The Centropic Oracle Library
|When No One Knew Us|
|Critical Update Required|
|God & The Devil: A Love Story|
|The Travel Writer|
#TuesdayTalk with CB
In addition to his work as a narrator for The Centropic Oracle, CB writes his own science fiction and is the editor and narrator of the Manawaker Studios Flash Fiction Podcast.
C: Welcome CB, Iím happy you could join me.
CB: Iím happy to be here.
C: So, when did you start voice acting?
CB: As a hobby, I actually started a very long time ago. In the 80ís as a pre-teen. My grandfather was in the hospital and we thought it was the end for him. My father wanted me to be able to write him some letters or something, but my handwriting - I have dysgraphia, and my handwriting is so bad and it hurts me when I write and I didnít have a computer or a typewriter at home then, so he got me a tape recorder. It was a Kid-Corder brand, I think it was like General Electric, or whatever, it was like this - primary colors, yellow, red, and blue and giant --
C: Oh, the Fisher Price set!
CB: Maybe. Maybe it was Fisher Price. It was very brightly colored and had this tiny little kid-sized handheld microphone, and so I recorded letters to my Opa. And that actually worked really well for him too, they got him a recorder and he was able to record and send tapes back and my sister got in on it as well. And after that adventure, I sort of fell in love with recording my voice, and I wore that kid-corder out. I recorded everything could. Any time I had a reading assignment from school I would read it to myself, out loud, into the recorder. Any time there was a school assignment or something we got to do like, ďYou can do this assignment however you wantĒ, I would do a radio play. I even found an old tape and it was my voice at, probably twelve or thirteen years old, reading the entirety of that yearís Lego catalogue.
C: Oh my gosh!
CB: It just reminded me just how into that I was. I got more serious about it in high school when the, I think it was the councillor at the school, or something like that, whoever was in charge of the morning announcements. Every morning someone would come over the PA system for the school and read off that dayís news. What sports things were going on that night and who won what awards where and things like that - and she was tired of doing it. And so this administrator came to me and asked me ďWould you like to do the morning announcements for the school?Ē and I said ďYes, I would absolutely like to do that.Ē And I was able to use that as a platform to develop my style. The way I give information into the microphone, the little idiosyncrasies of the way I announce and perform things. I developed a lot of that stuff in that time because I was given this totally open platform in which to experiment with my voice. Then it got me roles in the drama club, I did a lot of stage stuff and as I got to the end of my high school career, the sports teams, they had like a retired radio DJ from the neighbourhood- had been doing the basketball and football games. I didnít know anything about sports. But when that guy decided he didnít wanna do that anymore, they brought me in to do that, so that was my first pro gig.
CB: Was at seventeen, doing the play-by-play announcing for the basketball and football games for my high school.
C: That mustíve been a challenge when you donít really know the sport, and to have to learn the names.
CB: It was, and I got-- I did really badly the first couple of times and a lot of people would come up to me after the games and go ďthatís not really how any of that works.Ē So I had to get a lot of pointers from people who actually understood the game and eventually I got a couple of students who would sit with me in the booth and write things down for me to say.
CB: I started so early, and then got known so well in that environment that that kind of snowballed into other things, and then people needed a person with a voice and then they thought of me because I was the guy they knew from high school and so that kind of propelled me further into it, and then when I got into college and kept doing it there it just kept ramping up. I took a break from it for a while to focus on writing and teaching. But then got back into voice acting five or six years ago after taking a break from it for almost a decade. So I did have a bit of a lull in there, as far as the life-time commitment is concerned.
C: Right. So youíre living in Munich right now. How has that impacted the way that you perform or conduct business in North America, and was that maybe one of the reasons that you got back into the voice acting?
CB: I had gotten back in when a friend needed an audiobook done. It was like the retired criminal in the caper movie. ďI was out and then they pulled me back in.Ē I had kinda given up on it, I had become a little bit disillusioned with acting in general and the environment around it. Once I had gotten deeper and deeper into the professional world of vocal performance, I had not really liked that world very much.
CB: Getting into the actual- basically the networking stuff, the butt kissing and the auditioning and the agents and all that stuff, was not really all that much fun. But when I got back into it, everything had shifted to online. And so that made the environment a whole lot easier for me. People donít usually think of actors as shy people, but Iím a very shy person, so all of the networking and stuff that went with being an actor was hard for me. But doing it online was a lot easier for me. So not much changed for me when I moved to Munich because most of what I had gotten back into doing was auditioning and performing from a home studio and communicating all online and all that stuff, so moving to Munich has basically just been a change in time zone. Iím six to nine hours off from most of my clients. And sometimes that does cause a problem. Sometimes Iíll have people, they really wanna do a live session on a Thursday night at 8PM and I just, I canít do that because thatís the middle of the night for me and Iím going to be sleeping, Iím sorry. Sometimes Iíll have to turn down jobs that have very specific requirements because of the time zone, but for the most part it hasnít really changed that much. Of course, my taxes have changed a lot.
C: So whatís your process for preparing a story to be read?
CB: Well, I make sure that I know how to pronounce all the characterís names, and I need to develop a voice for each of the characters. So when Iím doing short stories, like the stuff that I do for my podcast or for The Centropic Oracle, I usually donít have to read over the whole story but get an idea for who the characters are, how their names are pronounced, and what their background is so that I can do the right accents and I find the right place from which to perform them. And when I do a novel, I usually work more closely with the author. I make sure that I get from them, I want a character document. I wanna know all of the characters who are in this book that Iím gonna need to perform, and what are their backgrounds, and what things have happened in their lives that can- that could be an effect on their voice and things like that. Mostly because it generates more work for me if I donít have that. I usually just do the read straight through without - I donít read the whole book first. I get the idea of the book and then I just start reading it, and the first time Iím reading it is when Iím performing it. And so I can do multiple takes, and I can go back and fix things if I need to, but you know, if I donít find out until chapter ten that one of the characters has a Scottish accent, and I just didnít know that until then, that characterís voice is in trouble. Theyíre probably just never going to get that Scottish accent because Iím not gonna go back - itís too much. Narration and the pacing of the narration and knowing when to get excited, and when to stay calm, and when to be explanatory, and when to be subtle, those things I can usually take the cues just from the text itself and I donít usually need notes on that kind of stuff, but the character voices are tougher. As far as general prep work, I do - I just do vocal exercises. The stuff that my vocalist teachers in the past taught me: do a bunch of tongue twisters, and stretch your mouth and jaw out so that you donít wear it out, and things like that. Take breaks periodically, make sure you drink water.
C: Right. So when you were talking about character voices, and you were making a distinction between accent versus voice, can you explain that a little more? What do you mean by character voice?
CB: The more that I know about the background of a character, the more I can tailor the way that character needs to sound to the manuscript. Just knowing theyíre from South London, okay, I can do a South London accent. But if I also know that they were raised on the streets, or that they were raised in a posh mansion, or if I know whether they are the kind of person who smokes, or not, or whatever. Lots of these different things about their lives and lifestyle can lend something to the way need to sound or the way the author wants them to sound. Of course sometimes authors will just come right out and say: ďokay, this needs to be a fast, gravelly voice from South London,Ē Iím like ďokay, well Iíll just do that.Ē But most authors when they come to me with a book, they donít really have that exact information of, ďhereís how exactly this voice needs to sound, here are my notes on this.Ē Usually they know a lot about where the character came from and who the characters interacted with in the past, and they love to talk about it, because itís their characters in their book. I can usually use a lot of that information to develop a voice. And thatís - Iíve got a little notebook that I keep of my notes for a given performance, divided into books. And so for a given audiobook Iíll have ďwell, hereís all the characters,Ē and Iíll list out the properties that I want that voice to have. So it might be a soft, quick, Southern American accent, or something like that, and Iíll have developed that from the information that Iíve gotten from the author or from the manuscript.
C: So, do you get a lot of opportunities to do sequels?
CB: Um, I do. Well, I like to think I do. I have done a series of anthologies, The Great Tome Series, is what itís called, so Iíve been working on that for a while. My alter ego, my romance audiobook performer, has only gotten to do one book but Iíve been promised the rest of the series when the publisher gets the funds in to do that.
C: Gotcha. So what would be your process be for re-visiting those voices?
CB: I have that notebook, that I keep track of what all those voices are supposed to be, but of course thatís not perfect. A soft, Southern, United States voice isnít always going to be the same when I put those pieces together. So I also keep a, what I call an exemplar character file for any given property. I did a series of books, it was a trilogy. I would have one file in which I had recorded a line or extracted a line from each of the characters that was very typical for that character. And then I could have that anytime, even during that same production - I just- ďI havenít performed this character in six chapters, what do they sound like again?Ē I can open up that exemplar file, I can scroll to that character and I can play their sample and then I can- Iíve got it back in my head before I start into it. And I need to get myself back into the mentality of that character as well just like any other performer, just like a stage performer or a film performer. Getting myself mentally and emotionally where that character is is a big part of it as well.
C: Of course.
CB: And then thereís the challenge of needing to remember to keep the gear going at the same time. Because I have - especially if the voice needs to get louder or softer or something like that, I need to make sure that the gear is still recording the performance with the right fidelity while Iím changing up how individual characters are functioning. So thereís sort of a multi-tasking going on there, as a person whoís performing and producing. When I was working in studios and stuff in Cincinati years and years ago, I was just a performer. I would stand in front a microphone in the booth and there was a technician and a director outside the booth, and they were responsible for that stuff and all I had to do was perform. But since Iíve been doing a lot in the home studio, Iíve had to pay a lot more attention to, where is my gear, how is it holding up, watching the waveform as itís recording to make sure that Iím not peaking too much, and things like that, while also trying to watch the script. Itís a fun challenge, but there is definitely more to think about as Iím doing this as a home performer.
C: So what accents do you do, and how do you learn a new one?
CB: I do mostly British English accents. So Iíve developed a lot of accents from Britain itself and from former territories of Britain. So I can usually do various parts of London, RP [Received Pronunciation], Scottish, Indian, and so forth, as well as accents around America. The only ones I can do on quick command, I can do a Connery style Brogue, I can do South London, and I can do my own accent, which is General Central American, and I can do Southern American. The others I have, I kind of need to prep myself for when itís time to do a character like that. I need to practice it a bit and make sure that Iíve got my mouth in the right place in order to do that accent. And mostly I do that with key phrases. So Iíd find a phrase that either I developed or that thereís - especially if thereís a famous actor who has a similar accent to the one I need - I can usually create a sort of muscle memory rendition of one line in that accent. And when I do that it can kickstart my mouth into that accent. So if you hear the raw recording - for instance if I need to do a General Scottish accent, and you listen to the raw recording of a book in which thereís a character who has that accent, youíll hear that a half to three quarters of their lines start with Scotty from the Starship Enterprise saying his lines, and then I fade into the character in the book saying their line, because thatís how I sort of jumpstart the thing. And itís the same thing with a Brogue, like if I wanna do a Sean Connery, Iíll do a James Bond line and then that line will push me in, or if Iím in the wrong place and I need to get back to South London, Iíll do a Bedknobs and Broomsticks line or something like that in order to make sure that my mouth is where it needs to be, and of course I can edit all that out later. If I had to do a conversation between a Scotsman and a South Londoner live on the radio, they would both just turn Cockney and I would lose it completely.
C: Thatís an interesting technique. Is that something that you figured out on your own, kind of just trial and error, trying different things, or is that a tip that you picked up from somewhere?
CB: I started doing it when I was in the Broadcasting program. Yeah, I canít remember if that was something that one of my instructors at the time had pushed me on. Iíd always been good at movie quotes and things, joking around with my friends and stuff. I think it was something that I just started doing, and when it worked for me I kept doing it.
C: Thatís a great tip though. I do listen to a fair amount of audiobooks and Allyson Johnson is one of my favourite narrators. And listening to her switch between these accents - particularly when youíve got a back and forth dialogue with very little narrative in between - and she can switch between her natural speaking voice, which she uses as the narrative, and then two or three other character who are speaking in a meeting and sheís able to flip between all of them, that just boggles my mind.
So, how has the nature of performances changed with the Internet and easy access to equipment and services? Has that impacted your performance, knowing you can tweak things a little bit if you need to, or has it made you stretch a little more?
CB: Itís made me a little bit more versatile as a producer, because I can do- when I need to do an audiobook and there needs to be special sound effects, or additional things, Iím expected to do that on my own. Especially through services like Audibleís ACX Services and things like that, where most of those audiobooks come from, the performer is expected to also be the editor and the director and the foley artist and all of that. Itís shown me a lot of resources. Iíve had to learn where I can go to get free music and free sound effects and things like that that I can get without having to pay big licensing fees to big companies. And itís also brought back a lot of the things that I learned when I was in the Broadcasting program in Northern Kentucky. We were still editing audio and video tape with razor blades and tape and sticking things together and literally cutting and pasting pieces around, and learning to edit at that fundamental level and then pulling that into an abstraction with that software. But knowing those fundamentals has helped me a lot in being able to even use the software because itís essentially the same concepts, Iím just using a mouse cursor instead of a razor blade. But thereís a lot more visualization on a PC, I can see the waveforms and I can make my cuts much more precise and thereís a lot of tools for adding and removing noises and things like that. So itís made a lot of the editing and stuff easier over the years to make it more digital and thatís whatís opened it up for so many home producers, in addition to the ease of communication and distribution and things like that. Basically it is the, the big difference is that ease of access, whereas, back in the 90s or the early aughties when I was doing the work in studios, the equipment that it would take to do this kind of thing at home would have been thousands and thousands of dollars investment, and all of those pieces were necessary for that type of work, and now itís - all I need is Audacity and a decent microphone. Itís a much lower barrier to entry. But Iíve also found that that means that thereís a lot more competition. A lot of that competition is ameteur competition, thereís nothing wrong with that, but thereís a lot of people out there who are not trained. They didnít get a degree like I did, and they didnít spend the last twenty years or whatever performing off and on. But there - sometimes even teenagers who are just - this is their hobby and they can afford the two hundred and fifty bucks for a microphone and some sound padding and some software - the software is mostly free - to just jump in and do it. So, projects that allow online auditioning, which is all I can do right now since Iím in Germany, is - thereís a lot more competition, thereís a lot more for those producers to sort through, and thereís a lot of people who are willing to work for a lot less.
CB: I find the same things as a writer. For years and years I was working as a journalist. I was writing mostly genre media stuff, I was doing reviews of video games and sci-fi movies and news about computers and stuff like that for a couple of different magazines. I basically had to stop writing for magazines entirely because the barrier to entry got so low, and the number of people who were willing to do it for free got so high, that there was literally no money in it anymore. The last magazine that was still paying me to write for them cut their pop culture section so they didnít need me anymore. So, the same thing is happened in voice acting, and I donít want to disparage the people who are coming into this over that low barrier of entry. I think it does add a lot to the art that there are so many people doing it and so many people to bounce ideas off of each other and figure these things out, but it does mean that as a professional - or as a person who wants to be treated as a professional - it gets a lot more difficult to be taken seriously. Because the producers on the other end who are receiving these auditions, sometimes itís hard for them to know the difference other than simply the quality of the audition, they donít know who I am or why my prices are what they are and things like that. I often get a lot of comments back after I give an audition, like ďwhy are your prices so high?Ē Iím like ďwell, I went to college for seven years and Iíve been doing this since the 90ís and I need these prices,Ē and theyíll just say ďwell, Iíll just get somebody cheaper, thanksĒ. Previously, in the studios where an audition call would get out and I would get in on the audition because one of my friends or someone else I worked with would give me a call and theyíd say ďhey, thereís this audition going,Ē Iíd go there and thereíd be like five other guys at the studio to give this audition. So, the Internet has really opened up the market. Thatís a really cool thing and itís done a lot for the art, but it has itís downsides too, especially for those of us who are trying to do it professionally.
C: Right. Itís become so democratized, I think is the best way to put it. I think itís really changed the way things are done, and I think overall itís raised the bar. I think now because professionals canít get away with maybe not putting their out their best efforts. They have to actually step up their game and I think overall itís a really good thing. I mean when you look at short story writing, when you look at Philip K Dick, or Samuel Delany, or any number of short story writers from fifty years ago, the quality of their work does not stand up. And I think itís because the Internet has opened up the playing field to so many more people. Instead of a magazine --
CB: Authors of that time didnít have much competition.
C: Exactly. In 1975, a magazine might get two or three hundred submissions a month. Well now those same magazines are getting fifteen hundred to two thousand submissions a month. That changes--
CB: Magazines that donít pay are still getting hundreds of submissions a month.
CB: With things like vocal performance, thereís actually a little bit of a check on it because you can hear quality, sometimes you can definitely tell the difference between an ameteur voice actor and a professional voice actor. But writing isnít quite like that. Everybody kind of thinks they can be a writer, as it were, and itís harder for the audience to tell - at least before getting through the whole thing - whether that person is good at it. Because thereís not such an easily identifiable check.
C: So how does your work as a writer impact your work as a narrator?
CB: Well I think it makes me more conscientious in both directions. When Iím writing, Iím always thinking about how it sounds and Iím frequently performing the work to myself as Iím writing it, listening to it in my head. One of the most common comments I get on the fiction I write is that itís very cinematic. That the scenes seem like the type of thing that youíd see in a movie or a TV show, that itís very easy to visualize and I think a lot of that comes from my tendency to perform the scenes to myself. Iím performing the characters, sometimes Iíll even - Iíll be writing a scene and I get stuck so I stand up and Iíll put myself into the mind of the character and Iíll act out the scene and figure out that way, what theyíre doing. So as a writer it makes me more conscientious of how the scenes play out and how it would be performed. Not just like if it were ever to be a movie or a TV show or something - that would be wonderful - but how it plays out in the mind of the reader. How will their internal cinema run this story? And I think that makes me a better writer. As a narrator, I think it does the same but different sort of thing where it makes me more conscientious of how a scene is written and how fiction is constructed. When I said before that I can usually just take the cues of like, hereís the exciting scene and hereís the soft scene and hereís the descriptive scene, I usually donít need notes for that kind of stuff because as a writer of fiction myself, I know where those things fall and I have somewhat of an intuitive understanding of ďokay this is the exciting scene, this is where my voice needs to get faster and more intense, and this is where I need to get softer and maybe some sultryĒ or something like that, because I understand how the elements of the story fit together when the writer was writing it and that helps me fit it together as a performer as well.
C: Gotcha. We have one writer whoís also an actor, and you can see it in her writing style as well, that actorís perspective.
You do all these different things, you have a lot of different things on your plate. So how do you juggle between your work as a narrator, as an editor, and as a writer? Because you also edit Manawaker Studio. What does a work day look like for you? And is there ever a typical one?
CB: Well, I guess to some extent there is, especially when I have a big audiobook contract Iíll get typical workday because I have a lot of the same thing to do from day to day. But I juggle it by making strict time slots. Right now, the way I have it balanced - and the balance shifts as jobs come and go and as focus needs to shift - but right now, I have Mondays and Tuesdays are just for performances, Wednesdays are for Manawaker Studios, which is where I work on promotions, and advertisements, and editing, and reading submissions for the anthologies, and things like that, and then Thursdays and Fridays are the days that I have set aside for my own writing. So I just have my week split up. And I also force myself to stay in a work day, and this was something I learned years ago. If I donít do that, I end up burning myself out and then itís not a job anymore. Itís not fun to do what Iím doing anymore and I get nothing done. What ends up working best for me is to say, ďhereís when my workday starts, hereís when my workday endsĒ. Even if Iíve got more to do and I really wanna do it. Like Iím halfway through this next short story and I really want to finish this short story, or Iíve got one more submission to read on a Wednesday evening and Iíd kinda like to get it done, I cut myself and say ďNo, itís 5:30, itís the end of my workday, I need to shift to family lifeĒ, or whatever it is Iím doing after work that day. And I think a lot of artists have trouble creating those kinds of boundaries and a lot of burnout maybe could be avoided for those artists if they did a similar- enforced boundaries. Because when I didnít do that, my wife would come home from work or something and want to spend time with me but Iíd be sitting at my computer like, ďno, I gotta finish this story!Ē And thatís- it turns into something that then affects the rest of my life, my social life, my family life, and whatever. I think, well, in general, Americans are starting to have a lot of trouble keeping their work in their workday, no matter what their career is. I think the German model that weíve been seeing is a lot better. Theyíre not even allowed to take home laptops, itís illegal for companies to make their employees work at home, to answer emails and things when theyíre off the clock. Iíve tried to take that into my life as an artist as well. Thereís no laws pushing me to not work outside of my workday, but I feel better for it. As an artist I feel more free to do the projects I wanna do when I know that Iím not gonna let it go out of my workday. And Iím gonna treat it like a job, Iím gonna treat it like a profession, that I have set hours and I have set hours when I can and cannot do things, and I put limits on my clientís demands and things like that. And I think that works well for me.
C: So what are your favourite kinds of audiobooks to narrate? Comedy, drama, journalistic, commercials?
CB: Itís hard to pick a favourite. Thereís things I like about each of them. Of course, my favourite is good books. If the book is also fun for me to read, then thatís the best. Of course Iím going to prefer when a happy circumstance comes together, that this is- this is a cool sci-fi book with a neat story that I would've chosen to read for myself anyway, Iím gonna do it out loud and a little bit slower so that other people can hear it and then Iím gonna edit it and get paid for it. But if I had to pick, I think itís anthologies. Because an anthology of short stories allows me to flex more muscles. I get to do a lot more variety of things, the story itself doesn't become old for me as Iím reading and then editing it. I get to experiment a bit more since the stories are much shorter, I can experiment with different styles and voices and things where - if I had to do that voice for a whole novel I would probably need throat surgery afterwards, but for fifteen minutes I can do it. I think thatís more interesting for me as a performer to be able to do the variety that I get to do when I do an anthology. Which is why Iíve been doing so many of them recently.
C: Makes sense to me. So you also write poetry, much of which is about pop culture. What about that topic draws you to it so much?
CB: Well, I think the same thing that makes it pop culture is that itís where my brain is. As a journalist that was also what I was writing about, was pop culture. I was writing - and specifically writing about video games and science fiction movies and books. And these are things that Iíve always been into. Iíve been playing Nintendo since my tender years and my very first books were Issac Asimov and Piers Anthony off my dadís bookshelf. What was thought of then as Ďgeek cultureí, but has now made it more into the mainstream. And thatís just always where my head was, and when I would read poetry, when I was learning poetry in junior high and high school and into college, all the poetry that we would read was about society and romance and all these very high culture ideas. And I tried to write some of that stuff, but I realized that what I really wanted to write about was the low culture stuff, was the stuff that I was actually thinking about.
C: Before you left for Germany, you used to teach in the US. So what was it you were teaching?
CB: Creative Writing, and Literature and other English classes. One of my favourite to teach was Advanced Grammar because that allowed me to sort of flex my geek muscles. I donít have a degree in Linguistics, but I keep up with a lot of Linguistics and Grammar news, and the latest developments in language. I think thatís really interesting. And so teaching the Advanced Grammar courses was always very interesting for me, and for my students, to get that hobby out where I could be excited about it in front of people who did not get freaked out by me being excited about Linguistics. Because whenever I try to talk to my wife or my friends about the cool, new, latest linguistic thing that just happened, they would like me to stop talking.
C: The eyes glaze, they look into the far distance.
CB: But mostly what I was teaching was Literature and Writing.
C: And did you ever have trouble balancing writing against teaching?
CB: Oh absolutely I did. For a long time I didnít get any work done because I wasnít allowing myself to balance properly. I would be teaching during the work day, and then I would get home and I would think ďwell, I can write this weekend, or I can write this eveningĒ, but then there would always be other obligations, and I started to resent those other obligations, and that affected my relationships, and that was when I started to realize that I needed to reign it in. And so I decided to teach part time. At the school I was teaching at at the time, I reduced it so that I was only teaching a couple of hours a day, but then when I changed schools, I changed it so I was teaching whole days but only a couple of days a week. But either way, I was leaving myself time for my other art within my work days so that I could actually get that done. And it required a sacrifice. It required me to stop doing that other thing. I might try to outlet my teaching impulses in another way. Iíve been tossing around with myself the idea of doing a YouTube series. Thereís a lot of YouTube educational series, theyíre very popular right now.
C: Yes, I live off them.
CB: I donít really see anybody doing Creative Writing instruction, or good Literature instruction, or at least not the way I would do it.
CB: So maybe I could take the lessons, while theyíre still fresh in my head, while itís still only a couple of years ago when I last was teaching. Take those and put them into video form and then I can still get that glow that I feel from helping people learn things.
C: Right. Do you have any advice for aspiring audiobook narrators, or maybe people who are just breaking in?
CB: The only thing I would say is, be professional. This is the same kind of stuff you might hear anywhere else. Make sure that your equipment is good, make sure that you have the knowledge you need. The biggest thing I guess I would say is, donít be a jerk. Try to give other people the benefit of the doubt, try to be nice in all of your interactions because everyone you interact with, especially when youíre trying to do this online, every person that you interact with in any art industry that youíre trying to work on, is someone that youíre gonna have to work with again or that knows someone that youíre gonna have to work with again because itís a really small world. As much as it seems like the number of people doing it is getting greater and greater and greater every year, itís still a small world in the sense that everybody knows everybody, everybody is following everybody else on Twitter. If youíre a jerk, everybody's gonna know youíre a jerk and theyíre gonna know it pretty fast and youíre not gonna get to do anything anymore. So, being nice goes a long way in a lot of arenas. To just be kind to people and give them the benefit of the doubt is one of the most important things you can do in any industry.
C: I think so. From the Centropic perspective, Iíve only had one experience so far, thankfully, where someone sent me a submission and I said, ďokay, well this was very, very, very ameteur,Ē and it was not presented appropriately. So I said, ďthank you, weíre going to pass. You should probably take a look at what a standard submission package should look like, and hereís a couple of websites to get you started,Ē and I got a very rude response. To which Iím like, ďokay, youíre now banned.Ē
CB: Yeah, and if anybody- if you know someone else in the industry whoís working on a project and they mention that they got a submission from so-and-so person, youíve got a story about them. And thatís bad for them. Itís easy to shoot yourself in the foot with being a jerk in the creative industry.
C: I think when new people break in they donít think about just how small the community is. For instance, you look at the science fiction publishing markets and you say, ďoh, look, thereís a hundred and thirty five markets! Wow, thatís amazing!Ē Sure, but only forty of them pay--
CB: and the editors are all friends.
C: You pretty much get to know each other in a fairly short space of time. I donít know very many of the other editors, but Iím starting to recognize - like you said, we follow each other on Twitter, and it takes, two, three years and you start going to the conventions and all those things, you know, you start building relationships with these people.
So, what does CB stand for?
CB: Christopher Bernard.
C: And why did you shorten to just initials rather than going with Chris or Christopher?
CB: Um, itís kind of a boring story. So first of all, Christopher is an extremely popular name for my gender and age group. My mother has told me before that if she had known how many other Christophers there were going to be right at and right after the time I was born, she would have never given me that name. She thought it was a fairly unique name at the time. Apparently so did everybody else. Then I got into second grade, and there were five other Christophers in the class, and we needed a way to distinguish us all. So I went with my initials and it stuck, and Iíve hung onto that ever since as part of my writing persona and my acting persona. The only people who still call me Christopher are my mother and my tax forms.
C: So, final question: What is your earliest memory of sharing a story that you either created or performed?
CB: I think it was around first or second grade. I was seven or eight years old. I wrote, what I called a novel, the number of words it contained was technically, probably a short story, though it was on a lot of pages because my handwriting was really large and very bad. But it was essentially a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan fic, before I knew what that was. It was a reimagining of the Turtles origin story. The same reason anyone writes fan fic, they like the fiction, but thereís something about it that they think could be better and so they re-write it themselves, or they write something that adds to their head canon. So this was my Ninja Turles head canon. And I donít remember all the details. I remember the title, and I can visualize the art that I drew on the cover. I donít have the book anymore - as far as I know, unless itís in a file cabinet in my Momís house or something. It was called ďPocketknifeĒ, and it was told from the point of view of The Shredder, of the main villain of the story. Thatís about all I remember about it. I donít remember why the title was what it was - Iím sure a pocketknife of someoneís was very integral to the story, probably to The Shredder - but my friends really enjoyed it. They were able to get on board with my head canon. And as far as I can remember, thatís the first time that I shared stories with people. I never stopped after that. I just kept writing and writing and writing. It was mostly, in the beginning as it is with a lot of early writers, it was mostly head canon from existing properties. It was mostly fan fiction. It was a while before I developed my own voice and started writing my own stories, and a lot of those stories were really, really bad. I can look back at stories that I wrote when I was a teenageer, especially, and theyíre so moody, and so rebellious, and so bad. But itís that typical teenage arrogance of ďIím going to change the world by doing this art in a way that no oneís ever done it beforeĒ and then after you do it and look back on it years later youíre able to say ďI know why no one did it this way, because itís terrible.Ē I had a phase where in every story, the protagonist had to die before they resolved the conflict because I saw all these other stories where, ďno one ever does that, itís so unrealistic, no one ever fails.Ē and now I understand, as an adult and a professional, thereís a reason that stories end the way they do.
C: Thank you for chatting with me today CB, itís been a great pleasure!
CB: Thank you for having me!
You have been listening to Centropic Oracleís interview with narrator CB Droege. You can listen to his other work as a narrator with Manawaker Studio at manawaker.com, or follow him on Twitter: @CBDroege
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