Fun Facts about Foreign Editions

Kaitlyn here, but since I’ve yet to have any foreign language editions of my mysteries, I’m blogging today under the two other names I use for writing, Kate Emerson and Kathy Lynn Emerson. This post was prompted by the fact that I recently received copies of the Czech edition of one of the Kate Emerson novels. These are non-mystery historicals set in Tudor England. The same Czech publisher also bought some of the other books in that series, but this was the first time I’d seen the finished product . . . and the Czech covers.

One of the things a agent does for a writer is handle foreign sales of published books. For some reason, there seems to be a market in Czechoslovakia for novels set in Tudor England. I’m all for that. Of course, once I sign the contracts, I’m out of the loop. I don’t pick the translator. Well, how could I? And when a translation is published, whether it’s in Czechoslovakia or France or Brazil, I can’t read it. I can only hope the words are an accurate translation of what I wrote. It’s supposed to be, but I’ve noticed a couple of curious things.

Sometimes, in translating English into a language which takes more words to say the same thing, the book itself ends up shorter than the original.

In one of my romantic suspense novels (Cloud Castles), set in Maine and dealing with smuggling on Maine’s border with Canada, the edition translated into French for sale in France changed all the Franco-American surnames.

And then there are the covers. I know writers in the U.S. frequently complain that their covers don’t accurately represent what’s inside them. But imagine an artist asked to produce a cover for a book in a (to him or her) foreign language. Is it any wonder that the results are sometimes a little strange?

I learned this early on, when another of my romance novels, again set in very rural Maine, was given the cover below in the French edition. That’s definitely a cityscape in the background. And, to be honest, not many Maine people get as dressed up as these two, even when they’re celebrating a special occasion.

There is a connection between this book and the mysteries I write as Kaitlyn Dunnett. I first used some of the minor characters in the Liss MacCrimmon Scottish-American Heritage Mysteries in romance novels I wrote as Kathy Lynn Emerson for the now defunct Bantam Loveswept line back in the late 1990s. After the rights to these stories reverted to me, I reissued them as ebooks, in one case changing the title back to the one I originally gave it. For anyone who’s interested, the relevant ebook titles are Relative Strangers, E-Mail Order Bride, and That Special Smile. E-Mail Order Bride, published by Loveswept as Sight Unseen, is the Nouveau message shown above.

Anyway, to get back to the topic of this post, writers have even less input than usual when it comes to the covers on foreign language translations of their books. If Nouveau message wasn’t enough to convince you, allow me to circle back to that historical novel I mentioned. First, here’s the American cover. It features the ubiquitous “headless woman” historicals have been afflicted with for some years now, but that does have the advantage of telling readers what they’re getting. So does the costuming, which in this edition is reasonably accurate. A purist could quibble, but I’ve seen worse. In fact, worse is coming right up.
To tell you the truth, when I first took a look at the Czech cover, I found it kind of amusing. But, assuming the text was translated well, I fear readers will be disappointed with the story. The cover certainly hints at a lot more, shall we say graphic detail than anyone is likely to find in one of my novels. Obviously, the artist has seen ads for Showtime’s The Tudors! 

If you study this cover carefully, though, especially if you’ve read the book (Kate Emerson’s Between Two Queens) you’ll spot one detail that is even more peculiar. The woman is holding a cat. A black cat with a cross around its neck. I had to go back to my Word file and check to make sure I hadn’t forgotten some key element of the plot, but no, there is no cat in the novel. The heroine, Nan Bassett, maid of honor to Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Kathryn Parr (and, briefly, mistress to Henry VIII) has a sister who goes by the nickname Cat, but I don’t really think the translator (or the cover artist) thinks that Cat is a feline. Or that she has been changed into one by an evil necromancer. Then again, there is something about a cat wearing a cross that hints of the occult . . . .

Or possibly I’ve just read too many books that have paranormal elements in them, not to mention watching and re-watching too many episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

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3 Responses to Fun Facts about Foreign Editions

  1. Lea Wait says:

    I love the “rural Maine” cover! And what fun to have copies of the foreign editions! So far I’ve only had a foreign edition of one of my books — Shadows at the Fair was sold to a Japanese publisher, and I treasure my copy. It’s a 4 x 6 inch paperback, with dustcover, with a lovely botanical print on the cover. Of course, it’s on what we in the west would think of as the back. Very special! Thanks for sharing your international editions!

  2. Barb Ross says:

    That cover for Noveau Message is hysterical.

    I suspect Czech readers of historicals treat the covers the same way we learned to treat those racy Perry Mason covers of our youth. I remember as a young teen reading the ones my grandparents had on the bookself in their guestroom seaching desparately for the naughty bits displayed on the cover. Eventually, I accepted that they were never coming.

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