We drove through Wales on our own (struggling to stay in the proper lane, our eyes bugging out as we slipped through town after town with roads that permitted one car to pass at a time). This meant we had to “read” the street signs. There’s a reason I put “read” in quotation marks. Have you ever read Welsh? Our GPS struggled mightily, as did I.
So when I set my book in Wales, I knew I needed to use a tiny bit of Welsh.
Google translate was my first step in that direction. But you should NEVER rely on that. (Have you seen those posts about tattoos gone wrong?) So as I started to polish the final version of the story, I reached out to native Welsh speakers.
How? I found a Welsh speaking group on Facebook. Posted a request on a page I could not read. Crossed my fingers and held my breath. A conversation started below my post. In Welsh. To this day I have no idea what they said.
At first, silence. And then the private messages trickled in. One person from Facebook, two from Twitter.
I had my Welsh COMPLETELY wrong. All of it. To start, I’d used the wrong form (male/female) to name my tavern. Secondly, I was using a ‘northern Welsh’ term instead of the more appropriate ‘southern Welsh term’. Finally, there’s a water well in the story that I’d named. But instead of it reading as, oh, Anne’s Well, apparently I’d said: “Anne is doing well.”
Many, many back and forth messages later, we had it all sorted. I’m so grateful to Huw Erith, Aled Edwards and Ynyr Roberts for stepping forward to help and patiently answering my clueless questions about the language. It was the tiniest of steps into Welsh, but I enjoyed it so, so much. I hope you, my readers, do as well.
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Though USA TODAY bestselling author Anne Renwick holds a Ph.D. in biology and greatly enjoyed tormenting the overburdened undergraduates who were her students, fiction has always been her first love. Today, she writes steampunk romance, placing a new kind of biotech in the hands of mad scientists, proper young ladies and determined villains.
Anne brings an unusual perspective to steampunk. A number of years spent locked inside the bowels of a biological research facility left her permanently altered. In her steampunk world, the Victorian fascination with all things anatomical led to a number of alarming biotechnological advances. Ones that the enemies of Britain would dearly love to possess.
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