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International Author Series: NYT Bestseller Keri Arthur, Australia

Keri Arthur’s road to success was solidified with her appearance on the NYT Bestseller List last month. Her first sale, Dancing with the Devil, to a small print publisher, ImaJinn Books, in 2001. In an interview with RW of Australia in 2002, Arthur admitted that finding a publisher for her work was tough because the paranormal market was so small. Initially ImaJinn had rejected Dancing with the Devil because there was “too much Aussie slang.”

Since 2001, Arthur went on to have 12 more books published through ImaJinn. In 2006, Bantam released a hardcover version of Full Moon Rising which introduced Riley Jensen and her twin brother, Rhoan, who began to fight against cloning of paranormal species. Capitalizing on the paranormal romance craze and Arthur’s prolific writing, Bantam seized the opportunity to present Arthur in back to back to back to back releases of her work starting in January with Full Moon Rising. Last month’s release, Tempting Evil, found Arthur on the NYTimes Bestseller List at No. 14.

This month’s release, Dangerous Games, will no doubt be a NYT Bestseller as well. Ms. Arthur shared some of her thoughts about being an Australian author writing for an American audience.

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Do you have modify the language in the books to exclude colloquialisms from your native tongue?

I do tend to make my novels read more American in style than Australian, as America is my major market, and it just makes more sense to do that. Of course, that being said, there's still an awful lot of Australian ways of saying things that slip through, because I'm just not aware (until it's pointed out by my agent or editor) that American's wouldn't say things that way, or use that word. It's a constant learning experience.

Where do you prefer the books you read to be set?

Wherever the story needs to be set is where I set it. It is easier for me to set everything in Australia–I can research locations just by hopping into my car and driving there–or going to the local tourist information center. But Australia isn't always the right place for the story. For example, one of my recently finished books–Destiny Kills–is set in both America and in Scotland. I've never been to Scotland, and while I have been to America, I've never been to Michigan or Oregon. But they were the most suitable places for the story. Thankfully, the vast amount of information so readily available on the internet made it easier for me to set the story in these places.

How does living outside the U.S. affect your ability to research your books?

As I've already mentioned, the internet–and the information so readily available on it–makes it far easier for those of us living outside the US to research locations. Even so, I tend to rely heavily on my agent and editor to point out the mistakes that arise from cultural/language differences.

Because of the expense of travel, you can’t do many book signings or in person appearances at American bookstores or meet in person with American readers. The cost of mailings is also more expensive. Do you find these to be disadvantages? If so, what can you do to ameliorate that disadvantage?

I don't consider them disadvantages, I just think they're part of the business of writing. I don't do signings or bookstore appearances simply because the costs make it impractical, but I do try to get to America at least once a year for a major conference. Last year I went to the Romantic Times convention, and this year I'm doing both the Romantic Times and Romance Writers of America Conventions. By appearing there, I at least get the chance to meet, and talk to, some of my fans. I hope in coming years to add a few fantasy conventions to the appearances list, too.

As a writer who lives outside the US, do you attempt to make the characters to suit a more US based audience?

It depends greatly on where the book is set. My Riley series is set in Australia, so while I don't make her too obviously Australian, I can't make her seem too American, either. It just wouldn't feel right. But if I have an American character, and the story is set in America, then yes, I try to make the character as real as possible. (again relying on my editor and agent to pick up all the non-American terms and habits)

Are there cultural differences that need to be addressed in a book?

It's all the little differences that we're not aware of as writers that always need to addressed. Different ways of saying things, different names we call the same item, different ways of doing things. Until I was published, I just wasn't aware of how culturally different our two countries were.

What promotional efforts have you found to be most successful in reaching the US audience, other than writing an appealing book?

I think the best promotional tool any author has is their website–as long as the content is always active. For example, new contests, new information, etc, on a regular (at least monthly) basis. A static website won't keep the readers coming back. But a blog that is regularly updated will.

If there is one thing that you could change about the publishing industry, what would it be?

That editors finally realize the Lulus (my crit buddies) are all fantastic writers, and snap their books up immediately. Seriously, though, I wish there was someway to tighten the whole submission process so it didn't take so long for publishers to get back to writers on partials and requests. I think that's the most frustrating thing about this whole business–the fact that it can sometimes take years for an unagented writer to get a yes or no on a submission.

What is your biggest challenge as a writer living outside of the US? What have you done to overcome it?

The biggest challenge I faced as a writer living outside the US was simply getting my work over there. The tyranny of distance and the subsequent postage costs can be daunting, especially when it can cost $100 or more to post a manuscript that may end up simply getting shredded because the editor doesn't like it or thought it wasn't suitable. Of course, there's also the fact that market news/trends can sometimes take a while to filter down here (though this is not so much a problem now, with the internet). I think the biggest boon for those of us outside the US has simply been the rise of email submissions–it made the submission process a whole lot easier.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

3 Comments

  1. Jan
    Mar 26, 2007 @ 08:11:00

    Initially ImaJinn had rejected Dancing with the Devil because there was “too much Aussie slang."

    Too much homogenization and it defeats the whole purpose of setting a book elsewhere. Isn’t part of the charm of reading a British Regency for example in the language people use? In a book I just finished, set in Britain, the main character used quite a few words in ways that were new to me. But they could be figured out by context for the most part, and gave the book a very British feel that would have been lost in “Americanized” language. I suppose some Americans would be put off by the British way of speech if they couldn’t follow it, but I enjoyed it.

    To be honest I used to roll my eyes at any homogenization (like in the Potter books), but I understand it better now after reading a manga where the translator turned everything one character said into a US street dialect I just couldn’t follow. So I do think there has to be a limit.

    I just wonder where most publishers/editors are drawing the line. I hope it’s somewhere beyond making a French character say “Cherie” every other sentence (and somewhere before Authentic Frontier Gibberish).

  2. Josie
    Mar 26, 2007 @ 17:48:09

    I agree with your comment Jan.

    As an Australian who has read and loved the Riley books, I find it a bit of a shame that the characters have been written so as not to alienate anyone. In saying that, I would be unimpressed with a whole lot of Steve Irwin-isms (God rest his gorgeous soul) or characters greeting each other with g’day mate on every other page… But I do think removing specific terminology or colloquialisms (sp?) can sometimes mean selling your story short.

    I can’t see why an American reader would avoid an obvious Australian character or setting, anymore than they wouldn’t read a story because it was set in England or Egypt.

    Besides I think we’re pretty damn loveable down here! :-)

  3. melani
    Apr 12, 2007 @ 19:04:43

    i do understand your thang with the slang but i am a ditz [a silly blonde] when it comes to some slang and i dont think i would feel right asking what this means and what that means , i do give thanks for the making it more american no diss respect i read all of the riley jenson books in 6 days i fell in love with them and i intent to kep reading them , and i would have finished sooner if i did not have to work, but i have to have a job to read the books i love any ways. thanks so much for caring. your biggest fan

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