Interview With Jay Maxwell

Since the Black Angel audiobook is out, I thought I’d sit down with the narrator who’s done such a fine job with all three of the Dangerous Spirits books and ask him a few questions…

How did you get into audiobook narration?

I was working as a voice actor for animation and was told by a director that my voice was suited for young adult audiobook narration. I’ve been specializing in young adult fiction ever since.


What attracted you to audition for Green Fairy?

The title. I knew the Green Fairy to be another word for absinthe; I had tried it several times when in Prague and had become enamoured, not with the liquor itself, but with the tradition and the ceremony behind drinking it. I hoped the book would be about that, and to my delight, it was! In some part at least.  


What character or scene was the most challenging in this series?

I would say Alexei was the most difficult. His character, especially in Red Devil, is easy to play as a bit brooding and dark. It’s easy to play him as one note and stereotyped. But really, the character is far more complex so I really had to find those places where different sides of his personality could come out through my voice, not just the writing.


Which character was the most fun to voice?

Meg. She’s sassy and I loved it!


You perform characters with a number of different accents in this series. How do you decide on a particular accent or voice?

As I read through the book the first time, they voices just start to come alive in my head as I read. Some of it comes from the text itself – their location, their age, their attitude – but then sometimes it becomes a matter of practicality. There are several characters with very similar accents and voices, which is fine, but if they ever have a scene together then that can become confusing, so they need to have some different vocal qualities. The hardest part is keeping in mind which character has which voice, especially from book to book. Sometimes I’m definitely more successful at consistency than other times.


Walk us through a recording session. What’s your process?

I usually plan out how much I think I can read at any given time. Sometimes it’s a restraint of how long until my voice gets tired, but more often, it’s more of a simple time restraint. Once I’ve decided how many chapters I think I can get through in one sitting, I grab some water, close my booth, and start reading. Even after having read the book, often things come up as a surprise and I have to record a sentence or passage over again. Then there are those times that a word or phrase just doesn’t roll off the tongue too easily and I have to record it five or six times before I get it right. All in all, an hour of recording usually produces about forty minutes of finished material.


Outside of the Dangerous Spirits books, what project you’ve worked on has been your favorite?

I was fortunate enough to record a history book on the Regency age in England. It was a very dry text book, but as an Anglophile and student of history, it was a treat. The only problem was, my voice really wasn’t right for the book and half way through, I ended up giving the project to a fellow voice actor who did far more with it than I could. But I still enjoyed recording as much as I did.


When you’re not recording or at work, what hobbies do you have?

I’ve recently become and avid baker. I spend hours each weekend baking different breads and pastry while watching old episodes of The Great British Bake Off.

I also go to see a lot of movies. Typically I try to see two a week, but around the holidays, I can get in five or six.


 Baking! What’s the most challenging bread or pastry you’ve baked?

Definitely a traditional 19th century style Figgy Pudding. It takes 4 weeks to make from scratch!


After the release of Black Angel, what do you have coming out next?

At the moment, I am in between projects. I’ve been fortunate enough to make enough money through other work that I only choose books that I’d like to read even if I wasn’t recording it. As of yet, that book has not come along.

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