Staring at Travis Baldree across from my iced Mocha was a bit surreal, especially with my son and husband by my side gawking at the curly-haired man sipping his Americano.
To the others sitting in the coffee shop, this was just another man sitting in Ladder Coffee that day. But, to us, Travis Baldree was THE man sitting in Ladder Coffee that day.
Mr. Baldree is a book narrator for hundreds of published works. He’s currently slated to voice 250 others and is booked out until 2026. As of right now, Baldree is most well-known for his narration of New York Times bestselling Kindle author Will Wight’s “Cradle” series, which includes 11 books so far.
My son is 10 and has listened to hundreds of hours of Baldree reading the “Cradle” series. At this age, that means he’s listened to my voice the most, then my husband’s and then Baldree – Most nights, my son falls asleep to the sound of Baldree voicing different characters in the “Cradle” series.
With that said, speaking with Mr. Baldree and hearing that very recognizable voice in-person was a biiiit of a trip for myself, husband and son.
Baldree, a Spokane resident since 2020, recently shifted his skill set from narration to writing, publishing “Legends & Lattes” in February 2022. We have, of course, read and listened to the book, which Baldree narrates himself.
“The newer an author is, the more precious their baby feels to them and the more controlling they tend to want to be. They’re worried you’ll get it wrong,” Baldree said. “But the more established an author is, the more they’re like, ‘You’re a professional, go do your thing!’”
Although Legends & Lattes is Baldree’s first book, he does not consider himself a new author.
“Narrating is a good education for writing,” Baldree said. “I’ve had thousands of hours of reinterpreting what someone else wrote, and it becomes very clear what you like and what you don’t. What works and what doesn’t work.”
Baldree’s favorite narrators include: Nick Podehl, George Guidall, Bahni Turpin, Julia Whelan and especially Frank Muller, who inspired Baldree to become a narrator and writer to begin with. Muller narrated Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series.
Baldree said he’s always liked to write, and has participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for years, but just never quite finished a book, always finding himself stuck in the middle of a story.
During the beginning of COVID in 2020, however, Baldree found himself wanting, more than anything, to escape the monotony of being at home day-in and day-out.
Writing “Legends & Lattes” became his way to intermittently “leave” his home: The “Height of escapism was the idea of going to a coffee shop and not wearing a mask,” Baldree said of the time, so it was nice to write and dream of that day.
Writing of the particular coffee shop in Legends & Lattes, Baldree journeyed back to El Diablo Coffee Co., his and his wife Katie’s favorite spot in Seattle where they would walk to all the time and enjoy the best elements: University students using the WiFi, musicians playing in the back corner, baked goods and animals meandering lazily across the shop.
There are “Tons of good coffee shops around here!” Baldree proclaimed while sipping his own brown liquid, but his favorite spot in Spokane is Atticus Coffee & Gifts.
“It’s just comfortable being in there,” Baldree said. “It has a good, homey vibe.”
Baldree quipped, “I wrote ‘Legends & Lattes’ as a nice, needed break, but I intended to write it as more of a joke, because it was an orc opening a coffee shop. ‘Hahaa, that’s so funny!’”
Except, the idea isn’t haha-funny at all! In fact, people around the world cling to the comfort of Baldree’s Cozy Fantasy novel.
Although now an author himself, Baldree said in a recent Ask Me Anything (AMA) thread on Reddit, “I have a tough time imagining I’ll ever give up narrating to write – I love narration too much. (Also, writing is much, MUCH harder!)”
Before becoming a professional narrator and writer, Baldree was a successful software engineer and game designer for over 20 years. He designed and created the video game Fate, and helped to found Runic Games and Double Damage Games (which he is still the co-owner and CEO). He was on the team that created the popular video games Torchlight and Torchlight II and Rebel Galaxy.
In my opinion, game designing is just another form of storytelling, so transitioning to narrator and author doesn’t seem that big of a leap for Baldree to take: “I get to come in and put the frosting on someone else’s cake with narration. As a writer [and game developer], I have to come up with the recipe and bake the dang thing. So, for the foreseeable future, writing will probably be a once a year evening activity,” Baldree said in the Reddit AMA thread.
Baldree records all of his projects at home from his StudioBricks sound-isolation booth. Baldree said the booth came from the company out of Spain via boat. He then set it up himself in his basement and spends around five or six hours hours a day there recording. Fans can listen to and watch Baldree in real-time via Discord. This allows people to be a part of Baldree’s creative process and connect even deeper to the book or series he’s currently working on.
If you would like to see Baldree live and in-person, we highly (highly) recommend you register for Baldree’s re-release book reading and signing of Legends & Lattes, which will be held at Auntie’s Bookstore Friday, Nov. 7, at 7 pm. Click this link to register (scroll to the very bottom of the page)
As our coffee-shop meeting came to a close, we released all our pent-up fandom and asked Mr. Baldree for the obligatory photo and book signature – Um, yes, of course we brought our personal copy of Legends & Latte with us! We hope to see you all at the reading and signing of Travis’ book!
Hailey Keller – Copy Editor/Contributor
A journalistic writer with an empathic soul, Hailey likes to (loudly) speak the truth and make sure everyone has a seat at the proverbial table. When not fervently championing the success of all those around her, Hailey likes to visit the Gaiser Conservatory within Manito Park, spend hours on Etsy and consume sugary treats.
Her time working at Eastern Washington University solidified her passion of advocating for those unable to advocate for themselves and establishing connections with people around the community interested in doing the same.