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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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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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MS5 Homecoming on Audible!

It took everything I had to keep my trap shut about this. Usually I’ll announce weeks or even months ahead and ruin the surprise. Not this time.

I got lucky and stumbled across a very talented voice actor. We chatted a bit and he decided that the Monster Squad series was something he was interested in. Since I lost Jack Voorhies as the voice of the squads, I had to find somebody new and I feel like Max was the best person to fill the role.

Let me introduce you to him:

MZ for ACX

Maxwell Zener is a New York based actor, with more than 20 other audiobooks to his credit. He’s especially drawn to stories that combine action and suspense with characters that are a bit broken, hurt, or flawed. So my MONSTER SQUAD series is a particular favorite, and he’s thrilled to narrate HOMECOMING. You may have seen him on screen in BOARDWALK EMPIRE or the indie sic-fi movie JIM. Take a trip to NYC, and you might see him on stage too.
If you like Max’s take on HOMECOMING, you might want to check out his work on Jonathan Brazee’s military sci-fi series THE UNITED FEDERATION MARINE CORPS at http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Captain-Audiobook/B011DDXCCA or the Young Adult coming of age vampire novel GROWING UP DEAD by Greg Wilkey at http://www.audible.com/pd/Teens/Growing-up-Dead-Audiobook/B00W2FD0DU
In the meantime, if you’ve been waiting to sink your teeth into the second saga and want to jump into Homecoming, here are the links:
If you really like to go through your audiobooks quickly, have no fear. Max is the fastest narrator I’ve ever seen…er, heard. He’ll be starting on MS6 pretty soon and I expect it to go just as smoothly as 5 did.
Thanks for all of your support and enjoy!
 
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Posted by on August 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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