A day late today – yesterday was the 4th, so I was helping friends celebrate the birth of their country. There were a few of us Brits there, so not too many jibes about the revolutionary war

[they soon tire of trying when I say, with a hearty smile, that America was but a tiny fraction of the Empire that my home nation has lost]

So, a day late, I thought I’d share some insight into what it means to write from here, about there, or from there about here…

As a Brit living and working in the USA, I run into many, many instances of

two countries separated by a common language – George Bernard Shaw

Generally, I don’t get tagged with accusations of losing my English accent

[though some do ask if I’m Australian]

but my family always get a laugh from the amount of translation I do without thinking about it: mobiles are cellphones, car parks are parking garages, petrol is gas, etc. This isn’t so odd to me as I’m constantly having to alter my language pattern to suit where I live. I’m always translating!

It gets really interesting when I write, however.

It was easy when I was in the UK. Do Sparrows Eat Butterflies? was based in Kent, where I was living at the time, and Karaoke Criminals, largely in London

[in fact, if you’ve got a signed copy of Karaoke Criminals, it’s highly likely to have “To be read in a London accent” as the inscription]

so I didn’t have to translate, I was writing as a Brit, for a Brit audience. Job done.

Things began to get complicated when we moved to the US, however. I’ve written before about how the spark for Family Rules came to me when we were living in Manhattan. Suddenly, I was writing in the US, for a US and British audience.

Call me neurotic, but I really did have to stop and consider whether I americanized


my spelling. I’d spent years in the UK screaming at Microsoft Word for auto-correcting me to American English, but now I really was an English American, writing American English. I had to think about it. Hard.

In the end, I made a simple choice, a get out really – I based Kenny’s early life in the UK, with his family relocating to New York when he was six years old. This get out clause allowed me to mix and match my spellings and translations without getting lost in micro-detail

[something I’m not so good at, even at the best of times]

So, Kenny spoke English, but sometimes dropped into American. Easy enough.

The challenge in writing Escalation was even greater. Here was a story set in a small New England town. Luckily, I didn’t have to play too much with local dialect – and I’ve generally found that my dialogue works well in either accent; I definitely had to have the characters speaking American English, though – engage full translation mode!

I think, in the end, I let either American spelling or English spelling through into the final copy. So far, I’ve not had anyone complain

[a reviewer did pick up the spelling in Family Rules, and even put it down to Kenny’s confused upbringing]

and, most importantly, I hear more about the characters and story than I do the grammar and style – which is just how I want it.

Now I’m back into Rufus, another small-town story, and I’m choosing not to answer which spelling I’ll use.

I’m focusing on characters and story.

Which is just how I want it.

To American friends, happy independence day. To Brits over here, hope you enjoyed a day off. To Brits back home, don’t worry, Aluminium still has an i before the u.


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