Author Spotlight with PJ Ochlan
PJ is the narrator for Ha’ven’s Song: Curizan Warrior Book 1
To listen to a sample click here: Ha’ven’s Song: Curizan Warrior Book 1
P.J. Ochlan is an Audie-nominated and multiple Earphones Award- winning narrator of over 200 audiobooks. His acting career spans more than 30 years and has also included Broadway, the NY Shakespeare Festival under Joseph Papp, critically acclaimed feature films and television series regular roles. Along the way he’s worked with countless icons including Jodie Foster, Clint Eastwood, Robin Williams, Al Pacino and Garry Marshall.
I’ve been an actor for over 30 years and that’s always included a fair amount of voiceover work. But even though I’d been interested in the idea of audiobook narration for a long time, I didn’t get into it until about 5 years ago. A lot of my work has always included character voices and accents, so a gig like narration where you get to play the entire cast seemed like a great fit. I was doing a Shakespeare production in L.A. and a castmate who was a narrator agreed it would be right up my alley, so she introduced me to a leading audiobook producer who came to see the show. I played multiple characters in the play, and at one point I spoke seven different languages in rapid fire – so that made an impression. I later auditioned for the producer, and now, 200+ audiobooks later, I guess you can say the rest is history 🙂 I’m often asked what audiobooks mean to me. I’ve had a lot of “big breaks” in my career that each could have easily become the one that changed everything, but nevertheless had me hitting the pavement afterward hustling for the next one. It wasn’t until audiobook narration that I got to be a working actor pretty much every day that I want to be. That means everything.
I love YA, fantasy/sci-fi, thrillers, and obviously romance 😉 But I’d say even more important than genre for me is perspective. I’m partial to first-person narratives or third-person with clear character POVs (as with Ha’ven’s Song). I use those opportunities to really connect with the characters and bring their personalities and emotional states to the narrative and not just the dialogue. That way, even a third-person narrative doesn’t feel like some separate entity that’s somehow detached from the story. As I’ve grown as a narrator, I’ve found this helps to create a much more immersive listening experience.
As with any acting job, I try to tap into who the characters are as people. While I specialize in character voices and accents, I look at those as technical flourishes that help to enhance a character, but shouldn’t dictate or define him/her. Even when I teach those skills I make clear that rooting characters in reality as actual human beings and not caricatures trumps what tricks we use to make them sound different. Of course this is easier said than done. It’s something I remind myself of constantly and try to improve with every book I narrate.
The professional standard has been what we call “two to one,” meaning it typically takes two hours to complete one “finished hour” of audio. So a 10-hour book takes about 20 hours in the booth to record. But that’s now considered fast as the industry has moved toward narrators self-directing and self-engineering (even for many of the top publishers). That also doesn’t include pre-production book prep or post-production such as proofing, editing and mastering, which can all add up to several more hours per finished hour. As for equipment, I have a professional recording booth in my home office along with software, a high-quality microphone and other hardware odds and ends.
I’m fortunate to have a lot of vocal endurance, which is key for this particular island on planet voiceover. I don’t have any vocal health rituals per se, but I think a life of on-the-job training in multiple acting disciplines has definitely helped. And it’s not just my voice, but my stomach I have to take care of too. I watch what and how much I eat so I don’t end up with constant annoying rumbles in the booth.
Ok, some factoids… I live with my author wife, our three rescue dogs and two cats up in the Santa Monica Mountains in L.A.; I used to be a sommelier and run a winery with vineyards in Napa and New Zealand; I speak five languages including Mandarin; I sit in a box all day getting paid to tell stories.