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The Yarn
Inside The Yarn

Mark Turetsky Reads Aloud For A Living

Colby: I’m excited to share a new series of blog posts: Narrator Of The Month. Each month we’ll profile an audio book narrator. This month we’re getting to know Mark Turetsky. I first heard Mark read while listening to the audio book for Tom Angleberger’s The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. I listened to the entire audio book during a training run for a marathon. The run was absolutely dreadful. Thankfully, the audio book was lovely.

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Click here to find a list of the books Mark has narrated.

Check out this video of Mark recording narration for Breaking Stalin’s Nose.

*note-All audio in the videos used in this post are in drafts, and may sound different from the finished product.

Mark agreed to answer a few of my questions.

1. How did you become an audiobook narrator?

Well, I had a job in the same building as Recorded Books used to be in (also the Strand bookstore!), and my job brought me up to their floor once. I had been working for a few years as a voice actor and gave the producer there, Claudia Howard, a reel of narration work that I had done. She must have liked what she heard, because a few months later she called me in to record my first book, Wendy Mass’ Every Soul A Star. From there, as they say, work leads to work.

2. How do you prepare for a recording?

The first thing I do when I get a new book to record is to read it through for comprehension, as well as marking notes about difficult words that I might have to look up, which characters speak, if there are any descriptions of characters that will help me find a voice, etc. If it’s a book in a series, I’ll often go back and listen to samples from previous books in order to get the feel for the tone of the book, or how the characters sound. I’ll sometimes read the book through a second time, but usually not to lock down any kind of idea of how it’s being read in the moment, more for just how a given scene might fit into the overall story. You want to tell a story, rather than just sounding like you’re reading a text aloud. Sometimes I’ll plan to read something a certain way, but in the moment it just doesn’t feel right, and I’ll read the line as I feel is right in the moment, rather than what I thought was right weeks before when I was preparing the book. That’s the difference between telling a story and reading one aloud.

3. What type of books do you read for pleasure?

So, I get this thing where if I’m reading prose, I can’t turn off the part of my brain that tries to analyze “how would I read this as an audiobook narrator?” It can be pretty distracting, and doesn’t help me to relax while reading a book, so I do most of my reading in audio form. It’s nice to just have someone reading a book to me, and every now and then I can be surprised by the way another narrator approaches a text, and say to myself “wow, I never would have thought to do it like that,” and I think it’s helped me in my work. That being said, I enjoy Sci-Fi, Fantasy, some Literary Fiction, and some non-fiction books, like ones about language. Any time there’s a new Jon Ronson book, I eat it right up. I also read a ton of comic books, because that type of visual storytelling engages me in a completely different way.
4. Do you do different voices for all the characters? How do you keep them straight?

Depending on the book, I have different ideas about how to voice different characters. For instance, in a book I did recently, The Bicycle Spy, all of the characters are French and many are children. It can be tough coming up with a bunch of distinct voices within the confines of “they all have to have French accents” and “they all have to sound like kids.” For cases like that, I’d want really distinct sounds for my main characters, and then do the rest of the work in distinguishing the rest of the cast by their attitudes, so that hopefully the listener can just tell by tone “oh, that’s the main character’s teacher, and not his mother.” It also makes a difference if it’s meant to take place in the real world or not. If a book is overtly wacky, I feel like I’ve got more leeway to do weirder voices, whereas a serious book set in a warzone wouldn’t really work with wackier voices. As for keeping them all straight, whenever I introduce a new character’s voice, I save a sample of it, and whenever that character shows up, I’ll go back and listen to the sample, so that I’m always starting from the same place with each character, and hopefully they don’t drift too much in their interpretation.

5. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve had to do as a narrator? (Singing? Sounds? etc.)

When I was a little kid and we would play Star Wars, I loved doing the Darth Vader thing, where you put your hands over your mouth and nose and make a little echo chamber, then you breathe heavily and talk as low as you can and voilà, you’ve got Darth Vader. When it came time to do Harvey doing a Vader voice in Darth Paper Strikes Back, I just automatically did that, and that’s how it ended up in the finished audiobook.

 

additional

Check out Mark’s Vimeo page.

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Follow Mark on Twitter.

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Read Mark’s Nerdy Book Club post: A Few Thoughts on Narration

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Colby Sharp About Colby Sharp

Colby Sharp is a third grade teacher at Parma Elementary in Parma, Michigan. He is the co-founder of Nerd Camp and Nerdy Book Club. He co-hosts the monthly twitter chats #SharpSchu (with John Schu) and #TitleTalk (with Donalyn Miller)

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