Author: Maria Grace
Narrator: Benjamin Fife
Length: 9 hours 38 minutes
Series: Jane Austen’s Dragons, Book 2
Publisher: Maria Grace
Released: Dec. 4, 2019
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Darcy thought his problems were over when Pemberley hatched and successfully imprinted on humans. But baby dragons prove far more difficult than any dragon lore prepared him for. Only Elizabeth Bennet’s notes offer him any help. When his imperious Aunt Catherine takes matters into her own hands, things take a turn for the worse and Pemberley’s life hangs in the balance. He desperately needs more of Elizabeth’s help, but she ignores all of his requests.
Elizabeth, though, has problems of her own. After the Bennet family dragon sent Pemberley away, life at Longbourn was supposed to return to normal and Elizabeth get on with the all-important business of marrying the heir to her father’s estate. Except that he is the last man in the world whom she could ever be prevailed on to marry – a bumbling, addle-pated dragon-hater who demands she gives up the dragons she lives for.
Can she, with the help of her dragon friends, find her way back to Pemberley before they both suffer their fate from the Dragon Entail?
Jane Austen meets Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern. A must-listen for Pern fans.
Five time BRAG Medallion Honoree and #1 best selling Historical Fantasy author, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time. She writes gaslamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction.
Benjamin Fife has always had a passion for learning. With a mind that remembers all sorts of numbers and useless trivia, he regularly wins local radio shows and enjoys confusing people with sci-fi quotes.
Fife grew up in Southeast Idaho. He attended college at Idaho State University, where he met his future wife in their music theory class. They have been married nearly 20 years and now have six children and a whole menagerie of animals. When their oldest daughter was three or four years old they started reading aloud from novels every night at bedtime, and have continued the tradition ever since. The family loves exploring various worlds and topics through Fife’s wonderful reading skills, which get better every year. They all have his Christmas Carol voices memorized (and the older kids are known to quote along with portions), since he has read it to them every December.
Benjamin enjoys all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy – both books and shows, is an extreme eclectic music lover, and prefers his chocolate to be of the 90% cocoa variety. Above all, he loves to be with his family. He loves recording audio books, and is delighted to tell people, “I’ve finally found what I want to be when I grow up!”
Q&A with Narrator Benjamin Fife
- When did you know you wanted to be an audiobook narrator?
- Going way back to 8th grade (‘92?) – in my speech class we were required to do a read aloud from a book for the class. I chose the novelization of The Empire Strikes back & did the iconic scene where Darth Vader reveals (SPOILER ALERT) he is Luke’s father. I did it complete with a jar for the Vader echo. Still love that scene. Fast forward a few years & when I met my wife, we started reading aloud to each other. I started thinking about doing it then (early 2000’s), but life was busy happening. We had our first kid in 2003 & from about the time she was 5 or 6 years old, we’ve taken turns picking what we wanted to read as a family every night. We’ve read silly, serious, Fiction, non fiction. I found it somewhat maddening when I read Jane Eyre to the kids – The oldest couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12 – and the two oldest girls were able to guess the plot points before they happened. Right down to (Spoiler alert) “I Bet his wife will jump off the Roof.” Though we do sometimes take turns, I’ve probably read 4/5ths of the books at least. I didn’t really know how to get into doing audiobook narration, but I knew it was something I wanted to do.
- How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?
- Almost exactly 2 years ago, I got home from work one day & my wife said, “Hey, you should check out this ACX thing.” That night I set up my account. The next day I attended an uncle’s funeral. When one of my cousin’s I hadn’t seen for probably a decade asked me what I’ve been doing, after the normal update of job, kids etc, on a whim I said “And I narrate Audiobooks.” My first official audition was for one of his books (Prior to the conversation, I didn’t know he was an author). For the record – My audition was abysmal & he thankfully went with a different narrator – however, next month I’m recording Walls of Glass for him (J.W. Elliot) My audition for that one he said was head and shoulders above anything else he got.
- Did you find it difficult to “break into” audiobook narration? What skill/tool helped you the most when getting started?
- Short answer – No, not really. I would say the best tool & skill that has helped me to move forward continually & exponentially, is passion though. I LOVE narrating. I LOVE storytelling & bringing books to life. My wife told me I should put on here years & years of practice as well.
- A lot of narrators seem to have a background in theatre. Is that something you think is essential to a successful narration career?*
- I took Drama for 3 years in High School & I’ve always had a dramatic flare. I’ve never been cast for more than a bit part though, but it’s also not something I’ve ever tried to actively pursue. The acting ability of a narrator is essential however, and now that I am narrating, I’m using a lot of the skills I developed in Kay Jenkins’ Drama class more than 20 years ago. I’ve also always enjoyed improv games that I initially learned in that class. There are 2 main schools of thought I’ve found in audiobook narration – That of the “Strait read” or that of the “Characterized Read.” I’ve listened to both & by far I prefer the latter, but my imagination can fill in the blanks on a strait read as well.
- What type of training have you undergone?
- Aside from my 3 years in drama studying dialects & the 12 guideposts, I sang in choirs in college at Idaho State University & University of Idaho – both under some brilliant conductors – Scott Anderson (ISU), Rager Moore (U of I), and Dan Buckvich (U of I). Scott & Rager’s rehearsals were more of a group vocal lesson. Dan’s was in a VERY large jazz choir & he was amazing at getting hundreds of people to enunciate incredibly clearly. Years later, my wife & I ran a music store and I had a number of private lessons with Paul Harms, who had been principle tenor of the LA opera theatre for many years. Paul was a very nuts & bolts vocal instructor.
- How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for narrating?
- I haven’t gotten incredibly burned out on anything yet. Sometimes I get a little bored in the editing process. If I do find myself getting burned out on something, I’ll take a break from it. I also find a good way to keep my skills up & enthusiasm up is to keep auditioning for new titles. The downside of that (sort of) is that if I get selected for all of them, I’ll be booked for a decade or so. But I also don’t audition for something unless it interests me at least a little.
- Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
- ABSOLUTELY! When my wife & I were in college, we delivered newspapers ridiculously early & would frequently check out books on tape from the library. I’ve gone up & down with listening, much more UP of late. My day job is a 40 minute commute, so it’s perfect for listening. When I can the dayjob, I’m going to be healthier though, because I still want my listening time so I’ll be walking for that time each day instead. I’ve listened primarily to classics on Librivox up until recently (in the last 2 years I’ve listened to or read the complete works of Charles Dickens). I now am trying to listen to an audiobook a week from a newer narrator/author. I try to review everything I read & listen to, so I listen to at least some of it at 1x speed. If it’s non-fiction, I’ll pump the speed up to about 1.9 & if it’s fiction I listen at about 1.3.
- What are your favorite and least favorite parts of narrating an audiobook?
- I hate waiting. (Inigo, Princess Bride). Waiting to find out if I get picked for the book, waiting for my schedule to free up so I can get to the one I REALLY want to narrate, waiting for the author to get me back any changes, waiting for ACX to approve it & make it live, waiting to see if anybody likes it.
- I pretty well love everything else though. But I’m not incredibly fond of when an author is Uber picky in the editing process. I did one (no disclosure here as to what it was/ who wrote it, etc) that if I read “Said [character]” instead of “[Character] said,” they wanted me to fix it. In that book the author gave me basically one correction a minute, some of which were due to their writing errors. Not gonna lie, I got burned out on that title. That being said, I think my accuracy has improved from the experience.
- What would you say are your strongest narration abilities?
- I’m a really good storyteller. I love doing it & creating characters with the author. One thing I like to do with authors is kind of assemble who they would cast as such and such a character. With this series, we just kind of went with the BBC production cast & created the dragons as unique characters – Though come book 3 – Thalia is kind of channeling James T Kirk a little. One of my favorite minor characters I ever voiced in a book was Rabbi Wheaton in Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He was Ben Stein as a Rabbi. Feel free to check it out.
- What’s next for you?
- Preserve, Protect & Defend – by Cameron Taylor
- Their Greatest Game – Chronicles of Theren book II by C.D. Tavenor
- Gather the Children (Book II from Earthbound) by Mari Collier
- Walls of Glass by J.W. Elliot – This is by my cousin & is a great book designed to tear down barriers.
- A Proper introduction to Dragons (Jane Austen’s Dragons prequel)
- The Fringe Candidate by Bradford Swift
- Those are the ones I’m currently under contract for at least. I’m definitely looking forward to Maria Graces dragon treatment of Persuasion that will be coming out this spring we hope. I might push a project or two down the line to squeeze it in when she’s ready. There’s a lot more in the pipeline beyond that too. Currently in talks with one author about doing a 12 book series he wrote 30 years ago.
- And the other thing that is on the “what’s next for you” horizon. Quitting the Dayjob. That’s been my goal from 2 years ago & in the last year, I’ve waffled a bit about how soon, but I’m on the sooner rather than later side of things & I’m blessed with a partner who is incredibly supportive of me in this. A little over a year ago, I was feeling a little down because I hadn’t landed anything new recently & I got my royalty check from one month for like $5. I asked her if she was really ok with my still going with it. She told me she’s never seen me happier, so even if I never make anything with it, I’d better stick with it. She’s awesome.
- Bonus question: Any funny anecdotes from inside the recording studio?
- Speaking of Ms. Awesome… In the middle of narrating Longbourn – as Lizzie is fleeing Hertfordshire – I was rather into the narration at about 9:30 pm. My studio is a converted prebuilt shed outside our home (If anyone can guess why I call it Rex Iter studio, let me know & I’ll send you a free code to ALL of my books that I still have codes for). It has one little window right off of where I stand to record. So, emotionally fraught chapter, dark & quiet outside. My studio is not quite soundproof, so I’ll hear the occasional thing happening outside. I heard a couple of little bumps or something. So my subconcious brain is going, “If it affects the audio, I can do a retake, but I’m doing really well with this part and will just push on through.” Then I hear the bump-tapping again & look up. Ms. Awesome with Gowron Eyes watching me in the window. Normally, I scream like a girl when startled. What got recorded is a cry of utter terror, followed by her coming in & laughter. Enjoy. This just sums up our relationship. https://soundcloud.com/user-29643215/lonbourn-blooper-reel
Narrator Benjamin Fife’s ‘Top 10 Reasons for Voicing Jane Austen’s Dragons’
- I love being able to do British accents.
- I love Jane Austen
- I love Classics
- I love Dragons
- I love stories that mash 2 things together that wouldn’t normally be found alongside each other.
- I frequently will use “head Canon” to explain in my brain how many things that are traditionally thought of as fiction, could in fact be fact. Stargate. Star Trek. Wizarding World. The Free Kingdoms. Dragons. The Force. All True. Pemberly is still alive & runs the Westminster Dog show with the Darcy’s Descendants.
- Maria Grace’s Writing is Superb.
- I blame Sherilynn. She introduced me to Jane Austen.
- Timothy Zahn hasn’t called me yet to record his books.
- Being able to voice Dragons is positively delightful. How can anyone resist?
Prize: Custom Statue of the Dragon ‘Pemberly’
Plugging you into the audio community since 2016.
Sign up as a tour host here.