East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Non-native speaker authors on the English market – a few myths

shutterstock_globalizationA few days ago I took part in a discussion about non-native speakers of English publishing in the English-language market.

Being one myself, the topic was quite interesting to me.
I heard opinions and ideas from a number of colleagues – from authors that are making a living on the English and have been for years (such as my friend Andrea Sfiligoi of Ganesha Games) to Italian-language bestselling author/publishers that have weighed pros and cons and decided to stay clear of the English market (such as my friend Alessandro Girola) to people that are still observing and making plans.

As I was listening, I collected a series of myths that in my opinion are widely circulated and accepted, but deserve some deeper consideration, based on my limited experience.

Here they go… Continue reading


Two voices

flag_ita_engOne thing I’ve mentioned already, I think, is how, writing in both Italian and English, my writing changes.
Clearly, the two languages syntaxes are different, but it’s also my way of building phrases, and the rhythm of the phrases.
The dialogues change, the interplay between characters.
It’s not like I’m two different writers but, well, almost.
It’s clearly two different voices I’m dealing with – voices that go deeper than the tone and language of the individual stories. Continue reading


Changing languages

I’m having a weird experience – I’m writing the first Italian-language story of Aculeo & Amunet, and it’s tough going.
Now the plot is fully outlined and the action pieces are set-up.
I’ve got the historical background and some of the imagery.
And of course the characters are my own, and I love to write about them.
It’s the way they speak.
The dialogue is stilted.
The rhythm of the exchanges between my characters is heavily connected with the language I write in.
In Italian, Aculeo and Amunet are still witty and fun, but they are… different.
Aculeo is tough but lacks class, and uses too many words, Amunet comes across as too soft and vaguely querulous.
This is not good.

The reason is, probably, that English is a much more concise and economic language – to me at least, maybe because it is my second language and I first experienced it through narrative and songs and not through everyday use.
I think Aculeo and Amunet in English.
I hear their speech in my head in English.

The general effect: scenes that are clear and “as well as written” in my mind slump on the page and read horribly.

All in all, this is a bad problem – writing this story in Italian is slower going than I imagined, and it cost me so far two full days: I should have closed my story on Friday night, and here I am still writing and rewriting, only 50% of the way in.
The editor waiting for my story is not going to be pleased, and this is subtracting time from other (paid!) projects.
Now, at around 3000 words, I’ll scrap the last 500 I wrote, and I’ll try and complete the story in English.
And then, I’ll translate it.
It will be easier, faster, and I’ll connect again with my characters.

But as I said, this is getting weird.

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Wrong language with Kindle Dictionary

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

There’s an unwritten truth which I often repeat myself – a man’s computer-based disasters are another man’s jokes.
Our digital disasters, which cause us stress and waste of time, not to mention the loss of data, are one-click, quickly-fixed problems to those who know what to click.

This said…
An Italian reader was reading Bride of the Swamp God – and quite enjoying it, he said! – when he needed to check a word and the default dictionary did not work.
Or rather, it worked, but it was the wrong one.
English text – Italian dictionary.
He mailed me.
What gives?

Now, it took some work, but finally I found out what was wrong with my ebook.
Probably. Continue reading


Escape from the Old C Block

Last night my friend Claire launched her English-language blog – Scribblings.
Now Claire being Claire, I guess her new blog (she already runs one in Italian) has been meticulously planned, insightfully designed and thoroughly tested, the pros and cons carefully evaluated.
I point this out not to make fun of Claire (who, apart from being a fine writer and a dear friend, is also one of my gorgeous but unflinching editors); I’m pointing it out to explain that I think Claire started working on her new blog well before the summer, early in 2013.
Which is more or less when Karavansara was launched (with far less planning and thought, admittedly), and when a lot of other Italian bloggers I know started looking at the outer world – some opening a new weblog, others simply starting to post in English on their old platform, some alternating posts in Italian and English on their blogs, others posting bilingual content, experimentally. Continue reading