Q: Why did you become an actor?
Russell: I have a passion for telling stories, and I like to help people have new experiences. When we read a book or see a play, a TV show, film, etc., we either say, “That’s like me!” or “That’s not like me.” We are forced to relate to the characters. In doing so, we grow in our understanding of ourselves and others. The ancient Greeks believed this way of understanding others through theatre was crucial to a healthy democracy. I like being part of that tradition.
Q: Where did you grow up?
Russell: My roots and my family are in Dallas, TX. I’ve also lived in New York City, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, GA.
Q: How did you get into narrating audiobooks?
Russell: I’ve been acting in theatre and on-camera since I was a kid. Audiobook narration is another medium, but it’s still acting. Malcolm Hillgartner, a voice actor friend of mine, helped me get started by making me read a bunch of dialogue-heavy samples from novels and helping me understand how to differentiate characters. Voice actor Brandon Potter taught me how to record and edit.
Q: How is narrating an audiobook different from performing in front of an audience?
Russell: I play all the parts in an audiobook. On stage I usually only play one character, although I have played up to 6 characters in a single play.
Q: Describe your recording space.
Russell: I open up a secret door in a bookcase in my living room and enter into a soundproof 4’ x 4’ vocal booth. It’s lined with acoustic foam. There’s a chair, a table, a mic, and an LED monitor.
Q: What is your process when you are recording an audio book?
Russell: I first read the book to know the story and characters. Then I develop a test recording of character voices and get the publisher or author’s approval for them. Then I start press record and start reading from page one. I re-read sentences or entire passages as needed. By the time I finish recording I’ve read most of the book out loud several times.
Q: Describe a typical recording session. How long do you read? Do you take a lot of breaks? What do you drink?
Russell: I usually record for 4 hours at a time. After that my voice starts to get tired. I take a five minute break after I read an entire chapter. I keep water and apples on hand. Apples help reduce mouth noise.
Q: Blown Circuit has a lot of different accents as well as a lot of Turkish words. How did you prepare for reading that?
Russell: While in graduate school at Southern Methodist University I studied the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the Paul Meier method for acting with an accent. Fantastic Press gave me the recorded pronunciations of Turkish words. I transcribed them into IPA symbols that I could refer to as needed. I also know a Turkish actress. I did my best to channel her into the character of Miriam.
Q: What did you like most about narrating Blown Circuit?
Russell: I loved Lars Guignard’s imagery. The exotic locales like Cleopatra’s beach, inside the ancient Roman cistern, and atop the crane at Bodrum Castle are vivid and fun to imagine.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the process for you?
Russell: I love reading and acting, but I find editing to the most tedious part.
Q: Which of the characters did you feel the strongest personal connection with?
Russell: I connected with the hero, Michael Chase. I spent the most time with him because it’s his story. Personally I enjoy adventurous activities such as skydiving and paragliding, so I had fun imagining that I was doing all those action sequences Michael experiences.
Q: Who is your favorite character?
Russell: Kate is my favorite character. She is mysterious, sexy, and smart. She’s dangerous, but she also has a heart. She’s a complex character and is full of surprises.
Q: What was the hardest voice for you?
Russell: Faruk was the hardest. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because my opinion of him changed as I progressed through the story.
Q: Which part of the story was the most fun to narrate?
Russell: I had fun from page one, but the most fun part to narrate was the action sequence on the crane. It’s the climax of an action packed book.
Q: Why is this a good story to listen to?
Russell: It’s exciting. It might make your heart beat a little faster and say, “Wow! That is an action-packed story!”
Q: Who would enjoy this story?
Russell: People who love spy stories. I plan on giving a copy to my dad so he can listen to it while he’s driving.