how Banyan sounded in my head. I also got to record music for the intro/outro, and it was really awesome to be involved. Selecting the narrator ended up being pretty easy… as soon as I heard Nick, I knew he’d be a great Banyan! I also loved that he’d narrated the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, and the Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, some of my favorite books of recent years. I have to admit, though – as excited as I was, I’d no idea that Nick would deliver such an incredible performance. And I’m super grateful he’s agreed to do this Q&A with me about the project! BOOK BLOG TOUR EXCLUSIVE!
CHRIS: How do you prepare for narrating a book like ROOTLESS? Do you develop voices and ideas straight away, or do you wait until you’ve read the whole story before you start working out how you’ll interpret it?
NICK: I will usually get some ideas in my head as I am going along and revise them as new information about the plot, characters, and the like come up. When I am finished prepping the manuscript and have the complete picture, then I will go back and re-evaluate what ideas I have come up with to make sure they are all in line with the story and the information presented therein. Much of the interpretation and many vocal choices are actually made in the studio with the collective collaboration between the director, the narrator, and even the engineer. It really is a group effort.
CHRIS: I’m curious what it looks like when you’re recording the audio. Are you in a booth? Is there someone watching you? Do you wave your arms around and things, or do you have to stay pretty still? :)
NICK: Usually I am in a confined space, depending on the studio, but I am all alone in the room. I might be able to see the director through a little window, but pretty much, it’s just me and my tea in there for 8 hours a day. I try to move as little as possible when recording so that, say, the shuffling of my shirt doesn’t get picked up by the microphone (they are that sensitive!) I try not to wave my hands around, but I am rather animated when I speak, let alone tell a story, and I have been known to whack the microphone on occasion.
CHRIS: How much of “yourself” are you able to put into your reading? Do you find you lose yourself inside the characters, or do you try to tie things into personal experiences you’ve had?
NICK: I try to put myself into every story. I think it makes for a better, more believable tale if I really dive into it. I try to capture the emotion of a part of the story by looking at times in my own life to really feel that feeling that the character is going through at that moment. For voices, I put the sounds I hear in my everyday life into stories as much as I can. I think it gives me a wider range of possibilities as apposed to just mimicking celebrity voices or actors from movies. Don’t get me wrong, I do a fair amount of that too, but I love being able to put a voice I heard at the grocery store in a book if they have a unique sound.
CHRIS: I’m amazed at your range in portraying the different characters in ROOTLESS. And you have to switch between their voices so quickly! How do you transition from reading the voice of a teenage girl with broken lungs to the voice of a seven-foot Rasta bodyguard?
NICK: There are times when that is really challenging. Often times we need to stop so I can get the right sound if the character has been away for a while. But when it is a back and forth between two very sharply contrasting characters like that, I just have to flip. I think with some books, I have a preview of what it would be like to have multiple personalities. My commute into the studio is often times filled with conversations with myself in the voices of the characters I am going to be using that day. I really do have the best job in the world!
CHRIS: Was there a part of ROOTLESS, or a character, that was more challenging to narrate? And, on the flip-side, did you have a favorite character to read?
NICK: I think they are the same character for me. Crow was the character I enjoyed giving voice to the most. I can also say that he was the most difficult for me to give voice to as I am not a 7 foot tall Rastafarian with a deep booming voice. But he was my favorite character. In fact my wife heard a lot of Crow at home for weeks afterward as I just could not let go of how much fun it was for me to do his voice.
CHRIS: How often do you listen to audiobooks yourself? Do you have any favorites, or narrators who’ve been a big inspiration to you?
NICK: I don’t listen to as many as I should. But I think the ones that have had an influence on me would be Luke Daniels and McLeod Andrews. They tell some of the best stories I have ever heard. I have directed both of them and worked with them on various projects and I just get so caught up in the stories and invested in their characters. I have a hard time believing that it is just them in the booth as they both do such a great job in utilizing different vocal techniques with various characters. As far as female narration goes, I think Katherine Kellgren is an amazingly talented narrator. Just listen to the Bloody Jack books if you want to hear what I am talking about.
And now, the tables get turned, and it’s Nick’s turn to ask me questions!
NICK: How did you come up with the idea for ROOTLESS?
CHRIS: I covered this in more detail earlier on the blog tour, and you can see the VLOG here. The quick version? In the Colorado Rockies, we’re losing a lot of trees because of damage caused by the Mountain Pine Beetle. I was in the forest and surrounded by dead trees, and I imagined them all falling… and then started to think “what if every tree fell, and all the crops and plants and grasses were destroyed?” I imagined genetically engineered corn surviving as the only source of food and fuel, everything else ravaged by plagues of all-consuming locusts, and then I pictured a young man out on the dusty plains, building trees out of scrap metal… until he found a clue to the location of the last living trees.
NICK: How long did it take you to write this story from conception to publication?
CHRIS: The first draft happened very fast. Just a couple of months. But then, people often say how many months or years it took to write something… and I should mention I wrote at least 50 hours each week during those two months. I’d get home from work and I’d write, sometimes right through the night. And on weekends, I wouldn’t even stop to eat much. It wasn’t the greatest thing for my job or my personal life, but it was great to be in the zone, like that :) I spent essentially the next year, on and off, revising the manuscript with my agent and then with my editor. Another year later… and here we are :)
NICK: How did the Rastafarians take over Niagara Falls?
CHRIS: Awesome question! A prize for you, sir! There is a visual clue hidden on this page of my website http://chrishowardbooks.com/media_photos.php It’s an easter egg, if you will! Find it, click on it, and the secret history of the Soljahs will be revealed to you! This is stuff that’s not even in ROOTLESS. Or at least, not in Book One… :)
NICK: What was your favorite character or part of the book? I mean if you had to narrow it down to just one of each…
CHRIS: Banyan’s my favorite, I think. I mean, without him, there’s no story! But I also like that he’s not your typical hero, and I’ve grown very fond of him as I’ve followed him on this adventure. I’m going with the final section of the book, the climax, as my favorite part. As the writer, you have so much momentum at that point, and in ROOTLESS, each character gets their “moment”… I love how all the moments come together.
NICK: When will we get to travel with Banyan again? Is there a teaser you can give us? Because many want to know!
CHRIS: The second book in the series is raring to go, but I don’t have any details on when you’ll be able to read it. I’ve actually no idea! But the story gets bigger, deeper and darker. They’re not out of the woods, yet, as it were… or should that be “into” the woods?!?
To follow the rest of the tour and get more chances to win ROOTLESS swag, check out http://yabookscentral.com/
About Rootless: 17-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan’s never seen a real tree—they were destroyed more than a century ago—his father used to tell him stories about the Old World. But that was before his father was taken . . .
Everything changes when Banyan meets a woman with a strange tattoo—a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can’t escape the locusts—the locusts that now feed on human flesh.
But Banyan isn’t the only one looking for the trees, and he’s running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he’s forced to make an uneasy alliance with Alpha, an alluring, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might only be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.
In this dazzling debut, Howard presents a disturbing world with uncanny similarities to our own. Like the forests Banyan seeks to rebuild, this visionary novel is both beautiful and haunting—full of images that will take permanent root in your mind . . . and forever change the way you think about nature.
Now I have a super cool giveaway featuring bookmarks, a signed copy of the book, and a tshirt, which ends December 1 and is open internationally. Fill out the rafflecopter to enter!
LINKS for Nick:
LINKS for Chris: