|Phil Gigante Interview|
When Brilliance Audio told me they'd selected a man to narrate my Highlander romances, I was... skeptical to say the least.
How could a man possibly understand what women love about romance novels? Would he take the books seriously or consider them "fluff"? Would he be able to relate to my characters at all? Wouldn't he rather be reading murder mysteries or thrillers? I didn't believe for a minute that any man could capture the magic, the passion, the fire, the raw sexiness of my Highlanders.
Oh, how wrong I was!
Every year, the APA honors the best audiobooks of the year. This year, at the Audies Gala in New York City, Phil Gigante's stellar talent was recognized: He won the Audie Award in the Best Romance category for his narration of The Dark Highlander.
I melt when I listen to his voice. He could read the phone book to me, and I would be enthralled. Phil was born with a gift: a voice that is pure magic, from Scots brogue to trailer trash, it's rich, complex, clear, evocative, beautiful. Listening to him bring my Highlanders to life has been a delight. Seeing him recognized for excellence in his field gives me tremendous satisfaction.
He recently finished narrating all my Highlander novels Beyond the Highland Mist, To Tame a Highland Warrior, The Highlander's Touch, Kiss of the Highlander, The Dark Highlander, Immortal Highlander and Spell of the Highlander and, on the heels of his Audie win, it seemed the perfect time to talk with the man behind the mythically fabulous voices of Hawk, Grimm, Circenn, Dageus, Drustan, Adam and Cian.
He has taken time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions and share with us two absolutely hysterical outtakes: Double-Wide (Adam Black's alternate ending) and Horny Baby, both of which can be found at the end of this interview.
Without further ado, meet Phil Gigante!
KMM: Phil, how did you get started reading audio books? Was it an offshoot of another career, or something that you knew you wanted to do, and pursued?
PG: First off: Karen, thank you for the wonderful intro. It means more to me then I can say that you approve of my handling of the audio editions of the Highlander saga. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the response I've received from you and your fans. But the truth is... you made it much easier on me by crafting such a heartfelt and detailed world in which to play! I wouldn't have been a fraction as successful if you hadn't given your heart and soul to the work in the first place.
So... audio books. Nope. Never thought about that as a job before I started with Brilliance Audio. I'd been acting and doing voice work for years, but no one said, "Hey, why don't you try this?" It's still kind of an "off-shoot" of the whole acting industry. I'd recorded a couple of children's books for the Lighthouse for the Blind, as a charity project years ago, but that was it. Then my friend Jim Bond (who is a wonderful narrator/director with Brilliance Audio) convinced me to go in and audition... and there you go. (karma moment - Jim got a wife out of one of my plays I cast him in, and I got the Highlanders from Brilliance - so I guess we're even!).
KMM: Can you take us through the process of narrating a new book from the time you are solicited to narrate it, to the finished product? For instance, do you read the book first and accept or decline the job? Do you make up and practice the various voices before you go into the studio and begin recording? Have you ever had to narrate a book you didn't like, and was difficult?
PG: Well, ideally you would be asked to do a book, then have some time, say a week, to read it and make style choices for the narrative and character voices. You would consult with your Director and other higher-ups to make these decisions. Ideally. Unfortunately, that's rarely the case. Usually, the actor is read a brief synopsis by the casting director, is given a date to record... and after inevitable delays and schedule changes, you spend the night before the recording in your hotel room cramming like you are going to take the SAT's the next day! That's why most of us become very good cold readers and can augment a big range of stock characters as a starting point for the books. It's maddening, but actually kind of fun, if you learn to enjoy that roller coaster ride. I admit, some of my best work was done without the luxury of time... less "over thinking" the part, I guess. As for the last question - yes and yes.
KMM: Before you narrated my Highlander series, had you ever narrated a romance novel before and, if so, do you mind telling us what was your first?
PG: I think... in fact I'm almost positive... that Beyond the Highland Mist was my first romance title. My romance virginity, so to speak. So, I was spoiled from the start!
KMM: If my Highlanders were your first foray into the genre - I've shared my skepticism about a man narrating my books - how did you you feel about taking on the job?
PG: Honestly... sort of the same as you. A bit skeptical. Sorry! But as a guy, when you hear, "This girl goes back in time and meets this big Scots dude with a big Scots, uh, castle. Then they fall for each other, but they don't admit it, and in the end they do. Oh, and there's Fairies." Well. I thought, at least I get to do some Scottish voices. In fact, it was I that assigned the handle "Kilt Lifters" to the genre (as opposed to "bodice rippers"). But then I read it. And To Tame..., and I thought, "OK, I was really wrong. There's so much more here." The depth of the story, the fully realized characters... They had heartfelt love, hot sex, complex plots and were so very, very funny! The humor and real characters really sold me, and I'm glad to say I was a pig-headed brute proven wrong. BTW, we still call them Kilt Lifters, but with genuine affection!
KMM: You gave all my Highlanders wonderfully distinct voices, to the point where when they're all in the room together, I can easily tell who's speaking without the tag lines. Wow! How did you do that?
PG: Thank you! That all comes from the way you describe these men, the clues you give about them and the situations they're in. I could go character by character and describe my take on them, but I'll stick to a couple of examples. Hawk was an educated King in a time of peace - relaxed, in charge, sensual and smart. Drustan was no-nonsense, practical and proud, a warrior-leader with many responsibilities (some self-imposed.) Cian was a great brute. Many primitive and animal tendencies which he never wanted to contain. The tough ones were my two versions of Grimm and three versions of Adam Black (Damn Fae!). I tried to keep the same basic truths as Highlanders for all the characters, but let the situations they were in and the need for them to be separate individuals dictate how I did the voices. I held solid mental pictures the entire time.
KMM: Did you have a favorite Highlander man or couple within my series, and, if so, who and why? Was there a Highlander you would have enjoyed being? A favorite secondary character?
PG: That's so hard to say! My favorite is always the one I'm working on at the time. I liked Grimm. And Dageus, because he had the whole extremely cool thing going on. Also, because I certainly have good conscience/bad conscience issues myself. Adam Black after he is "neutered" by the Fae, was a fun challenge in giving him an ancient Irish/druid/alien speech pattern. Cian and Sin, with the raw sex appeal right out front appealed to my passionate nature. I liked all the women, though it's hard for me to go back and listen now. I think my female voices have markedly improved in the... wow, is it a year? ...since I finished the series. I respected the fact that they were all very smart, strong individuals. I love their individual quirks; Chloe's babbling and hiccoughing when she's excited, for example. The men and women all mesh into such a tight little world, it's hard to think of them as separate entities - more like one big family.
Would I like to be one of the Highlanders? You mean, be "Well over 6 1/2 feet tall, have ropes of corded muscle and enough raw sex appeal to drop a horse at 100 yards?" Nah... what man would want that?? LOL! If I had to pick, I think I'd go with Dageus or Drustan because they get to live in the time of indoor plumbing, and Dageus has the coolest NY apartment. My friends who know the series say I definitely have a streak of Adam Black in me. As for secondary characters, it's Sylvan and Nell, hands down. He is so sweet, wise, and funny. Nell was a perfect foil and companion for him. They were a wonderful and solid base to help counter the madness all around them, and I'd love to have grandparents like them. I also liked Grimm's family; because I think it was the first time I tried to drop Sean Connery and Patrick Stewart into the fray!
KMM: Would you mind sharing a little more with us about Phil Gigante, the man behind the sexy voice responsible for what so many of my fans have begun calling ear-gasms, or ear-gasmic experiences? I hear you're involved with theatre? What do you do?
PG: Hmmm... I'm an Aries, I like animals, long walks on the beach and naughty pictures... no, wait, let me start over. I've been in the theatre forever, it seems. I love the immediacy of the stage, and the fact that no two performances are alike. I've worked with some great companies doing Shakespeare, musicals, modern drama and children's theatre. I've done radio, TV, film and commercials... but I always come back to the stage. I started two theatre companies, Gigantic Productions and Little Giant Children's Theatre, and ran them in Chicago for a dozen years. I recently moved them to my new Midwest location, and we strive to support charity causes with our work, such as breast cancer research, women's shelters and children's centers.
I love living in a "rural" setting, where I can keep my private life private, and have bubble baths out on the deck under the stars. I built a recording studio at home, so I don't have to commute as often - but I do get the "big city jones" occasionally. Comes from having attended school in New York when I was 18 and had a death wish, I guess. I'm a book junkie, though I don't get to read for pleasure as often as I like now. I'm flattered about the "ear-gasm" thing. It says to me, Karen, that your writing is really hot... you've tapped into some wonderful fantasies for your readers; heck, I admit I got excited performing those scenes myself. I love passion and love and eroticism in all its aspects. I'm happy that my reading made those aspects a bit more live for your fans. But... I still blush. A lot. I guess it's my Southern upbringing!
Phil, you've made more than a few of us blush, too! For a long time, you've been the disembodied, impossibly sexy voice of my Highlanders, and it's been a delight to discover that the man behind those fabulous voices is every bit as fun, bawdy, sexy, talented and wonderful as the men he portrays. I hereby induct you an honorary Highlander! Thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule performing and recording to talk with us.
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