In June 2020, JD was inducted as a Golden Voice, AudioFile's lifetime achievement honor for audiobook narrators.
How did you get started with narrating?
Around 2003, I was living in NYC, and signed to Atlas Talent Agency, my commercial agents at the time. I was sent to audition for Recorded Books. When I got there, I met with the legendary Claudia Howard, who took me to the booth and had me read for her. Afterward, she basically welcomed me into the fold, and my audiobook career began. She taught me the basics, gave me great advice, and immediately started giving me work.
What’s your favorite genre to narrate?
I really like doing all genres because they each present unique challenges. But if I had to choose one, it would have to be a well-written first-person urban crime/detective novel. The grittier, the better. I love getting caught up in an inquisitive mind on the hunt for truth. Some of my favorites to record were Bluebird, Bluebird and Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke, What It Was by George Pelecanos, and Cemetery Road by Gar Anthony Haywood.
How do you approach narrating audiobooks with difficult subject matter?
I try to focus on the language and the imagery as much as possible and not internalize what I’m reading too much. Easier said than done. Sometimes there are moments when I get caught up. In those situations I find it’s best to pause and take a moment to feel whatever emotion has bubbled to the surface, then begin again. I want to be careful that I’m not dictating to the reader what they should feel. I believe my job is to respect the author by telling their story, and not emoting it.
What has surprised you the most about your work in audiobooks?
I’ve been surprised about a number of things working in audiobooks. That I’ve been able to make a living doing something I love, storytelling, has to be the biggest. That I was able to move my family across the country and still continue working without missing a beat was an amazing surprise. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how kind, helpful, and supportive the audiobook community is to each other.
His Truth is Marching On Audie Award 2021 History & Biography
His Truth is Marching On AudioFile Best of 2020 History & Biography
A Fool's Errand AudioFile Best of 2020 Nonfiction & Culture
Look Both Ways AudioFile Best of 2019 Children & Family Listening
Heaven, My Home AudioFile Best of 2019 Mystery & Suspense
Sting Like a Bee AudioFile Best of 2017 Biography & History
Bluebird, Bluebird AudioFile Best of 2017 Mystery & Suspense
Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad AudioFile Best of 2015 History
�Crow AudioFile Best of 2013 Children
�Malcom X: By Any Means Necessary AudioFile Best of 2013 Young Adult
What is Was AudioFile Best of 2012 Mystery & Suspense
Cemetery Road AudioFile Best of 2012 Mystery & Suspense
Just Another Hero AudioFile Best of 2011 Young Adult
Photo courtesy of the narrator
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