Born in one far-flung corner of the US near Portland (no, not that one – Portland, Maine) Greg Tremblay was trained in Theater and Computer Science as an undergraduate, before pursuing such diverse occupations as sailing, SCUBA, blacksmithing, emergency paramedicine, and even a few practical skills! A consummate storyteller, Greg delights in living adrift on a sea of books. His award-winning narrations as “Greg Tremblay” can be heard on everything from YA fantasy to historical non-fiction, and his spicy “Greg Boudreaux” line promises to make any morning commute less tedious. Greg lives in central NY state with his somewhat non-traditional family, a menagerie of animals, and more snow in the winter than he would really prefer.
How did you become interested in audiobook narration in the first place?
I’ve actually always been a fan of audiobooks. . . I was listening in the 90’s when they were tapes and clunky as heck. I thought how amazing it would be to read them, but honestly thought that you had to be a famous actor first and THEN they would let you narrate books!
What did you do to realize this dream?
I majored in IT and Theater at University, and when I moved to the Ithaca, NY area, I did mainly IT for many years. In 2013 I discovered that I could be an independent (and remote!) audiobook narrator. . . so I set about a slow and steady pursuit of that goal. I worked with Audible’s ACX [Audiobook Creation Exchange] system, joined the Audio Publishers Association, started networking and growing my skills, and just kept at it.
Audible lists 150 titles you have recorded under both of your names. Which books stand out the most to you as being especially memorable?
I’ve been so fortunate to work on some amazing titles for some amazing authors. . . but I think the ones that were lucky enough to get the attention of Audiofile Magazine and be honored with an “Earphones” award will always stand out. My first was Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford, an Urban Fantasy about the worlds of the Human and the Fae having crashed together for reasons nobody understands, and the dangerous and deadly beauty that results. There is also Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman, a YA dystopian in which the human race has conquered death, but the office of the Scythe is charged with making sure that some people still die to help keep things sustainable. The Scythes are, far from the bogeymen of the story, actually the only people with any sense of humanity and urgency left.
It is a beautiful book, the second of the Arc of a Scythe series.
What is your process for preparing to record an audiobook? Do you have any tricks for making the process go smoothly?
My analogy to my process is canoeing or rafting a river. When I get a new book, I like to drive and walk along the whole length that I’m going to navigate. By which I mean I do a read-through at my normal (rather voracious) reading speed. I make notes about weird bits and places that could be a problem, and get a feel for the direction the whole thing will flow. Then I get into the current and just let the ride take me where it needs to go. I ride the emotion, the flow, the pacing, and try to get lost in it the same way a reader does. Occasionally I do hit rocks I didn’t see from “shore” and have to navigate them, but I think it gives me a nice balance of knowing where things are going without over-working any one piece.
You have recorded a wide range of genres, including non-fiction, generally fiction, romance, erotica, action & adventure, and sci-fi. Does your approach to the different genres vary by field?
Very little within any genre inside fiction or non fiction. . . but my approach to those two overarching categories is somewhat different. Director and coach Paul Allen Ruben likes to note that “there is no such thing as genre to a character” in that a fiction character doesn’t know they’re in a military space opera zombie sci-fi. To them, it’s Tuesday. In that light, I try to embrace the flow of the story and let the characters evolve and develop on their own regardless of whether it’s a kinky romance, a mystery, or a bug eyed alien monster sci-fi.
With Non-Fiction, I try to embrace the passion and interest of the author as the primary character. I tend to research that person, not to imitate them but to get a feel for how their energy is, and then try to live their passion and enthusiasm.
You maintain what seems to be a very active blog. Do you enjoy writing, or is it just a necessary part of marketing yourself?
I do like writing, as well as travelling. I’m actually a bit shamefully behind in the blog posts right at present, and need to get back to that! I think that my next phase of life will have more writing in it, but I’d like to enjoy 15 years of solid narrating before that becomes a larger portion.
That said, I do have 3 novels all outlined, and just need to WRITE the darn things!
Do you think an audiobook narrator needs to enjoy the book she or he is performing? Could you make a book you truly hated seem likeable to an audience?
It certainly allows a performer to become more absorbed in the material if he or she genuinely loves it. As a paid performer however, it’s a stretch to think you will always love every single bit of every single project. Thankfully I’ve not been asked to do a book I simply hated, and I think if one really cannot interface with material at ALL, one needs to be prepared to say “I just don’t think I’m the right voice for this” and move along. You may take your lumps on that, but if you really DESPISE the work, I think people will know.
If, on the other hand, there’s something about the work that bugs you, I think you can still engage with some other part of it and do it justice. You don’t like the character, but you love the plot? Sometimes we’re meant NOT to like the character! Vice versa? Well, maybe you can work with that discomfort and bring more realism to that character you love, who may not much like the plot his or her life is taking either.
What characteristics do you think are necessary for someone to be an effective audiobook narrator?
Of all the art I’ve been involved with, I think this one rewards the most bizarre and unique blend of skills:
I believe that first you need to be a reader, to enjoy books as a medium.
Second, you need to be an actor who can engage with the performance of material without needing to be the center of attention at all times.
Third, you must be a realistic business person, because you and you alone are sorting out permits, doing the taxes, managing the books, saving for retirement, and making sure you still take enough time off to stay sane.
Fourth, you need to be an appropriate marketing director FOR YOU, because we all work best in different sorts of marketing.
Add to that a benefit to being conversant in audio editing, knowledgeable about recording equipment basics, IT savvy, social media competent, at least decent at writing communications and ad copy, and capable of some basic skills in graphics work. It’s a crazy set of skills that make for optimum results.
What advice did you find especially helpful as you started out performing audiobooks that you like to share with new narrators now?
OOhh… good one. “Outsource wherever possible.”
It’s a HUGE amount of work to prep, perform, and manage this stuff. Proofing, editing, and mastering of your audio? Dude, PAY SOMEONE TO DO THAT. First, you cannot effectively proof your own work. You simply cannot. You DO make mistakes, even if you think you don’t, and you WON’T catch them all the second go round. Editing and mastering? You CAN use an automated system to master… it’s not as good. If you’re not working directly with someone who is doing this already, OUT-SOURCE.
What is your favorite part about performing audiobooks?
I get to live adrift in stories EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I get paid to read books, all day, 5ish days a week. OK. . . I don’t get to DNF a book, but. Seriously, how great is that?
Thanks for having me “on” to talk!