Summer Shorts ’14: A chat with voice artist Paul Michael Garcia and Steven LaFond, author of Yard Waste

summer shorts 14It’s time for Summer Shorts ’14! This audio anthology is a collection of over 60 essays, short stories, and poems that supports the literacy outreach efforts of ProLiteracy. The proceeds from the collection go directly to ProLiteracy, and you can check out the entire collection HERE. If you’ll recall, I had great fun taking part in the Going Public hop last year, that I was thrilled to join in on this one, and it’s for a great cause.

To get the word out (and because it’s fun), a ton of blogs are hosting narrators and authors, and also one day access to listen to their story. Today my guests are narrator Paul Michael Garcia and Steven LaFond, author of Yard Waste, a hard hitting short story that’s well worth your time. So, check out the interviews and head over to Spoken Freely to check out the entire list of free reads!

-Paul Michael Garcia, narrator: Paul Michael Garcia is a five-time AudioFile Earphones Award winner. Some of his audiobooks include Survivor and Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuck and The Tin Drum by Günter Grass. Paul received his training in theater from Southern Oregon University, where he studied as an actor, director, and designer. He spent three seasons in the acting company at the world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

Garcia_P_DPaul, you’re a multi-award winning narrator and have narrated some titles by some pretty huge names. You have a background in acting, but how did you first get into voice work?
I had just ended my second season at OSF, which I had entered right out of college, when I met a young man named Andrew Barnes. We got to talking about what we did, he was in charge of the studios at blackstone, and he asked if I was busy. When he found out a book I was really into at the time was ‘Youth In Revolt’ by C.D. Payne and which blackstone audio had just acquired, I auditioned and there you have it! After that, it felt like a natural fit to continue and get myself set up with a home studio.

Would you describe a typical recording session for us?
I’ve always called narrating; schizophrenic acting. I mean, I’m locked in a padded room alone, pushing buttons, talking to myself in different voices and getting frustrated when it’s not “just right”! In truth I’m a bit embarrassed whenever I have an engineer working with me. I prep-read whatever book I’m working on, do the reseach necessary, then the day of recording I reread the pages I want to get finished. I do a bit of stretching, because I’ll be sitting for a long time, and then I begin. Because of the same day rereading, I’ve prepared what is coming, who is who, where the story is going is fresh in my mind, and I begin. Sometimes a voice in my head doesn’t come out the way I envisioned it, so I might have to take a break to finesse. But really my focus is on each moment, giving honesty to each and every moment.

What did you enjoy most about Steven’s story, Yard Waste, and did you do anything in particular to prepare for it?
Steven’s story was so honest, and simply so. Simplicity in writing is no easy thing! Nor is the sense of honesty he gives it through that simplicity. So in that sense, the genuine emotional life of this story was a pleasure to experience. I’m BIG on honesty in acting and story telling, and it’s not very easy to do.

What have been some of your favorite recording projects?

  • The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers: A fun and whimsical story that I still go back and listen to, not for my own performance, but because I truly loved every joke, every character, every idea.
  • Psycho by Robert Bloch: Who wouldn’t be excited about acting the role of Norman Bates? I mean WHO gets to do that?
  • Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk: I was very new to audiobooks when I was given this title. One of my all-time favorites.
  • The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass: I did this under the direction of the late, great, Yuri Razovski. He taught me to trust in myself.

Do you prefer listening to audiobooks or reading print novels, or both?
I prefer to read. I enjoy doing the work and so if I’m listening I’m letting someone else have all the fun!

What are a few of your favorite books or authors?
Chuck Palahniuk. Walter Moers. Heinlein. Alena Graedon just did a great book, ‘The Word Exchange’, I narrated with Tavia Gilbert. David Foster Wallace. The ‘Youth In Revolt’ series. Anything suspenseful, SciFi, comedy. Books that feel real. Anything historically interesting. Now I’m just naming ALL books. I love to read!

You spent three seasons in the acting company at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. What’s one of your favorite Shakespearean plays?
For me it’s too difcult to choose just one… But, if pressured for an answer, Richard III. He’s one of my favorite characters. He’s been copied over many times, and he’s got some of my favorite language. There’s something so wonderful in the unspoken Richard, too. When he’s “wooing” Lady Anne and he’s so genuine, so honest, and she starts to soften, then when she’s gone a moment later, all a Richard has to do is turn with the glint of a smile and you realize you were right behind Anne. YOU were giving in, too. His nasty honesty with the audience is fascinating, and very funny. His ability to feel so honest with others is terrifying. So, there is this weird dichotomy of relating to Richard. In one hand he’s saying terrifying ugly things to you and you love him forit, and in the other, you have these heartfelt moments that you know are false but you fall for them anyway along with the other characters, and hate him for that. It’s one play where it never matters where I’m at. Audience,cast. I always feel I’m a part of it.

What’s next for you?
Not entirely sure. Don’t have anything big lined up. This time of year is always spent seeing plays, as the Shakespeare festival is open. Which also means old friends passing through to act or to see plays. Always a good time to have your finger on the pulse of regional theatre. But, I’ll hopefully be in the studio again soon.

Keep up with Paul: Tantor Audio Page | Twitter

-Steven LaFond, author of Yard Waste:

stevenlafondSteven, have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little more about yourself and your background?
Besides a brief desire of being a paleontologist before I started kindergarten, I loved reading and writing from the start. Telling stories was something I did the moment I could string words together and it made an otherwise nonsensical world a lot more structured and understandable to me.

I was born to teenagers in New Hampshire and grew up in a very small town. The school system was more than a little broken, I felt pretty alone and hated going even though I loved learning. I had a few atypical turns and wound up on the other side as a teenage goth who then moved out on his own at 17 and spent a few years looking for a place that felt like home. I found it in Cambridge, MA.

Yard Waste is a powerful little piece, and I thought about it long after I finished it. What inspired you to write it?
I’m fascinated in the ability of people to grow and change. Too often, especially in the modern age where an old picture or post can damn a person for life, regardless of how much they have grown, has the potential for an entire section of society to shun or keep them lazily defined by an attitude, ethos, or crime that they have paid for and from which distanced themselves. More to that, there are people who are haunted by things that, to them, seem part of another life that have the potential to ruin all that they have built. I’m interested in looking at those people and seeing what they do when their past comes back.

yardwasteSpeaking of inspiration, what, or who, has inspired your writing the most?
I’m curious about the world and how we all live in it. The mystery of what’s inside other people’s heads stays with me throughout my day. It doesn’t mean I walk around in a peaceful haze, but I tend to imagine whole stories based on things I’ve overheard, seen in passing or read almost all the time.

What is your writing process like? What do you find most challenging about writing short pieces?
I’m an early riser, even if I’ve been out late the night before. After letting out the dog and going to the gym, I’ve a few hours to write before heading to work. On the weekends, I spend from 5-11AM writing.

Short pieces require you to think about every sentence and every word. I love writing short pieces, too, for that reason. That’s their beauty and challenge. Many of my friends are poets, too, and I envy their ability to bend language they way that they do… jerks.

If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. That had such a positive effect on me as a young man and I was absorbed by that story in a way I’ve seldom felt again.

I have to ask…how the heck did you become a roller derby announcer?
I’m mostly retired from announcing now. My fiancée at the time became a skater with the Boston Derby Dames. I was their head volunteer worker, then a mascot, and then another league, NHRD, needed an announcer. My friend, Jeff, passed me a microphone and told me I’d be great. I was. Then for five years, I toured the country as Pelvis Costello. It was such an amazing experience, which I’ve written about a ton. Eventually, all that travel and total immersion into a subculture wore some of the chrome off my bumper and I stopped writing due to exhaustion. So, I left.

If you weren’t writing, what do you think you’d be doing?
I work at non-profit, now, as a Social Media Manager. I love my job and it allows me to communicate in a way that’s different from writing. Unlike many of my writer friends, I’m an extrovert. I love most people, which means that I juggle socialization and my necessary private time constantly. There are friends who don’t write that wonder why I disappear for stretched on end, but I have stories to tell. Does that answer the question? Should I pick a profession? Game developer. Burlesque MC.

What’s next for you?
I don’t know, but I love the idea of finding out.

Keep up with Steven: Website | Twitter


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