Between The Sheets With Jeffrey Kafer
Romance Narrators: You’ve narrated over 500 books (is that correct?) and in every genre it seems. So many series too! What’s the longest relationship you’ve ever had with a series?
Jeffrey: Yeah, 500 books. Crazy, huh? I guess they start to add up after doing this for 9 years. The longest relationship I've had with a series goes to The Chess Team series of military thrillers by Jeremy Robinson. That's the series that actually got me started in audiobooks. I was doing some freebie audiobooks at podiobooks.com and Jeremy hired me to do a different set of books as a free promo for The Chess Team. That series ended up getting picked up by Audible and he asked for me to narrate the series for him. That was my proverbial foot in the door of the industry. I'm still very thankful to Jeremy for affording me that opportunity when he did.
Since I know this is a romance blog/interview, the longest relationship there is with Cristin Harber and her Titan Group series. Hers was one of the first romance titles I did and I remember being floored by the depth of the story and how much I grew to care for the characters. This is definitely not a dime story novel with Fabio on the cover. Still doing that series today and I love it when I get the chance to do the next one.
Romance Narrators: Last year you participated in a panel called “Men of Romance Audiobooks.” For those of us who couldn’t catch that discussion, what was the main, ahem… thrust?
Jeffrey: It was really a chance to let authors and a few listeners get to know us and for us to show how much we love and respect the romance genre. I don't know any successful narrators who do this just for a quick buck. So I think it was important to show how serious we are about the genre and how we take the writing as seriously as any other genre. Sometimes even more so because we know how fanatical the listener base is. Romance listeners have no problem voicing how much they love or hate us. So putting face to a name and talking we found very helpful and enriching.
Romance Narrators: We are obviously in full agreement about how much we love and respect romance (and now I feel bad about the “thrust” joke) Forgive me? You seem to be romance author Katie Reus’ go-to male narrator. 18 books together and counting! What is it that draws you to Katie’s work?
Jeffrey: I like the diversity of Katie's work. She does a good amount of paranormal romance, but also some thriller romance. And these subgenres aren't just a veneer to get the characters to eventually fall in love. They are truly different. There's the fantastical, often moody approach to the Darkness Series where you can see and hear Katie's imagination take off, and then the more grounded research-based approach to the Sin City series. It's always fun to take a new approach to a book based on the type of story being told.
Romance Narrators: There is much talk amongst narrators and listeners on how to voice characters of a different gender. What approach do you take when bringing female characters to life?
Jeffrey: I do them all falsetto with a valley girl upspeak at the end. That’s accurate, right? Kidding, obviously. The key with taking on any character is respect. These are usually strong women who deserve to be treated with a nuanced, rounded approach. Since they are almost always dealing with something other than falling in love with the boy, it’s those stories that allow us to really dig into the character. And to quote the great audiobook coach, Paul Alan Ruben, the characters don’t know they are in a romance novel. To them, everything they are experiencing is real. Remembering that is a great way to stay in the headspace of the character.
Romance Narrators: Speaking of space… (great segue, huh?:) If one searches for you on Audible, they’ll find that you’ve narrated quite a few titles in a niche called “Space Opera.” For those of us who aren’t familiar, please tell us… what in the world is space opera?
Jeffrey: You actually do know what space opera is, but maybe you’ve never heard it called that. But if you’ve ever seen Star Wars, you’ve seen Space Opera. Or Star Trek. Space Opera is simply sci-fi on a grand and dramatic scale. Lots of ships, planets, civilizations and galaxies dealing with some massive obstacle. All the while, we get attached to the characters and their journey.
Romance Narrators: Thanks for clearing that up! Talk to us about your former career in video games. Which projects did you voice? Did you attend gamer conventions? We hear those can be wild!
Jeffrey: My previous career in video games at Microsoft wasn't as a voice talent. I was Tester. Yes, I got paid to play video games. Sort of. I was actually paid to devise ways to test the games. I worked on some of the biggest games ever: Gears of War, Mass Effect, Fable, MechWarrior. It was an exceedingly difficult job, and frankly, when I was laid off, I was no longer qualified to do the job any more. So... I decided to pursue voice over and audiobooks full time, something I had been doing part time for 2 years before leaving. This rest, as they say, is history.
Regarding conventions, I worked at E3 (the major gaming convention in LA) one year and the Microsoft booth was hosted by Jenny McCarthy (I’m dating myself with that reference). I was on a break and wanted to take a picture of Jenny. She was sitting in a seat so I whipped out my digital camera. This huge guard said “No taking pictures of Jenny while she’s sitting.” I said “Wait, what?” He repeated his statement about pics whilst on her derrière. So I asked the guard if he could tell her to stand up so I could take her damn picture. He did not find it amusing.
That’s as crazy a story as I have for a video game convention. Actually, I have one more regarding Jell-O shots and strippers dressed as nurses, but I *think* my Microsoft NDA is still in effect, so I don’t want to be sued.
Romance Narrators: Yes, let’s keep you out of court! You’ve become what many call the “Audiobook Business Guru” and regularly consult with folks looking to gain a stronger foothold in our field. When did you realize that you had a passion for teaching people the ropes? How can people work with you?
Jeffrey: I started AudiobookMentor.com (Shameless plug) when I found that I was answering a lot of the same questions online. Add to that, I saw many a new narrator falling into the same pitfalls over and over again. And others just flailed in the wind with no guidance whatsoever. And then there were those who got really terrible advice...
So I set up shop. Not only can you buy pre-recorded MP3s on my site, but I am also offering one-on-one consulting to simply answer any questions a narrator might have. This isn’t just for new narrators. I’ve also consulted with some established narrators who need a bit of help navigating the ever-changing landscape. It’s been very fruitful and people really seem happy with the results.
Romance Narrators: You are also the creator of Audiobook Boom. How does that process work? Who should participate?
Jeffrey: AudiobookBoom.com is a weekly newsletter where audiobook authors and narrators are matched up with audiobook listeners. No, it’s not tinder for book nerds. The author or narrator can give their free ACX codes to those who request it and the listener agrees to leave an honest review. The author/narrator gets new listeners, some reviews, and a good way to reach their crowd. The listener gets free audiobooks.
Romance Narrators: We like the way you think, sir. Some male romance narrators (not naming any names;) purposely stay elusive to listeners, however you are a very strong presence on social media. Was it a conscious choice of yours to engage with fans? What do you think the “unicorns” of our industry have to gain (or lose) by staying mysterious?
Honestly, I think those guys (and gals) have the right idea. You never know what preconceived notions people might have that might adversely affect their careers. Just last week, I consulted with a narrator who prominently had her picture on her erotica narration page. I strongly suggested she remove it. Not because she was ugly, but because the mystery is gone. I don’t want narrators to give authors any reason not to hire them. This woman happened to be a blond. I’d hate to see her lose a gig because the main character in the book was a brunette. Obviously that’s an exaggeration, but the point remains. The fact that SebYo is invisible means he can take on any persona that people might imagine. Though that #KingOfAuralSex hashtag is annoying as shit.
As for me, I do have a pseudonym, but it’s only for the REALLY raunchy stuff. I don’t advertise him and I’m not trying to build his career. He’s just a place I can put titles that cross the line in certain ways. Other than that, yeah, I’m me and all my romance titles are under my name. My kids are older teens so I don’t need to protect them. I’m not going to be in the running to be a Disney Princess anytime soon (a boy can dream!) so I don’t have the same reasons as others. Plus, and this is most accurate, I never really thought about it when I started 9 years ago.
Romance Narrators: That’s Disney’s loss for sure. Tell us about an audiobook of which you’re particularly proud.
Jeffrey: I love all my children equally. But I think the most fun book I’ve done is the Villains Rule series by MK Gibson. Hysterical 4th wall breaking lunacy. If you like Fantasy and comic books with a bit of Deadpool nonsense and want to see all the tropes destroyed, grab those audiobooks. We do things that no one has ever done in an audiobook.
Romance Narrators: What exciting projects do you have on the horizon?
Jeffrey: I’m really looking forward to doing Lucky’s Marines next month. That’s a sci-if military comedy about a team of ne’er do wells who have to figure out.... NO SPOILERS. But it features a cranky marine with a dark past and foul mouthed AI, so I’m all in. Comedy is something I LOVE doing and I don’t get a chance to perform it all that often.
I know you wanted me to mention an upcoming romance. But honestly, I don’t have one! Aside from a novella or two, I don’t have any more romance on the docket. Maybe one of the authors reading this will say “Hey! Jeff does comedy AND romance and I have a COMEDY ROMANCE that needs narrating” and I’ll be like “Oh my god, that’s totally perfect” and they’ll be all “Let’s do it!’ And I’ll be like “OK!”
That would be cool. But no pressure, right?
Keep up with Jeffrey online:
Jeffrey’s Audible catalog: https://adbl.co/2JxLPxT
Links to people mentioned in interview: