Please join us in welcoming Jay Bell to Sinfully today. Jay talks about why he is has now been converted to the power of audiobooks and interviews Kevin R. Free the narrator for his books.
Jay will also be giving away ten Audible audiobook promotion codes for his books to ten lucky winner. What are you waiting for? Read on and enter the giveaway…………
Jay Interviews Kevin R. Free
I was never much of an audiobook guy, but then I met an amazing man who changed my world by making me fall in love. For once I’m not talking about my husband. I’m not having an affair either, I swear! It’s just that my narrator is AMAZING. When I decided to commission my first audiobook, I searched high and low for the right voice. I didn’t just want someone who read the book. I wanted them to feel the story along with the reader, to share those same emotions as part of the experience. When I found Kevin R. Free, I liked the sound of his voice, and his range. I don’t think I realized at the time the sort of performances I would get—how my characters would come to life through his acting abilities and his incredible range of unique voices. The man is gifted, so I thought it would be fun to talk to him directly, find out what makes him tick, and how exactly a story makes the magical transition from text to sound. Let’s do it!
Jay: For those of us who have never been to a recording studio (raises hand) explain briefly the process of how audiobooks get made. Do you just sit on a couch in your underwear and record yourself on a cell phone?
Kevin: YES. NO. WAIT - what have you heard about me? Actually, no. I go to a studio—for your books to Brickshop Audio (www.brickshopaudio.com) in Brooklyn. I sit in a booth by myself (sometimes in my underwear, sometimes less*), and read into a microphone while a director, who is also an engineer, listens and stops me when I make mistakes. I do that anywhere from four hours to six hours at a time.
*I always wear underwear + pants and shirts.
Jay: Where do babies come from? Scratch that, I don’t want to know. What I am curious about, is what it’s like to have to read sex scenes out loud. Do you have privacy in the recording booth? What’s that experience like for you?
Kevin: The booth is private and it gets hot sometimes. Not just because of sex scenes, but because of the ventilation in the office building where Brickshop is, or because of the lamp in the booth, or because of how I'm dressed. So doing the sex scenes in your books is not embarrassing at all, though sometimes I wonder how my directors experience hearing the sex scenes. Some are definitely sexier than others. And your sex writing has become more explicit with each new book. It's been nice to watch/read/feeeeel the progression. I have to say, though, that it is not the sex that makes me uncomfortable. It's the way you describe love and grief. I have cried over the way these characters grieve the loves they've lost. I've cried in the booth!
Jay: Let’s talk about the more emotional stuff. In the Something Like… series, you’ve not only had to fall in love convincingly, but there are plenty of angry scenes and sad stuff too. You’ve even had to die in one of the books—or at the least the character you were portraying did. Is it hard to get yourself to these emotional spots?
Kevin: It isn't hard to get to those spots, especially now that I know these characters and the way you write them. I really have pictures in my mind of each of the characters so I feel really invested in telling their stories. Also, I am pretty sure Nathaniel and I are meant to be together. So... yeah. Falling in love with these guys has been easy. Except with Kelly. He's tough.
Jay: One thing that really sets you apart from other narrators is the number of voices you are capable of. Most narrators try to create a distinction when reading, but you’re more like listening to a radio play with a full-fledged cast. It’s stunning! As this series has gone on, and especially between recording each book, has it been difficult to keep track of who sounds like whom?
Kevin: Thank you for the compliment! When I started doing audiobooks fifteen years ago, the rule of thumb was to suggest the voices, not do them like I was doing a one-man show (which is always my tendency). But after Jim Dale did the Harry Potter series so brilliantly and vividly, I began trying to go much further with my voices.
Keeping track of the voices is definitely difficult. Remember how I messed up Jace before doing his story? I was so happy that you reminded me of his voice, and I have paid attention to the voices ever since. Doing these books has taught me to take real care in creating the voices, because I never know which ones you're going to make into major characters! The hardest voices are Allison and Kelly. They're both so sardonic that it's hard to do their emotional scenes. It's an excellent challenge for me. I also recognize that I couldn't do it without my directors. I always ask them to keep a watchful eye (ear?) on my storytelling. Anyway, when you send me a new book, I play the game of WHERE DID WE LAST HEAR THIS CHARACTER? And I go searching my recordings. And I surprise myself when I guess correctly.
Jay: One of the things that drew me to you when I was searching for a narrator is that you’re gay. That made me feel like you would understand the lives of my characters better. Is being openly gay a conscious decision you made in your career, and if so, how has it affected it?
Kevin: I'm like super gay. When I was kid, there were no gay black dudes like me to look up to. After I came out I decided not to go back in the closet when I became famous, just in case there were others like me who wanted to see me in the public eye. Now we just have to keep working on getting me in the public eye. I'm not sure it has affected my career in the same way as my weight fluctuation has (honeyyyy hush). I love my career—but I really love my life, and that's super important to me.
Jay: Tell us about your life outside the booth. Do you prefer working on stage? Also, I’ve heard great things about Gemma and the Bear. What’s that all about?
Kevin: It is obvious that my fastest-moving bus is my voice work, so I am really enjoying pursuing more of it. I love the work I do on the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, and I have some other projects in the pipeline, too. BUT I love the theatre. Acting in it. Singing in it. Writing for it. Producing it. I like to hear laughter and sniffles. I don't know if I am allowed to say I prefer anything. But theatre is my default. And I love TV. I've always wanted to have my own sitcom. Gemma & The Bear! is my web series about a white woman (Eevin Hartsough, my co-creator) who goes to sleep and wakes up a gay black man (Me). I'm so proud of it. (The first episode is right > here < )
) We crowdfunded season one, and we are looking for alternate ways to fund season two. We've won a few awards (which I can't mention ‘til January) and I hope we can really make it go further. In the meantime, my manager and I work really hard to keep my career moving forward in all areas.
Jay: Okay, it’s obvious at this point that you’re fun and clever, and I’m definitely not the only one to have fallen in love with your voice. So… Are you single? If not, who’s the lucky feller?
Kevin: I am not single. He's awesome. We have been together seventeen years. If people follow me on social media, they might see him or even learn his name. But I'm reluctant to talk about him in an interview. My Twitter and Instagram accounts are wide open. His are locked. So... I'm fun and clever? Ask me more about that. Am I cute, too?
Jay: Definitely! My husband is the jealous type though, so alas, our love must remain secret for now. Thank you for being such an incredible talent, Kevin, and for pouring so much of your heart into these books. I hope you get filthy rich and even more famous someday, because you certainly deserve it. Just don’t forget the little people like me!
You can hear Kevin in action in any of the Something Like… audiobooks. Tons of free samples and even a free short story can be found on my site > here < Be sure to check out Gemma and the Bear too! You can win some audiobooks right here and now! I’ll let the good people at Sinfully tell you all about it!
Meet Jay Bell
I’m always a little bit uncomfortable writing about myself. It feels too egocentric. Then again, I enjoy stalking people online, so it’s only fair I allow others to do the same.
My name, if you haven’t guessed already, is Jay Bell and I was born February 19th, 1977 in Merriam, Kansas. For simplicity’s sake let’s say I grew up there, although I also spent a decade in Missouri and Texas somewhere in between. I suppose my childhood could be summed up in two words: rebellious nerd. Come to think of it, that pretty much covers my teen and adult years as well.
I was never much for school. Professionally I got by doing tech support or other computer related jobs. While working in Lawrence, Kansas I met my future husband. Andreas was an exchange student from Germany, a country I hadn’t given much prior thought to. Andreas was that just-right combination of handsome, intelligent, kind, and talented for me to fall in love. What he saw in me is the real mystery, but we packed up the cats and moved to Germany to get married.
Not being able to speak German left me blissfully unemployable and allowed me to focus full time on my writing. I’ve always loved books, delving into fantastic worlds and letting myself get lost there. I grew up marvelling at the creative genius of C.S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, Robert Asprin, Terry Brooks, even that guy that wrote the Mr. Men books. The list could go on and on. It’s a daunting task to try and add my own stories to the countless volumes already out there, but I’m giving it my best.
Anything else you’d like to know, feel free to ask. Reading my blog will reveal most of my hobbies and interests as well. Or you can check out the interviews below. And hey, just so this isn’t all about me, feel free to tell me about yourself below. We can start our own biography party!
Connect with Jay Bell
Meet Kevin R Free
Kevin R. Free is a writer/performer whose work has been showcased many places, including the Where Project (2015), QED: A Place for Storytelling (2014); on the Moth Mainstage (“Heart of Darkness,” 2012), Dana Rossi’s The Soundtrack Series, Kathleen Warnock’s Drunken! Careening! Writers! (2012).
Once a regular contributor the NPR show “News & Notes,“ Mr. Free’s voice can now be heard on the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale, as Kevin, the voice of Desert Bluffs. He was a singer on the World Premiere Recording of the musical Avenue X and is the narrator over 100 audio books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Known World (AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award, 2004) and Say You’re One of Them (Oprah’s Book Club) and Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles (Audie Award Finalist, Audiobook of the Year 2011).
Connect with Kevin R Free
Something Like……. series by Jay Bell
For a list of all Audible books from Jay click on the links below.
Jay will be giving away 10x promotion codes to purchase any one of his eight books on Audible. Just enter the draw below.