Everyone, please welcome Fred Wolinsky. He’s an Audible.com approved narrator, an actor, a puppeteer, a sign language interpreter, and all-around entertainer! Today we chat about audiobooks, fantastical worlds and fictional people, the differences of live performance versus narration, and much more. Enjoy!
What fictional world would you like to visit?
Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by fictional worlds — Neverland, Oz, Wonderland, and others. That is one of the reasons I really enjoyed narrating “The Doorways Trilogy” by Tim O’Rourke. His fictional world of Endra borrows from many others, and sets up its own intriguing rules. If I had to pick just one fictional world to visit and explore, it would probably be Narnia.
In thinking about that, there are actually 2 very different book series that I would like to experience again — “The Tales of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, and “Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin. I read them both when I was very young, and would probably have a whole new perspective now, with more life experience. Narnia presented the wonder and innocence of childhood shattered by evil, and saved by magic and faith in the good. That series touched me in the soul, as well as my sense of adventure. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Tales of the City” presented a large cast of quirky, flawed, and lovable people in real world San Francisco. It presented its own kind of innocence of young people growing up through a changing time. That series touched my heart and my sensibilities, and I would like to meet those people again, looking back in time.
I am hoping that some of the books that I narrate, like “The Doorways Trilogy” will become experiences that others will want to experience again. One of the benefits of narrating audiobooks is that people can experience the stories in a whole different media, providing a new perspective. After hearing my narration of his book, Tim O’Rourke responded that “The book really comes to life and even though I wrote it, I got caught up in the story as if coming across it for the first time.” Readers can have that same experience and listen to books even if they have already read them.
My favorite parts are meeting lots of interesting people — even if only virtually — and getting the support of blogs like yours. I love getting feedback and hearing people’s views. I also like writing and designing promotional material. The worst part is the frustration of limited market reach, and the inability to break through a glass ceiling of visibility.
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to narrating?
I have been fortunate to have jobs that I enjoyed throughout my life, so there is no “worst” job. All have their simple moments, and their difficulties, but the difficulties present the challenges that make them exciting. The most challenging job I have ever had is that of a Sign Language Interpreter. The mental challenges of handling 2 languages simultaneously, each with very different structures and thought processes, plus dealing with each individual’s linguistic styles and accents, makes it extremely intensive work. Experts have called the process of interpreting the most challenging cognitive process that man is capable of.
Narrating has its challenges as well. Each book has a different style, tone, and “voice,” plus each character should have a unique voice and personality. It is similar to sign language interpreting, in that acting and narrating is also a form of interpreting — interpreting the author’s thoughts and words, and delivering that message to the listener. The mental challenges of switching instantly between character voices and narrative can be comparable to interpreting. However, interpreting is done live, in real time. Narrating, on the other hand, has the luxury of being able to stop and start and then edit it together to appear live without having to actually do it within the confines of real time.
That depends on the eye of the beholder. I have my various piles around my desk that I feel are neatly arranged, and I know just where everything is. However nobody else would be able to make sense of it. So, it could probably be described as a tidy mess.
If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?
Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another’s work?
I have only been doing audiobook narration for a little over a year now, and most contact with fans are virtual. Even though I have 20 books available through Audible.com at the moment, and several more in production, I have not had much direct interaction with fans. However, as a puppeteer, I had much more direct contact. Perhaps the most awkward moment was when someone saw me at a conference and just gushed over how much they loved my shows. As they talked about it, I realized that it was not one of my shows they were talking about, but actually someone else’s show. I tried to explain that to the fan, but she insisted that it was my show, and suggested that perhaps I just “forgot.” (Having done each show dozens or perhaps hundreds of times, I know which are and are not my own shows, but this fan had a different opinion.). So, rather than argue with a fan, and especially since she loved the work, I just smiled and thanked her for her praise.
I have been a puppeteer and an actor — both performing before a live audience. While there are many similarities to book narration, there are also many differences.
They are similar in that they both require bringing characters and words to life, and interpreting an author’s story. They both require extensive use of the voice, including character voices and accents, sometimes many different character voices in one performance.
One of the differences is that with narration, the entire illusion must be created with the voice. In acting and puppetry, there is a visual aspect which is just as important if not more so. Another difference is the amount of preparation. Since acting and puppetry are presented before a live audience, extensive rehearsal is needed to do it in real time, without the ability to stop and correct anything. It is performed over and over again, each performance being essentially the same, but always slightly different than the others. Narrating involves very little prep, but you have the luxury of stopping and starting, correcting, and retaking until each component is just right — then it is frozen in the recording. And a final difference is that with live performance, you get immediate feedback from the live audience — hearing their responses — and can adjust your performance accordingly. With narration, you have to imagine and anticipate the audience response, and do not have the pleasure of actually hearing it happen. You do, however, get feedback from authors and listeners. In some ways the artistic rewards (the pleasures of creating the art) last longer in narration, but the ego rewards (the praise from fans) are more hidden and delayed.
As a sign language interpreter, do you occasionally find an animated person who talks with lots of gestures inadvertently signing off-beat things? Due to this skill, have you modified any of your own gestures?
Actually no. In both spoken and signed languages, gestures and language complement each other, but are different. Sign language is an actual language. Just like spoken languages, it also incorporates gestures, but the gestures themselves enhance rather than replace the words. I have never seen anyone doing a gesture that inadvertently translates into an unexpected lexical sign. However, I have experienced times where I am trying to express myself verbally to a hearing person, and find that my thoughts are more clearly expressed with sign language. I then automatically start signing without thinking about it, but quickly catch myself and remind myself that the person I am talking with does not understand sign language, and I have to figure out how to express myself verbally instead.
I currently have 20 books available on Audible.com. My most recently completed projects have been the first 2 books of the paranormal fantasy adventure, “The Doorways Trilogy” by Tim O’Rourke. You recently reviewed book 1: Doorways. Book 2 (League of Doorways) is also currently available. The third book (The Queen of Doorways) will not be out until sometime the first half of 2015.
In production, and coming out soon will be Insanity Tales, a collection of stories of murder, mayhem and madness by David Daniel, Stacy Longo, Vlad V., Ursula Wong, and Dale T. Phillips, with an introduction by the New York Times Best-selling author Jonathan Maberry. Also coming out soon is the paranormal fantasy romance, To Light the Dragon’s Fire by Margaret Taylor. I have several other books in the production queue as well that I am working on.
For the latest information about my books, to listen to a wide range of audio samples, and to see a short video of me narrating an excerpt from Doorways, check out my website at http://fredwolinsky.weebly.com/
Places to find Fred Wolinsky