Between the Sheets with Vikas Adam
Romance Narrators: We have some seriously fancy topics to tackle right off the bat. You were inducted into the Narrator Hall of Fame this year! That had to be encouraging, huh?:) Tell us all about this sweet turn of events. They wined and dined you, yeah? Gave you a plaque? Promised to name all Audible employees' future babies Vikas?
Vikas: HA! Future babies...one of the things I love about my name is that “Vikas” means “growing, nurturing, progressing”—it’s something that I didn’t appreciate till I was older. So…thanks Mom and Dad! Whoooooo boy...yes, the Hall of Fame induction was one of the most amazing experiences so far!
The event itself was amazing. We had a reception and tour of the new studios at Audible, which are beautiful!! The actual induction ceremony included a red carpet where they interviewed us and I got to meet some of the editors from Audible who have been our biggest champions. I also was nervous...they gave us all like 60 seconds to give a speech and the music would start playing us off and I was the first person getting inducted so I was slightly...intimidated. So much so, I couldn’t eat or drink anything but water before hand. Giving my speech was a blur. I just noticed the doomsday clock ticking off how many seconds I had left and being the profane individual I tend to be, being scared that I’d drop an f-bomb. I think I survived without making too big a fool of myself. I also had two drinks waiting for me at our table when I finished.
I still have moments of disbelief. It was one of those moments that really hit me when I was at the induction ceremony and surrounded by all of these narrators whose work I respect and adore. It’s definitely something that encourages me as I move forward in my career as it forces me to work harder on my craft. As artists, we all have our up and down days. On those lower days, seeing the beautiful glass award they gave me gives me the boost that I need to continue on.
Romance Narrators: In addition to all your accomplishments as a narrator and a stage/film actor, you are a professor at UCLA. What can students expect to learn in Professor Adam's class?
Vikas: One of the things I’m always striving for my students to learn is to make a choice and then to explore as many other choices as possible. To not necessarily go with the first choice as there could be so many more hidden gems that you haven’t found yet. Allowing yourself to enjoy the process vs. trying to get to the product. There will be times when you don’t have the luxury of exploring choices but if you have allowed yourself to experience the process of exploring choice then finding that ‘stronger’ choice in a high pressure environment will most likely emerge. And then most importantly...practicing what I preach. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a teacher with the do as I say not as I do mentality. I do continue to learn from my students as well.
Romance Narrators: You won the 2016 Audie Award for Fantasy with the Heartstriker Series. Did you know it was a special series while you were working on it?
Vikas: A dragon who’s nice...and he stands by his belief system and moral compass, surrounded by his family and a cast of characters that challenge him and each other. I loved all of those characters that Rachel Aaron created so much and their voices just came to me...it was one of those magical experiences. So yes, I knew it was special. I just didn’t know HOW special. When the nominations came out and it was on there, I was blown away. When they announced my name at the awards, I seriously thought one of the many other nominees would get it. So being the guy who has to have fun wherever I am, I was actually filming my reaction with the intent to make a stink face and cuss on camera when I expected to lose but they called my name, my friend Adenrele [Ojo] started screaming in my ear (and god, does she have pipes, my left ear doesn’t hear the dog whistles like it used to), and I thought, “Oh crap...stand Vik, stand!!!!” I then proceeded to get out of my chair like a doddering old man with my mouth agape—one of the few times I was speechless and not sure what to do or say. Scott Brick still makes fun of me for that one. But there are so many books that I’ve narrated that as I’m recording them, I’m thinking, “Holy manurepatties, this is an incredible book! If this doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, I’ll be shocked.” Sadly, I proceed to get shocked a lot more than I’d like.
Romance Narrators: You have spent a solid amount of time living in Canada, India and America. How do you think calling each of those countries home has shaped you?
Vikas: Numerous ways. Canada will always be in my heart since I was born there—I’m first generation (My dad is Punjabi and my mom is Parsi Zoroastrian). I miss the kindness and the politeness of individuals there. I miss poutine. I miss saying “washroom”. I miss people not bugging me when I pronounce a long “O” when I say “process”. I miss the memories of a simpler childhood and the people who raised me. India instilled in me a sense of the culture I was born into but helped me develop a sense of pride for my heritage on a deeper level and experience a sense of it that I otherwise could not have just living in a community that happened to be in another country. And America is my home now. She’s in dire conflict right now, and she’s at a time when she needs her people to find love, compassion, empathy, and strength for each other and her.
Romance Narrators: Tell us about The Mild Demential Continuous Play Variety Hour.
Vikas: The Mild Demential Continuous Play Variety was a sketch comedy group that my friend Brad McEntire and I created back in Dallas. He’s a supremely talented writer, actor, and solo performer and if he’s ever in town performing you gotta check him out. We went through numerous iterations of the group but I learned about pushing boundaries, hard work, taking risks, and failure as we worked together. The work we did wasn’t about trying to get fame. It was about making people and ourselves laugh...sometimes with discomfort.
Romance Narrators: Let's talk about Life of Pi. You must have been pretty excited to tackle this one, yeah? What was the experience like for you?
Vikas: Life of Pi...wow. So I had read it years ago. And when I was in grad school, my professor was working on movement with Ang Lee during preproduction of the movie. He tried to get me an audition for the movie. It didn’t happen. Welcome to Hollywood. On a side note, not getting a part is tough, but you live. At least if you don’t get it, you got to show what you could do and then it’s just not what they were looking for whatever reason. But nothing is worse for me than not having the opportunity to show what I can do.
Fast-forward to late 2017 around the time people were vocalizing about wanting 2017 to end cuz it sucked (no, I was not one of them). I got a call from Audible asking me to audition for Pi, which made me go...hmm...déjà vu. When I got it, I was floored. It allowed me to play with the world in a way I couldn’t have were I on a movie set. Yann Martel the author was very kind regarding my audition and stated some things that actually made me cry (cuz by then I was ready for 2017 cuz I had boarded the “it sucked” bandwagon). In our discussions about the book, he was so kind and so generous and so giving in allowing me to explore character choice, and answering questions regarding character psychology which would affect the choices I made, that I couldn’t have asked for more! I had a gorgeous picture of a tiger staring at me on the screen outside of the booth to keep me motivated and focused as we recorded. I love this book and I hope I did it the justice it deserves.
Romance Narrators: What was it like working with the words of Salman Rushdie?
Vikas: Salman Rushdie is a master artist with words. He takes words and creates these sculptures with them and challenges the reader, the listener, the narrator to dive in. With Rushdie, you cannot space as you record. You have to be all in or you’ll miss something and the listener will hear it. Salman Rushdie is someone I wanna have drinks or tea or both with and just talk—actually I’d love to wait in line with him for a roller coaster just to see what comes out of his mouth about having to wait in line. His mind is a playground of ideas and to see how he weaves mythology into the everyday is breathtaking. I’ve done two of his novels—SHAME and THE GOLDEN HOUSE. With SHAME, I did something I rarely do...I recorded everything, dialogue included, in the Narrator’s voice because it was so powerfully written and strong that breaking up characters would have weakened the piece. THE GOLDEN HOUSE allowed me to work with the lovely Bruce Mann who directed me and it was a joyous work experience to bounce off ideas, to collaborate on who these characters were and sounded like, and to trust that when something was a bit too much, I could pull it back.
Romance Narrators: You once narrated a 49-hour novel. Sweet Jeebus. You and that author must have shared a brain by the end of it. Did you start dreaming in character?
Vikas: M.M. Kaye and I began communicating on the astral plane cuz she was no longer with us when I recorded the piece (kidding, no you’re not, shut it M.M! they don’t have to know everything!!). Recording THE FAR PAVILIONS was one of those experiences that was what I refer to as a “Fork moment”. It’s one of those times when you’re faced with being at a crossroads and making a choice one way or another. I had barely any prep time (my window of 10 days fell to 2 days due to studio availability) and I was working part-time with a startup to pay the bills. I was also intimidated by the volume of the book. If I took this book, I’d need every minute to work on it. I opted for the challenge. I quit my job, and I never looked back. THE FAR PAVILIONS made me realize I was able to record books more often and yes, I did dream of the characters (how did you dream of them? not like that M.M! cheeky).
Romance Narrators: Can you tell us about your work with the Dallas County Sexual Assault Association?
Vikas: The Dallas County Sexual Assault Coalition brought together social workers, law enforcement, and hospitals together to create an ongoing dialogue about improving services to victims of sexual assault. This was in 2003 or 2004. At this point, we were trying to figure out how we could help someone who came into a police department, or a hospital and do what we could to create a safe environment for them. What kind of training could hospital staff or police use to be sensitive to the needs of victims? How were the police or hospital staff already trained to interact with someone who’s reporting an assault? In fact, how could social services, hospitals, and law enforcement work together? I, already having spent years working in sexual assault awareness, was brought into a founders meeting and I brought in actors to help in simulation training for what hospital staff could experience. These actors also volunteered their time to perform role-playing phone calls for victim advocate trainees. With DCSAC, I helped spearhead a Sexual Assault Awareness Week and Month in Dallas County which included a series of events such an evening of theater, a march, a band, and something called The Bar Project in which we worked with local bars on leaving literature on coasters and posters in bathrooms as well as educating bartenders and staff on spotting red flags in regards to date rape drugs, intoxication, and consent and how they could help. I’m happy to say that I was updated recently that numerous events such as The Bar Project is continued to this day.
Romance Narrators: What exciting audiobook projects do you have on the horizon?
Vikas: Oh there are so many exciting projects coming out! In the romance category, since that’s our specialization here, there’s UNFIT TO PRINT by KJ Charles which is a Victorian M/M novella dealing with two childhood friends being reunited by the mysterious disappearance of a boy...and how they are drawn together in other ways as well. I also have TOXIC by Lydia Kang, a YA Romance SciFi Thriller (yes it’s got it all and it’s soooo good!) and I just finished recording WINTER LOON by Susan Bernhard which is a literary piece of fiction that’s wowed me to no end! When we talk special...this one is special. It’s beautiful, poetic, and by turns heartbreaking and uplifting. It’s still with me.
Romance Narrators: Where can people keep up with you online?
Vikas: I’m on all three social media platforms and I don’t repeat what I post for the most part. If it’s on Twitter it may not be on Insta, and so on...I’m also profane on Instagram and profane/political on Twitter. I’m snarky on all three, least to post on FB. And I love to hear from fans!! They are the best! I just need to get my website up and going.
Twitter and Instagram: @vikasadam
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