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Derek Perkins didn’t find his way to narrating through the usual channels--the last time he had done any acting was in high school. As he told us from his home in Massachusetts, “I got laid off from a job in 2007, and I began to go through a process of trying to work out what, for my next job/career, what I really, really wanted to do. I took some public speaking lessons, I joined Toastmasters--and I did this because I realized what fundamentally are some of my greatest passions, and I think some of my abilities are linked to that, around words, language, performance. I’ve always been a very passionate reader and loved learning.”
He ended up auditioning through Audible’s ACX platform and then began working regularly for other audio publishers, including Tantor Audio and Bee Audio.
AudioFile’s reviewers have praised Perkins for making biographies and histories, such as Paul Strathern’s THE VENETIANS, accessible to listeners, and more than that, a delight to listen to. Perkins says it’s a delight for him, too.
“Quite a number of the books I’ve narrated, they’ve had a lot of foreign place names and people’s names, so I’ve had to do a lot of research on that. But that’s fine--I quite like that, because it goes back to my whole penchant for language. That, for me, is a labor of love. It’s something I really enjoy doing.” Because of that, Perkins says that UNRULY PLACES was one of the most interesting books he’s narrated recently. “Because it’s all about quirky places, the places in between countries that really have no proper borders, there were a lot of odd names that I had to work hard to track down.”
Does Perkins ever listen to audiobooks for pleasure? “I record in a WhisperRoom in the basement of my house, so I have a very short vertical drop of a commute,” he says with a laugh. “But I do listen to them for pleasure, and I also try to choose books that I think I’ll enjoy that are narrated by some of the best. I deliberately do that because I want to keep improving myself, and I love hearing different narrators and learning how they do it. A lot of the nonfiction books I’ve narrated recently, like Adrian Goldsworth’s CAESAR and AUGUSTUS, for example, I think of people like Ed Herrmann, who I think is one of the absolute masters. I just adore his reading. He just has that knack of making it sound like a cozy fireside chat, but he’s getting it all across, too.
“Edward Herrmann, Simon Vance, Simon Prebble, Meryl Streep . . . When I listen to those guys, I hear their artistry and craft and realize how much further I have to go. I haven’t been in this business for long, just about two years, and my goal is very simple, really: Keep getting better.”--Jennifer M. Dowell
[DECEMBER 2014/JANUARY 2015]
Photo courtesy of Huw Jones
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