Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ann Summerville

If you follow Ann Summerville’s blog, Cozy in Texas, then you know she wasn’t born in Texas. She was born in London, lived in California, then made her way to Texas twenty years ago. She writes the Lowenna series and graciously agreed to talk about the English language.

Ann Summerville 

 When I first moved to Texas I was shopping in Sears and the sales clerk asked where I was from. When I told her I had moved from England she sighed and said she had travelled extensively, but was concerned with not knowing other languages. She then asked what language they spoke in England. I looked at her for what seemed a full minute trying to judge if she was joking. She wasn’t.

But English, whether written or spoken, can be different, which became even more evident when I started writing my first novel, A Graceful Death.

As the book was based in Cornwall, I wrote it with all the English phrases using words like car park instead of parking lot, windscreen wipers instead of windshield, frock instead of dress, lorry instead of truck – you get the picture. It was when I began to read in front of a critique group that I realized many of the English words and phrases were completely baffling the listeners. I decided to write for an American audience and what resulted was a mixture of English and American English. Hopefully, my English readers won’t be too critical and my American readers will be able to read the story without stopping to try and understand what a bin man (trash collector) or bonnet (car hood) is. Any uncommon words to the American ear, I described or elaborated upon. The word grey was replaced with gray (except Earl Grey tea) and towards was replaced with toward.

Then there’s the punctuation. Again, I used American punctuation. What’s the difference you may ask? In England single quote marks are used and the full stop (period) comes after the quote mark.
And the young sales girl? After explaining that they spoke English in England, she then divulged all the places she had travelled to: East Texas, West Texas and South Texas. Where, apparently, they all spoke English.

Thank you Ann.

Ann Summerville lives with her son, two boisterous dogs and an elusive cat. She is currently working on the third novel in the Lowenna series, Gwinnel Gardens. Her latest novel, The Berton Hotel was published in 2011.

Here's an excerpt from The Berton Hotel

          Welcome to Crystal Wells. Lily glanced at the sign, wondering if her great grandmother, Ermenia, had passed here before leaving and if she’d thought about the young daughter she’d left behind. Vanished, without a trace, disappeared into thin air. Lily conjured up all the phrases used when her great grandmother was mentioned.
          She’d had three days of driving to think about her decision. But what was the force pushing her toward this desolate town? To solve the mystery of Ermenia’s disappearance, to get away from a disastrous relationship, to advance her career? Lily was still unsure.
          The Darth Vadar theme blasted from her bag, and with one hand on the wheel, she fumbled between the lipstick case, receipts, antibacterial gel and credit cards before feeling the smooth mobile phone.
          “Stop calling,” Lily yelled into the phone without connecting to the call. She snapped it shut with a finality she did not feel.
          As far as she was concerned there were two types of men. Deserters like her father and control freaks like Eric. Lily tossed her phone and it fell amongst the jumble in her bag.

You can find The Berton Hotel on Amazon, in both print and for the Kindle.

Before you zip off to Amazon, though, leave a comment or question for Ann – but type slowly since, well, you know she wasn’t born here. And  also, by the magical powers of the Internet, I'm over on Ann's blog today. Drop by and say hi to me, too.


  1. It's amazing how different American and British English can be! Interesting how you tried to meld the two to have authenticity and comprehension for both sets of readers.

  2. Elizabeth, when pitching to agents, several asked me to change the location of my book and move it to a U.S.town. That made me rethink how I could keep the village in England, but write for an American audience.

    Helen, thanks for inviting me today.

  3. Well, pip pip, cheerio, and bully for you, Ann.

  4. Now, Christopher, don't go bullying my guest!

    Ann, you're welcome. I'm quite excited that you posted here today! And thank you for hosting me on your blog. Love the bluebonnets!

  5. That clerk's question cracked me up! I bet there's places in Texas where one would question if those people spoke English.

  6. Ann, you have just explained one of my more recent mysteries. At the writer's conference (in San Diego, CA) I attended this weekend, a woman was talking about the horrid excuse of an editor she worked with. Apparently, this editor tried to make her replace all her double quotes with single quotes and put the punctuation outside.

    Now I know why!

  7. Christopher, only people who have names like Penelope and Bunty use those words. I'm from London where we say things like "up the apples and pears" for stairs (Cockney), blimey, and bloody hell.

    Gayle, I'm surprised that someone from a U.S. conference would ask you to change the punctuation to British style. There are so many differences.

  8. I love that the sales clerk asked you what language we spoke in England. Too funny.

    One of my publishers is based in the US but as my books are set in the UK, I'm allowed to keep my Britishisms. I try to use words that will be understood by UK and US readers but I know I've confused several from the US. Two nations separated by a common language, eh? :)

  9. Even though I am very much American, I seem to like the English form of our language better than the American one. It seems that it's more common sense.

  10. Yes, that clerk is really well-traveled, isn't she? I know people in my home town who've never ventured more than two hours from here.

    A mixture of both American and proper English sounds just right.

  11. Helen: I knew Ann had that dry brit wit.

    Ann: I had buddy who was in London and asked a bobby where 'Grow-sven-or' Square was ... the answer: "That's Grove-ner, Guv-ner.'

  12. Christopher, try saying "dry brit wit" five times, real fast.

  13. I think there are some sales clerks like that one in PA also.
    One of my editors occasionally posts to our authors' group to remind the writers living overseas to use American English.

  14. Its great to meet Ann and best wishes with The Berton Hotel!

  15. Hi Helen and Ann .. love the comments and replies .. we have the dialect differences too ..

    Now the thing that makes me wonder is the size of that hotel .. I (almost) come from Cornwall .. my grandparents and mother do .. and I have spent many a long time down there over the years ...

    ... and a hotel that size - in Cornwall ...

    that little peninsula poking out towards America ...

    to me that is the incongruous bit!!

    Unless the Berton Hotel is in London - then OK!!

    Cheers - gosh we have some funny terms .. but speaking English in America - well it is another language - your Texan is so right!!! Fun post and I'd love to read your books sometime Ann .. thanks for hosting Helen - Hilary

  16. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the salesgirl...
    It is difficult, to say the least. Being American, and knowing the majority of my audience is, I choose to write about Americans reacting in foreign countries. Makes it easier. Although with global communication, I've found my language is blended now. I can't remember if it's gray or grey, toward or towards anymore.


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