Why did you decide to record the Henty historical novels?
There are 5 primary reasons, the first of which is that they tell very accurate history. I have checked numerous Henty stories against my encyclopedia and online resources and often found that there was little in those sources that I hadn't already learned from Henty. Secondly, Henty is a great storyteller. His stories are always full of action and adventure! Thirdly, Henty provides excellent role models, particularly for young men. They are always honest and brave, have initiative and courage, and are respectful and honoring to their authorities. Young men listening to the recordings will aspire to be like them. Young women aspire to find someone like them! I've been in contact with a member of the Henty Historical Society who has confirmed that Henty was indeed a professing Christian. I can tell you from personal experience that it is obvious when you read Henty novels that he PRESUMES his audience is Christian also. In the two ancient history titles I've recorded (Beric the Briton and For the Temple) the protagonist and his family are so impressed with the Christians they have come in contact with, and the writings of their adherents, that he and his family convert to Christianity at the end of the book. In all other titles, the protagonist already is a Christian! In the fourth place, I chose Henty because he wrote like an Englishman of the 19th century would write. His use of the English language is quite advanced and his vocabulary is vast. So much so that some paragraphs I've read turned out to be one sentence, and it seems every page has at least 5 to 10 upper level vocabulary words. I am pretty well read, and have encountered words used by Henty that I've never heard before and had to look up myself. And finally, I desire to do what I can to inspire a generation of Mighty Men of Valor so often called up to do battle in the Old Testament. Today's warriors are not always the ones wearing battle fatigues or desert camouflage, they are committed to remaining married no matter what, who will be actively engaged in their church and communities, who are excellent role models for their children, and who say no to temptation. We need Mighty Men of Valor in our government, families, businesses, communities, and even our churches. My sincerest prayer is that all young men who read or listen to Henty historical novels will desire to become Mighty Men of Valor.
What age group would you recommend these recordings for?
I would not recommend the Henty novel recordings for anyone UNDER the age of 10. Most 10-year-olds, I believe, are perfectly capable of enjoying, understanding, and being able to follow an unabridged recorded edition of a Henty historical novel. This is not based on some scientific study I've done, it's just a homeschooling dad's suspicion, combined with a modicum of reason. Now, I have heard some pretty amazing stories about 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds enjoying the recordings, but I think they are the exception and not the rule. If you want your children to begin READING the Henty historical novels, I would not recommend beginning until they are at least 13 years old.
Which title is your favorite?
The answer to that question changes with time. As a businessman, my perennial favorites are my best sellers! Currently the top three best sellers are With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom's Cause, and True to the Old Flag. With Lee in Virginia does hold a place near and dear to my heart because it was the first recording I ever made of a Henty novel. Otherwise, my favorite title is the last one I released. I get so excited when I find a Henty novel that I like so much I'm willing to invest the time necessary to record, edit, and produce it that when it is finally released, I am REALLY excited about it, and it becomes my latest 'favorite.'
How do you decide which book to record next?
There are a few requirements a book must meet before I will record it. Quite frankly, it has to be a book that I believe will sell. If a product does not sell, then it's not much of a product! Secondly, it has to fit into a period of history that I believe the homeschooling market will benefit from. If the story is about some esoteric period of history that nobody has heard of, then it is not something I am interested in recording. Thirdly, and most importantly, I must like the story! I've put a number of Henty historical novels back on the shelf that fit the first two criteria, because I didn't particularly like the story. I won't tell you which ones, because I may read them again in the future and like them then! If I don't like the story, then I don't think I will be too likely to record it with the same excitement and interest that is required of a good audio book.
How long does it take you to record a book?
About three months from beginning to end. I actually read the book once to see if I like it. If I do, then I read it a second time, highlighting places, names and words that I want to make sure I pronounce correctly, and adding underlines, commas, etc to aid me in my recording. I type up a pronunciation guide of the highlighted words, and then research the proper pronunciation of them and type the words out phonetically. (My last pronunciation guide for By Right of Conquest was three pages long!!) Then I read the chapter silently before recording it out loud, then I read it out loud, and then I read it again when I am editing the recording to remove all the mistakes I make! This is a really intense, lengthy, thorough process, and that's why it takes me an average of three months to complete.
Why did you issue your recordings in the MP3 format instead of standard audio CDs?
Let me just start this section by saying: It is not a question of WHETHER you are going to buy an MP3 player, it's only a question of WHEN you buy an MP3 player. You are going to buy one sooner or later! But let me answer the question. This was a really difficult decision for me. Everybody has a CD player and since most cars have CD players too, I had many customers ask me to produce the recordings on CD. But when I looked in to what it would cost me to produce an unabridged recording of a Henty historical novel on regular audio CDs, I realized that I would have to charge AT LEAST $45 for a single audio book because it would take anywhere from 9-12 CDs! That's a lot of CDs! I know that Tantor Media and Blackstone charge these prices all the time, but I couldn't do it to my predominantly homeschooling customers. They just plain cannot afford that! So I began looking into the MP3 format. Did you know you can get a Walkman type MP3 CD player at Walmart for about $20? And that MP3 CDs will play on computer CD drives and most DVD players? And you can copy the files from the CD to your computer hard drive and download them onto an MP3 player, IPOD, or your phone? Technology is advancing so quickly, and becoming so affordable, that I thought I'd drag my customers along into the 21st century and produce the recordings on MP3.
How did you get started in this business?
I think I can thank my second grade teacher for my initial motivation. She asked me one day to read aloud a page out of a Dick and Jane book. If I recall correctly, the page went something like this: See Dick. See Dick run. Run Dick, run! See Dick run. Pretty exciting stuff huh? But what I did was read it like it really WAS exciting stuff. Just like everybody reads things in their heads….right? Well, my teacher was so impressed, and told me so, that she asked me if I would be willing to read another page. What young person doesn't want to do again what they were just told they did really well? And I was hooked. Many years later, when I was nearing the end of a 20-year Navy career, my wife and I were out on our weekly date night and she asked me matter-of-factly: What are you going to do after you retire? Well, I told her, I can always get a job on the nearby base (Tinker Air Force Base) or with the State of Oklahoma. I did personnel administration and office management for 20 years in the Navy, I have a Bachelor's Degree, I can get a job. Not a problem. Then she asked a magic question: If you could do anything you WANTED to do, and knew it would provide enough money to pay all the bills and all that, then what would you do? That was easy, I said: I'd record books! What!? she asked. You've never mentioned that before! Well, I never really thought it was possible so, no, I never mentioned it. Then she said some more magic words: Why don't we try it? And the rest is history. I began by recording a Horatio Alger novel, but the more I learned about him, and the more I felt compelled to cut certain passages from his books, I realized I did not want to record his books. But then I was introduced to Henty. I began by recording With Lee in Virginia in 1999 and producing 500 copies, which looked very nice all neatly stacked in my garage. But what to do with them? I started by contacting everyone I could find that sold the Henty books and offered them free samples. Everybody wanted that, and many became customers. And then Little Bear Wheeler (www.mantlemin.com) called and asked if I had recorded In Freedom's Cause. I had, but had not produced it yet as I still had 500 copies of With Lee in Virginia unsold. He listened to a sample of Lee, and ordered 500 copies of In Freedom's Cause. After faithfully recording and producing audio books for 5 years part time, I went full time in April 2004.
Is anyone else doing these books in audio format?
Yes. I checked recently and there are recording the Henty novels. Unabridged recordings can be had from Tantor Media and Blackstone Audio Books. Blackstone is actually producing my recordings now and making them available on Amazon and other physical CD outlets. Jim Weiss has recorded them also in an abridged format. If his recording speed is similar to mine, I calculate that he is removing approximately 25-30% of the original text. He is also simplifying Henty's vocabulary so it is easier to understand. His recordings are a great way to introduce younger listeners to Henty and he is a frequent guest at homeschooling conventions. You can find him at www.greathall.com.
I would love to begin recording books too. How do you do it?
First and foremost, as far as I'm concerned, is recording on your own as opposed to recording for hire to one of the big recording companies. I called a couple of them and they both began the discussion (and ended it I might add) by asking if I was willing to move to wherever they were. I was not interested in moving, so that ended that! You must find material to record that is out of copyright protection. There is an EXCELLENT resource available at http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm that quickly and easily explains how you can determine if a work is in the public domain or not. If you want to record a work that is still under copyright protection, you will need to contact the copyright owner, get permission to record it, and be prepared to be subject to approval of the recording and pay royalties if you want to market them. I decided not to even bother and went right to the public domain works. You will need a way and place to record. That means you will need a microphone, microphone stand and "spit" screen, a recording studio or sound recording/editing software (which assumes you have a computer), a CD burner, an ability to reproduce the recording in volume, packaging, artwork, etc. For a microphone, I was directed to the Shure SM-58 Model and have found it to be an excellent value. I purchased it, my stand and "Spit" screen from a company called Sweetwater Sound. They send me catalogs to this day so I know they are still in business. Their site is www.sweetwater.com For my sound recording software I chose Cool Edit Pro. The company that produced this software, Syntrillium, was bought out by Adobe and they have issued their own edition of CEP called Adobe Audition which I use now. For my "Recording Studio" I have variously used: a bathroom; a laundry room; a bedroom; and an office. I prefer the office. I don't have soundproofing on the walls, I have windows overlooking a nice 5 acre country property ½ an hour outside Oklahoma City. I have carpet. I have doors that close. And I have Cool Edit Pro to filter out all the background noise with the push of a button. Recording studios charge by the hour, editing is expensive too, and producing master tapes and CDs another expense altogether. If it is at all possible, record at home in your spare time. It is a labor of love for me and is not work at all. In fact…I never go to work anymore. There are plenty of ways to duplicate your own CDs. You can buy the hardware to do that from a company called Kingdom Tapes at www.kingdom.com. Frankly, I don't bother. I have a wonderful relationship with my tape and CD duplicating shop nearby where I used to live in Norman, Oklahoma. The company name is Spectrum Manufacturing. They have a website www.spectrumcd.com, but the best way to find out about them is by calling and asking for a catalog. It is entirely likely that you can find CD duplicators closer to home, but I am so thrilled with the quality look of my product and professional work done by them, I am giving them a plug.