I have a treat for you today! Ariel Tachna is Dreamspinner Press’s translations coordinator–and a lovely person besides. Ariel has kindly agreed to answer some questions about Dreamspinner’s translation process.
- Tell us about yourself, please.
I’m Ariel Tachna. I’m the translations coordinator at Dreamspinner Press. I live outside Houston, Texas, with my amazingly supportive husband, our two kids, and their two dogs. Yes, their dogs. We told the kids they could have a dog if they’d be completely responsible for them. In eighteen months, the only thing I’ve done is take the dogs for walks sometimes, since they outweigh my kids still. I have a degree in French and English from Wake Forest University and a Masters in French Education from University of Houston, so when Dreamspinner decided to start in-house translations, I was the logical choice.
- What sparked your interest in translations?
I’ve always loved languages. I started studying French when I was twelve, and it took me about three weeks to decide that whatever else I did in my life, I would speak this language. That passion only grew through high school. I was blessed to have three incredible French teachers over my six years of language study in middle school and high school, so the transition to college French and eventually to living in France was an easy one for me. I had two opportunities to live and work in Dijon, France, once as a student and the second as an English teacher in a French high school. When I was there that second time, I made it my stated goal to never again hear “You speak French so well for an American.” I always said thank you if someone made that comment because they always intended it as a compliment, but for me, it was proof that I had made a mistake that gave me away. Unless of course they knew me or I had just been introduced to them by my French host family as their American daughter. Then I just grinned from ear to ear.
- Tell us a little about the process of translating a book.
The translation process is both simple and incredibly complex. From the simple side, we send the English version to a translator. Then we send the translated version to an editor. Then we do a final proofread on it and publish it. The complicated part comes in when the English version isn’t simple. As native speakers of a language, we play with our words, our phrasing, our use of structure and colloquialisms, accents and even deliberate errors, to create effect. Our translators are tasked with finding ways to recreate those effects in a language that doesn’t have the same structures, phrasings, colloquialisms, or other devices. An alliteration in English won’t be one in French. A rhyme in English won’t work in Spanish. And when you start getting into slang? Don’t even get me started! That means that often we do more than one edit on a book. Sometimes we have a book get to the final proofread only to realize some portion of it still needs more work than that stage entails. Sometimes we send a project out only to find that the project and the translator are a poor match and we have to start over. Still, it’s exciting to see it take shape beneath the loving hands of my dedicated team.
- What languages would you love to see DSP titles translated into?
This is going to sound silly, but I’d love to see our books translated into Russian because that would mean that the political climate has changed enough to allow that.
- How do you find translators?
To be a little more detailed, it started completely as word of mouth. We had contacts in Spain, France, Italy, and Germany, native speakers who we trusted to help us get the word out and also to help us evaluate potential translators. All of our applicants complete a sample translation that is then thoroughly vetted by our language coordinators before we offer them a translation project.
And you didn’t ask, but just in case your readers are wondering, we are currently hiring translators and proofreaders in German and we have one open translations spot in French.
- In one of my books, a character’s name means “cursed” in French, so we had to change his name a bit for the French translation. How often do little stumbles like this occur?
We’ve had it happen a few times with names. We’ve had it happen more times with titles. Maybe the title is a play on words (Hair of the Dog comes to mind) or maybe it’s a structure that works in English but is incredibly awkward (or completely unfeasible) in translation (The Isle of… Where? is an example of that). Fortunately our authors have been fantastic about working with us to make sure we do justice to their ideas while still reaching the market we’re aiming at.
- What are some of the special considerations when working on translations?
The biggest consideration for all of our translations that simply doesn’t exist in English is that moment when formal becomes informal. All of the languages we translate into have two ways of saying you, one for close friends and family and one for acquaintances and business settings. In a romance, unless it’s friends to lovers, the moment when that transition happens is telling. And if you add something like BDSM into the mix, where the relationship is artificially formalized at times, that movement back and forth between the different forms is a decision the translator must make. Sometimes it’s a really obvious spot. Other times, not so much. When it’s fairly clear (or it’s a contemporary between younger people who aren’t as strict about the “old” rules), we leave it up to the translator, but for a historical or for a book when one or both characters has a reason to adhere to the rules of formality, we will consult with the author to find the spot that best fits the author’s vision of the relationship arc.
- What can you tell us about the market for m/m romance in non-English speaking countries?
It’s a booming market! We have seen spectacular growth in the French, Italian, and German markets. The Italian market most closely mirrors the English-speaking market, with contemporary romances being the most popular. Interestingly, the French and German markets are far more genre-driven. Our current all-time bestseller in French is a historical. And anyone who knows anything about the gay romance market in English will tell you that historicals are a hard sell here.
- What are you (personally) working on right now?
I’m editing the fight Lang Downs book, and then I’m moving back and forth between two works in progress. One is a contemporary May-December romance set in Montréal. The other is a mystery set deep in the Louisiana bayou. Mostly what I’ve been working on personally, though, is getting ready for the launch of our French paperback line that will debut at the Salon du livre next week.
- Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I need to give a special thank-you to my four language coordinators. Without Jade, Saura, Petra, and Emanuela, we wouldn’t have a viable translations program. They are my rock, my right hand, and the heart of everything we do in the translations program. If you interact with the social media in the languages at all, you’ve talked with them, and you know how amazing they are. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? They’d love to hear from you!