Monday, 26 August 2013

An interview with Ana Posada


On this bank holiday Monday, I am delighted to bring you an interview with Ana Posada, the Spanish translator of my short story Death Singer. Ana has also kindly translated my questions into Spanish and provided her answers in both languages, so this is a special dual language post to get you in the mood if you are travelling to a foreign country this week.

Ana Posada

KR: Why did you choose this story (Death Singer) to translate?
KR: ¿Por qué elegiste traducir esta historia (Death Singer)?


AP: Before explaining the reasons why I chose this story, I think I should clarify that at first this translation was part of my thesis entitled “The translation of a fantasy juvenile short story: Death Singer”. Therefore, the reasons to choose this story are directly related to the development of the aforesaid work.
Firstly, I wanted to do a thesis about something I liked and that I would enjoy, so I had to work with the kind of literature I like the most, that’s fantasy literature. Secondly, I had in mind the fact that currently children’s literature is the field that drives the Spanish publishing market. Finally, my intention was to translate something that hadn’t been translated before, that’s why I chose a work written by Katherine Roberts, since in Spain she’s not very well known and, consequently, her works aren’t translated into Spanish, although they’re translated into many other languages. Once I chose the writer, the choice of the story was due to the influence this work had on her success and career.

AP: Antes de explicar los motivos por los que escogí esta obra, creo que debería aclarar que en un primer momento esta traducción formó parte de mi trabajo fin de grado titulado “La traducción de un relato fantástico juvenil: Death Singer”. Los motivos de la elección de esta historia, en consecuencia, están directamente relacionados con la elaboración de dicho trabajo.

En primer lugar, yo quería realizar una tesis sobre algo que me gustase y con lo que pudiese disfrutar, de modo que tenía que trabajar con el tipo de literatura que más me gusta, esto es literatura de temática fantástica. En segundo lugar, tuve en cuenta el hecho de que en la actualidad la Literatura Infantil y Juvenil (LIJ) es el ámbito que mueve el mercado editorial español. Por último, mi intención era traducir algo que no se hubiese traducido anteriormente, por ello escogí a la autora Katherine Roberts, pues en España no es muy conocida y, en consecuencia, sus obras no están traducidas al español, aunque sí a muchos otros idiomas. Una vez elegida la autora, la elección del relato se debió a la influencia que este tuvo en su éxito y en su carrera.


KR. Are there any special problems associated with translating a fantasy story into another language?
KR. ¿Existen problemas específicos asociados con el hecho de traducir una historia fantástica en otro idioma?


AP: Yes, there are. Those problems worsen if we’re in front of a contemporary short story with little context and there are even more problems if the work belongs to children’s literature. In a really summarized way, the most remarkable problem translating a fantasy story is finding the most appropriate translation for the different imaginary beings and creations that appear throughout the story. It’s even more difficult if we’re in front of a short story, like this one, in which the Elders and Halfmen’s typical and peculiar characteristics, for example, are not explained. In my case, I could easily resolve this problem thanks to the author’s help, who solved all my doubts and answered all my questions, something for which I’m really grateful.

AP: Sí, los hay. Estos problemas además se agravan si nos encontramos ante un relato corto contemporáneo con poco contexto y se le añaden todavía más al tratarse de una obra perteneciente a la LIJ. De forma muy, muy resumida el problema más destacable en la traducción de obras de temática fantástica es encontrar la traducción equivalente más acertada posible para los diferentes seres, entes y creaciones imaginarias que aparecen a lo largo de la historia, sobre todo si nos encontramos ante un relato corto como el que nos ocupa en el que no se indican las características propias y peculiares, por ejemplo, de las “sabias” o de los “mediohombres”. En mi caso, este problema lo pude resolver fácilmente gracias a la ayuda de la autora, quien en todo momento resolvió todas mis dudas y contestó a todas mis preguntas, algo por lo que le estoy muy agradecida.

KR: I see from your biography that you also translate English into French, as well as English into Spanish - which language do you find the easiest?
KR: En tu biografía indicas que también traduces del inglés al francés, de igual modo que del inglés al español, ¿qué lengua te parece más fácil?

AP: No, I’ve never translated from English into French. I don’t dismiss the possibility of being able to do it in the future, but at the moment I don’t think my French level is adequate. I can translate from English and French into Spanish (or Galician) and from Spanish (or Galician) into English and, obviously, also from Spanish into Galician and vice versa.
Answering the question about which language I find the easiest to translate into the mother tongue, in my case Spanish (and Galician) is always the easiest thing, because that’s the language in which we express ourselves more easily. Inverse translation is always more difficult. In my case, although French is closer and more similar to Spanish, I find it easier to translate into English because from both languages English is the one of which I have a bigger knowledge and command. In fact, I had a practical subject during my course in which my task consisted in translating from Galician into English a work about the famous Galician writer Rosalía de Castro, “Without waiting for Ulysses. Rosalía’s life”. This piece of work, I think, will be published in the near future.

AP: No, nunca he traducido del inglés al francés, no descarto poder llegar a hacerlo en el futuro, pero en este momento no considero que mi nivel de francés sea el adecuado para ello. Puedo traducir del inglés y del francés al español (o al gallego) y del español (o el gallego) al inglés y, evidentemente, también del español al gallego y viceversa.

Respondiendo a la pregunta sobre qué lengua me parece más fácil, lo más sencillo siempre es traducir a la lengua materna de cada uno, en mi caso el español (y el gallego), pues es la lengua en la que nos resulta más sencillo expresarnos. La traducción inversa siempre cuesta más. En mi caso, aunque el francés es una lengua más cercana y similar al español, me resulta más sencillo traducir hacia el inglés porque, de las dos lenguas, es la que mejor conozco y domino. De hecho, durante la asignatura de prácticas de la carrera, mi trabajo consistió en traducir del gallego al inglés una obra sobre la célebre escritora gallega Rosalía de Castro, “Sen agardar a Ulises. Vida de Rosalía”, que por lo que tengo entendido se publicará en un futuro próximo.

KR: Do you read novels in the English language for relaxation?
KR: ¿Lees obras en inglés para relajarte y distraerte?

AP: Of course! As a lover of English and books that I am, one of my favourite hobbies is reading. Besides, although it may sound like a cliché, reading is one of the best ways to learn new things, improve my English and travel without moving from my sofa.

AP: ¡Por supuesto! Como amante del inglés y de la lectura que soy, uno de mis pasatiempos favoritos es leer. Además, aunque suene a tópico, es una de las mejores formas de aprender cosas nuevas, de mejorar mi inglés y de viajar sin moverme de mi sofá.

KR: Who is your favourite Spanish author?
KR: ¿Quién es tu escritor español favorito?

AP: Although it may seem impossible, I don’t have one. Usually, when I pick a book I don’t take account of who wrote it, but look at the reviews it got, whether they were good or bad ones, and on many occasions, I choose a work just for its plot.
However, if I really have to choose a Spanish writer, besides the great classics such as Cervantes or the aforementioned Rosalía de Castro, currently I would choose Carlos Ruiz Zafón http://www.carlosruizzafon.com/, one of our most celebrated international writers.

AP: Aunque pueda parecer imposible, no tengo ninguno. A la hora de elegir un libro, normalmente, no tengo en cuenta quien lo escribió sino las críticas que recibió, ya sean positivas o negativas, y en la mayoría de las ocasiones, elijo una obra simplemente por su argumento.

No obstante, si me tuviese que decantar por un autor español, además de los grandes clásicos como pueden ser Cervantes o la anteriormente mencionada Rosalía de Castro, en la actualidad destacaría a Carlos Ruiz Zafón http://www.carlosruizzafon.com/, uno de nuestros autores más internacionales.

KR: Which book (written in any language) would you love to translate, if you had the chance?
KR: ¿Qué libro (escrito en cualquier lengua) te encantaría traducir si tuvieses la oportunidad?

AP: It’s tough and difficult to choose only one, especially for an avid reader and lover of books like me. However, I think I’ll have to go with Harry Potter, because among all the books I’ve read until now, it’s my favourite. Besides, its translation would be a great challenge because of the work’s characteristics; such as its length, the imaginary characters and objects that we find in its pages, different proper names with a hidden meaning, among many others.

AP: Es complicado elegir solo uno, sobre todo para una devoradora y amante de los libros como yo. Sin embargo, creo que me tengo que decantar por Harry Potter, ya que de entre todos los libros que he leído hasta ahora, es mi libro favorito. Además, su traducción sería un gran reto por la dificultad que presenta una obra de sus características tales como su extensión, los personajes y objetos imaginarios que nos encontramos en las diferentes páginas, diferentes nombres propios tras los que se esconde un significado, entre muchas otras.


KR: And finally... what would you name your unicorn?
KR: Y por último... ¿cuál o qué sería tu unicornio?

AP: My unicorn would be music because it relaxes me, it gives me goosebumps, it entertains me... It is my medicine, my comfort and also my escape when I have a bad day or a bad moment. I can’t live a day without it!

AP: Mi unicornio sería la música puesto que me relaja, me emociona, me divierte... Es mi medicina y mi refugio cuando tengo un mal día o un mal momento. ¡No puedo pasar un solo día sin ella!

KR: Thank you very much, Ana - a unicorn called Music sounds wonderful!

***

Ana Posada (email: anaposada_91 @ hotmail.com / Twitter: @AnaPosada) graduated in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Vigo in 2013. Her translation languages are Spanish/Galician < English > Spanish/Galician and French > Spanish/Galician.



Ana Posada (email: anaposada_91 @ hotmail.com / Twitter: @AnaPosada) se graduó en la carrera de Traducción e Interpretación por la Universidad de Vigo en 2013. Sus combinaciones lingüísticas son español/gallego < inglés > español/gallego y francés > español/gallego.



Want to try reading this story in English and Spanish?

* SPECIAL OFFER *

Death Singer / La Musa de la Muerte Kindle ebook is FREE from Amazon for the next five days until 30th August 2013:
UK
US
Spain

(Offer runs midnight to midnight Pacific time, so please check price is zero before downloading).




Friday, 23 August 2013

Children’s ebooks 2: The Advantages


How ebooks can work for young readers.  


This post will concentrate on the Kindle e-reader, though many of these features will of course also apply to other e-readers and tablets – if you have a different type of e-reader with a useful feature that I have not covered below, then do let the unicorn know!

Advantage 1: Make any book child-friendly.
You can change the text size, line spacing, font style, and number of words on a line. Children’s publishers often use a bigger print size than that used in adult books, and will space out the text as well to make the pages look less forbidding to a younger reader. Choice of font can also be important to convey atmosphere.

For example, here is a page from the paperback edition of Sword of Light (book 1 of the Pendragon Legacy), compared to my book Spellfall, which was published for a slightly older readership.


Sword of Light (first picture) is around 60,000 words and 478 pages, whereas Spellfall (second picture) is actually the longer book at 70,000 words but only 236 pages. This could look rather challenging for a younger reader who might enjoy the story too.

On a Kindle, however, both books can be made to look equally child-friendly:


Of course if you are a more experienced reader, the opposite applies - you can reduce the text size and line spacing to your taste. (Muse: And when you get really old like Katherine, you might want to increase it again to help your eyes. But don't panic if you can't read all the words on the screens in the photos - that's her camera, not you!)


Advantage 2: The Kindle can read to you!
Yes, really! If this feature is enabled by the publisher, then you can turn on “text-to-speech” and select either a male or female reading voice. You can also change the reading speed to slow, medium, or fast – slower for younger children, maybe.

I should point out that this is not (not yet, anyway!) as natural as an actor reading an audio book. The Kindle accents are American, and stories with a lot of dialogue read a bit strangely since the robotic voice does not pause in the right places when it sees speech marks. But if you’re too busy to read your child a bedtime story, the e-reader might just render you obsolete one day...

video


Advantage 3: The Kindle can help dyslexic children to read.
Over at the Awfully Big Blog Adventure, CJ Busby points out that her daughter who struggles to read a printed book can read more easily on the Kindle screen using the robotic text-to-speech feature mentioned above. I also understand that the contrast of an e-reader's screen can be helpful to dyslexics - my Kindle e-ink has a pearly grey screen with black text, whereas on the Kindle Fire you can select a sepia or black background as well as the usual white.

I'm not dyslexic, but I find I do focus more on the actual words when reading my Kindle. While reading a paper book, I'm often distracted by things such as fancy fonts, words or pictures on the opposite page, the weight of the book, and the need to hold it open without cracking the spine and having the pages fall out - which can be very annoying if you lose a vital bit of the story! Also, there is no distortion from bending the pages as you read, or where the text curves into the spine, which again helps your eyes focus on the words.

Advantage 4: A dictionary at your fingertips.
When I read books as a child, I would sometimes come across a word I did not understand or had never seen before. When this happened, I'd either look it up in my dictionary or ask Mum. If neither dictionary nor Mum were handy, I’d just skip the difficult word to get on with the story. I would try to remember to look it up afterwards, but usually I would forget until the next time I stumbled over the same word.

On the Kindle, however, hovering the cursor over an unfamiliar word will bring up a short dictionary definition at the top or bottom of the screen. Pressing return will then give the full definition. (Note to parents: you can set this to American or Oxford English). Here is the first chapter of my book I am the Great Horse, with the cursor positioned on the word "tethered" (halfway along line 4).



Advantage 5: Learning a language?
In addition to younger readers using the inbuilt Kindle dictionary to learn their own language, ebooks do not suffer from territorial distribution problems so there is no reason why they shouldn't include several translations in the same edition. For example, the lovely Ana Posada has translated one of my short stories into Spanish, which is now available as a dual language edition ebook for Kindle Death Singer / La Musa de la Muerte.


On Monday, the unicorn will bring you an exclusive interview with Ana, when we have a special Summer Holiday offer for readers curious about this book… so don't forget to check back then!

Missed the first part of this series? Read it here.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Children’s ebooks 1: The Objections


Muse: I’ve finally pinned down my author with my glittery horn, so here is a series of posts from her about children’s ebooks… not YA obviously, so if you haven’t got any foals yet then go straight to objection 5 and come back later! I’m keeping out of that.

PART 1: The Objections - why ebooks don’t (yet) work for children.
The Midnight Stables from my youngest title "Magical Horses" (Carlton Books)
While adult books appear to be taking off in e-format, it seems younger readers still prefer print. Sadly, most of my backlist is now out of print, so those books are currently only available as ebooks or used paperbacks. Since secondhand book sales do not provide royalty reports to the author, I have no way of comparing my backlist ebook sales with backlist paper sales. The Unicorn says this would be a pointless exercise anyway, since those books are backlist and have already sold tens of thousands of copies in print, combined with the fact I have no publisher to promote them any more so it’s all down to him, and he has to help me write my new books, and he’s only got so much glitter in his horn, etc... he does moan sometimes!

But the first two books of my new Pendragon series, Sword of Light and Lance of Truth, are now available in hardcover, paperback and ebook, have not already sold tens of thousands of copies, and do have a real publisher to promote them, so I'm unable to use the same excuse for those. Having seen my backlist sales figures, I wasn't expecting miracles - but I was a bit shocked to see the ebook sales on my first royalty statement. While the actual figures are obviously confidential to my publisher, I enlisted my unicorn’s help in some math wizardry, and can tell you that in the first three months of the ebook edition of the first title, its e-sales worked out at a mere 1.6% of its UK print sales.


Yet Amazon – who have the lion’s share of the online market, as opposed to my unicorn’s humble share – report e-sales have recently overtaken print sales at their online stores. So, even accounting for all the print copies sold through physical shops that are not included in amazon’s analysis, this percentage would seem rather low. In an attempt to cheer me up, my unicorn did some digging with his horn and found this interview with an agent, claiming that e-sales for one of her best-selling international children’s authors are only 6% of his print sales. And she's in America, where ebooks are more wired into the culture than over here. My 1.6% is looking a bit more believable.

This suggests that print does indeed still rule where children’s books are concerned. In this first post I’ll look at some of the reasons why ebooks don’t (yet) work for younger readers.

Objection 1: Ebooks will never replace picture books and novelty titles.

pop-up Pegasus from my "Magical Horses"
I have to agree picture books in full colour and novelty titles work better as physical books. Even books for slightly older readers, illustrated by black-and-white drawings and designs, are nice objects to hold and keep. My Magical Horses book for younger readers published by Carlton in 2010 (above) has pop ups and flaps, and my current publisher Templar go one better with their "Ology" books, which have jewels inset into the covers. Against these beautiful and creative books, ebooks struggle to hold their own (though I think technology will eventually catch up, making these kind of novelty titles not only a possibility in digital form, but also able to do things that paper books cannot do.)

Objection 2: My child is too young for social media.
The 2013 Tower Hamlets shortlist - promoted in local schools

Readers who are legally too young to have their own Facebook page or Goodreads account (minimum age 13) are less likely to hear about books via social media, which is a powerful selling tool for ebooks as direct links can be made to the online bookstores. Twitter used to have a minimum age restriction of 13, but this no longer applies - although I believe there is an age screening facility to stop younger children following adult tweets. For this age group, word of mouth is much more likely to happen via friends at school, or be spread by teachers and school librarians. Children’s book prizes and shortlists are therefore important for this market, as well as author school visits. This might change in future, though, as more social media becomes available to users under 13 with appropriate gatekeeping.

Objection 3. My child’s too young for a credit card.
image: Petr Kratochvil at  www.publicdomainpictures.net
Perhaps more importantly, younger readers do not have credit cards (unless they have a very trusting parent!) So they have no easy way to make their own online purchases, even if they use a parent’s or older sibling’s social media accounts.

Objection 4: I want to send a book as a gift.
Many younger children’s books are bought as gifts for birthdays and Christmas by parents and other family members. Gifting ebooks can be a problem, however. An adult can buy an ebook and send it to a child’s Kindle registered to their own account, but amazon’s "gifting" feature for sending an ebook to a Kindle registered to a different account has not yet been extended worldwide. You can buy Amazon gift certificates from their website, of course, and Apple itunes vouchers from supermarkets - but these are not book-specific, and an ebook voucher (like a book token), just does not wrap up well as a gift.

Also, there’s a generation gap to close. Some older people (like my parents) have never bought a book online, whether an ebook or a paper book, and those raised on print books are unlikely to see ebooks as a "proper" gift. This might change in a few years, however, as readers raised on ebooks and e-readers become parents and grandparents themselves.

Objection 5: I don’t want my child sampling Fifty Shades of Grey!
 
Do not be decieved by the cover, children...
At the time of writing, I am not aware of any child-friendly ebook stores that perform the same function as the children’s section of a bookshop or library or – better still – your local specialist children’s bookstore, where young readers can browse in safety. There are children’s categories on amazon, of course, but it’s too easy to stray out of that. Until there are safe online stores for younger children and their parents to browse safely, I think children’s ebooks will struggle for their share of the ebook market… which is actually a shame, since ebooks and ereaders have some special features that might help children who struggle with printed books to become readers.

Next week in Part 2, I’ll take a look at these features and why ebooks might work for children, if the objections listed above can be overcome.

Meanwhile, you can read a school librarian's view of ebooks over at The Bookette.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

An interview over at Rinn Reads

The Muse is feeling very lonely lately. No sooner did Katherine get back from the History Girls blog, than she rushed off again to be interviewed over at Rinn Reads!

She wants me to give you the link, so here it is:
http://www.rinnreads.co.uk/2013/08/feature-author-interview-with-katherine.html

Now I do know authors (and their editors) deserve a holiday, but my horn is itching to make a start on the next book... so if you see Katherine enjoying herself, can you please send her back here? Tell her if she doesn't come back soon, I'm going to start interviewing other authors on this blog, and see how she likes it.

Lonely unicorn seeks author... GSOH, sparkly horn.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Over at the History Girls today...

What does a self-respecting dragon leave behind when he flies off to another realm? A pile of stolen treasure? A few charred bones?



Find out over at The History Girls, where today I am talking about legacies:

http://the-history-girls.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/legacies-katherine-roberts.html






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