With the upcoming release of The Chimera Jar, book 3 in the Aegis of Merlin series written by James E. Wisher, we wanted to get to know its narrator, Joe Hempel. How did he prepare for the role beginning with book one, The Impossible Wizard?
What was it about the book that originally peaked your interest?
The Impossible Wizard and the entire Aegis of Merlin series peaked my interest due to its genre. I love Urban Fantasy and this seemed to be just a bit different to not be pigeonholed into a typical Urban Fantasy standard. You still had the young sarcastic hero, but it seemed to have a bit of a darker edge surrounding what might be considered typical YA Urban Fantasy fare. That was my initial impression anyway, and I think I was right on that.
How do you prep before recording? Do you research the book/series or just dive in?
I prep the books just simply by reading them to get a feel for the story, how characters develop and also to mark any special character accents. You don’t want to go in cold and find out on page 200 that your main character had an accent all along! When it’s a series, and I know I’m doing more than the first book or so, I try to look at the descriptions of the other books in the series to see what’s being set up and see where the “overall” story arc is going.
How do you get into character and create character voices?
When getting into a character I tend not to just go “oh this character voice will work great”. I don’t tend to think in those terms. How does the character act, what could the speech patterns be like? Those are more of what I look for. I mean, if it’s written in the text the guy has a deep foreboding voice, I don’t make him have a soprano voice, that wouldn’t work, but for the most part, I try to only slightly differentiate and “cast” the book based on how they are presented in the titles.
Is there a character that you enjoyed most in the book?
I think I enjoy, oddly enough, Lin Chang, one of the secondary characters, that actually has a bigger part in this particular book than the main character. I relate a bit more to him I think. He’s the guy that has zero magical ability that has to work side by side with women who DO and has to figure out how he can contribute, because he, for the first time really has nothing to offer. So he’s trying to make himself useful in pretty much any way he possibly can. This comes more into play as you move into books 2 and 3.
What can people look forward to in book one of the series?
I think the first thing people should know is that this book actually doesn’t take place around the main character of the series Conryu. Most of it revolves around Lin Chang and his partner Terra. Once the story is set up and you find out that Conryu Koda is the first male to have magical ability, everything hits the fan and people who don’t like that are out to kill him, so it follows them in trying to protect him. You will find out more about Conryu though as the series goes on.
Describe this book [Impossible Wizard] in three words to prospective readers?
Fast, Fun, Sarcastic
How did you get started in narration/know you wanted to narrate?
Before I started, I was a book reviewer, I read and listened voraciously. Having friends in the podcasting industry, doing podcast novels I always wanted to give this a shot. It wasn’t until I wrote a review for an audiobook in an unfavorable light, and then got a response from the editor or author or narrator (I don’t really remember), that said “Well if you think you can do better, then you do it”,” that I decided to take the plunge. I found that it suited me. I really enjoyed it. And for the next 18 months, I threw myself into the work, getting coaching, going to workshops, getting into the author communities and making connections, etc. And now, another 18 months later and this is my full-time job and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I get to work with so many wonderful people and great authors. I get to go not be myself for hours on end. It’s an acting job, and it’s still kind of a marvel that I can do this for a living, I’m very grateful.
Do you only narrate books that you personally like or have read?
When I started out I would only do books that I liked. I mean, if I was going to do this part time I wanted to “enjoy” the books that I got. As I moved into my career, I do take books that might not be as entertaining or books that I “personally” don’t connect with, because this is a job. At the end of the day, you have to use your acting ability to connect with those moments that maybe you personally don’t agree with. That’s okay! To be 100% honest though, I haven’t done a book that I haven’t liked by the time I started in the booth and recording. There is always “something” to connect to, and I think that only helps the listener connect to the material.
And with the release of Book three, we want to give 2 winners a digital copy of book 1 and one grand prize winner will receive a digital copy of books 1, 2 and 3. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word “Wizard” in the subject line. Last day for entries is Monday, February 26th.