You have translated so many books from Dutch to English in the past few years. Which one makes you most proud?
That would be De brief voor de koning by Tonke Dragt. It was originally published in Dutch in 1962, and it really should have been translated into English back then, as it’s such a great story and such an obvious addition to the fantastic tales of adventure that we have in English. The book had to wait more than fifty years, until 2004, to be published in English by Pushkin Press as The Letter for the King, and I’m so glad that I could be part of its move into English. It’s been a success with readers, and Netflix are now making a series of the book – and it’s about time too!
Which one is a personal favourite?
Ooh, that’s a tricky one. I love all of my book babies! ;) Seriously, I couldn’t say. Perhaps whichever one I’m working on at the moment, as that’s the one I feel closest to. I do love books with great illustrations, and I really enjoy working on picture books. They’re often quite a challenge, as you don’t have much space to work with. There can be a lot going on, but only a couple of hundred words to capture everything in, and they’ve got to match the pictures too. Fun! I love it when there’s a great team working on a book too. Harmen van Straaten’s picture book Hey, Who’s in the Loo? was a good example – both the author and the publisher, David Rose from Red Robin Books, were an absolute pleasure to work with. I think we all have the same sense of humour.
What book(s) are you currently working on?
I’m just reading the proofs for my translation of Annet Schaap’s Lampje (to be published as Lampie and the Children of the Sea by Pushkin Press) and I’m working on a new Tonke Dragt book, also for Pushkin: The Goldsmith and the Master Thief.
How long does it take on average from first request to translate to seeing your translated work being sold to the public?
It can take anything from a few months to a couple of years, but I’ve never really stopped to think about it too much. I focus on my own deadlines. It can depend on a lot of factors, not just the length of the book, but also how it fits into the publisher’s schedule and the time of year. Some books are obvious summer holiday books, while others are nice for snuggling down with in the winter.
Do you have any say in what the cover of the book will look like?
No, not at all. That’s the publisher’s job, but they do sometimes send the cover in advance, and I think they’d pay attention if the author or translator pointed out a continuity problem – for instance, if the character on the cover didn’t look much like the character in the book. It’s always fun to see what the actual book is going to look like, rather than just words on a computer screen.
Which Dutch book should still be translated in your opinion?
Ah, there are plenty of them, but I like to play my cards close to my chest. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing one of your favourite books translated by someone else. Heh heh!
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