I’ve just received the British cover art for ‘Bryant & May and the Invisible Code’ and it’s sensational. The artist, David Frankland, just goes from strength to strength. I’m also in the middle of a quadruple edit – my most complex ever. First I’m doing the US edit, then tackling the UK notes, then I have to cross-reference the Uk with the US changes, and then do the reverse – and yet the two editions are still markedly different.
So what’s the difference between the English and American Bryant & Mays, apart from the opposite take on the covers? Well first, some of the more esoteric anglicisms (or ‘Deep English’ terms) are adapted, but there’s also a fundamental pace change. The US adventures are slightly faster, with less location setting, and the dialogue scenes are tighter. In the UK editions, dialogue is surrounded with more ‘bedding in’ i.e. the placement of characters within rooms, extraneous activity, facial gestures, body positions and general physicality.
And on a very subtle level, more colloquial language is tacitly understood. For example, we have a habit of saying something like ‘go and take a look’, whereas in the US edition it will appear as ‘go to take a look’. The UK version is casual, the US more imperative. And there are more degrees of local meaning in some conversations in the UK editions.
The changes generally reflect the personal taste of the editors, both of whom have distinct but different requirements. They run suggestions past me, and I act or don’t act on them, as I see fit. Often Kate Miciak, my New York editor, will inspire me to add a fresh line of dialogue or action. In London, editor Simon Taylor will do the same in different sections of the book. Questions of clarity and forward action arise, and the US edition is notably more careful about the legal problems inherent in mentioning living characters.
So you end up with two similar but not identical books. I recall that when the playwright Willy Russell transferred ‘Shirley Valentine’ from stage to film he made the latter transatlantic (to its detriment) by removing the local brand-names, so I don’t want to take the ‘one size fits all’ approach. I’ll post the new cover after it has been tweaked a little.