Written by Marliss Melton
The narrator of my latest audiobook release, FRIENDLY FIRE, deserves a reward. Armen Taylor is amazingly talented, bringing every character to life in this romantic thriller, #3 in my Echo Platoon series. I had the opportunity to interview Armen Taylor and here’s what he said about the experience of narrating my books (He also narrated HARD LANDING):
1. What drew you to narrating audiobooks?
My grandmother was the consummate storyteller. Funnily enough her name was Elizabeth Taylor and since she was several years older than the actress she liked to announce she was “The Original”. My grandmother was this small woman, born to immigrants without a shred of self-confidence, but when she told stories…an entire room would quiet down and listen. Growing up my cousins and I memorized every single story she had, and yet the first thing we did when we got to her house was beg her to tell us our favorites, calling them out like bar patrons to a piano player. There are a lot of ways to bring a story to life, but there is something very…primal about speaking one, like a bard recounting a saga around a campfire thousands of years ago.
2. What’s your professional / educational background?
I went to Brown University and – like many of my classmates – intended to go into Investment banking or consulting. Several of my friends were older and so my senior year I got to see how they were doing with their first few months in those given professions. Aaaand…they did not seem very happy. So I decided I wanted to do something completely different, something none of my friends or family had done. I wasn’t necessarily trying to go against the grain…but I was drawn to the notion of forging my own path. Yet…when I announced my plans to become an actor to my family…no one was in the least bit surprised.
3. How do you bring Marliss Melton’s SEAL Team members to life, making each one so distinct?
I’m very lucky, Marliss’ characters – corny as this sounds – kind of bring themselves to life. She does such a wonderful job of fleshing them out and giving them precise quirks and mannerisms. The writing informs every decision I make. With Bronco, for example, he’s a laid-back guy and while intelligent, his focus tends to be simple. Whereas Master Chief is the very essence of long-experience and absolute control; continually analyzing each situation from every angle. How I sit in the chair while narrating, how I speak, whatever tension or relaxation I feel…that all comes from the book. I just try not to screw it up.
4. What’s the hardest part about narrating her stories?
(Laughs) The women’s voices. My vocal range is definitely skewed towards the lower end of the spectrum. I don’t want to aim for just making my voice higher, because if I do that, then I’m not invested in accurately portraying their experience. I think it is also a little insulting when male narrators do something akin to an impression of how they think women speak. The same goes for an animated character, if you make it all about the voice, you lose the story. That being said, we can’t have Emma sounding like a slightly more maternal Bullfrog…Maybe one of the upcoming books will be an entirely male cast with a lone female who only speaks through sign language…hint…hint.
5. Anything else?
I think what I like most about the Echo Platoon series is how different each story is. They are about two main characters falling in love: yes, and there is action, suspense and humor throughout. But the similarities between the books ends there. Bronco’s discovery of love is different than Bullfrog’s long-held devotion; Rebecca’s need to be truly seen, respected and appreciated is different than Emma’s fear of being hurt. We all meet people and fall in love in different ways and under different circumstances. The Echo Platoon series brings all that to life without jeopardizing the adventure of new romance or the badassery of the Navy SEALs. Maybe after the lone mute female story, Marliss will do a book where Hack confronts with struggles of picking the right picture for his online dating profile. Or then again, maybe not.
As with everything he does, Armen’s answers are witty, intelligent, and thoughtful. No wonder he’s my latest hero!