Diverse Reader is so thrilled to have Jack L Pyke here in a really fabulous spotlight. I really think you'll all enjoy it. There's a giveaway too so be sure to check it all out.
Author V Narrator Duel: Jack L. Pyke V Dan Calley
Okay, swords are down, the two-meter fighting distance allowed for covid-19 set – and we’re ready to battle it out. I’ve asked the really gorgeous narrator Dan Calley to come sit with me for a “me v you” Q&A session.
I’m Jack, of the Pyke and female variety, by the way: editor, MM author, and just general lover of the MM community. Huge, huge thanks to Meredith and Diverse Reader for having us over on their Author Spotlight section!
Before we start, Both Dan and I are offering two UK and US audio sets of my Don’t… series which he narrates. That’s SIX audios in one hell of a dark romance, psychological thriller journey. If you’d like to be in for a chance to grab six audios, please just leave a UK or US comment below! Winner picked at random and contacted via Diverse Reader.
So, to the duel….
Tell us a little about yourselves. How do you know each other?
Jack: I’m the author of this author-narrator duo, and I specialise in MM dark romance, mostly covering psychological thrillers, but also some speculative MM fiction, which Dan has yet to… experience! And it’s kind of my fault how we met. I needed a good English mystery narrator for my Don’t… psych thriller series, which is set in London, so I stalked Dan over on ACX, where they have examples of Dan’s narration. It didn’t take long to see I’d found someone really special, who has an uncanny ability to shift between a multitude of accents, but who also brings a gorgeous loveable and rough-rogue quality to characters.
Dan: Like the lady said, she found me on ACX and snapped me up from then. We very quickly developed a really easy working relationship, and now it seems I’m growing into a ‘go-to guy’ for UK M/M narration. Didn’t see that coming…! Absolutely loving it, though, and I’m getting to work with some great authors like Jack and making new friends.
If you had to swap MM writing and narrating jobs with each other for a day, how do you think you’d get on?
Dan: Funny you should mention that. I was a stand up for about 10 years and wrote a lot of scripts, plus write, edit, produce and do voices on a successful cult comedy sci fi podcast, so I reckon I can give it a shot! Just so happens I’ve got a bit of time on my hands at the moment… Jack talks about getting popcorn wrong, but I’ve done seven of Jack’s books and pretty much with every one I STILL didn’t learn to pronounce Jan with a silent J. The amount of pickups I had to do…
Jack: Oh lol! I never realised it tripped you up, Dan! But as for me, I’d be Absolutely awful on narration, I’m afraid. I have my own language, which the kids call Wackanese, where I mix-up the first letters when I panic. Car park becomes par cark, pop corn: cop porn, toilet rolls: roilet tolls. I doubt very much I’d get very far narrating an MM novel, not without changing genres from psych thrillers to all-out stand-up comedy. I’ll willingly leave any narration to Dan!
How long does it take you to write/narrate a novel?
Jack: In all honesty: a long, long time. I can write a scene in a day, but as I’m also an editor who’s worked with a few publishing companies, I become my own worst enemy as an editor: I’ll edit that scene at least three times before moving on. As I write long novels *grins at Dan*, those scenes start to move into weeks, weeks to months. But it does depend on how well the story flows. I have one at 90k, Breakdown, that took over a year, where my longest, Fractured, at 140k, was written in a fraction of that time. Delays with Breakdown came down more to setting, though, and the in-depth research needed for sectioning and psychiatric settings in the UK, not to mention all the laws and regulations behind sectioning itself.
Dan: Well I do recordings in three-hour sittings or to whenever my voice starts to go, which is probably around then. Then I’ll have an exercise break and then do the editing for that lot in the afternoon. In theory it should take 3 or 4 days, but realistically takes about a week to do a book, maybe slightly longer if it’s one of Jack’s!
Jack: *spits out coffee. Laughs* Yeah,,. just a little longer with one of mine!
What do you think are the signs of a good narrator?
Dan: Someone who is clearly taking their time and enjoying the story. You can just tell if somebody’s inexperienced or trying to get to the end of it. It definitely helps if you’ve got some acting experience. I’ve been a professional voiceover artist for about thirteen years now, I also did stand-up comedy for about ten years and have done acting for about eight years on and off, plus I do an improvised comedy sci-fi podcast, which I play about ten different characters on as well as edit, sound design and produce. I think if you understand audio as well, that’s another string to your bow as you know how to make your own voice sound even better… I sound like a strangled cat in real life. Jokes! As if…
Jack: For me it’s all in the voice first. I know the tone of my novels, the characters, so narrator voice has to match tone perfectly. Then it’s personality and how the narrator handles my approach. I cover dark romance, and where I know my audience and what they like, I don’t expect everyone to, especially a narrator who may not have read my work before or stepped into narrating MM in general. So I try to warn upfront and judge the narrator’s response as to how our relationship might go from that. With Dan, he was so damn confident and bold, which is exactly what I needed to see in some of my main characters. Besides that, it’s knowing that both sides are flexible and open to change. I make mistakes and I don’t know Dan’s side of the business, so having a good narrator who not only knows his business and is willing to guide an author through it is absolutely vital!
What do you think are the signs of a good author?
Jack: Oh boy, I could spend days on this. In its most basic form, a good author for me will have the ability to put me in the scene without me knowing I’ve had to read words to get there. Some of the best authors I’ve edited have made me forget I’m supposed to be editing, and that’s what it’s all about: that’s when you know you have a damn good story in your hands. And again that all comes down to style and voice for me.
The most basic writing techniques to learn that will make you stand out in the author crowd are style and voice. Unfortunately they’re also the hardest techniques to master. With both, you can build character dimension by showing how tone and tonicity change according to context with each individual character; you can learn how changing a single word can create the building blocks to exquisite world-building, how relaxing your style can fool a reader into thinking they’re in a room with you, whispering down their ear in quiet conspiracy. But when an author hears ‘relax your style’, it can leave them stumbling with where to start. There are techniques to learn how to do it, but they are complex and will always change from author to author, story to story. In part it can be learned, but you have to have a spark of innate talent to initially express it. So it’s all down to that spark of talent you find before you’ve started to edit a script, all highlighted through style and voice.
Dan: Somebody that sticks to their guns and writes what the hell they want to write. That’s what I love about self-publishing – the total freedom to bang out what you always wanted to, without someone breathing down your neck saying you can't do this or that. The fact that self-published authors go balls out (pardon the expression, but I like it) and just publish and market their own stuff, I think that’s one hell of an admirable quality, and I’m proud to be a part of it, even though I’m just learning that side of things. I’ve also found other authors so supportive of each other, which coming from the bitchy comedy circuit is one hell of a breath of fresh air!
Is there anything you particularly dislike about writing (Jack) or narration (Dan)?
Dan: No, not at all. It’s a great thing to be able to do, and I’m grateful that I can use my voice to make money. It’s quite ridiculous really if you think about it!
Jack: With writing, for me it’s knowing when to let a project go. I’ll hold on to it until I feel it sounds right, and that can take a long time for me. Novels will go through many editing stages: four consultants who know their area of speciality, and then beta readers. Sometimes if I stand and think about starting a novel, I’ll get that “All that? Again?” feeling, and it will make me back away from writing. So I try to look at individual scenes as opposed to the whole. I’ll also write scenes out of order, running with what feels right for the day. Basically a ‘chaos’ approach.
Moving away from your day jobs, what music do you like?
Jack: Absolutely anything. I grew up in the 80s, UK, mostly going to a rock club on Friday night, so AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard. But I also love how that rock theme went hybrid over the years with the likes of Linkin Park. I love trance and will also go through indie artists. But an absolute favourite is classical: anything on piano or violin, and most definitely anything by Andrea Bocelli. One of my “Do before I dies” is seeing Bocelli sing in Rome.
Dan: Hardcore Drum and Bass is my favourite. I was a raver back in the day, and it’ll always stay with me as my number one genre. Saying that, I have a very eclectic taste these days. Love a bit of 80’s and rock as well, 60s, 70s, the lot. I’m quite greedy, really.
Dan: I like everything, but a swanky French or Italian meal does it for me. Saying that, an Indian takeaway on a Saturday night is terrific news. Wouldn't turn my nose up at a JP (jacket potato) with cheese and beans either TBH.
Jack: Ah, another JP lover too: fight you for it, Calley! Lol. But yeah, I’m a pretty simple lass: jacket spud, cheese, and beans. Dan’s got a far more sophisticated palette than me, I’m afraid!
Favourite alcoholic drink?
Jack: Ah, whiskey and ginger on very special occasions, or more specifically: Auchentoshan whiskey, a lovely Scottish blend of vanilla and almonds. I swear I won’t get you to pronounce that one, Dan, lol! Maybe! *evil grin*
Dan: Negroni, Pina Colada. Who’d have thought it eh?
Dan, thank you so much for joining me today, and also a huge huge thanks to anyone who’s joined us, and to Diverse Reader for allowing us some jousting time.
If you’d like a chance to win 6 audios in the Don’t… series, don’t forget to leave a UK or US comment below!
You can get in touch with Dan by joining Dan Calley’s Clique group on Facebook or if you’re an author who’d like to work with Dan, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jack blames her dark writing influences on living close to one of England’s finest forests. Having grown up hearing a history of kidnappings, murders, strange sightings, and sexual exploits her neck of the woods is renowned for, Jack takes that into her writing, having also learned that human coping strategies for intense situations can sometimes make the best of people have disastrously bad moments. Redeeming those flaws is Jack’s drive.
Check out Jack at:
Amazon US: Link
Two sets of the Don’t… series on audio (6 audios in each set) to 1 US and 1 UK reader