Author: Alex Callister
Narrator: Ell Potter
Series: The Winter Series, Book 4
Length: 11 hours 34 minutes
Publisher: Audible Originals
Released: Apr. 7, 2022
For fans of Lee Child, Robert Ludlum and Stieg Larsson, comes the exhilarating fourth instalment of the Winter series, winner of Audible’s Thriller of the Year 2019. If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster…. Firestorm is down – the assassin for hire website that had the world by its throat, gone. Alek Konstantin, king of the underworld, is in hiding. But while the world celebrates, Winter is bracing for what must surely follow. All the world’s cut-throats, assassins and thugs are unemployed, roaming the globe without a leader – and nature abhors a vacuum. Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken…. Something’s not right, and it’s not only that Winter’s body is in pieces. A boy held captive. An attempted assassination. Thirty men gunned down in rural South Wales. What sinister hand is directing these events, and to what end? GCHQ is a place of secrets, and they follow Winter everywhere. There is so much she must conceal, and Control is keeping something from her, something vital about her past. As she crashes towards the ultimate showdown, Winter faces the hardest decision of her life – and she must ask herself the question – whose side is she really on?
Alex is an action movie fan and her books are full of cult references and movie one-liners. Her kick-ass heroine, Winter, was inspired by Bond, Bourne, John Wick, Vin Diesel, Jack Reacher and many others. She has a history degree, a certificate in creative writing and a murderous imagination. She writes when she gets a chance, which is mainly at night between 10pm and 2am at home in London, with her three Bengal tigers. Her debut WINTER DARK was the Audible UK Thriller of the Year and was a finalist at the Audies in 2020.
Q&A with Narrator Ell Potter
- A lot of narrators seem to have a background in theatre. Is that something you think is essential to a successful narration career?
- I don’t think having a background in theatre is essential to audiobook narration, but it can definitely help. When you’re narrating, you’re doing all the imaginative work to bring an entire ‘production’ to life – to follow the metaphor, you’re painting the set, you’re adjusting the lights, you’re bringing the characters in on cue. Working in theatre gets you accustomed to living in a fictional world, holding multiple storylines in your head, accessing different characters, voices, and attitudes at a moment’s notice.
- How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for narrating?
- Having time off from reading is really important! Which is difficult, because I’m a bookworm, so being in a book is my happy place. But sometimes you just gotta give your eyes a rest. If I have a heavy stint of audiobook recording – a book a week, for a few weeks in a row – I try to make sure I have other work lined up for afterwards. I love writing after I’ve done a stint of narration, because you learn so much from reading other people’s work, it always feels like ideas are teeming to get out. If I’m craving diving into a book, I try to pick a totally different genre to the one I’m next narrating, so it feels like more of an escape.
- Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
- I hate to say this, but I’m not! I find it hard to turn off my ‘narration’ / ‘work’ brain when I’m listening: I don’t find it as relaxing as others might. I’m thinking ‘ooh, I love what the narrator did there’, ‘love that accent choice’, ‘I wonder how long that took’. I’m listening out for the edits and wondering how many pickups (misreads) they had. I love audio as a medium though. It’s so intimate; you’re right there with someone; they’re a companion, a friend. Though I don’t listen to many audiobooks, I am addicted to podcasts; I think intimacy is a similarity between the two formats.
- What are your favorite and least favorite parts of narrating an audiobook?
- My favourite part of narrating changes depending on the specifics of each project. But the one consistent thing which I love is narrating the credits! It sounds silly, but I always leave the intro / outro till last, so it’s the final thing I do on a project. There’s this feeling of finality, of closing. Saying ‘All Rights Reserved’ fills me with deep satisfaction.
- My least favourite part is in the research phase, where I look up the pronunciations of words I’m not entirely sure on. Sometimes this can be exciting – I get to learn a new word! – but sometimes it’s a word I really should know how to pronounce, but I’ve forgotten, or I don’t trust the fact that I haven’t been saying it wrong my entire life (haha! it’s surprising how often this happens).
- How closely do you prefer to work with authors?
- There’s no set way I like to work with authors. Sometimes I never hear anything from them – and what I enjoy about that is there’s this mutual trust between us. The book does all the talking for itself; I’m just the conduit for that story. Everything I need to know already exists in the text.
- But I also love the more collaborative approach some authors take – Alex being a case in point! During her writing process I might get an email from Alex asking me how I feel about a particular accent; we go back and forth about what might sound best, what might feel most comfortable. This way of working is so much fun, and makes me feel like Alex is really thinking about, and caring for, the experience of how the story will sound. It’s pretty special!
- Have there been any characters that you really connected with?
- In the Winter books I have such a soft spot for Simon. A classic example of how Alex’s accent-checks help me connect to a character: we decided Simon would come from Aberdeen, where my family is from. I also love that he’s an absolute nerd. In the glitz and glamour of Winter’s world, he’s a relatable anchor in reality.
- What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
- F**ck off!
- I joke, but genuinely – it is reading. The earliest stories were all told by word-of-mouth. Plus, it’s really accessible! And what have we learned over the past eighteen months? Accessibility is really important!
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