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Interview: Maxwell Zener

Narrator, voice actor, storyteller, whatever you prefer to call them, there is a certain magic that a human voice brings to telling a story and making you want to hear more. That’s how I know I got the right voice for a story. If I can listen to them tell me my own story and I long to hear more, then I’ve definitely chosen correctly.

Today it is my pleasure to interview Maxwell Zener. He’s the voice for the Monster Squad’s second saga and if I play my cards right, he’ll be voicing the Hunter trilogy as well.

Let’s light this candle!

MZ for ACX

So let’s start simple. Tell us a little about yourself.  Are you married? Do you have any children?

I’m an actor and live in New York City with my wife and my daughter, who as I write this is 10 years old.

 Enjoy those younger years. Believe me, it won’t be long before she’ll be 16 going on 30 and only approaches ‘dad’ with a hand out. At least…that’s my experience. Anyway…what do you do for relaxation?

Dungeons and Dragons. My daughter got into it through an afterschool club, and this re-awakened my enthusiasm. I hadn’t played since college, but I am so happy to be back into it. Storytelling, getting into a character’s head, imagination, it’s all stuff I love.

That or a glass of whiskey. But D&D is healthier.

 I’m more of a scotch guy. Or…apple pie moonshine. But you’re right. D&D probably is healthier. So, are there any recent works (books) that you admire?

Does a dramatic podcast count? I was just turned on to “Welcome to Night Vale,” which is like an H.P. Lovecraft novel told by way of Garrison Keillor. As for books, I’ll admit that most of my reading is manuscripts that I’m preparing to record – outside of that, I recently read On Killing by Dave Grossman, a nonfiction work about the psychological cost of killing, and how that has impacted soldiers throughout history. It made a lot of behavior make sense to me, and I’m always interested in that – in how people behave and why they do what they do.

Along those lines, I admire any author who not only crafts a compelling plot but who understands their characters so well that they come to life as separate individuals as you read. There’s an indie YA author I discovered (through narrating one of his novels) who is really great at that – Greg Wilkey.

 I’m always looking for good YA authors. I’ll check Greg out. Thanks for the tip.
So, who is your favorite author(s) (and is there a reason why)?

Man, that’s hard to choose. I don’t really have one standout favorite – I like authors who are able to get readers inside the experience of a character, to see the world from his or her eyes. Especially if that character is broken or flawed.

 Agreed. I have a long list of favorite authors. I couldn’t choose just one if I had to.
So tell us, why do you do what you do?

I love inhabiting characters, and telling their stories. So often we can feel all alone – but through hearing other people’s experiences brought to life we can hear echoes of our own souls in theirs. We can realize that we aren’t alone, and we can see more clearly the humanity in those around us too.

 Ooh. That’s deeper than I expected. But you make it sound simple. I might have to steal that. 😉
So what is a typical working day like for you?  

I’ll get my daughter on the school bus, drink waaaaay more coffee than is healthy while doing a crossword, and then either get behind the mic or get to work learning a script or screenplay.

 Yes! COFFEE!! Sorry. That slipped.
When and where do you work?

I have a small studio space in my home; I do my recording there. I love it – I climb in, close the door, and the rest of the world just goes away. I’m all alone with the author and the characters. Best way to spend a day.

 Nice and peaceful. What kind of research do you do for your work?

Depends on the project, but I often do a lot of researching pronunciations. I’m currently narrating a survey of monsters across many different cultures, so I’ve been diving deep into sites that catalog Native American languages.

I can only imagine how tough it might be to learn the proper way to pronounce words like that. Especially words in any foreign language. So, now I’m curious, how do you conceive your voice ideas?

Sometimes the author just tells you – if someone is said to have a gravelly voice, well I’d better not voice them like a fop from an Oscar Wilde play. But most important to me is the character’s psychology, rhythm, and attitudes. Once I figure those out, the voice usually takes care if itself.

 What are the major themes that you prefer? How long on average does it take you to narrate a book?

I especially love stories about broken people trying to do good in a complicated world.

As for time, it’ll depend on the book. A story with just two or three characters I can really get a great flow going, but when I have to keep forty-five characters straight there is a lot more pausing to consult my notes.

 Yeah…that sounds familiar. I think at one time I had nearly 60 characters in the Monster Squad series. In my own defense, I wanted to kill off a good portion of them but my missus threatens my life any time I mention it.
What do you think listeners search for in an audio book?

I know what I look for in an audiobook – I want to get carried away into the world of the story.

That makes sense. So, what is your favorite part of a book?

I’m a sucker for the reversals – for those moments when all of a sudden we realize that things have not been what they seem, or when characters reach a turning point in their lives.

 Oh yeah. Reversals or plot twists make or break a good story. They’re a lot harder to pull off than I would have thought.
What is the hardest part of narrating for you?

Sitting down and talking for three, four, five hours at a time, five or six or seven days a week is hard work, vocally and physically. I have to make sure to keep my body limber so I don’t get sore, and to keep my voice healthy. To every vocal coach I’ve ever had: thank you!!

 What is the best thing about being a narrator?

The selfish answer is “living inside all these stories” – that gives me a thrill. But the part I love best is when a listener connects to the story or to the character, and feels it resonate with their own life.

 Agreed. I get little notes from people telling me how they love a story or specific part of a story. But it’s the people who write and tell me how they can identify with a character that seems to touch me the most. Knowing that people were able to connect on a personal level…it’s beyond words.
What are you working on at the moment? What’s it about?

Specters, the eighth installment of the Monster Hunter series, of course!!

I’m also working on a non-fiction book – a survey of monsters across cultures, noting the vast similarities between them and what this means about the human psyche. It’s called Monsters, naturally.

 Sounds like they could go hand in hand. I know there have been times I wish I had a ‘monster’ reference guide to follow. I think it would have made my job a lot easier.
So, tell us, where can we buy or see your work?

You can either go to Audible or you can go to maxwellzener.com

 Excellent! Everybody reading this, go and check out his sites.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Your own approval is the one that matters most.

 Wow. Best advice EVER.
So, what advice would you give to aspiring voice actors?

Study, study, study.

 Last question, what do you consider your best accomplishment?

My next one.

Nice answer. Always striving to better yourself. Well said, sir!

Okay folks, that ends the interview. Thanks for dropping by and getting to know a little about Max. Remember, keep your eyes open for more exciting audio adventures coming your way from Maxwell Zener. A true talent if ever I heard one.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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MS7 Obsessions on Audio

ACX just informed me that Monster Squad 7: Obsessions is now available on Amazon and ACX! Feel free to help spread the word!

 

Obsessions - Audible.jpg

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Hunter II Coming Soon!

Yes, I know I suck at keeping up this blog. Trust me, every year when I renew it I ask myself if I should. But, like the road to hell, I have tons of good intentions.

Anywho…yes! For those of you who have asked, I am carrying on with the Hunter story line. Hunter II is currently in line waiting for the editor to take a look at it and tell me how horrible I am at putting words to paper. Luckily she enjoyed the story, but she made it painfully obvious that I still have a LOT to learn when it comes to sentence structure and everything else that makes writing important. At least I’m a decent story teller.

Hunter III

Once again, Jeffrey Kosh stepped up and created an awesome cover for me.

I can’t be like other authors and keep everything a secret until the day before publishing. Or wait and have a big cover release party or whatever it is they do these days. Oh no. As soon as he created it I plastered it all over Facebook.
I think three people saw it.

Anyway, we’re expecting this continuation to release sometime around the end of May. My birthday is mid June so worst case scenario, it could be my birthday present to you, the readers.

It’s funny. I had about seven different projects sitting around half finished. I had pretty much given up on writing. The only reason I finished Hunter was because Tracy wanted me to put something out. It was the only one that I was far enough along in to even remotely be able to finish within her timeline. The few who read it strongly suggested I continue the story. So I did. By the time I finished Hunter II, I was ready to go back and finish some of the other projects that were wasting space on my hard drive.

But lo…Hunter continued to call to me. So, I’m actually in the middle of Hunter III. Hopefully I can wrap this story up and leave it as a trilogy. At least that’s the plan. I know I don’t want to get so tied up in continuing the story that it sucks the joy out of writing again. It’s slowly found its way back to me and I want to ride this wave of momentum as long as it will let me.

So, there you have it. Hunter II should be out soon. Well, relatively soon. A lot can happen in a month, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

‘Til next time!

Happy reading!

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Plea For Help!

I hate begging. I really do. I always swore I wouldn’t be that guy who blows up the feed of every group I belonged to with ‘buy my book’ ads. You know the people I’m talking about. You see their name in your notifications and you just know that if you go to whatever group it is, they’ll be pimping their work.

I don’t ever want to be that guy.

But here I am…hat in hand and kicking myself for doing this…but I need your help.

If you follow any of my stuff on social media, you know that Trident Comics has begun a Kickstarter to fund the conversion of the Monster Squad into a graphic novel. And you know that I am overly excited about this because both TWD and Preacher started life as graphic novels and it is my hope that eventually a copy of Monster Squad will end up in the right hands…however slight that chance may be. But, in order for any of that to happen, we have to get it funded first.

Please…if you can’t support the project, spread the word. Copy the link and plaster it anywhere you can think of to bring attention to it. The only way this will happen is with your help.

Thank you in advance to all of you willing to wave this banner!

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Merry Christmas

I wanted to take a moment to wish all of you the merriest of Christmases and a bacon filled New Year!

2016 has been a hell of a year. We’ve seen too many great talents taken from us and an election season like none I could have imagined. We’ve had friends mourn the loss of loved ones and others celebrate the addition of new family members. I watched myself come out of a non-writing funk and release an exciting new series… and we were approached by Trident Comics and are about to start the kickstarter to convert the Monster Squad into a graphic novel.

It’s almost surreal as I look back on the year and what changes came to pass. Its funny how when things can seem at its lowest something else comes along that effectively breathes new life into a dying project.

I pray that your holidays are filled with joy and your 2017 is the biggest and best year yet. 

Merry Christmas!

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

No Movie…Yet

Okay, so I made a book trailer a while back.  All of my writer friends had trailers made and I was feeling left out. I contacted a couple of different services that make trailers I could afford but none could capture the vision I had. 

I tried contacting a few independent film makers. Holy smokes…you’d think I was asking for a feature film!  I tried calling the local university. Maybe a film or cinema student was  up to the challenge. No takers. 

Anywho, I got to watching some of the stuff on YouTube and the thought occurred to me,  why not make my own?  True,  I used clips from existing footage but I read through the fair use rules and it sounded like I was ok to run with my idea. I grabbed a karaoke version of the perfect song and used it as the background music. 

After I shared it on Facebook I realized that I had forgotten to say anything about the book series it was supposed to be advertising.  That led to numerous congratulatory messages for the upcoming movie…’Doh!

Anyway, here’s the finished trailer.  I know its nowhere near professional but I like it.  Feel free to share it and help me spread the word. 

Thanks yall! 

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Busy Weeks Ahead

Yes, I know. I haven’t been keeping up the old blog…but it’s been a bit busy around here.

I’m sure most of you have seen that Mind Trip has recently been released. It’s a collection of short stories that I’ve collected over the years. Hopefully they’ve been well received.

However, tonight I just pressed the button (so to speak) on the audio version of Wayward Son. Max Zener did another knockout job of continuing the Monster Squad series. As soon as Audible gives it the once over and approves it, it will be available for your listening pleasure.

wayward-audible

But wait, there’s more!

Expected around Turkey Day, you can enjoy Hunter!

Born of Viking stock, careered into the Swedish Navy, Sven Ericsson finds himself in the fabled New World. Away from the restraints of society, the young Northman is dragged into long nights of debauchery; nights that lead him into the waiting arms of a dark beauty who will change his very nature forever.
Fighting his new unnatural status, Sven steers clear of humanity, skulking along the fringe of society, and filling his inhuman need with the blood of the outcasts or the easily forgotten. A shadow among the shadows…until extraordinary events, centuries later, force him to emerge from the dark. A mishap of his own making pits Sven Ericsson into a moral quandary that will remind him what it means to be a warrior.
He is a killer.
A fighter.
A Hunter of his own kind.”

hunter-cover

Due Thanksgiving.

Now, for those who keep asking…yes. I do plan to continue the MS series. I’ve broken ground on MS9 but didn’t really like the direction it was going. That was why I decided to ‘clean my plate’ a bit and get finished some of the projects that languished by the wayside.

I have a pseudo political thriller called Flags of the Forgotten that I want to wrap up. It stars Bobby Bridger from Whispers.  There’s also Sinful, a King-ish style story where a young man can see the sins of others and decides to take action to try and prevent some of the evil that he sees from happening. I’ve also broke ground on Caldera II. I won’t say much at this point other than it is only in the first few chapters and focuses more on the survivors. Corson II has been abandoned at this point. Maybe some time in the future I’ll return to it, but as for right now, it doesn’t look good.

Anyway, back to the grind stone. I hope that you enjoy Mind Trip and should you decide to test drive Hunter, I hope that you enjoy it as much as the betas and the editor did.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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