Friday, November 19, 2010

A French Toast

The thing that I love about research is that not only does it inform your book, but very often it enriches your life.

The reason for the late posting of my blog is a case in point. With Irish and American friends, I am currently on a wine-tasting tour of the Gaillac region of France. This was an area that I discovered while researching the second book in my Enzo Files series, "The Critic". I fell in love with the area, and with the wine. And in return for my writing, I was made a chevalier of the local wine-making brotherhood, the "Dive Bouteille".

But it is also heartening to know that my book brought me new fans here, even although it has not yet been published in French. When I arrived this morning for a tasting at one of the wineries that featured in the book, I found that they had mounted a display of the books and a poster advertising it in their tasting room.

When, they were desperate to know, would the book appear in French. Well, here's the thing... the books in the Enzo series were not written for the French. They were written for "foreign" readers - English, Russian, German, Scandinavian. I explain some of the peculiarities of French culture, as well as describing daily life. Of course, such things are known to the French, who would find it irritating to read about them. None of us likes to be told what we already know about ourselves.

So this week I have embarked on a process of adapting books set in France for a French readership. How bizarre is that? I am already well into the adaptation of "Extraordinary People", and am amazed at just how much I am cutting, and how the cutting is improving the manuscript.

A lesson for the future, perhaps? How much do we really need to explain to the reader, and how much can remain as "subtext"?

Strangely enough, in looking at some of the later books in the series, I realize that I have explained less and less. Story and character dominate, as they should. After all, if a reader picks up the books mid-series, he or she will not be privy to all those earlier descriptions and explanations. So, in the end, all those revised manuscripts are almost certainly going to be an improvement on the originals.

Maybe I can persuade my American publisher to take them on board for possible future editions.

Meantime, I must rush off. I have a pressing engagement with a bottle of wine.


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