Christian is the narrator of over 250 audiobooks, specializing in mystery/crime and sci-fi/fantasy. Below are some of his bestsellers on Audible.com. Click the thumbnails to hear samples on Audible's website.
The Lost Fleet/Beyond The frontier/GENESIS by Jack Campbell
The Remaining BY D.J. Molles
extinction wars BY VAUGHN HEPPNER
NARRATOR: CHRISTIAN RUMMEL
Tell us a little about yourself (Your bio).
I grew up in Pennsylvania, went to college in Pittsburgh, and then lived in New York City for a bunch of years. In 2010, I moved to L.A., where I now reside with my lovely wife, I-Ching, our hipster wonder-dog Adelaide, and our scrappy black cat Evel. I like English tea, English motorbikes, and weird English telly (Garth Marenghi, Snuff Box, Mighty Boosh, et al.).
How on earth did you get into narrating audiobooks?
Lucked out. In 2005, Joshua Spanogle, and old friend of mine from high school, wrote a book called ISOLATION WARD. He was in med school on the west coast at the time, and Random House, who published the book, asked him if he knew any actors in New York who could audition for an audio version. He gave them a list of names, and I got the gig.
I then attended a casting workshop with Audible.com. I gave them the CD version of ISOLATION WARD, and was asked to audition at their studios a couple months later…
What do you do when you are not narrating?
I spend a lot of time with my wife and our animals. We have our dog in agility training, and are trying to teach her how to skateboard in hopes of making her a YouTube star. Did you know that YouTube stars make A LOT of money?
Many audiobook narrators do other voice over work, where else could we hear your work? Do you find there to any big hurdles to jump when going from audiobooks to something else or vise versa?
Happily, I am just starting to work in other areas of VO entertainment. I just did awesome roles on CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS III and (game’s actual title is top secret.), two video games set for release in 2015. I have yet to do any animation work, but it’s definitely a goal of mine.
As far as hurdles, the main challenge is just getting your name and your voice heard by the right people in the industry. Most casting directors are not avid audiobook listeners, so in many cases, you’re starting from scratch.
Do you have the luxury of picking and choosing the projects that you work on or do you take as many as you have time for?
I pretty much read whatever they put in front of me. Because I’ve been working with Audible for a number of years, I have had some projects which were chosen specifically for me. For example, a 33 1/3 book about Slayer’s REIGN IN BLOOD was given to me because I’m a fan of the band. Also, as a lifelong PLANET OF THE APES nerd, I was asked to read the novelization of the most recent film, which was a true honor.
For those of us that are unfamiliar with your work. How would you describe your narration style and voice? What would the one audiobook you would suggest for people to listen to your best work?
Narration style? I don’t know, that’s a hard question. I can describe my voice. It’s on the deeper end, with a bit of grit to it, which is probably why I read a lot of military stuff.
I try not to impose any particular style of narration on the text, but rather, take my cue from the rhythm of the writing.
As for my best work, that’s another tough one. My work is always better when paired with good writing. So, I’d recommend SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury, simply because the man was a master of his craft.
As a narrator, do you get compensated in a set amount or do you also receive royalties from the individual sales? Do you like one more than the other? Has there ever been an per finished hour book that you wish was a royalty deal, what book? Or vise versa?
I’ve never worked for royalties, though I know some in the industry do. From what I understand, though, no audiobook narrator has gotten rich from such an arrangement. I prefer the finished hour because I know exactly what my time is worth. But if there were any books or series I’ve narrated that paid royalties? I’d want it to be Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET books, simply because they’re my perennial best-sellers.
What do you see as your greatest achievement as an audiobook narrator? What has been your most difficult moment?
I don’t think about it in terms of achievement. It’s a job, and like any job I get, I try to do the best work that I can possibly do.
There’s no particular difficult moment. It’s a difficult job, period. I don’t think people realize how time- and labor-intensive an occupation it is, especially when you have to breathe life into a book that you don’t like. Happens all the time…
Do you have a list of your own favorite narrators, who inspires you? Do you have a list of favorite audiobook that you have listened to?
I confess, I don’t really listen to audiobooks. But I do have Douglas Adams narrating some of his own stuff, which is fantastic. He was a brilliant guy.
What is your favorite thing to do? Pastime, hobby, obsession, etc.
I love two things with equal passion: dogs and motorcycles. I wrecked my motorcycle last year, so these days, I mostly spend time with my dog. And my wife. She loves our dog too. My wife and I are big animal people.
Do you ever get specific notes or ideas from the writer about how something should be read? What is a helpful note, and what is, shall we say, less helpful?
I rarely get any notes from the authors, aside from pronunciations of character names or proper nouns. As far as any overall direction goes, I look at it in the same way as selling the film rights to your work. I’m basically casting, directing, and starring in the audiobook version of your novel. Therefore, all artistic decisions are mine, provided they stay true to the author’s intent.
Do you have an initial process or routine by which you get to know the book you’re going to be reading? Do you mark them up, for example?
Not really. Often I don’t even have the time to read the book first. I scan for characters and dialogue as much as I can, but that’s about it.
How do you flesh out how a specific character will sound?
With any luck, the author will do most of the heavy lifting on that score. However, if character details are scant, I usually just reach for something comfortable within my range that will fit.
Is your studio in your home? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this? Do you have something that you would consider unique in your setup? What is it?
– short commute
– spouse, pets, snacks in close proximity
– can work in underwear
– sometimes forget how to interact with actual people
– having to operate Pro Tools myself
My setup is your basic Whisper Room. I do have one unique item: a custom-built Z87 mic, designed by audiobook engineer and mad genius Sebastian Zetin.
What is the atmosphere like in your studio when you record. What’s it like, and are things very serious or not very serious?
It really depends on the book, though with the aforementioned spouse and pets around, things are never in danger of getting too serious.
How long do you record at a time, on average? What is it about a book that will shorten or lengthen this?
If I’m working at home, I don’t usually work for more than 3-4 hours at a time. But at an outside studio with someone else pushing the buttons, I can go 5 or 6 with a couple of short breaks.
What is your favorite genre to narrate? Why?
Crime or mystery, because those stories are more interesting to me personally than a lot of the sci-fi stuff.
What has been your favorite character? What character has given you the most grief?
It’s hard to pick a particular favorite, but THE REMAINING series has a lot of fun ones: LaRouche, Jerry, and Lee, among them. I like voices that are easy for me to do…
The most grief, by far, comes from Tanya Desjani of THE LOST FLEET series. If I had known back in 2008, when I recorded the first couple of books, that there would be 11 or so more to follow, I would have made her voice lower and easier to maintain for someone with my vocal register.
How do you stop yourself from laughing or crying at some of the things authors write?
I don’t stop myself. I laugh and cry all the time, but fortunately, it’s edited out.
I have heard that many in the industry dislike the term narrator. What do you prefer and why?
I’ve heard that too, and I can’t understand why. Personally, I think ‘narrator’ is a perfect term for what we do. I’ve heard people use the term ‘reader’, which doesn’t quite seem to encompass the scope of the job. But I also balk at the use of ‘performer’, as in ‘This book has been performed by blank’. Who the hell wants a book performed for them? That sounds obnoxious, especially if it’s non-fiction or, say, a self-help book. ‘Narrator’ is a slightly old-fashioned word, but it’s up to us to change the paradigm, and give it a new meaning.
How do you view audiobook narration/production: Art or Science?
Do you have a philosophy of how to create the perfect audiobook experience?
Tell the story as truthfully as possible, and stay out of the author’s way.
Do you have a preference for reading fiction or nonfiction for pleasure? And is what you read for pleasure what you’d prefer to read for audiobooks?
I hardly ever read for pleasure any more, but when I do, it’s almost exclusively non-fiction.
I read mostly about dogs and animals, and would love to narrate some of those books, but I don’t know if people would pay me to talk about puppies and kittens.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring narrators?
What has been your favorite project and why?
I had a lot of fun on ENDER’S GAME ALIVE, because we were all in the studio together. It was a very talented cast, and it always improves your own game when you can interact directly with your co-stars.
Do you believe that listening to an audiobook should be considered reading? Why or why not?
NO. Unless you’re looking at the words yourself, you’re not reading. No judgment, just fact.
Are you working on any special projects?
The two video games I mentioned above, COD: BLACK OPS III and (game’s actual title is top secret.), are both ongoing. Also, I just wrapped up two long-running series, THE LOST FLEET and THE REMAINING.
NARRATIVE OVERTONES: MY INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTIAN RUMMEL
June 27, 2012
Christian Rummel has narrated over 120 Audiobooks, for companies such as Audible and Random House Audio. Among his many works are two of my all time favorite science fiction series, E.E. Knight’s Vampire Earth series, and Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series. One of the hardest things for an audiobook fan is to transition from print to audio for a beloved series, and luckily there are narrators like Christian Rummel that help make that transition smooth. Christian was kind enough to answer a few of my questions for Audiobook Week.
First question is an easy one. Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you got started in the audiobook industry?
Christian Rummel: I grew up in an area of Pennsylvania renowned for its peppermint patties, Harley Davidson factory, and the near-meltdown atThree-Mile Island, a local nuclear power plant.
I studied acting in college, joined the union after graduation and became a stage actor. A few years ago, I got my Masters in classical theatre at a Shakespeare training conservatory.
Got involved in audio books because an old friend from the same PA town wrote a medical thriller called ISOLATION WARD. That friend, Josh Spanogle, also hooked me up with an audition for Random House, who was recording an audio version of the book. I got the gig, and that was the start of my career in audio books.
What steps do you take when prepping a book for recording?
Christian Rummel: I’m very low prep. I’ll (usually) read the book first, maybe thinkabout some character voices, but that’s about it. I’m not one of those narrators who use fifty different highlighters to mark character changes. I don’t like to mark my script at all; I like a clean page…
Walk us through a typical recording session. Do you typically work with a director or technician when recording?
Christian Rummel: I don’t have a home studio, so all of my recording is done with someone else in the room, usually a sound engineer, though some companies do like to hire directors as well. All the directors I’ve worked with have been pretty hands off, mostly just there as an outside ear and to sort of gently guide the process along. Mostly, I just roll into the studio, grab a cup of tea and a bottle of water and get to work.
My first audiobook experience with you as a narrator was Valentine’s Resolve, the sixth book of the Vampire Earth Series by E.E. Knight. I was a little worries, because I had read the first 5 books of the series, and I was worried about a disconnect between how I imagined character’s sounding, and the narrator’s performance. Personally, I think you nailed it for David Valentine, and Smoke, as well as the peripheral characters. When reading a novel in preparation for recording, what do you look for in helping you decide on what you are going to do with a character?
Christian Rummel: This relates to the previous question regarding prepping a book. Honestly, there’s only so much I can do with my instrument, so in choosing a voice for a particular character, I think mostly about whether I can sustain it for an entire book (or series.) I also just try to go for variety, which is a lot easier for males. I really only have one voice for females, so it’s a matter of dressing it up with accents or different speech patterns…
Have you ever received hate mail or crazy ranting reviews from irate fans of a series who didn’t like the way you voiced a character? I know some fans, particularly genre fans, can be brutal.
Christian Rummel: I’ve never gotten any crazy hate mail from irate fans. I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who may be unhappy with the way I’ve voiced particularly beloved characters, but if so, they tend to keep it to themselves or their blogging audience. None of them have contacted me personally. I think I would be more amused than annoyed if they did…
The other day, E.E. Knight posted a picture of the next Vampire Earth novel, Appalachian Overthrow. I sort of geeked out about it because it features my favorite character, Ahn-Kha, Now, I’m not sure about when and if the audiobook version of this novel will come out, but hopefully you will be recording it. Being that you seem to record a lot of series, do you ever go back and listen to you work of a past book to prepare for an upcoming title?
Christian Rummel: I never listen to any of my work, period. Can’t stand it! Even when I’m trying to put a demo together I will always ask somebody with a fresh ear to help me. I’m far too self-critical to listen to my own stuff. I actually don’t own much of my own work. The books I record for Hachette or Random House come out in CD form; some of those I have, but not much digital stuff.
Another favorite series of mine is the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. What amazes me about your performance in these numbers is the sheer number of characters you have to deal with. How do you manage to keep them all straight?
Christian Rummel: This sort of relates to the last question… working on a series like LOST FLEET, it’s like hanging out with your family. They’re all pretty distinct to me, so I don’t have much trouble keeping them straight. If you’ll notice, a writer like Jack Campbell doesn’t physically describe his characters at all. We have no idea if Black Jack Geary is 6’5” or 5’2” or what color eyes or hair he has. When I first started the series, I decided to have fun with the nationalities of the various characters, mostly so I could keep them straight and give them some variety. I thought about shows like STAR TREK, which boasted sort of a ‘United Nations in space’ cast, and gave the characters accents or dialects based on what nationality their last names evoked.
I would be remiss if I don’t talk about zombies. I am a huge Zombie fiction fan, and with the Permuted Press/Audible deal, there has been a flood of undead audiobooks. One of my favorites was Jessica Meig’s, The Becoming. Cade is a kick ass character, and you did a great job bringing her to life. She has a complicated vocal story, being a former Israeli Defense Force sniper, living in the American south. How challenging is it for you when you are performing women voices, particularly ones with specific accents? What was the strangest character voice, as for as regional and ethnic ties, that you had to come up with?
Christian Rummel: I’ll be honest: I’m not really all that pleased with what I did with Cade on that book. I have several Israeli friends who learned to speak English from British tutors and so have taken on a bit of the Queen’s, so to speak. That’s the accent I gave Cade, but I’m not sure it was really right for her background. I did my best to keep it as subtle as possible, so the listener can focus more on the attributes of the character as written, and less about whether her dialect was authentic.
I just finished a six-book series by Anne Emery, which had all kinds of crazy voicings in it, including a three-page monologue by a female Italian opera diva. That was a bit of a challenge… As far as the strangest, that’s a tough one. The Joseph Wambaugh HOLLYWOOD series have a lot of interesting characters: junkies and winos and drag queens; there’s a lot of crazy ones in there!
Do you have an all time favorite character? Is there a character, whether specific or just a general type, that you haven’t yet had the chance to voice, but would like to?
Christian Rummel: I don’t really have a favorite all-time character, but I do enjoy the dudes who have what I call the ‘Badass’ voice: Black Jack Geary, Titus Quinn, Ray Lilley. Ironically, men of action, rather than words…
I’m sure you have had moments where you’ve messed up, either misreading a text, reading a line in the wrong voice, or mispronounced a word. Is there any especially funny or embarrassing in studio moments that stand out?
Christian Rummel: I make so many mistakes every session that they’re impossible to recall. However, sometimes the script itself is so riddled with editorial errors that it can be hilarious. I just recorded an audio version of the 33 1/3 series about Slayer’s REIGN IN BLOOD (a personal fave) and the manuscript was full of typos. My favorite was the mention of Motley Crue’s first album: TOO FART FOR LOVE. It’s juvenile, but the engineer and I laughed a lot over that one!
Finally, if someone were to write the story of you life, who would you want to record the audiobook version?
Christian Rummel: Interesting question. As much as I dislike this actor, I’ll have to go with Christian Slater, because (sigh) his is the voice to which mine is most often compared. Sadly…
Thanks for taking the time out to answer these questions!
You can find Christian’s work at Audible.com.
Audie Finalist Christian Rummel interviewed by Gabrielle de Cuir:
GUARDIAN LOST FLEET: BEYOND THE FRONTIER, BOOK 3
Science Fiction • 13.75 hrs. • Unabridged • © 2013
Narrator Christian Rummel is so much better than this source material; he elevates the book greatly. The story is a classic space opera about an admiral taking a fleet of starships home, finding new enemies, discovering alien artifacts, having a light romance, all while fighting battles on video screens at light-year distances. If you've read any science fiction, you know what's coming, but Rummel's performance is so entertaining that he makes listeners want to hear how he'll perform the story. He populates the international starfleet military with a multitude of accents. While his female characters tend to sound alike, his men growl and swagger through space with brio. G.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine [Published: FEBRUARY 2014]
Fiction • 10.25 hrs. • Unabridged • © 2012
This novel takes place at a fictional hospital in Michigan, but it’s reasonable to believe that it’s informed by the experiences of the author, who is a neurosurgeon. The story follows five neurosurgeons as they confront their performance on the operating table by reflecting on their successes and failures at each week’s Monday Morning Morbidity and Mortality conference. Narrator Christian Rummel gives this book a fast-paced, dramatic reading that makes it both compelling and entertaining. He effectively uses his deep, authoritative, nasal-tinged voice to portray the doctors as they see themselves. Some are methodical while others believe themselves to be healing gods. Rummel has excellent diction, and he’s a master of pacing and emphasis. He’s also fully committed to his character voices, and they fit the book’s tone perfectly. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine [Published: MARCH 2012]
EARPHONES AWARD WINNER
Mystery & Suspense • 11.5 hrs. • Unabridged • © 2008
Christian Rummel's roles on "Law & Order" were good training for narrating this gritty tale of community relations officers (CROWs) in "La-La Land." He excels at the flip cop jargon as well as a variety of ethnic accents. Incidents with cross-dressers, scofflaws, and the like are woven into the stories of a strip joint owner's ongoing plot to kill his stunning estranged wife, Margot, and her relationship with a policeman with movie star aspirations. Partly due to Rummel's vocal talents, the characters are believable, if not necessarily likable. A lot of energy goes into the climactic bedroom shooting scene, as well as Margot's version of it. Wambaugh's latest novel in audio may leave listeners cynical about the LAPD, but they'll be enthusiastic over Rummel's performance. J.B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2008]
THE GOLD COAST
EARPHONES AWARD WINNER
Mystery & Suspense • 21 hrs. • Unabridged • © 1990
The Long Island Gold Coast once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America. Mafia don Frank Bellarosa, a late-twentieth-century version of wealth and power, acquires the estate next to John Sutter, respected Wall Street tax lawyer. Like a moth to the flame, Sutter is drawn into Bellarosa’s world. The story, first published in 1990, is told in Sutter’s words, and Christian Rummel’s narration is sterling. From the Gold Coast upper-crust accent known as “Locust Valley lockjaw” to the streetwise banter of the Mob, each character comes to life. Conversations between Sutter and Bellarosa are so realistic listeners may feel they’re tied into a federal wiretap. With authentic settings and real people, THE GOLD COAST (now followed by a sequel, THE GATE HOUSE) provides an entertaining view of the sordid lives of the rich and famous. T.J.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine [Published: JANUARY 2009]