Narrator Nicholas Boulton joined host Jo Reed on our Behind the Mic podcast to talk about being named a 2023 Golden Voice. Nicholas is an accomplished actor on stage and screen and in audio, with more than 100 audiobooks to his name. He's celebrated for the pure quality of his voice, his facility for character, and an unerring instinct for storytelling. While he's well known for his narration in classics and historical romance audiobooks, he has a great range that includes fantasy, history, biography, and contemporary fiction.
Behind the Mic host Jo Reed spoke with Nicholas in 2021 at the launch of our Audiobook Break podcast, which featured his narration of DAVID COPPERFIELD. In today's bonus episode, Jo and Nicholas catch up on some of his recent projects and discuss becoming a Golden Voice.
Jo Reed: I began our conversation by asking Nick to remind us what drew him to theater originally.
Nicholas Boulton: I just always found it a huge amount of fun. There's something indefinable about it. It's just the atmosphere of it and the terror of it. And something to do with that sense of free falling just before you walk on stage that is absolutely terrifying but then it kind of mutates into something, when you're out there and when you combine that with professional work, when you've done all your rehearsals and all of your research and you've learnt your lines, most importantly, it turns into something really kind of seducing.
JR: Now how did you move into narrating audiobooks?
NB: Well, I kind of fell into it. I mean, I've always been a predominantly audio actor, I suppose. I started my career on the Radio Drama Company for the BBC, which naturally made me lean towards looking into all the different art forms of audio, of voice acting, I suppose. And I was just asked to do an audiobook, and I had a crack at it and found it quite daunting and not a little exhausting. I mean, it's tough work. But enjoyable as well. I mean, there's something about immersing yourself in a story and all its characters that's just really, really nice.
JR: How do you prepare for narrating a book?
NB: Well, I suppose, there's different ways. I have a kind of a different tool set for each different kind of work that I'm doing. I've done some Dickens in the past and Wilkie Collins and a lot of 19th-century classics, for example, which I may or may not have read beforehand. And in that case, I'll do all my research online. I'll look into and find out all the information that I can and then I will skim as fast and efficiently as I can through the book to settle the characters and plot points. And then I like to keep the rest of it as fresh as possible.
JR: You're best known for narrating classic literature and historical romance, but you're also doing a good bit of history like THE BOUNTY or HIS MAJESTY'S AIRSHIP. And I just wonder what the difference is between narrating fiction and nonfiction for you.
NB: Well, I suppose when you're narrating fiction you can let your imagination run wild. And depending on the style of writing, you can fit yourself to how large the characters you want to make them. With factual concerns, historical documents and so on, you're a little more constrained to keep it as real and as listenable as you can. I mean, that's not to say that when you're doing fiction you can just really let rip all the time, because that'd be very difficult to listen to, I'm sure. But with the characters that pop up in, for example, any of Dickens's works, they're so colorfully written that most of the work's done for you and if you just lend yourself to it and bring in your own experience and you can create something which hopefully is the sort of thing that the listeners want.
JR: Let's talk about the voices that you create by talking about a recent fantasy that you narrated, A RAKE OF HIS OWN, which has such a wide range of characters from human to fey to everything in between. How do you land on a voice, and what's the process for determining a voice for any given character?
NB: I wish I knew. I mean, mostly it's instinctive, I think. You get a feel. You've got all the pointers in the text as to potentially what class they are, what social class, what kind of education they may have had. And then of course, the character traits as to whether they are kind of, a heroic character, an ingratiating character or a just downright evil character. And then you look at that and make your choices, I suppose. And I find myself doing the voices before I've decided on them. So if it comes out and if it's right, it's right. And if it doesn't, then I'll go in and kind of fine tune.
Find many more reviews of Nicholas's audiobooks on his audiography page, and be sure to follow our Behind the Mic podcast wherever you get your podcasts to hear our upcoming interviews with Kevin R. Free and Marin Ireland, our additional Golden Voice narrators for 2023.
Photo of Nicholas Boulton by Dan Reid