That’s an extremely interesting question!
I think it’s a balance between making the meaning clear to US readers vs. keeping the author’s voice. When I wrote the four books that are being published by Sourcebooks, they were written for an international audience in that they deal with universal themes of love, relationships and family. Those issues resonate with people pretty much all over the world.
I have tried to make sure any reference in them would be under stood worldwide but it’s not always possible and that’s where a wonderful copy editor comes in!
Some publishers are very strict on keeping references generic, with no trade names or figures who aren’t globally famous like Elvis and the Queen. Personally, I think that you can go too far in removing cultural references and run the risk of a book being bland.
My books probably have slightly stronger British flavo(u)r and that’s also (I hope) partly why Sourcebooks wanted to bring them to the US audience. For instance when I read a romance set in the US, Australia or Canada, I love a bit of slang and the mention of celebs and political figures. I don’t mind looking up a word or reference I don’t understand.
I read these books, imagining myself in these wonderful wide open spaces surrounded by rugged cowboys or the skyscrapers of New York or a small town in the desert. The right words help transport me to these places so I hope readers enjoy imagining themselves in London, or an English countryside or a European city when they read mine.
Sourcebooks do edit my books for US spellings and they work with me on any references that aren’t immediately clear. You’d be surprised how many emails fly back and forth late in the evening between me and the copy ed – she’s fantastic at suggesting changes that everyone in the US should understand, yet that don’t jar as ‘non British’.
For instance in Wish You Were Here, I’d described a character as a ‘young Peter Schmeichel’ a soccer star that the hero admired – but no one in the US would have heard of. So we exchanged emails and Google images and decided actor Paul Bettany (married to Jennifer Connelly) would make a good substitute.
In Dating Mr December, the action is set in the Lake District. The mountain rescue team there always call the mountains, ‘the fells’ so that wasn’t changed. Emma, the heroine, however was wearing hold ups in the English version – that got changed to thigh highs for the US. That made me smile because thigh highs here are more likely to conjure up an image of kinky boots! But then Mr December would probably love to see her in those...
At the end of the day romance has universal language and I think that a few quirks of language are part of the reason we love reading – to escape into another world.
What do readers think?
Wish You Were Here
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: June 1, 2011
ASIN: B002V092T2 (May 1, 2009)
Can a whirlwind romance ever go the distance?
When Jack proposes to Beth at the end of a holiday romance, she doesn't think twice--she knows he's The One. But then Jack walks out soon after their return, with no explanation, no nothing.
Eight years on and Beth finds a fantastic new job--working for Jack. She could definitely do without having to face him everyday, but then she can't do without the job...
As the two of them are forced to spend time together, Beth unravels the mystery of Jack's disappearance. Is there too much baggage for them to try again--or could they finally be in the right place at the right time?
Phillipa Ashley can be found on facebook, twitter, and her blog.
Thank you Ms. Ashley for answering my question - I certainly wouldn't have gotten the Peter Schmeichel reference, and I would have thought "hold ups" were some kind of suspenders, lol. How about it readers, do you often come across phrases or people that are unfamiliar to you when reading foreign authors?
I'm giving away my ARC of Wish You Were Here to one lucky commenter - just leave an answer to Ms. Ashley's question in the comments and a way to contact you. Following is not required but is always appreciated. US addresses only (sorry!), ends July 1.