Richard Ferrone gave up a law career after 5 years for the stage. He simply moved to NYC, started taking acting classes, and pounded the pavement, and within 4 years found himself as a resident member of the Tony Award-winning Trinity Rep in Providence, RI. Eight seasons and 43 productions later he moved back to NYC where he discovered books-on-tape with Recorded Books, LLC while continuing to act on Broadway and off with the likes of Tony Randall’s National Actors Theatre, Theatre for a New Audience, and TACT (The Actors Company Theatre). His television appearances include Law & Order, Guiding Light, and Against the Law. Richard’s success as an audiobook narrator has earned him an Audie Award, numerous AudioFile Earphone citations, and many fans.
You started out as a lawyer before becoming an actor. How did you make that transition?
I always felt at home on the stage so I never felt more certain of a decision in my life. After 5 years as a lawyer I just moved to NYC and started taking acting classes. And when I told my parents I was leaving law and becoming an actor they expressed sincere belief in my future success and wished me well. Everybody should be so lucky.
After acting on screen and theater for many years, how did you get started performing audiobooks?
When I returned to NYC in 1990 after spending 8 years as a resident actor with Trinity Rep in Providence, RI, I heard about this niche work in the voice-over world and contacted a fledgling book recording company called Recorded Books. I submitted a couple of narration samples I recorded on my little Sony Walkman, was called in for an audition and the rest is history.
You have 265 books listed on Audible and have been recording audiobooks for over 20 years. What were your earliest days like, and how has the field changed since then?
Actually I have been recording for 27 years now and have recorded well over 300 titles. In the early days book publishers were not that interested in recording books. Then as they saw small recording companies profiting from recording books, they began to do more of their own recording. Now hundreds more newly published titles are recorded so that the audiobook is released concurrently with the print release. There is a lot more work out there now, and there are a lot more very talented audiobook narrators as well, and I understand that it is a lot harder for small audiobook publishers to get the recording rights to major book publishers’ titles.
Your wife, Cynthia Darlow, is a very accomplished actress and audiobook narrator in her own right. (Check out the interview I did with her yesterday here.) How are you able to help each other in your work? Have you recorded any books together? Would you consider it?
Cynthia’s work is amazing. She can make me want to listen to anything. I think we have only worked on two titles together: We Are Water by Wally Lamb and Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett. Would love to do more with her though.
You have performed virtually every genre but focus especially on mystery/ suspense. What makes you especially suited to that genre?
Many reviewers refer to my gravelly voice and my “no-nonsense delivery” as adding to the atmosphere of the thrillers and mysteries. I like to think it also has to do with my own emotional investment in each story I am reading too.
Out of the many books you have performed, which ones most stand out to you?
Whenever I am asked this question it is still the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson that comes to mind. Even though it was written in the 1990s, the science fiction in it was grounded in technology which was making much of the story he created credibly possible if man just decided to put more money and effort into its development. I also like that the characters deal with real life political and social concerns throughout their journey. And of course, right up there with John Sandford’s Prey novels are Steven James’s Patrick Bowers series. Oh, and Laurence Shames’s Florida Straits. His Key West Mysteries are a riot.
In non-fiction, Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmstead by Justin Martin stands out for its revelation of a life that was social reformer, abolitionist, and environmentalist and well as great landscape architect, and Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors by Stephen E. Ambrose stands out for the way the author shows how each man is a creature of the culture in which he was raised. There are so many, but those are all on the top of my list.
Of your many accomplishments, of what are you most proud? What has been your biggest challenge?
I am proudest of spearheading the union organization of audiobook narration so that now many narrators all over the nation earn pension and health insurance benefits as a result of the work they do. Twenty years ago only a handful of narrators earned health insurance coverage and pension benefits. It hasn’t been easy, but with the commitment of those who have joined the fight along the way hundreds now benefit from this work.
What advice that you were given when you started recording audiobooks do you like to pass on to new performers?
You are telling a story to one person who is probably multitasking, so visualize very clearly what you are reading and try your best to communicate that picture to that one person. The same is true when narrating non-fiction as well as fiction.
What do you like to listen to in your own time?
Classical music, show tunes, blues and swing, and The Moth storytellers.
You can check out Richard’s list of books on Audible.