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Talking with Audio Narrator Gerard Doyle

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

Gerard Doyle was understudying a role on Broadway when his agent called to say that Recorded Books was looking for an Irish voice. "I knew about audiobooks, but--embarrassing to admit now--I didn't know much. No matter, I thought, 'I can do that. I'm an Irishman.'" An Irishman who as a child often went to the local pub with his family. "I'd sit on the bench late into the evening listening to the stories and the lies. And the music! I even sang sometimes. They'd put me up on a table. One of my best was Ronnie Donegan's 'My Old Man's a Dustbin.'" No wonder he won an AudioFile Earphones Award for that first audiobook, A STAR CALLED HENRY , by Roddy Doyle. No relation, says our narrator, but "Ah, that book was a lovely thing." He manages to make three melodious syllables out of "lovely."

That fine beginning was also almost the end of Gerard Doyle's audiobook career because when he called, rather hesitantly, to ask when he might audition to narrate more books, the person who answered the phone yelled, "What are you talking about? Can't you see we're under attack!" It was the morning of September 11, 2001, and Doyle hadn't yet turned on the news. Chastened, he put the whole experience on the proverbial shelf until established narrator Simon Vance called to tell him that he, Gerard, had won an award. "Novice that I was, I had no idea! So I tried again, and Claudia Howard at Recorded Books, bless her, she dug out something for me to read."

Since then, Doyle has won umpteen AudioFile Earphones Awards and in 2008 was named a Best Voice in Young Adult Fiction. He reads adult, young adult, and children's books as well as literary fiction, mysteries, humor, adventure, and lots of fantasy. "I do dragon voices really well." Speaking of fire-breathing winged creatures, Doyle narrated HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON , by Cressida Cowell, which has just been made into a film. "Clever, funny--heavens, that was a great read." And he is the voice of Christopher Paolini's bestselling Inheritance series, which he also loves. Admittedly, he received the first volume, ERAGON --"760 pages!"--only 12 days before he had to record it. "I could only read it through once," says the man who, when asked if he reads books before narrating them, answered, "Oh God, yes! I prefer to read them twice. Writers are forever introducing characters on page 20 and describing their voices on page 200." Eragon was a marathon production that involved recording for eight hours, reading ahead at night, and coming in the next day for another eight hours.

This may be why, when asked what keeps dragging him back into the studio, Doyle laughs.

"I have no idea. Wait, yes, it's masochism. Definitely, masochism."

"No, really."

"Really? Well, then. Narrating audiobooks takes me right away. When I'm in the studio, I'm not really in the claustrophobic soundproof box. I've gone somewhere else, often far away. And I've become many other people, other creatures. I've been subsumed." There's nothing quite like it, he says. The "otherness" is so pervasive that after going into New York City to record, he can find himself wandering aimlessly. "I have to give myself a shake. 'Get a grip, Gerard. You've got a train home to catch.'"

Doyle records in the evenings, on weekends, on school holidays--"every spare minute"--because during the week, he teaches drama at the Ross School. Right now, he is directing the musical Pippin, which evidently ends in a conflagration. "Really, I must learn to read the plays before I choose them. But this has parts for more than 30 students, and the plot is dramatic and meaningful. It's perfect!" Except for the flames in the middle of the stage. "The thought of it quite worried the principal." So they're going to do it with lights. It will be a lesson, he says, in "using the power of imagination to take an audience to someplace else entirely."--Aurelia C. Scott.

Whether he’s relating tales of dragons (see the latest in Christopher Paolini’s epic Eragon series, BRISINGR ) or gritty battles for Wonderland, as in Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars trilogy, Gerard Doyle’s narrating range and skill shine. How does he do it?

“I tend to go largely by physical description,” he says, discussing how he prepared for narrating BRISINGR. “If there are specific details about the voices, I latch onto those as best I can. But if a creature’s anatomical features are described, I try to imagine, for example, how the jaw might work . . . and then try and adapt that and attach it to something that sounds okay to the ear and is still slightly stranger than normal.” SEEING REDD is the second in the Looking Glass Wars trilogy and follows Alyss--the real person Lewis Carroll based his Alice in Wonderland on. It’s a wildly imaginative series, and, as author Beddor says,

“Gerard gives the characters fullness, creating just the right visceral momentum through some of the action chapters.” Our review agrees: “With SEEING REDD, Doyle once again shows what can be done with just a voice and talent. Clearly, Doyle has made this series his own." --2008

After conquering the elvish language invented for ELDEST and ERAGON, nothing fazes Gerard. He takes on the new Alyss of THE LOOKING GLASS WARS and SEEING REDD or the mean streets of THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD with compelling style. --2007 Narrator Yearbook Gerard's audiobooks in the mere five years of his recording career show a stunning array of narrative skills. At one turn, he can be chilling the listener with the grittiest of Irish noir suspense ( DEAD I WELL MAY BE ); in the next, he's the master of mythology and humor in a fantasy of Vikings and trolls (Nancy Farmer's THE SEA OF TROLLS ). His many skills make him the perfect guru/guide to Christopher Paolini's dragon-rider fantasies ERAGON and ELDEST , which are destined to be perennial must-listen audiobooks. The recording of ELDEST —a marathon completed in 80 hours over nine days—includes Gerard using "Dwarvish," the young author's invented language based on old Norse.

Producer Claudia Howard says this about Gerard's narration: "Worlds populated with supernatural beings and larger-than-life events require a powerful imagination and the ability to see these worlds as real and possible." His range astonishes, yet as he brings these fantasy characters to life, he's never over-the-top or cartoonish. Narrating as Michael Deehy, Gerard has been occupied mostly with Deborah Crombie's moody police procedurals. IN A DARK HOUSE and LEAVE THE GRAVE GREEN are just two in the Crombie series he recorded this year. His Irish heritage and English-drama training make the Scottish, English, and Irish accents sound both distinctive and completely natural. Gerard is definitely on a fast track-5 audiobooks in three years-and his consistently riveting performances show he has the acting scope and balance to be recognized as an audiobook star.--2005 Narrator Yearbook

Photo by Jo Anna Perrin

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