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The Independent (UK) May 8th, 2014

Here’s an interesting article from one of the major UK national daily newspapers – The Independent.  It’s based on an interview with Don Katz, the founder of but Simon Usbourne also interviewed me and a few lines get quoted later on.

See the full article by clicking here

“…The process starts before recording with thorough reading. “Mantel makes reference later in the book to Henry VIII’s slightly high-pitched voice,” Vance, who’s 58, says. “I have to take that into account from the start because in my mind he had the voice of Richard Burton.” Some writers try to read their own works. “John le Carré is one of the great narrators,” Katz says. “Others try it and say, get me a pro!” Vance says great satisfaction comes with a good review by an author. “I’ve heard them say listening to their own book, it’s like someone else wrote it – they hear it in a different way,” he says…”

Comments { 1 } – March 17th, 2014

Here’s a link to a great article on that I worked on with the author of A Burnable Book, Bruce Holsinger.  The book is available for download on

The article is titled The Voice of the Poets: The life and work of an audiobook narrator. Click on that title to bring up the article.

There’s even a recording on the page of Bruce and me giving voice to the article!

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New York Times Sunday Review – Feb 23rd, 2014


Click on the link above to read this delightful piece and although it doesn’t mention me by name it’s clear that the author has listened to and enjoyed Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel.


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Huff Post and Mill Valley Literary Review – June 18th, 2013

Jeb Harrison called me a couple of months ago and asked if I’d be happy to talk with him about my work.  The results can be seen in a short interview on the Huffington Post website with a more fuller version of the conversation to be found in the more local (to me) Mill Valley Literary Review – in which he also spends time chatting to my friend and local narrator Paul Costanza.

The Huffington Post article is accessible here:

The Mill Valley Literary Review can be found here:


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San Jose Mercury News – May 30th, 2013

A nice article by Lou Fancher at the San Jose Mercury news.  A few weeks back I gave a talk at Lafayette Libraray not far from my home and clearly Lou was in the audience… Click here for his (her?) report.

A few things didn’t quite make a true path from my mouth to the article – not least the 456 Sherlock Holmes stories I had to record… that’s 4 full length novels and 56 short stories… That’s all there are.  But it’s generally accurate and I appreciate the attention it brings to audiobooks. 🙂

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New York Times Book Review – May 17th, 2013

This is from a a column on audiobooks written by John Schwartz of the New York Times:

After I finished the Dickens, I downloaded Hilary Mantel’s majestic “Bring Up the Bodies,” and was pleasantly surprised to hear Vance’s gentle and authoritative voice once again. It was like running into an old friend and knowing that we were about to have a long and satisfying visit.

To read the whole article click on the title here – When Words Sing

You can read about the author John Schwartz by clicking here.


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San Francisco Chronicle “What I Do” – 14th May, 2013

SFChronCharacters come to life in his voice

By Edward Guthmann

   At various moments, Simon Vance is an ingenue, a pompous Dickensian headmaster, the vampire Lestat or Anne Boleyn.    Vance is an audiobook narrator who in 30 years has recorded more than 600 books. He doesn’t commute to a studio but works at home: recording his narration in a soundproof booth, editing his own work at a digital-audio workstation.    A native of Brighton, England, Vance came to the United States in 1992. He has two sons, 18 and 23, from a past marriage and lives with his wife, Cynthia Bassham, in Concord. He has six Audie Awards, an annual prize given by the Audio Publishers Association.

There’s a great art to narrating an audiobook. It’s much more than just sounding good. You need to have an actor’s sensibility: the ability to empathize with the characters you’re reading about. To inhabit them.

You’re not just reading the words off a page, and if that’s all you think it is, then you’re deeply underestimating what’s needed.

A common mistake beginning narrators make, because they hear this on the radio, is to emphasize too many words. I call it sportscaster intonation. It should be conversational, very gentle. You need to back off and not get between the pictures the author created and the pictures you want the listener to have.

I record three to four hours each day. I’m normally in the studio by 8:30 or 9 o’clock. I record for an hour and a bit, then take a break where I bring the file into the office and edit. I’ll read the paper a bit, answer e-mail. Come back and do another hour. Then another break, and an hour of recording in the afternoon.

I read off an iPad and record in a soundproof booth with double-wall insulation. The window in that room has triple glazing. My microphone is a Neumann U87, which you’d find in any professional sound or music studio. There’s a pop screen to soften the p’s and protect the microphone. I always wear headphones, one ear on and one ear off so I can hear the atmosphere in the room.

I generally do about one book a week. With days off for other acting jobs and obligations, that’s probably 40 a year. The average book takes anywhere from eight to 15 hours to record. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was 18 to 20. “The Count of Monte Cristo” was 45 hours.

One of the advantages of recording at home is that if I make a mistake, it’s on my time and no one else’s. I used to occasionally be called into New York studios to record, but it’s cheaper for them if I do it here. And they know that I’m a good self-director.

I began 21 years ago in the audiobook industry. Before that, I was reading books for the blind at the Royal National Institute for the Blind in London. In the early days of the industry, that’s how just about all the audiobook narrators got started.

My first recording studio was in the corner of a garage in Walnut Creek, using two cassette decks. I did the editing by stopping the tape, running it back and then dropping it into Record. It was primitive. I went from that to a digital audiotape machine, and then in the mid-’90s I started recording onto a hard drive on the computer.

In 2001 the business exploded with MP3s. The digital-download revolution changed everything. That was when it was possible to make a good living in the business. I was finally able to buy a house.

Preparation can be the most time-consuming and least-rewarding part of the process. There are several parts to it. Comprehending the story. Understanding the writer’s style: does he use a lot of big words, long sentences or paragraphs, a lot of sub-clauses? And of course checking for pronunciation of words.

I’d rather be performing. But, like acting on stage, you need to be familiar with the story before you stand up and present it.    With nonfiction, I generally don’t read the entire text. Sometimes I even sight-read, which is a skill I developed as a BBC newsreader. With fiction, especially mysteries or thrillers, it’s essential to have an understanding of who the good guys and bad guys are.

The book I’m about to embark on is a light murder mystery in the Agatha Christie style. There’s a rather complicated family structure in a classic English upper-class home. So I’m going to draw a family tree — with servants, as well — so that I can picture where everybody stands.

Nearly all the books I narrate are fiction. For the vast majority, I’m the solo narrator. But I also do multiple-voice productions, with other actors playing different characters. On “Dracula,” I’m one of nine narrators including Tim Curry and Alan Cumming.

Recently I was asked where I get character voices from. I get them from watching and listening. TV shows, radio. And just the fact that I always played. My dad gave me a tape recorder in the ’60s, and I started doing silly voices into a microphone and never stopped. I’m still doing that.

Edward Guthmann is a Bay Area freelance writer

Comments { 3 } Article by Laura Miller

This article appeared in April of 2013 on the website – As well as reviewing the audiobook of Guy Gavriel Kay’s wonderful latest work ‘River of Stars‘ she also explains why she enjoys my narration: Article by Laura Miller

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USA Today March 14th, 2013

This is a review by Deidre Donahue in USA Today for the audiobook of Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel : USA Today Audiobook review 

I shall also quote here from the description for this book on the Whole Story Audiobooks purchase page:

Hilary Mantel describes the audio version of Bring Up The Bodies, narrated by Simon Vance:

‘Bring Up The Bodies is a text which sets out to multiply ambiguities… This version deploys a large cast of characters with skill and clarity. Simon Vance is expert in differentiating the men and women of the Tudor court and capturing their personalities. His reading is both tender and energetic. As if by telepathy, he has preserved the rhythm of the text as I heard it when I wrote it. No author could hope for a more faithful and imaginative audio version.’

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Dickens’ Copperfield and Simon Vance by Orson Scott Card

Back in February of 2010 the author Orson Scott Card astonished me by writing an article in his local paper explaining how listening to the audiobook of a Dickens classic had opened his eyes to the greatness of this author: Article written by Orson Scott Card


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