In this episode we have fun getting to know Romance Narrator Tor Thom.
We ask him:
Hi, I'm Ann Jensen coming to you from the east coast of New Jersey. Hi, I'm Skyler West coming to you from the west coast of Canada. We are two Romance Writers using our life experiences to break down and share with you all things romance, how you find your next book boyfriend, discovering genres and tropes and looking at what works and why. What doesn't work and why. Welcome back to a very special episode of coast to coast romance. This is one of our midweek break ins where this week we're going to be celebrating the launch of my third book into audio caught in the dark. And today our very special guest is Tor Tom, the very sexy voice of tech. Welcome to the show. Thank you happy to be here. Let us say hi, Skylar. Hi, welcome, Tor. Glad you're here. Glad to be here. Glad to be here. Have you down? All right, what we wanted to do was kind of find out a little bit about you and what it's like to be a narrator and all that fun stuff. So simplest, easiest question. How did you get into audio narration? Yeah, it's kind of a strange story, to be honest. So I used to go to a taco stand on Tuesdays, it was Taco Tuesday. And, and you would order and then you'd go up and you'd get your, your tacos or whatever, they would place my order and go up and, and there would be a gaggle, literally, of young lady that would be there to serve the tacos and the drinks and the sauce or whatever. And I was thinking to myself, this is a very poorly run establishment, because it does not take this many people to service the window, it just is not effective management, and then one day and pulled up and, and place my order. And then I placed my order and, and I heard the lady click in and say, It's the guy with the voice. Nice. And, and so then it all made sense. And then at that point, I decided, you know, Hey, maybe I should contact an agent. And it started off at first with, like, voiceover kind of stuff for political commercials. You know, you get on a campaign and you get used for that campaign or whatever, for a period of time. But then the word kind of stopped. And then I had the idea, you know, well, maybe my voice would work in romance, or, you know, related genres. And I didn't, no idea how to get into audio book narration who to contact. So I made a little YouTube channel and I started just recording a really primitive mic and a primitive studio, kind of just like great sex scenes from books. What a great idea. Yeah, so I remember I started, it's embarrassing now. But the famous library scene from the, you know, the book atonement, and the movie atonement, it just kind of one after another. And then finally, somebody found the channel. They're like, okay, so you need to contact such and such and such and such. And then I did that. And then, you know, started connect with authors and slowly built an online platform and connected with publishers and became part of the audiobook community. And it just kind of, you just kind of snowballed. Yeah, just kind of snowballed. And, yeah. So how long have you been on this journey? That's a good question. I think I recorded my first audio book six years ago. Yeah, I think about six years ago. Wow. And have, you know, done, literally everything under the sun. I mean, when you first start out, you just kind of get your voice out there. And people like, hey, that voice will work for this. And the genre ultimately ends up finding you. That's why I always tell sense that maker and obviously romance as a genre is pretty big for your voice. I would imagine that I mean, there's certainly a niche where people like to listen to kind of deep masculine voices with a resonance and so I didn't really know exactly where I would end up when I heard it in the audiobook world. But I guess maybe I had an inkling by doing those romance stories, you know, or whatever. And yeah, that's it's kind of found me I do so in other genres I have. I have a whole series of workout books, believe it or not. Oh, that's interesting. Yeah. But they're under a totally different pseudonym. Right. Yeah. So I think I have six pseudonyms total that flowed out for different genres. And so yeah, which, which also makes a lot of sense, and, and I talk about that all the time, because of course, I have more than one pen name, right. We've considered you know, different pen names for different projects. Absolutely. Yeah. Cuz we you don't want your fans like, fans of your romance going, Ooh, what's this one? Right workout tape. So that might I have to say your voice might encourage me to start working out so just you know, it's been hold, breathe, you know, it's just that kind of stuff. So wow, it's gonna find awesome That is awesome. So what's your favorite part of narrating? Like, is it? Um, I, you know, I think the favorite part is learning about myself. And that is, it's a real honor, I would say, I mean, one to read the work of people who have the creative energy, the Muses and the courage to write a story, because it's not, that's not something easily done. And people think, oh, I can do that? Well, no, you probably can't. It's, it's a hard thing to do to write effectively. And, as a narrator, kind of another level, because you can really invest yourself in a character. And you may bring parts out of you as an actor and a performer that you've forgotten about, or things that happened in the past, or kind of what, you know, just different things. And so, I enjoy kind of probing parts of myself, almost like therapy, in a way. Because, you know, the, the character starts to write, and, you know, or the, the author writes in, and you just, you know, you get inside that space. And it's almost like a good therapist saying, Tell me about that time. Because if you're trying to connect with a moment in your own life, where you can channel, you know, effectively bring that motion to bear. And so I find it very cathartic. I will also say, just candidly, that reading in the romance genre has greatly expanded my horizons, you know, it's far beyond the vanilla world that I used to live in terms of what I'm exposed to, and, and as I say to other people, that your body sort of, you know, gives you a way as you're narrating and so, things that you may have never thought, you know, would even remotely appeal to you. I mean, not even remotely, find your body kind of going well. That's kind of fun. You know, and then yeah, so, no, I can agree because both Skye and I read voraciously outside of what we write ourselves, and sometimes I'll pick up something and I'll be like, huh, I never thought of that. But that seems neat. Well, and that's interesting, like, do you find when I'm reading and I've noticed, I've been like this ever since I was young, like, probably 15 years old, I will be reading a book. And I come across a word that I didn't know. And back then I would have a dictionary, I always had to westerners with me. And I would look up the word. So in your case, if you have experienced this very filled world, and you're probably reading books that are quite spicy, you probably come across things that you don't know what they are. Yeah, yeah, no, that's your question. Yeah. So did you look them up? Yeah, you know, you're like, what exactly is this? Now? Sometimes? I mean, the author is such the date, you know? Yeah. They, they just, you know, it's like, oh, that's what that is. And so you know, and then and then you kind of go along with it. You learn? I mean, you know, so my vocabulary expanded, my horizons expanded. So nice. So when you're getting ready to do a novel, do you read the whole thing first, or just read it scene by scene? Or, like, what is your preparation process for getting in the headspace and the, yeah, that mean, narrators are different minds. I mean, there are some who truly read cold. I, I can't imagine doing that. Because, you know, particularly there's a plot twist or something like that. And it's really not recommended to do that. There are some narrators who excessively prepare. And so they may read a book two or three times, sometimes, you know, making marginal notes on a Kindle device or some other kind of, you know, whatever. For me, I like I like to sort of skim read the entire the entire book just to sort of see kind of where it's going and have a sense, but I found that when I do that, it still keeps kind of the freshness of the read. Because you know, if the if there's a hint of surprise, or or anxiety in your own, you know, natural reading as you're going along what's going to happen it'll come out in the performance that if you've over prepared it can really diminish now again narrators debate this all the time and they said no that's not right. If you you know if you're over prepared then you can really ramp it up and and you know what, for me, I found that knowing the story knowing the characters knowing accents that need to be involved, you know, any voice is anything that's going to be a strange it's going to happen Yeah, so that's what I do just have a real sense of of kind of what's happening and that's awesome. Now have you have you ever found you got an assignment for and the accent was just something you're like, oh, I don't know like, where you had to like actually go out and either learn it or Yeah, no, I mean, actions are the are the are the hardest part narrating because, you know, for example, Um, but let's just say like an American Southern accent, which seems really, really simple. But Kentucky is not Tennessee and Tennessee is not Georgia. And neither one of them is Alabama, or New Orleans, for that matter. And so the problem you run into, it's just kind of frustrating is that ever region you choose? Someone is going to light you up in a review, you know that I'm a southerner and you don't know, you know, an accent, you know, or, I'm Believe it or not, I'm originally from Oklahoma. And I've tried to lose that completely from my from my dialect for various reasons in my life. I've done hokey stories as an Oklahoman. And had people be like, No, that's, that's terrible. Yeah. Like, right. Like, I grew up there, right. You know, I know, a long time I have family there. I know how they sound. But they, for whatever reason, think it's different. And it's, of course, true of Boston, and, you know, LA or, you know, and not to mention, once you get over to Scotland or Ireland or right, you know, can you do a Scottish accent tour? I can't, but I have to sort of like get into the place of it. I don't just, you know, just kind of morph into it. I didn't, I wasn't saying I apologize. Did that make toward dams? I was just curious if you could do one. Yeah, no, I am. It. It's so my preparation. Usually when I'm doing that is to find I've, I found a handful of movies that have sort of been recognized as these are authentic performing. There are a lot of really bad examples of Hollywood actors trying to do different accents. But you have to stay away from or you duplicate it, but I try to listen to them, you know, and, and then just inhabit that speech. I have a really close friend in my personal life, who spent the first 40 years of his life in Russia, in Ukraine. And in so I can channel him pretty quickly. I mean, just kind of flip into Russian, you know, and just, we will talk to you about these things, because we must take them away right now. And then just you just kind of you just kind of flip into it. It's just it's him and I can hear him. No, no, this keynote. I mean, you just it because it but it's channeling him. Totally. Right. It's awesome. No, I've had people actually contact me after the podcast came out. And you know, part of our shit part of our thing is a Jersey girl. She's from the west coast of Canada Coast Coast. So beautiful. Like, you're not a Jersey girl. You just moved there. I'm like, I'm like, No, actually, I've lived here all my life. I've moved away and I've come back a couple times. But I think you're thinking Jersey Shore. And those people are from Long Island. And that's a whole other story. Yeah, I in accents. Yeah, it's just the worst, I will say, is trying to do a British accent because there's so many dialects. And if you do like a proper British, then somebody else is like, no, that be like London. And that's to cockney, and, and you literally cannot get it right. And they know you're an American anyway. And so they just eviscerate you, you know, so yeah, I mean, in their in their great resources, you know, for acting coaches, and a lot of online helps. But I, I enjoy accents in general, they're fun, they certainly keep you engaged. But I always dread knowing no matter what happens, someone will say someone will say and then the other thing too, that's really kind of interesting about accents. And there's a real there's a division on this too, among authors and companies is that for example, let's say if your main character is Russian and so when you're speaking Do you speak in Russian? Right? What are you use the dialect You of course, you would access the character. But then do you tell the whole story narrating with that accent? That's a really sorry to interrupt. I was gonna ask you that. Because if I'm reading a story, I'm reading it in English. Right? Right. And I'm not reading it with accents. So I almost find it startling when I'm listening to something all sudden, is that comes out the norm like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Yeah, you missed me out of my space. And, and again, reviewers can be kind of merciless, you know, and we don't know is that I mean, 99% of the time we have explicit instruction from either the author or the rights holder or the producer. You know, they'll simply say, you know, straight narration, just use your voice. And when you're speaking use the accent. But then on the rare occasion, they will say, No, listen, when you shift point of views, and this is a cowboy talking, the whole narration used to be in a slight tweaking. Wow. So so we don't have a lot of control over that. But we get to the brunt of of very different expectations. You No or hard? Yeah, you know, I've always I always want to tell audio fans. Listen, if we're doing something, it's because the people who are paying us are telling us what to do. And we're just not out here freely, you know, thing. So luckily, the one you did for me the main character did not have any discerning accent. I feel bad though now because my second book, I said, Can you do just a light accent on the narration? And then the heavier accent? Sorry, but yeah, I guess Yeah, it's different. And they have to realize that us as authors or rights holders, yeah, I mean, I call it you, it's your prerogative. The other thing that's come into play too, is authenticity in casting. So, so recently, I was actually I was cast to do an Italian accent of a mafia person. And, and they decided that, well, you're not Italian, and you're not in the mafia. And so the question is, how far do you go down that ladder of identity politics with voices? And which, in the end, it was fine, they actually did hire an Italian person to do the roll. And it sounds better. But there are there staffing limits to being able to, to do you know, I mean, if you've, if you're going to put a true Italian for every Italian accent book, or a true Swede for every Swedish accent book that you're going to run out of narrators pretty quick, but Oh, yeah. No. And I mean, I know, at least a lot of my characters are very mixed race and, and diverse upbringings and everything like that. And if I was to try to find a narrator that fit, exactly, throw, I'd be like, yeah, that'd be so close. Yeah, no, you guys, it's the best you can do and, and you expect the person to perform, right. But there have been some really unfortunate examples that make headlines when, for example, one of the Well, half of the story is an African American female. And they have a male narrator, white male narrator doing the whole thing. And that just doesn't work. Right? It just bad. I mean, it's just bad on all kinds of levels. Anyway, that's the worst case scenario that I've seen. Yeah, we're kind of talking to Joe Arden, about that where we, yes. And just briefly discussing. Back in the day, when I was a kid, my mom, I had insomnia as a kid. And my mom bought audio books. So she could like put one in and I could wouldn't have to get up or cassettes. cassettes. Yes, cassettes. Sorry. They were cassette tapes, which are these little things with their plastic with actual ribbons of taping them anyways. And a lot of them, you're limited, of course. But I want to say that she ordered them online, like through TV Guide or something. He knows what that is. And, like saw we had Hound of the Baskervilles in a few of these different. So we have, of course, the very clips British accent that was narrating it. Thankfully, those were masculine stories. So it fit. I can't imagine a female story being told by a guy. Right. It's, it's odd. It is odd. It's very odd. So alright, so you said that you're good at the Russian accent, but is it your favorite accent to do or what would be your favorite? I mean, so the the accent that I lost? So my trajectory was actually, before I became an audiobook narrator I was actually a university professor, believe it or not. And so made a journey from Oklahoma, you know, through different universities, to the halls of academia, and worked really hard to hide that kind of western Oklahoma, West Texas kind of drawl. But it is so easy and so comfortable, just to slide back into it. And so if, if, if I have the opportunity to do that, it's almost like a second voice at this point. Because it First Voice. It's like a native tongue. So that's probably my my most favorite. I do love, you know, Russian accent. When I when I really get into the space with a Scottish accent, that's a lot of fun. Or a German accent, but they're not as natural as quick as shift for me. So the hard the hardest part, I will say about accents, too, is avoiding caricature. And so some accents are caricature, right? Right. Like so that, you know, like, you know, certain parts of California, the accent itself, you know, that's what it is. I guess certain parts of Jersey do that too. But not everybody hears the obviously. Jersey Shore. Yeah. Tell you about it. i Yeah, there you go. So yeah, they say like, just sold in Asheville for you. But that's so if it's if it's a country story. Yeah. That's good. So that's cool. All right. So I don't know do you get time to read yourself and would you read romance? On your own, or, yeah, I mean, true confession that I love to read. I like academic books, if I'm just kind of reading or, or good biography or sort of, I won't say Popular Science because that sounds kind of strange, but people study human behavior. And, and sort of, in sort of distill them down the kind of stuff that ends up on the New York Times bestseller about, you know, there's a recent book that I just got, I forget the title, but it's a it's about the role of DNA and emotional intelligence and kind of bringing that into that. If I just have my own, you know, time, that's what I read, I will admit that whenever I was, um, I guess, coming of age in middle school, that we had a teacher's aide, who was a voracious reader of romance, the old, you know, for Kindle and all of that. And was a it was a common trick of mine and others to steal the book when she wasn't looking. And to see how quickly we could find the naughty bits. And so that was, you know, that, you know, it wasn't, it wasn't quite like trying to tap into the, the channels. We weren't supposed to be watching on cable moving a little dial or whatever. But you know, you gotta you got a little titillation there from back when we had dials. We had dials. Oh, yeah. So is there are there any limits with so I know certain narrators will do certain things within romance? Like, are there certain sub genres that you avoid or prefer to work in? Or? Yeah, that's a really hard question for me. And I respect them some narrators, particularly post me to movement, have taken a really hard stand about things they will and won't do. I was actually listening to an interview recently with some of the Game of Thrones actors. And they were asking them, would you still do that scene again? And so we're saying they wouldn't? For me, as a former university, Prof. Censorship is hard. Because there there is, there is a creative energy in the truth in telling a story, even the ugly bits of his story. And, and whether you're reading Homer, or the Bible, there's lots of stuff, that's objectionable, I mean, you know, in terms of in terms of consent, and, you know, just coercion, I mean, it's kind of it's kind of the whole range. For some reason, a number of the stories that I've narrated, often have broken male characters, as adults. And that's, that's as a result of childhood trauma. And so the hardest thing for me to narrate is the backstory, where you inhabit the trauma of both the perpetrator and the child, right, as a part of the story. And so my general position is that stories need to be told, and actors are paid to tell those stories. And I think about like, monster by Sharlee, Sharlee, sterren. I mean, she's an actress, and she has to do terrible things in that film, and terrible things are done to her. But somebody has to perform that story, right? Where it gets less clear, is when it's just on consensual sex, for the sake of non consensual sex, there's no real part of the story. And I try to, you know, stay away from that. But if it's part of a larger narrative, and it's an it's an ugly, but necessary part of character development, I try not to pull out, you know, some kind of No, I won't, you know, narrate that kind of scene. I don't know if that makes sense, or it's even consistent, but what you're saying is, is if it's part of a larger story, you don't have a problem narrating it, but if it's just for the sake of Brandeis. Yeah, I mean, you know, I, if someone were to say, here's a, here's an hour long erotica show, it's a rape story. Well, no, I'm not, you know, that's not you know, I mean, I, and I know, people have different fantasies along those lines with different things and whatever, and that's fine. But, like, that's your choice. Yeah. Yeah. Right. I mean, like, I'm not, you know, now, if that's part of another story, you know, and something that happened then, like, for example, I actually just finished up on narrating fable of happiness by pepper winners. It's a it's a three book, it's, you know, I think it's more than 30 hours across all three books. But the main character, there's broken male character has unspeakable trauma, that that the author takes you back into and I just leaned into it, and then did it. So yeah, some people may not be happy with that, but that's where I am. All right, now we get to my important question. What was it like recording tech? Ah, no, it was fine. It was fine. You know, it's it's it's when you're when you're in when you're in the booth. Staying focused on the story. is one of the difficult things and kind of being locked in. And he is some people would say, you know, what's the number one character characteristic that a narrator needs. And as I'm getting to your question, I'm gonna kind of go route here. But attention span, and focus is probably your single greatest asset in addition to your voice and performance skill. Because the more mistakes you make, the longer it's going to take you in the booth. And the more pickups you're going to have to do, you know, on the other on the other side, and so anything that's sort of odd, or different or unique about a character in terms of speech patterns, forces you that sort of dial in. And so what I found is that, when I'm when I'm narrating character with, you know, whatever kind of unique speech kind of going on, I only ever make a mistake, because I'm so focused on you know, getting that right or getting whatever it is. The same thing is true of actual sexing. And I don't know what that says about me. Just, it's almost like your brain gets to a place and you just kind of do it. And that's it. Yeah, that's great. So you're talking about CAMI stutter? Yes. Yeah. And all that. Yeah. Just the whole the whole the whole fun thing. I enjoyed it. So yeah, I feel bad. It was funny. I when I wrote it, I didn't even think about it. And then when I went to put it out to get an audio book made, I was like, oh, but both you and the other and the woman who narrated carrot kami did an amazing job. I was like, Okay, great. We're good. Got the stutter? No, it's a lot of fun bouncing math back and forth between the characters. Yeah, it's, it's a lot of fun. I am. I often tell authors and writers this that the more you tell me along the way, just by little, you know, the little subtle details that make a good story anyway. But it really helps me to kind of understand who I am in that in that moment. Because we play multiple people during the course of the day. So you have a lot of fun. Right? So what do you have coming up? What do you want to share with us? No, there's a lot of stuff coming out. I'm trying to think through what I'm, what I'm narrating that I can actually talk about, of course, your book, which is coming out, which is really exciting. So I'm looking forward to, to making some teasers and trailers for that. Yes. I have a number of things coming out with Tandoor, I just did another Bluenose Centennial in Vail. I think another pepper winners will be on the horizon. Pretty soon, I'm actually doing some biographies, on my own, is as my actual real name, which has been kind of fun to do, believe it or not, um, this will be very strange, but I'm, I'm actually reading a 12 hour book of Charles Spurgeon sermons. So that kind of, so that kind of tells you that, you know, that the front breath and with, you know, you know, in something literally, you know, I mean, you're, you know, you're one minute doing pickups for a hot sex scene, and then you're reading you know, something else. That's awesome. It's, you know, it's a lot of fun and entertaining. Now, you do it, I didn't think to ask what kind of Professor were you? Yeah, so I am I actually did ancient languages. So I taught, I taught Yeah, Greek and some Latin my area that I actually studied was ancient forgery. And so it was how it was how the ancients copied and forged and, and and plagiarized and, and that was, yeah, that was kind of there and, and did a good bit and published actually a good bit. In the area of ancient medicine, which there are theories for the body. Be thankful we live when we live now. You know what, I'm just watching the tutors, with my daughter. She's 11 Because she's really into Henry the Eighth and his six wives knows the rhyme. I'm watching this horrible, like, I don't know if you know that story about Henry. But that wound he gets in his leg. And we're watching this I was like, Oh, well, we can't Lance it because we might kill him. Let's bleed him instead. And I'm just like, Ah, how about leeches? Just like the poison right? There were all these theories and hot and cold and so cold. And just you know, worse. Yeah, the humors that's, that's what that's why ancient medicine live there for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds long time. Oh, even in I have a client a couple of years ago who was from Germany. And he said back when he was a kid, they had their town. They hadn't iridologist they didn't call it that. That's what it was. So someone who who come to look through the at the eyes and I think that's my apology, right that and that's how they would diagnose your issue and on the wall was if you are a blood type A, these are your predisposed conditions if you're a blood type A, B, or B, here's your predisposed as dispositions to these conditions. So this is what we're gonna check for first, and I thought why That's really progressive actually, in a very, you know, a blend of natural and non natural medicine. Right? Well, that's I mean, that's yeah, that's what happened is, you know, that is that medicine survived, you know, into the 19th and 20th century in these weird hybrid forms, but um, how interesting. Yeah. So, so that's, yeah, I stay pretty busy as things go. So, you know, book out a good bit in advance, which is nice. The other thing I will say, when she didn't ask me, you did ask me a little bit about narrating, I said, the audiobook community, the narrator's the producers, you know, you mentioned Joe, I found them to be just a really wonderful group of people very, very supportive, and, you know, you you enrolls and you lose roles against each other on a daily basis, for whatever reason, you know, I mean, I'm nothing to do with you just whatever. But I just, I found a very supportive community. And we have a number of Facebook groups where we help each other with technical problems. And, you know, it just, I found that to be really, I find it to be really encouraging. So, I know there are some really unique niches within the romance world. I know, there's also some stuff that goes on sometimes in the world of romance. And so but in the audiobook community, we're pretty supportive of each other as a whole. And so that's wonderful. Yeah, and I've met and the community so far has been amazing. And as far as writers, all the ones I surround myself with are amazing. I mean, you know, you get to pick your friends right now, your family you've moved to so you pick your pick, pick your writer friends and hang out with them. All right, well, we will put all of your links in the show notes. I want to thank you again for joining us on Coast to Coast romance. This has been a pleasure and invite me back anytime. Wonderful. I'll entertain you. I'll tell you about appropriate positions, just whatever. Okay, do you have to come back and do that Scottish accent for me? I just bring me back and I'll do what I can full. Full service provider. Alright. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for listening to coast to coast Romans. I'm Ann Jensen. And I'm Skyler West. If you'd like to contact either of us. Our links are located in the show notes. Have a great week. Thanks so much for joining us.