Nigel Patterson has a lovely British accent that adds flair and class to each story he narrates, and with more than 15 titles across multiple genres to his credit, he is one narrator audiobook lovers must experience. Nigel was kind enough to agree to an interview and I am elated to have the honour of asking him a few questions.
After you get to know Nigel a bit better, visit his Audible page and pick up a couple of his books. He’s worked with authors like Iain Rob Wright, Kerry Wilkinson and B.T. Narro, so there’s something there for everyone.
Hi, Nigel! I am very excited to be able to talk to you today. Thank you so much for being here. Can you tell the readers a little about yourself?
Thank you, Dawn. It's an honour to be interviewed here!
I'm a British audiobook narrator, actor, and voiceover talent. I lived in Chicago for many years, which – as I'm sure you know – is not only a beautiful, vibrant city, but has a wonderful theatre and voiceover community. I've appeared in theatres across the city and elsewhere in the Midwest, but I've started working more back in the UK, in London – the city where I grew up.
How did you get your start as an audiobook narrator?
Quite by accident, really. I'd already been doing a lot of voice work, and heard about a presentation to be given by audiobook narrator Sean Pratt at the SAG-AFTRA office in Chicago. I was intrigued by the potential as well the challenge of long-form narration – which really is a very different beast from commercial or industrial voiceover – and decided to give it a go. I've never looked back!
What is the best part about your job?
There are many things I love about it, so it's hard to pick just one. I really enjoy storytelling and the opportunity to bring a book to life vocally. I find it very much a "right-brain" activity that draws on my instincts and imagination to create believable characters and situations. But I also like being in total charge of a project, being my own director, and deciding how and when I'll work. You learn new skills and disciplines to manage the technical aspects of recording and the demands that reading for several hours a day makes on your voice.
Much of what you narrate is horror. Why did you choose horror?
Actually, what happened is that one of the first audiobooks I recorded was Iain Rob Wright's RAVAGE. Since then I've been very fortunate to have continued working with Iain on several of his subsequent titles, and will be producing THE GATES and WINGS OF SORROW later this year. So I've chosen to work with Iain rather than specializing in horror per se, and I work in several other genres too.
In the end, what attracts me to a project is the opportunity to narrate intriguing stories that feature three-dimensional characters, no matter what the genre. F. Scott Fitzgerald said about fiction that "character is plot, plot is character." That's what matters most to me.
What is the most frustrating part of audiobook narration for you?
I count my lucky stars that I'm able to do a job I love – it's not an activity that frustrates me in the least! Having said that, there are aspects to the job that require practice and technical discipline to do well, and I learn something new from every audiobook I record. Every author has an individual style, of course, and some write more for the eye than for the ear. That means that you will sometimes come across a sentence where your first reaction is "where am I supposed to breathe in all that?" and you have to find a way to break it up. As in most artistic endeavours, it can take a lot of time and effort to make something look or sound "easy." Most of us have a collection of outtakes or bloopers where we needed multiple attempts to get a tongue-twister phrase right – you'd be surprised at some of the stuff that gets edited out!
Many authors and narrators have a specific routine when it comes to producing their work. What is your routine when it is time to narrate?
I spend a lot of time reading a book in preparation to record. I need to be able to hear the characters inside my head and also get used to the writer's style and rhythm. I like to record in the morning if possible, but I need to warm-up first and drink a lot of water. A trip to the gym works wonders if there's time!
How do you choose the next book to record? Do you audition or do authors come to you?
I work on a number of series, which means there's usually a variety of projects in the offing. But I'm always interested in forging new relationships with writers and working in new genres. Sometimes a writer will make an offer "out of the blue" or let me know that a new project is taking auditions, and it's an opportunity to find out more about their work, look at some excerpts, and find out what their readers are saying.
Which book in your catalogue is your favourite so far?
That's an invidious question - I have to say "the one I'm working on at the time," of course! But I particularly enjoy projects that present an acting challenge. In a sense, every book has the potential to do that, and it's up to me as the narrator to uncover those opportunities. Just as an example, Frankie in Iain Rob Wright's ASBO. It would be very easy to portray him as an irredeemably wicked villain (he is remarkably nasty!) But it's a strength of Iain's writing that there are moments when you glimpse the vulnerable human being behind the monster's mask, and that's what makes the character real to me. Of all the characters I've narrated, I think he's the one that disturbs me most.
I recorded ASBO during a hot Chicago summer, and I spent quite a long time working on the sound of Frankie as I went about doing ordinary stuff during the day. He has a very specific, aggressive manner and I remember getting some very odd looks as I walked down the street talking to myself!
Is there one book or character that was especially challenging for you as a narrator?
Not really. Inevitably there are some projects that I have a greater affinity with than others, but part of the job is to try and find ways to bring any and every character to life, whether it’s a book that I would personally choose to read for pleasure or not – and I also think of the "narrative" of a book as a character in its own right, whether it's fiction or non-fiction.
When not in the booth, what do you like to do for fun?
I certainly read for pleasure, quite apart from what I might happen to be narrating at the time. I'm really enjoying the new Bill Bryson right now, and I have a stack of other books on my bedside table that I'm looking forward to. I like to cook (although I make a terrible mess), I go to the theatre as often as I can, and I'm a bit of an opera nut.
If you could choose your “dream” book to narrate, what would it be and why?
Practically anything by Charles Dickens. I'd start with THE PICKWICK PAPERS and just work my way through the canon! His work teems with such vivid characters and theatrical prose that it's a narrator's gift – and of course Dickens himself was a renowned performer of his own work on both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, one or two rather well-known performers have recorded his work already, so that part of the catalogue is quite well represented, but who knows – perhaps one day…!
What are you currently working on and what’s next for you in 2016?
I have some very interesting projects lined up for the coming months: as well as some of the latest stories from Iain Rob Wright that I mentioned earlier, I've just finished recording part two of James Mace's SOLDIER OF ROME series, set during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius. I recently began working on a series of crime novels by Adam Croft, the first of which, TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT, will be out soon. I'm also hoping to narrate Roger Radford's CRY OF THE NEEDLE – an excellent thriller from the author of SCHREIBER'S SECRET (which won an Earphones Award from AudioFile Magazine last year.) And I'm looking forward to working on SOMETHING HIDDEN – part two of the Andrew Hunter detective series by Kerry Wilkinson, which is coming out in ebook and paperback in the summer. I'm also hoping to be back on stage on London later this year in an exciting new play. So there's lots to look forward to!
What is one thing your fans may not know about you?
I was a teacher in England for several years (I taught French and Spanish.) I really enjoyed it – and, looking back, it was a great preparation for an actor. I'm only half-joking when I say that I gave eight performances a day!
Where can your fans/listeners connect with you online?
I keep in contact with listeners through my newsletter, and they get early bird news of upcoming releases, author interviews, and other updates. Visitors can sign up to receive it on my website http://nigelpatterson.com. I'm also on Twitter (@NigelPatterson) and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NigelPattersonVoice/ I’d love to connect with your readers at any or all of those places.
Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk with you and your readers. I wish everyone at the Ginger Nuts of Horror a thrilling and suspenseful 2016!