Special Guest – Michael Hardy – Audiobook Producer

Sometimes you must put your whole foot in the water, not just your toes. So, this is what I had done when it came to deciding whether to take Fauna Park Tales to the next level – an audiobook production.  Therefore, I am pleased to interview Michael Hardy today, who was involved in the audio production of “Flame and Hope: An African Adventure”.

When I initially contemplated the idea of an audiobook for the Fauna Park Tales Series, I had no idea what would be involved, but Michael will be able tell you more about the difficulties of producing this audiobook.

Michael and his family live in Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, NC27312. He holds a degree in English from Duke University and a Ph.D. in Theatre from the University of Michigan. Michael also speaks a bit of German, useful when various accents and tones of voice were needed in a story such as “Flame and Hope”.

Hiking 2020 – Michael Hardy

Michael, you have been involved in numerous projects to do with the performing arts, including being a business consultant for theatre projects in the United States and Canada. Please tell us a bit more about this, as well as your interest in outdoor theatre production. Since my appearance as Anitra’s father in our fourth-grade production of Peer Gynt, I’ve been involved in the performing arts in one way or another (although my mother only remembers that one). Beginning mostly as an actor and singer, I went on to producing shows and then managing multi-venue performing art centers in New York, Illinois, Louisville, Miami, and Toronto.  After seven years of leading the International Society for the Performing Arts whose members led major concert halls in 50 countries, I returned to the university world to teach and write.  My book “Outdoor Theatre Facilities” is the only comprehensive study of amphitheatres and other outdoor performance venues. 

Trip down Memory Lane

You have received numerous awards for your work, not only in the performing arts, but also the East Carolina University Faculty Book Award for Outdoor Theatre Facilities, published 2014 and you published a non-fiction guidebook to planning and building outdoor theatres. Do you have any other Works in Progress? Most of my consulting studies have been feasibility studies for new or newly renovated theatres, and recently they have tended to be focused on outdoor facilities because of the book.  I’m just beginning a new study in Wellington, Ontario in partnership with a superb architect, Thomas Payne, which promises to be especially significant because of the outstanding artistic leadership of the client there.  It includes indoor and outdoor theatre performance spaces and will hopefully be transformational in its community.

What factors influenced your decision to become a producer of audiobooks? I have always loved performing, and my doctorate was in Speech and Theatre.  So, thinking that would be useful training and wanting to try something new, I signed up with a couple of voiceover “finder” services and began to audition.  I was excited to discover several new challenges, both as a performer and a technician and audio editor.  Later, when the COVID pandemic had such a disastrous effect on live theatre, it turned out to be a godsend to be able to work from my home studio.  And, on the personal side, it enabled me to record much better stories for my grandchildren aged 3, 5, and 11!

Yes, those of us who have had the privilege and the pleasure to illustrate, write and read to our grandchildren are in most enviable positions – something I highly recommend!

Can you tell us more about the challenges you dealt with when producing “Flame and Hope: An African Adventure”? I think the most interesting challenge was discovering the unique voice of each of the main characters and then weaving those voices into the dialogues that take place in the book.  Fortunately, you, as the author, had lived in South Africa and was an invaluable coach on the proper pronunciations and inflections of the speech.  You even recommended a lovely television series dramatizing Alexander McCall’s “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” from Botswana that was hugely helpful in capturing some of the spirit and rhythm of the speech.

I recall how much you enjoyed “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”. We as a family had watched that show at least twice in full!

How do you prepare your voice/mood to become the author’s voice? It’s very similar to how any actor prepares: concentrating on entering the mind of the author, almost as if it’s a character, and then experimenting and listening to different voices to find one that seems to personify the character convincingly.

What do you love most about producing audiobooks? I love finding the different voices and inhabiting them as real people.  What don’t I love? The many hours of technical editing that are required to produce a finished professional result.  As I think Goethe said: it’s 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.

How much research is involved before you go into voice character? It varies considerably.  Sometimes the character comes very quickly, while in others it’s a journey.  In the latter cases, it’s particularly helpful to work with an author who takes the time to give me clear feedback.  If voice acting for audiobooks is like the theatre, then the author can often become the director, and I enjoy that relationship.

How long does it take (on average) to finish an audiobook? They say that a rule of thumb is 3-6 hours of work for 1 hour of results.  For me it tends to be a bit longer!

Do you have any writing rituals or habits? (For example, drinking a cup of black coffee before you start). And at what time of the day do you prefer to work?  No particular rituals, but I’m strictly a morning person when it comes to voice work.  The technical editing can be done anytime, but morning is when the creative juices flow.

A quote to live by. What makes you tick? You never see the big ones coming!

Do you have any favourite authors/shows? Too many to list!  My current favourites include Elena Ferrante with her Neapolitan novels.  Tolkien has been my touchstone for about fifty years, and his trilogy is a kind of personal bible that I return to again and again.  Also the late, great John Le Carré.  Favourite actors include Mark Rylance, Frank Langella, Tilda Swinton, and Gwen Verdon.

I’ve not seen many performances by Tilda Swinton, but she does remind me of Cate Blanchett, the same striking features.

Thinking about “Flame and Hope: An African Adventure”, which character was your favouritee? Why? I kind of liked Rocksy Rabbit!  Cheeky little tactless guy that he is. 

Yes, Rocksy Rabbit does seem to have a way about him to hop in and out of Flame and his friends’ lives! Do you ever have your life experiences worm their way into your voice overs? Probably all of them, in one way or another. One of the ways I prepare is to consciously look for connections between what/who I am reading and specific experiences or people or emotional moments from my life.  Those touchpoints become important hinges that help open the character to me.

Who helps you with the critique and editing process before sending your work in for approval by the author? My wife and, sometimes, my children, but probably all of them, in one way or another.

Do you think reviews, even for audiobooks are important? If they are done thoughtfully, whether positive or negative, yes.

What advice would you give aspiring producers? Listen to others’ work.  Find something in yourself that you bring to everything you record.  Listeners recognize authenticity instinctively as well as its opposite.

Social Media

  1. Links to your works on Amazon: Outdoor Theatre Facilities
  2. Website address: http://michaelhardy.org/
Outdoor Theatre Facilities by Michael Hardy French Edition (2014)

My Testimonial: MICHAEL HARDY

This is my first audio book production experience and Michael Hardy – always willing to consider my suggestions – made this process a pleasure. My work was not without challenges – an animal and bird adventure series for children set in southern Africa – and required capturing the spirit of Africa with authentic and varied sounds for each character, even the human ones. His willingness to go the extra mile to produce such unique timbre has in my opinion succeeded in creating a memorable narration, which young and old will enjoy.

I look forward to collaborate with him to produce the rest of the series too.

Maretha Botha Author/Illustrator of Fauna Park Tales

Flame and Hope: An African Adventure (Fauna Park Tales, Book 1)
Audiobook Number 1 Fauna Park Tales Series – Flame and Hope: An African Adventure

Flame and Hope: An African Adventure Fauna Park Tales, Book 1 (Audio Download): Amazon.co.uk: Maretha Botha, Michael Hardy, L and M M Botha: Audible Audiobooks

Thank you for visiting our blog today! Please feel free to get a copy on Audible. Happy Listening!

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