Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Germans are coming!

They are flocking, in fact, to mark the launch of the German edition of Tim Stretton's fantasy novel Serendip (published in English as Dragonchaser).  Len Tyler interviewed Tim about his first foreign edition.

Len: For those of us who have not been involved in galley racing lately, could you tell us a bit about the sport?

Tim: Regrettably my first-hand research was rather limited, the sport these days being somewhat in abeyance.  In  Dragonchaser--or Serendip as I must now call it--we are taken to Paladria, a corrupt oligarchy where galley-racing is the people's obsession.  Ambitious politicans finance their own galleys in the hope of swinging the mob to their own side.  (We can think of Silvio Berlusconi's patronage of AC Milan, or the games sponsored by Roman emperors).

Our hero, Mirko, is a galley-captain from a neighbouring city.  When he agrees to skipper Serendipity, the galley of the unscrupulous Bartazan, he doesn't realise quite what he is letting himself in for.  This being a Tim Stretton novel, matters are complicated when Mirko finds himself attracted to Bartazan's mercurial niece Larien.

Len: The English version is Dragonchaser - the German book is entitled Serendip. You seem to be switching your allegiance from one galley to another. Why is this?

Tim: Dragonchaser is the hitherto unbeatable galley of Mirko's rival Drallenkoop, and I used it for the English title because the name is so dramatic (and also from the outset the reader knows as soon as the galley comes on the page, it means business).  My German translator Andreas Irle felt that Serendip was a title which worked better in German, and not speaking the language myself I was not qualified to suggest otherwise.  The title is in any event more logical, relating as it does to the hero's galley.

Len: How did you find being translated? I know Andreas is a friend of yours in addition to being your translator and publisher.

Tim: Andreas and I met when we were working together on the Vance Integral Edition a decade ago.  I first knew him as a respected publisher and translator of Jack Vance's work, and I figured that if he could handle Vance, my stuff would be easy.  When Andreas asked my permission to translate the book I was delighted.

Len: Did you hit any problems with the translation? - you are after all writing about places and things that don't actually exist and for which there may occasionally be no English word, let alone a German one ...

Tim: Our contact was fairly light-touch. Occasionally Andreas would email me a list of questions relating to expressions he was not clear about (maybe a couple of dozen over the course of the translation).  These were either obscure or obsolete English idiom, or words (and particularly titles) of my own.  I'd send Andreas a couple of sentences for each explaining what I was trying to achieve and he would then render the best German equivalent.  My own German was wholly inadequate to assess his success so I was always happy to trust his judgement.

Len: Are there plans for any of your other books to be translated into German?

Tim: Andreas has a day job, so this translation took a couple of years.  We will see how this one goes, but we don't own the translation rights to The Dog of the North, so there are no immediate plans.

 Len: After the first book in my Elsie and Ethelred series was sold to a German publisher I made some hasty changes to the second one, turning a rather obnoxious German character into a Russian. When you are writing now, are you thinking at all about how The Fall of the Fireduke (the current work in progress) might translate at some future date?

Tim: I'd be delighted to see an English-language version of The Fall of the Fireduke, which is currently 20,000 words into a first draft.  It's another fantasy novel which I think would appeal to fans of my other work, so perhaps there's a German audience for it.  I am never inundated with fan emails, but a disproportionate number of them come from Germany, so it would be nice to think that I am building a German audience.  The plan is to make the English text the best I possibly can, and then hope good things flow from there!

Len: For those who don't read German, can we still pick up the English-language edition of Dragonchaser?

Tim: Yes indeed--you can still grab it on Amazon


Deborah Swift said...

Oh this is really interesting - getting a good translation of a book can make or break it. I read quite a lot of poetry in translation and the translations can vary enormously - bad translations can completely bypass the reader. You are lucky to have a friend in the business though. Congratulations, hope it does really well.Nice cover BTW.

Eliza Graham said...

Great interview, Tim.

Frances Garrood said...

Congratuations, Tim, and very good luck (good interview, too!).

C. N. Nevets said...

As much as I'm enjoying The Dog of the North, Dragonchaser naturally found its way onto my list of eventual purchases. My dad's from Germany and while he doesn't do hardly any of his pleasure reading in German anymore, I think it might be fun for us to talk about a book I read in English and he read in German...

Will Serendip be available for purchase outside Germany?

Tim Stretton said...

Thanks guys!

Dee, I can barely imagine how one would go about translating poetry.

Nevets, if don't ship to the US, you can order a copy directly from Edition Andreas Irle. Email info[at] for for advice on how to do that.

Ann Weisgarber said...

Tim, after months of supporting all MNW writers, it's finally your turn for great press. Congratulations. I love the cover and since I don't know a word of German, I'll be reading Dragonchaser.

Alis said...

I'm with the others, that's an awesome cover. Is there enough nautical stuff in Dragonchaser to appeal to Hornblower fans and allied navy-junkies, do you think?

Tim Stretton said...

Alsi, Dragonchaser is packed with quite detailed descriptions of galley-races, which most readers seem to think are the bes bits. There being very little information available on actual galley-racing, I don't know if they would convince anyone who knows much about real boats. The Hornblower comparison s not inapposite--the starting point is a similar swashbuckling sensibility, which is then overlain with a cynical overview. (In other words, the hero thinks he's in a Hornblower novel but he comes to learn otherwise).

Matt Curran said...

Great result, Tim, and a suitably incisive interview (thanks Len).  Still haven't read Dragonchaser yet - don't want to spoil the book.  Any chance of a Kindle or iBooks edition in the near future?  Completely selfish, I know, but I'd like to keep the book in the best condition possible (I tend to "love" my books a bit too much when I read - they get a little battered, hence why I bought a paperback copy of Dog of the North, couldn't bear to damage the hardback!).

Tim Stretton said...


I am actively working on Kindle editions of The Zael Inheritance and Dragonchaser. I think in terms of price and reading experience the Kindle is close to critical mass now.

Doug Worgul said...

You deserve this, brother. Well done and congrats!

--- drw