Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz: Q&A with Audiobook Narrator Scott Brick
By Crime HQJanuary 22, 2021
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What do you love about the Orphan X series?
Scott Brick: I adore the Orphan X series primarily because it surprises me, every damn time. Part of the joy of reading mystery/thrillers, whether for pleasure or professionally, is trying to guess the outcome. We love it when we do that, right? It’s so satisfying! But I’ve never guessed the ending of an OX title. And I love that.
You narrate many thriller series. What sets Orphan X apart?
SB: The Pinocchio theme. Evan is trying to become a real boy, a crazy talented operative who’s desperately trying to embrace the humanity he had to turn his back on years ago in order to get his work done. And even more than that, almost everyone else in his life is as equally damaged as he, whether that’s a primary supporting player like Joey, or even the victims he helps, like Trevon Gaines. Evan learns how to be human by helping people who desperately need him to be more than human when he’s fighting for them. I love everything about this series.
You and Gregg are friends beyond your professional work together in the Orphan X series. Does your close relationship help to influence the book and audiobook?
SB: I think so, primarily because it gives me insight into his sense of humor, which is key in a series like this. It also gives me the ability to call him up in a panic from the studio when I can’t understand something. One time he wrote out lyrics of a made-up song and I was supposed to sing it, but I was clueless about how that was supposed to sound. Turns out it was a song his daughters had made up, so he took my call, said “Hang on a second,” and patched his wife in on the call. I put the call on speakerphone, started my recording software so I could review it again later, and felt truly grateful afterward. Putting a song your children created into print is a lovely thing, and when it’s read aloud, it should be done right, and Gregg and his wife helped me do that.
How do you prepare ahead of reading an Orphan X audio?
SB: My primary concern in this series is reading the obscure foreign vodka brand names correctly, as well as all the armament and ammunition. For instance, many times I’ve come across the phrase “00 buck,” but nobody says “zero zero buck,” they say “double ought buck,” and anyone familiar with guns would know that, so if I say it incorrectly it would take the listener right out of the experience we’re trying so hard to create. Gregg always invokes the most recent tech, and every time he does, I have to hire a researcher who does the hard work of finding out how the hell they’re supposed to be pronounced…!
Who else, besides Gregg Hurwitz, influenced you in molding the voice of Evan Smoak in the Orphan X series?
SB: Well, Gregg primarily, of course. Other than that, I always treat the main character of any book I work on as though it were me. How would I react if I found myself in these same nutty circumstances…? So, crazy as it sounds, Evan will always sound like me. But in addition to that, voices are created based on emotional need. Are they stressed, are they terrified, are they in love? Each of those things makes you sound unique, so that’s what I focus on. Evan is broken, as are we all, so that’s typically something I try to focus on, empathize with, in order to sound more human.
What is something the listeners of the series may not know about Evan Smoak?
SB: Haha! Oh, I wish there were something obscure or salacious that I could share, but really, what’s in the book is what’s on the audio. People who listen to the series may not be aware, however, that I cannot recreate the voice of Evan Smoak unless I have Gregg’s text in front of me. Fans have asked me to improvise something he might say just on the spur of the moment, but I cannot do it unless I’m reading Gregg’s text. It’s an instinctive thing, Evan only shows up in my little studio under my stairs when Gregg writes words for him.
Do you have a favorite character to voice?
SB: Tommy Stojack, hands down, easily the character I have the most fun with. He doesn’t suffer fools, but he has a wonderful bond with Evan, and more recently with Joey, and I love every bit of that. He cracks me up every single time he shows up, and I’ve begged Gregg to write an entire novel from his perspective, but thus far he’s blithely refused, but, whatever. Also, Ida Rosenbaum is a close second. She too doesn’t suffer fools, and winds up making Evan feel like a fool every time they meet. Many times I’ve ruined takes because she makes me laugh so much.
What are some of your favorite scenes you’ve narrated in the previous books?
SB: There’s a marvelous scene in Out of the Dark that I just couldn’t get through without sobbing. Trevon Gaines is high-functioning, but he is clearly on the spectrum, clearly dealing with a serious mental disability, and suffered a devastating loss that he was unable to handle without Evan’s help. There’s a scene where he asks Evan to stay with him until he falls asleep, and Evan is completely uncomfortable doing so, he’s completely incapable of being there for someone emotionally. But it was one of those scenes where someone who’s broken helps Evan, who is equally broken, become more human. That scene absolutely wrecked me. Even remembering it makes me cry.
Without revealing any spoilers, why is Prodigal Son different from the first 5 books in the series?
SB: Gregg has a wonderful ability to make us question exactly what it is that constitutes family. Is it the people we share blood with, or is family the people we choose? My own family is quite complicated, spread far and wide, and Prodigal Son showed me things I never considered before. Seriously, working on this series is a gift, and every volume takes my breath away.
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