Friday, December 17, 2010

Welcome Lillian Grant

What English?

As an Aussie seeking publication in a US dominated e-publishing world some things you assume are a given clearly are not.

When I wrote Happy Birthday, Nancy Tobin, I wrote it in English. At least I thought I did. Turns out, nothing is quite that simple.

Story complete, critiqued, polished, rewritten, re-critiqued, whisked into outer space by aliens, prodded, probed, formatted and good to go, I sent a sample on its merry way to my publisher of choice. Happy with the final copy, I sat back and waited, and waited, and waited, until at last I got a nibble. Could I send the whole manuscript? Mai oui, of course. Then, would I rewrite the sex scenes to make them hotter? Well, in for a penny in for a pound. Finally, an offer to publish my baby, in English.

BUT, hmm, whose English? The contract said I had to use US spelling. So, who cares? What are a few lost U’s and the occasional S morphing into a Z between friends? If it got my book into the public domain and made women weep with unrequited lust for my hero, I could sacrifice the odd letter here and there.

Contract signed, I waited for my first round edits. They arrived and I opened the file. What eternal hell was this? My editor had interpreted, use US spelling, for make it a US novel…NOOOOOO!! Thankfully, she is an angel and when I emailed my horror at having my gorgeous Aussie hunk, that would have the ladies panting with pent up frustration, changed to a down home American boy, she spoke to ‘management.’

Oh, what sweet joy it was when the answer came back, lose the Aussie spelling, keep the Aussie slang. However, this came with a caveat. Keep the Aussie slang that made sense. So began a period of tense editing where words like ‘lounge’ were tossed aside to be replaced with ‘living room.’ Would American readers understand the word ‘git’ if read in context. I even got complemented on how clever I was to know when it was appropriate for my hero to use the word ‘bugger’ in a sentence. After much deliberation, the process was complete. My hero and heroine are still Aussie’s living in Australia and most of my slang survived. I was thankful I hadn’t used some of our more colourful expressions, such as ‘cooked chook,’ because nothing could have saved them, and it seems the names of more intimate body parts are universal.

I recently read pages and pages of comments on another blog about changing stories for the US market. Which begs the question, as a reader, do you want books set in other countries to be adapted to become stories set in the country you live in?

NB: No U’s or S’s were harmed during the writing or publication of this article.

Suddenly single on the eve of her fortieth birthday, Nancy Tobin’s not sure turning middle-aged is worth celebrating. She's stuck in a dead-end job as the boss’s bitch with only her morose Labrador for a companion. What does she have to party about? Maybe if she ignores the whole birthday thing, it will just go away.

Hot, twenty-six-year-old Jake Turner has other ideas. When he bumps into Nancy at the library, he sees a woman in need of a wake-up call. Determined to unleash the beauty hidden beneath the sad façade, he schemes to relight her spark. He wants to give her a birthday to remember but he ends up being the one who can't forget: a visit to his apartment becomes a weekend in his bed where he discovers an offbeat, unpredictable, sexually adventurous woman he never wants to let go.

With Jake, Nancy can do anything, her life can be whatever she chooses. But this new and exciting relationship teeters on the edge of destruction when her soon-to-be ex-husband reveals the reason for Jake’s initial interest in her. Can Nancy trust Jake when he finally tells her he loves her?

Nancy sat alone at the table near the student café. Despite her best intentions not to, she searched the male population for Jake. He must have been teasing. Why would a cute young guy be interested in her? She stared at the nubile female bodies as they walked past, their belly buttons proudly displaying all manner of trinkets and tattoos and yelling to the world, I’m young, supple, and the best shag you could ever have. She looked down at herself and saw the roll of flab above her waistband. Her body appeared to yell, I’m old and saggy and too fucking tired to care if I ever shag again. Why would he even give her a second thought? Perhaps it was a dare or a joke.

“Excuse me; is this seat taken?”

The voice dragged Nancy back to reality, and she looked up, surprised to see a familiar face. Her cheeks burned, and she struggled to speak.

“No, please, feel free.”

Jake slid into the seat next to her. “So, Nancy, we meet again. Are you stalking me by any chance?”

Nancy was quick to shake her head. While she had been hoping to see him again, she had no intention of revealing that to anyone. She could barely believe it herself. Was she so desperate for love she would latch on to the first male who showed a glimmer of interest? No matter why she attracted him, with her track record, she should avoid good-looking young men like the plague. “No, absolutely not. Are you sure you’re not stalking me? I was here first.”

His deep, sexy chuckle resonated through her. “Touché. You guessed it. Someone is paying me to follow you.”

“Well, they’re wasting their money, I can assure you. There is nothing to see here.”

“Let me be the judge of that. Did you miss me?”

Nancy tore her eyes away from his and tried to sound nonchalant. “I haven't given you a moment’s thought since you left the library.”

He put his hand over hers, and she felt the blood rush to her cheeks again. When he leaned closer, she closed her eyes. The smell of his musky cologne and the feel of his breath on her face as he whispered in her ear made her stomach lurch and her heart rate lift.

“Liar, but it’s okay. I’ve been thinking about you too.”

Nancy opened her eyes and snapped her head around to glare at him. No one in their right mind would think about her. She refused to be the butt of anyone’s joke. Her hand hovered in midair as she fought the urge to slap his face. Jake leaned back and put his arm up. Deciding he wasn’t worth it, Nancy dropped her hand and snatched her empty Coke bottle off the table instead.

She clenched her teeth. “Fuck off, you git; you’re not funny,” she spat out.

Without another word, she got up and stomped back to the library, tears of frustration stinging her eyes. Stupid, stupid woman!

Thank you, Lillian, for joining us today.

If you’d like to read more about Jake and Nancy, one lucky commenter will win a free copy of Happy Birthday, Nancy Tobin.

If you can’t wait, you can buy it here.

And to keep up with Lillian, you can visit her site.


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Lillian,
Nice to catch up with another Aussie. Yes it is hard trying to get the spelling right.And what about biscuits/cookies, gas/petrol etc?
Love the sound of your story.



Joanie said...

As an American reader, I have to say I can see both your and your editor's problems. I'm pretty adept by now at reading British English, slang and all, but I can even find myself stumbling there as I read. And when it comes to Australian, when I get an Aussie edition book, there are some things I'm just never truly sure I understand, even when I read in context several times. I'm sure there are Americanism that leave other countries' readers floundering, and don't even get me started on U.S. regionalisms (I've lived in California and Oklahoma, and the difference can sometimes feel like two completely different countries). But all these things aside, I know as a reader I prefer when I don't get "stopped" by a term or have to try (or hope to try) to figure out something that may or may not be important--but captures my attention just the saem, and takes my mind away from the story as I try to work out its meaning. I'm sure that's what the publisher is aware of and wants to avoid. I like colloguialisms, and love learning new things, so I'm challenged by reading another country's slang--but not all readers share my zest for all things literary and new. So, while I feel for you, and wish we were all multi-lingual when it comes to colloquialisms, know that I applaud you efforts and understand a bit of what you're going through, I have to kind of agree with our publisher. All your extra work will gain and keep you readers--honest.

Maeve said...

Wonderful excerpt, Lillian! I feel your pain about "English" usage but in the opposite way. I struggle to make my Scotland-based romances sound more "Scottish" without making them unreadable. From this delightful taste of your lovely book, it sounds as though you did an AWESOME job with your Aussies. Best of luck to you!

Sharon Hamilton said...

Interesting post, and it doesn't bother me to see the extra vowels or word choices when I read, but it does flag for me, "Oh, this writer is from..." I can see editors wanting to strip it off, for sake of keeping that slender thread of the reader's attention. But I kind of like it. Just like I love hearing other people's accents in speech, especially Aussie and Brit.

Good luck with your sales, and thank you for sharing.

FiremanPat said...

The only issue I have with a different "English" might be that I won't know the slang of true Aussie English compared to American English. But then again, having read William Fennimore Cooper's Old English version of "The Last of the Mohicans" I barely understood some of that too! I think we as Americans sometimes demand too much to make things easier for us to understand, which just adds to the stereotype of us being less intelligent and unable to adapt to other people's cultures and sayings. I say keep it in the original "English", and makes us deal with it! Love the excerpt by the way!

Gale Stanley said...

I love stories with authentic accents and slang. I think editors underestimate us as readers. Love the excerpt, it's on my TBR list.

margaret fieland said...

Love the post. "Translating" English is one of my pet peeves. I hate it when someone "translates" English, as in the American edition of the Harry Potter books. I can figure it out .. google is my friend. Or there's always the "dictionary' at the end of the book thing...

Suzanne said...

Interesting post! I actually prefer a non-US character to NOT sound like he just stepped off the corn truck in Iowa--good for you for fighting to keep as much Aussie in as you could! The book sounds great!

Rachel Lynne said...

Lillian I'm so reading your book! Nancy's internal dialog-wow! I just turned 40 and I can relate :)You captured the "OMG I'm 40" groan to perfection.
I agree with FiremanPat. It is insulting that editors/publishers here think US readers need the changes. Who hasn't seen Crocodile Dundee or Bridgit Jones' Diary for Godsake!?. Not too many Americans wouldn't know what git means-it's universal now, and I may not know what "cooked chook" means but I'll either assume its meaning by the context or I'll Google it; if it bothers me that much! (BTW, I can just ask the Aussie author :)-So what does it mean?!)
I'm for leaving the language differences alone: I'm American born and bred but I spell the color grey; well, grey! LOL, and that is a southern US thing-and my editor leaves my (y'all)s alone too! ;).
Good luck with those editors and your book: I'm looking forward to reading it.

Kate Pearce said...

Having spent much of my youth watching Australian soap operas in jolly old England I totally get most of the Austrailian slang and the British spelling. So I feel for you. I still struggle writing contemporary American books because despite living here in the U.S. for 13 years, the odd Brit word still pops up- I had hob in my ms and everyone was like-'what is that?" Eventually we worked out I meant the range top. :)

Anonymous said...

I like foreign hunks.
I need to understand what's being said/referred to: living room instead of lounge, for instance.
I need to get the slang, but don't see interpreting it as much different than reading scifi with made-up words.
Cheers, Kelly

Suzie Quint said...

I'd love to see more foreign characters and foreign settings. I think it's a shame the editors think their customers are so self-absorbed that they wouldn't embrace this. They think their customers won't buy it and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because the customer can't find it to buy it.

Lillian Grant said...

Hi Riley. Thanks for letting me guest on your blog.

Wow I knew this was a topic that got people talking. Thanks for all the lovely comments.

I think it's a fine line between losing all sense of authenticity in a book and losing people along the way. For the most part Aussie's have adopted a lot of US words because most of the movies and TV we watch is from the States. Their are a few words that still leave me scratching my head when I read US books. A lot of the difference is in sentence structure so you get the tone of Australian speech without losing the reader.

Some words just don't translate no matter how you use them, like cooked chook, which is a what we call a cooked chicken, usually one that has been done on a rotisserie at the store. :)

Great discussion.

And Rachel, I am so glad you get the internal dialogue. There were two ways to go, have her darkly depressed and boring or depressed and funny as hell...Nancy chose the second option...I think?

LaVerne Clark said...

Excellent post - and as a Kiwi - one I struggle with myself at times.
I did notice after all the edits, line edits and hoopla, that the spelling of the town my story is set in was changed to American spelling. Graymouth instead of the correct Greymouth. It was all correct until the final book was sent to me!
Oh well, its not worth getting my knickers in a twist! : )
As a reader, I love reading the different sayings that are pertinent to that country the book is set in. Its one of the things I'd expect and hope for if I picked up a particular book.
Nancy is a winner of a heroine by the way! I love her sass and the way she says things as they are : )

Lillian Grant said...

Thanks LaVerne. I read the blurb to a book where Sydney the city was spelled Sidney. Oops.

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