Between the Sheets with Paul Woodson
Romance Narrators: You had a long career on the stage before going full-time as a narrator. Plays! Musical Theater! Operetta! Tell us about some favorite shows and roles.
Paul: I did! I went to Boston University’s School of Fine Arts, first as a Voice major, then re-auditioned and essentially restarted as a Theatre major. It was a very intensive type of training program, so I was used to doing plays constantly, sometimes working on 3 or 4 things at a time. I was a lead in the U.S. premiere of the West End hit A Slice of Saturday Night, which I booked while finishing college. Then after school, I got an agent in NYC, got my AEA card with a production of Sweeney Todd at Goodspeed Opera House, played some Gilbert & Sullivan tenor leads with the NY Gilbert & Sullivan Players, and did some great roles all around the country– Robert Goulet’s last Camelot tour, 4 seasons at California Musical Theatre, Homer in the quasi-country-opera, Floyd Collins. I played Vincent van Gogh in the sung-through musical Vincent Off-Broadway, which was a huge challenge, both vocally and dramatically, as it was a biographical piece and I was onstage nearly constantly, singing a heavily demanding score. I also did Sparky in Forever Plaid down South, which is actually how I met my wife!
Romance Narrators: A showmance! Gotta love a showmance. You co-narrated Live from New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers and Guests. How cool is that? Are you a fan of the show? What did you learn about SNL that you didn't know before?
Paul: I’ve watched SNL since I was little, even before I got many of the jokes. So it was a real honor to get to co-narrate that book along with Christina Delaine. One of the biggest challenges was that nearly the entire book was in interview format, and I had to switch POVs from Chevy Chase to Lorne Michaels to Martin Short, and about 50 or 60 different people! At the same time, I had to keep the sense of humor and personalities of these people, but not attempt any kind of impersonation! Which is really hard when you have to read Christopher Walken’s iconic line, “I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!” and such. That was a bit of a tightrope to walk, but I think I kept a good balance in the end and didn’t fall into the minefield of bad impersonations.
Romance Narrators: That “more cowbell” sketch can brighten the cloudiest of days! You narrate many titles in British dialect. When did you find that this was a sweet spot for you? Which book should we listen to if we want to hear you go full-Brit?
Paul: I spent early years in the UK as a very young boy while my Dad was a graduate student at Cambridge. It was actually where I first learned to speak and read, so I think something stuck. LOL. I had British vinyl spoken-word children’s records that I listened to constantly even after we moved back, a lot of my TV consumption was English, so I’ve been living among the dialect (at least a sort of London/Southern England) most of my life.
When I got into theatre, more than half my roles were British roles, likely because my accent was good. I remember doing A Chorus of Disapproval in university, and our Theatre head—a native Brit who I’d barely ever spoken to—took me aside and said (I’m paraphrasing), “Are you actually English? Did you grow up there?” I said sort of. He continued, “Well, your accent is the one of the most authentic I’ve heard since I’ve been over here. You truly sound like you’re from there.” I took that as a great compliment.
In audiobooks, in the beginning, I ended up snagging quite a lot of indie Highland and Regency Romance, which are hugely popular, likely because I could manage the accents and do the swoon worthy deep brogues and lilts that are expected. :) When I began working for publishers, I worked into it gradually, doing books that just had some British characters but not cover-to-cover. Then after some time, I think they must’ve decided to let me go full out, because now half of the books I get from them are UK-based as well!
For the full Brit treatment, you can listen to my narration of the fantasy epic, The Nightfall Duology(https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Nightfall-Duology-Audiobook/B07F784JPF) by Mickey Zucker Reichert, which I’ll actually be mentioning again later in this interview. That is entirely in various dialects of the British Isles, although the story is set in a fantasy world. I’ve also got a slew of ripping Highland Romances by the likes of Keira Montclair, Jennae Vale, Ceci Giltenan, and others.
Romance Narrators: Our ears are already swoooooning. You just returned from the Happiest Place on Earth. Coldstone Creamery. Kidding. Disneyworld! How was it? As a happy a place as they all say it is? What was your favorite part?
Paul: Magical! What else would you expect? :) My wife & I decided last fall to buy annual passes and go 3 times during a 12-month period, so this was our last big hurrah, and we went for it a little more than usual. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and the Beach Club, higher-end than the hotels we usually pick, and they were amazing! All 4 Disney parks are great, plus we did a water park (Blizzard Beach), and actually began our trip with 2 days at Universal, which has 2 theme parks as well. They’ve begun to rival Disney in their world-immersion techniques. Universal has Diagon Alley & Hogwarts, a Dr. Seuss land, Marvel Comics, and so on. You can get butterbeer and ride a mine cart through Gringott’s! It was just fabulous. I also got to hang with fellow narrators Aaron Shedlock & Joel Froomkin (Joel Leslie), who are locals.
Romance Narrators: How fun! You are proficient in German and French, yes? Quick, say "I am Paul Woodson and I am a fancypants narrator" in both languages. Oh, and tell us how your facility in these languages works its way into your audiobook work.
Paul: Hum… Je m’appelle Paul Woodson, et je suis un narrateur deluxe?
Und: Mein Name ist Paul Woodson und ich bin ein schick Sprecher? Ja, das muss es sein.
Romance Narrators: Ooh, thank you for that.
Paul: Usually this has helped me get WWII projects, as they tell me quite a bit of it happened in France and Germany. Who knew? (I’ve actually read books like Alice in Wonderland and 3 of the Harry Potter books auf Deutsch. Not narrated, just read for myself.)
Romance Narrators: Yes, you do narrate a fair amount of books about war. I imagine that can get kind of heavy. How does that affect you?
Paul: It can get rough. It depends often on what the bent of the narrative is. I’ve done utterly cold, technical military manuals about every single army movement leading up to and following the battle of Stalingrad, that didn’t get to me much, because they were so clinical. But then I’ve also done a memoir by a Waffen-SS volunteer from Belgium, who was writing it in the 1990s, totally unrepentant, and gave what I took to be a very skewed and pro-German view of the War and a hateful view of the Allies. He puffed himself up quite a bit while making everyone else sound nasty and like he was an unfairly persecuted victim once the tide of the war turned. That one was pretty difficult on my soul. But it’s history.
Romance Narrators: Getting completely superficial for a moment,… You're one of those guys who look completely different depending on whether or not you are sporting facial hair. What's happening on that sweet face of yours right now? 70s mustache? Lumberjack beard? Clean baby face?
Paul: Aww, thanks! I didn’t realize my looks were so mercurial! I’m currently fresh-faced and clean-shaven. It was time to retire the goatee for the Disney trip. Too hot for facial hair. I did grow a beard when I played Vincent van Gogh though.
Romance Narrators: Tell us about your work with romance author Melissa Foster. You've narrated quite a few of her books. What keeps you coming back for more?
Paul: I love Melissa’s work! She and her team are very professional and prompt, her books are always immaculately edited, so I never have to worry about typos, and her style is very easy to dramatize. She has a great feel for characters and relationships and dialogue, so they are a joy to narrate. She also knows how to write a really hot sex scene with true emotion and passion. I hope to do a few more of hers, though right now I know Andi Arndt and Sebastian York are doing some of her works, so it may be hard to get her back after she’s had a taste of that. LOL. But I’ll try to stay in the game!
Romance Narrators: You’re Paul freaking Woodson! Of course they’ll keep coming back for more. Talk to us about national parks. If we could only visit one, which one should it be?
Paul: Oh, tough question! My wife & I have been to so many. I just got back to Grand Canyon, Acadia, and Yosemite this year (before the fire shut it down). I might have to say Yosemite because there’s just so much hiking and sights there, and I’ve a lot left to explore, even though I’ve been there 8 or 10 times already.
Romance Narrators: You narrated a book this July that clocked in at 37 hours. THIRTY-SEVEN HOURS!!! Did you feel like you'd be working on this book for the rest of your life? Did you throw a party when you finished?
Paul: It was epic! That’s actually The Nightfall Duology that I mentioned earlier. So not only was it 37 hours, it was entirely in British and Irish dialects, and had about 100 distinct characters whose accents and voice mannerisms I had to keep straight. I also decided that the accents should be consistent to geography (as in real life), so as we wander the fantasy world of this book, characters from one region had, say, a Yorkshire dialect, others Scottish, the big metropolis had London dialects, and so on. But our protagonist, Nightfall, is a master of disguise, and lives his life as 6 or 7 different people, so EVEN HE would change his accent throughout the book based on his guise!
Was it exhausting? Sure. But it was great fun! I definitely cracked open a beer or 6 after wrapping it.
Romance Narrators: What other exciting audiobook projects do you have on the horizon?
Paul: I’m currently narrating a 4-book series of UK detective novels by Robert Innes, the Blake Harte Mystery Series, which is set in a small fictional town in the English countryside. Our hero Blake Harte, a big-city detective, has come to this little town and struggles to fit in while solving a bunch of unusual cases. Plus he happens to be gay, which is a nice character touch; it’s not overstated or a main point of the books, it’s just who he is.
I’m also in the middle of yet another epic tome in the sci-fi genre, The Faded Sun Trilogy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Faded_Sun_Trilogy) by C.J. Cherryh. When I took it on, I had no idea how prolific or celebrated the author was, but she is a fixture of 1970s and 1980s science fiction! She’s got Hugo Awards and Locus Awards and a bunch of others. The one I’m narrating is a compendium of 3 books within her “Alliance-Union Universe”, the first of which was a Hugo, Locus, and Nebula Award nominee.
And, as I still am a Romance Narrator, I’ll be narrating a 5th book in Jennae Vale’s Thistle & Hive series, A Turn in Time. As in her other books, it combines time travel, modern-day San Francisco, and medieval Scotland. Watch for it in a few months! And in the meantime, perhaps listen to the first four I’ve narrated for her. ;) Book #1 is called A Bridge Through Time (https://www.audible.com/pd/B013VKJ4ZC/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWU-BK-ACX0-041144&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_041144_pd_us).
Romance Narrators: Where can people keep up with you online?
There’s so much to keep up with! I feel like I don’t update my homepage enough, but at least it’s where you can always access my SoundCloud audiobook demos directly on the page. Or you can go to SoundCloud directly.
(same site, different addresses. They must be entered exactly as written)
View all my titles on Audible.com:
Links to people mentioned in interview: