As August approaches and many of our minds turn to travel, we thought of Anne Trager, an American translator and editor now based in France. Anne is the founder of Le French Book, an editing and translation service that brings French titles to English-speaking readers. Some of her recent translations include thrillers The Paris Lawyer, Treachery in Bordeaux, and The 7th Woman. She talks about the decision to become a translator and the process of expressing another author’s ideas in a new language.
When did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?
I have been translating and writing ever since I first moved to France in 1985. I love French culture and I love writing, so the two combine well in literary translation.
What makes the French angle of this venture so interesting?
A lot of people out there love France, so this is an entertaining way to bring parts of that culture to readers. But more than that, France has a lot of great writing voices for readers to discover. What is interesting is that I am an outsider looking at France not from the outside in, but from the inside out. It’s like Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. What made that book work? In part, it was his British perspective on French culture. Le French Book is like that. I have lived in France for a very long time, but I’m an American. And the choices of the books we translate comes from there.
Where do you get your story ideas?
As a translator, my ideas are the original writer’s ideas. I have to get into that writer’s head and into that writer’s style. It’s a very interesting exercise. I’m part chameleon, but I also have to find a way to bridge two cultures.
Do you believe in Writer’s Block?
When translating and when writing my own stuff, the page always looks as blank as my mind feels when I begin, and that feeling can last a while, but I just have to put words down on paper and eventually they flow.
What made you decide to self-publish?
What if you could discover France while reading the best French crime fiction in English? This simple question sums up the whole project behind Le French Book, the digital-first publishing venture I founded. It probably also my vision of life as an American living in France for so many years. I always loved crime fiction and thrillers and, I must admit, this is almost the only genre I read. After several years in France, I started to discover French crime fiction novels and was amazed by the richness and creativity of a great number of French authors. So I read, I read, I read. Then, I realized that only very few of these books were available in English and the idea dawned on me: these books need a larger audience and I must help English-language readers to discover them. Digital-first publishing is a great opportunity to bring these voices to new readers.
Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?
As the keynote speaker at the London Book Fair said this year, “Try everything.” I would add be patient. Do not dwell on failures. Just move on and try something else. I also have what I call my Ninja Publishing creed. When you practice martial arts, you practice and practice until each movement becomes automatic. And sometimes you practice in slow motion, which is a particularly difficult exercise. It forces you to do each movement perfectly, to position yourself just right, and then, ultimately when you pick up speed again, you are more precise, faster, and much more effective. How does this apply to publishing? Well, everything takes twice as long as you’d expect it. Don’t fight it. Each step needs to be positioned just right. Unhurried, but exact. The rest will follow.