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Romance and me: how I became a translator of romance novels

Updated: Apr 22, 2021


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When I graduated from the School for Interpreters and Translators of Rome in... many moons ago, I had big plans. Those plans crashed with reality, and with a few U-turns that my life took, none of which I regret. I began to work as a technical translator for a couple of agencies back when TRADOS was barely a thing. But I spent more time yawning than working and soon realised that it wasn't for me. What was for me — literary translation — did not pay the bills and seemed like a difficult field to crack into, at least at the time. So I set dreams of working as a freelance translator aside and used my language skills to find a desk job, one that could provide a steady income.


But translation was always there, in the back of my mind. Then one day, I came across an ad in the paper: an agency which provided translation and editing services to one of the most prominent Italian publishing houses was looking for translators. I didn’t think twice and applied.


And so I started translating as a side hustle because I could not afford to leave my day job. At the time, I translated non-fiction books. There were a lot of sleepless nights, especially when it came to putting together the bibliography at the end of the book. It soon became too much, and the money wasn't worth putting my mental health at risk. I gave up and focused on raising a family.


I had another go at it a few years after my daughter was born. I guess, subconsciously, I kept looking for something more. Something that could give me that sense of fulfilment and achievement that my day job could not provide — although I loved my day job and still do.


Some more life happened and I found myself in 2016. New city, new country, new life. I was just coming through the other end of a very trying year for me. The mood was not great but I had a daughter to raise, now as a single mother.


On a quiet Sunday afternoon, I remember I was scrolling my Kindle in search for something to read that would provide a few hours' diversion from life. I came across a romance novel. For some reason, the title caught my attention and I bought the book. I felt drawn in from the first paragraph I read. There was something in the characters, their interactions, the setting that made the book unputdownable. I finished it in a couple of days and went searching for more from the same author. I bumped into a whole series, which I read. Then I started reading her older books. Even the romantic suspense, a genre I didn't think I would particularly enjoy.


That first book I read kept resonating with me in the following weeks until I made the decision to contact the author to propose a collaboration. She told me she had just sold the foreign rights for Italy to a publisher. As luck would have it, it was the same publisher I had freelanced for years prior. I reached out to my contacts and asked to translate the book. I had to "audition" again, of course.


That book was Paper Hearts and the author Claire Contreras.


It completely changed my outlook on romance novels which, I must admit, was a little biased. My only encounter with the genre up to that moment had been a handful of Harlequin books I read back in high school.


I have read and translated my fair share of "chick-lit" since Paper Hearts, and I firmly believe that romance novels deserve their rightful place on the bookshelves, right next to Blake or Steinbeck, or Pirandello. Because just like in any other piece of literature, some romance novels are masterpieces with revelations and intuitions about life and love, and loss. And others you wish you'd never read.


But that's a story for another day...





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