Digging Deep: The Choice of the Language

This may sound weird, but you may have noticed that Revived, just like this post and the rest of the website, is written in American English. Nothing strange about that, uh? Lots of people speak American English. If you’re reading this post, chances are that you have a passing understanding of it, too.

There was a time, though, when I did not, because I wasn’t born in a country where American English (or any other kind of English) is the official or primary language. I am an Italian author born and living in Italy (surprise surprise! Well, not really). Some people may therefore wonder: “What made you decide to write this book in English?”

(actually, it was Glynnis Campbell who asked this question. Blame it on her)

Sit down, folks. This is going to be a long post.

There are several reasons for which I wrote Revived in English. The first one was a challenge to myself. The novel wasn’t my first published work in English: well before I began writing it, I had sold a few short stories to online magazines or publishers. However, I had never thought I could really write an actual novel in English. That’s one of the reasons I had started Revived with the intention of writing a short story. Then things got out of hand, as you already know if you’ve read that post. And it suddenly became important that I finished writing my first long work in English. You know those moments when you’re like “I don’t wanna get old and think ‘Why didn’t I do that when I still could?'”? It was like that.

Of perhaps that wasn’t actually the first reason. After all, as I already told you, I had written other stories before Revived, and they, too, were in English. Chronologically speaking, the first reason was a much simpler one: market size. English had 360,000,000 speakers in 2010; Italian had 59,000,000, or less than 1/6th (Wikipedia numbers, I know, but still). You may see see why I didn’t want to limit myself to the smaller market (although, as you may expect, it’s much harder to be noticed if you write in a language that spawned so many other writers, who are most likely better at their craft than you).

But wait, perhaps even that wasn’t the first reason. After all, if my only issue was market size, I should have gone for Mandarin instead of English. Or maybe Spanish. Perhaps the reason is different. I have begun reading stuff in English as a kid, when I first started gaming and roleplaying; a lot of my favorite material wasn’t available in Italian, so I had to find a way past the language barrier. I remember playing Diablo without really knowing what was going on beyond what was written in the manual (the only translated part of the game), slowing picking up a few things as I went; a few years later, I had decided that I loved a roleplaying game called GURPS, and since there was no Italian translation of the latest edition, I used to read the manuals with a dictionary at hand. Later came fiction, in the form of a few books that are still among my favorites: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle and Storm Front by Jim Butcher. But before that there were more videogames, Warhammer army books (I plead guilty), a few comic books and such. English has always been the language of magic and wonder for me, of fantasy and adventure, of everything special and amazing. I couldn’t think of a better language to write in: it’s so versatile and flexible, so precise and yet so vague, so technical and so poetic. Is it so strange that I chose it as my writing langue?

(also, how many other languages allow you to take “Something’s Something”, “Someone’s Something” or even “Something something” and call it a title?)

You know, perhaps there wasn’t one reason behind my choice of American English as the language of Revived. Perhaps there were several, and they were all important. Perhaps that’s your answer. Yes, I think that may be the case.

Oh, wait, you wanted to know why I chose American English? Too bad. I’ll never tell.