Interview with Jesse Dornan – Narrator of Dare

As promised, Jesse Dornan, the narrator for the audiobook version of Dare, has agreed to a guest interview on my blog. 🙂

Dare Audiobook Cover

Hi, Jesse! Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I’ve had a lot of readers asking about the person who is narrating The Blades of Acktar, so I’m glad you were willing to oblige them.

Tell us a little about yourself. Anything you’d like to share with all The Blades of Acktar fans?

Well, I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah to a family of artists.  I went to the University of Utah for my undergraduate training. I worked with some wonderful teachers in the Actor Training Program.  I had a stint in New York.  Then worked as an assistant director in Asbury Park, New Jersey. I toured the country with a children’s show, Pippi Longstocking.  I went to places I never thought I’d see.  Then it was off to Milwaukee Repertory Theatre for an internship.  There I got to work with incredibly passionate professionals. Graduate school in Sarasota Florida was the final stop for me before making my home in Chicago.  I love it here.  On the side I teach yoga, fitness, and spin classes.  That keeps me in shape and confident in front of others.  My real passion has always been acting.  I’m glad I could find a creative outlet through working on audiobooks.

Wow! You’ve sure traveled a lot! And it sounds like you definitely keep busy! 

What got you interested in narrating audiobooks?

I’ve always loved and admired those that can tell a convincing story off the page.  My mom used to read to me.  She’d do all the voices and it was such a delight.  She’d often record her reading so I could play it back when she wasn’t home.  I listened to books on tape with my stepmom.  Stephen King was our favorite.   In undergrad I read a chapter of Harry Potter for a class on narration. Once I got to Chicago I was looking for work that would keep me creatively fulfilled.  ACX came across my browser one day as I was searching for Voice-over work.  In hindsight all my experiences with spoken word brought me to a new passion.  I’m thankful that narration hooked me at such a young age.

My dad read the Little House books to me when I was little. Perhaps someday I’ll have to have him record The Little House in the Big Woods just to hear him do Pa’s story voice again. 

I absolutely love your rendition of the characters’ voices, especially Shad’s and Lord Alistair’s. How do you go about deciding character voices when you produce an audiobook?

I thought, oh my gosh, I have to create all these characters voices.  I wanted them to be distinct regionally, since Tricia laid out such a detailed map.  I felt like I was in Middle Earth!

Shad came to me as I was working on a theatre show Fallen Angels.  We chose to use RP or Received Pronunciation for our characters. It’s a heightened form of British.  My character, Willy just fit with Shad. Since Shad and Lord Alistair are related I wanted to use the same sort of dialect for both of them.  I used an aged British accent for Alistair.  I think he sounds a lot like Ian McKellan, who is one of my idols.

As for others, it comes to me intuitively as I read the book to myself.  Some I just throw on there and see if they sound right.  I wanted Renna to have a grounded voice, but still make it clear she was a female.  It’s actually hard for me to do a woman’s voice and not sound canned or airy.  She has to be a real person too.

Well, your choice of voices for Lord Alistair and Shad was perfect! I think most male narrators have a hard time doing women’s voices, so I was rather happy with how well Renna and Brandi turned out. I’ve heard some audiobooks where the women sounds REALLY fake. 

What does your process for creating an audiobook look like?

It took me over 85 hours to produce the first book.  It was a lot of trial and error.  I discovered so much about programs like Twisted Wave and Audacity.  It took a lot of patience and time but I enjoyed the obstacles.  They helped me grow.

I record all the audio now, raw.  Then I go back and take out long pauses.  I send it off to the author and wait for their notes.  Then on the second pass I read with the text next to me and find any mistakes with words, as well incorporate notes.  While doing this I take out all the background noise, using a program called Audacity.  Then I master the track.  This involves normalizing; making all the sound levels the same, so the listener doesn’t have to ride the volume nob.  I cut the peaks of the audio down to -3 decibel’s, otherwise you might lose your hearing on the louder parts of the audio.  Then I send it off again and wait for the final approval from the author.  I’ll make tweaks if need be then send off the final product for ACX approval.

Wow! A lot of work! I certainly appreciate it. 🙂 

A number of my blog readers are also indie authors who might someday be looking for a narrator for their books. Where can they contact you?

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today! 

In case you haven’t done it yet, you can listen to a sample of Dare‘s audiobook here.

The giveaway for a copy of the audiobook of Dare is now closed. The winners are:

Noel Young, Ariel Torres, Sierra Blasko, Rebekah, and Molly. I just sent you an email with your free audiobook code.


Congrats to the winners and thanks to everyone for your enthusiasm!



Dare is now Available as an Audiobook!

Yep, it’s official. If you’re the type of person who loves audiobooks (like me!), then Dare (The Blades of Acktar #1) is now available for you!  I’m geeking out more than a little bit about it!

Since I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about how this all came about and how and indie author even produces an audiobook, I’ve decided to put my answers here so everyone can find them easily.

Why did you want an audiobook version? 

I grew up listening to audiobooks on family road trips, and I survived my long commute to college( and I currently survive my long, downtown traffic commute) through audiobooks. I know there are a lot of people who are so busy that their main source of books are audiobooks. And there are some people who prefer audiobooks over reading for themselves.

Right now, there are only a limited number of Christian fantasy and other speculative fiction books available on audiobook. Hopefully that will continue to change as the audiobook market continues to grow.

How do you make an audiobook? 

I used ACX, which is an Amazon-affiliated company. It’s to audiobooks what Kindle Publishing is for ebooks and Createspace is for print on demand paperbacks. It’s a professional way to DIY.

Or, in the case of an audiobook, collaborate with a narrator. ACX is a place where authors can find and work with narrators to produce an audiobook.

For me, the process looked like this: after Dare released in June, I posted it on ACX in late June with my specifications for a narrator. By August, I’d gotten 1 audition, but the voice wasn’t quite right and the narrator wanted way more money than was within my price range.

In August, I attended the ACFW Writer’s Conference. While there, I went to a session run by Traci Hilton, a Christian indie author of cozy mysteries, on indie publishing. She had a lot of great tips, and we spent some time in the session discussing audiobooks. She suggested going out and approaching narrators instead of waiting for them to come to you.

So early in October, I spent an evening on ACX looking through the list of narrators that meant my specifications (male, young adult(ish) voice but not too young, certain price range) and listening to their samples posted on the site. I came up with a list of six narrators that I narrowed down to three. One of those top three was already my favorite. I listened to all of three seconds of his audio sample and knew right away that he’d be perfect for Dare. But I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

I sent him a message that night, figuring it’d be a while before I heard back and the answer would probably be no.

I got a message back the next morning. Yes, he’d love to narrate Dare. He sent in an audition, and I squealed out loud when I heard it. Click here to listen to the first five minutes of Dare.

The narrator’s name is Jesse Dornan. Dare is his first full-length audiobook. I’m putting together an interview with him.

After that, he recorded the book, I listened to it several times and gave a few changes to be made, the whole thing was posted on ACX, and I approved the final version. A week after I approved it, it was up on sale on Audible.

ACX made the whole process really easy, and the risk is mostly on the narrator’s part since the narrator doesn’t get paid until the final version is approved.

Where is it available? 

It can be purchased in digital format on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

Right now, Amazon is still processing it in their system and checking to make sure it is properly formatted for Whispersync. With Whispersync, you can flip between the Kindle version and the audio version, and it will pick up where the other one left off. I’ve never done it, so I’m not exactly sure how it works. I do know the audiobook and the Kindle version have to match nearly 100% for Amazon to approve it for Whispersync. Right now, I’m being told this could take up to a month to process.

When Whispersync is approved, however, it means that if you purchased the Kindle version of Dare, you’ll be able to purchase the audiobook at a discount.

If you’re a member of Audible, you also can purchase the audiobook at a discount.

Will it be available on CD? 

No, it’s only available in digital format. However, I happen to know you can burn it onto CDs for your personal use (emphasis on personal use only. Anything else is piracy). I won’t explain how to do it here, but it is easy enough that I figured out how to do it.

Now for a giveaway!

To celebrate the release of the audiobook, I’m giving away 5 digital copies! Yay! Follow this link to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dare Audiobook Cover

What do you guys think? Are you excited for an audiobook version?

A Look Back

I realized today that I haven’t blogged at all since Deny released. Not a good way to go about keeping up my social media presence.

At the beginning of December, my carpal tunnel syndrome started acting up again in my right wrist. I’m still not sure what set it off. You’d think spending 11 to 12 hours a day on the computer to get Deny out into the world would’ve caused problems, but it didn’t. But when I cut back my time on the computer to give myself a break, then it got bad again. So I cut out even more computer time (including blogging) until my wrist no longer hurt. Thankfully, the pain is gone now, so I’m back. 🙂

A New Year 2016

It’s the day after New Year’s, so it’s as good a time as any to look back and reflect. God did so many amazing things in my life this year, I’m still blown away. Especially once I started making a list.

This time last year, I had just finished writing three manuscripts for what I had called The Blades of Acktar. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them or what publishing route God wanted me to pursue. I was waiting for my first professional edit to come back on Dare from Nadine Brandes, an editor I was just beginning to get to know. I’d just connected with Angie Brashear online and began pestering her with questions on indie publishing. And I’d just heard of Jaye L. Knight. I’d only had a blog for a few months, and I wasn’t even on Goodreads yet, much less most of the other social media sites.

Crazy, when I think about it. Now I have so many writing friends online I’m blown away. I connected with the wonderful Kim Moss through a book launch team we were on together. Angie Brashear became a prayer warrior who helped pray Deny into existence. I don’t know what I’d do without Nadine as a friend and mentor. And Jaye’s encouragement has been amazing. All the other bloggers and fellow authors who volunteered for my launch team: Claire, Shantelle, Hope, Alyssa, Abigail, Jessica, Gabriela. Sierra, my amazing critique partner who helped so much. All the fans who have contacted me or written reviews or simply interacted in some way on line. I can’t believe that a year ago, I didn’t really know any of you.

I now have two published book and a third in the process of publication. My three book series turned into four. Dare hit #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list for Christian Fantasy (sharing the list with such estimable writers as Jill Williamson, Jaye L. Knight, and Patrick Carr. Seriously never thought I’d see my books anywhere near theirs on a bestseller list!). Deny hit the #1 Hot Newest Release in Christian Fantasy for the first month after its release, and both Dare and Deny are still bouncing around in the top 20 on the Christian Fantasy bestseller list. I am so blown away by the response to these books.

I’m excited to see what God does with 2016.