Mar 16, 2010

Katy Derbyshire

Translator Katy Derbyshire, who has translated, amongst others, work by famous German authors Julia Franck and Ingo Schulze into English, has been blogging on lovegermanbooks for a little over two years now. Her topics include current issues in German literature, her life as a freelancer, and the German literary market. 
Check out one of Katy's translations from 2007 over at the Berlin-based literary magazine no man's land (a sister publication of the German lauter niemand), before finding out more about her below.

What's your name, how old are you, and what do you do for a living (or all day, for that matter)?

My name's Katy Derbyshire, I'm 36 and I translate literature and other stuff from German to English.

How long have you been blogging? How did you get around to blogging?

Since February 2008. I'd been posting personal stuff on MySpace and realised no one there was interested in German books, so I thought I'd try and reach out to a wider audience.

What's your blog called and why?

It's called love german books - because I do. And it's an imperative because I'm very evangelical about literature.

What are you blogging about? Why?

Book reviews, literary news from Berlin and Germany, translation issues, publishing, events, occasional interviews with translators. One of my motivations is to raise the profile of translators - incidentally a typically "female occupation" - who tend to stay hidden behind the authors they translate. So that's why I have my own voice and try to highlight others. But another motivation is that foreign fiction is often ignored in Britain and the States, thought of as "difficult" and overly intellectual. So I wanted to write about German, Swiss and Austrian books in a more frivolous tone of voice and break down that fear. I try to cover a range from Hertha Müller to Charlotte Roche, but inevitably my taste comes through fairly strongly.

Who's your target audience?

Readers. That is, ideally I'd like to reach people around the world who are interested in books and take an open-minded approach to their reading matter. But as most of the books I review aren't actually translated, I like to hope publishers take a look now and then too. And I know other lit-bloggers have an eye out and pick up on nice stories - like the Kafka postage stamps or posters of literary legs used in a health ministry campaign.

Who designed your blog? How much was that? In case you designed your own layout: Where did you learn how to?

No one. I just use blogspot. (So I'm just going to ignore the next question.)

Which software and which host do you use? Can you recommend them?

What role play photos, MP3-files or video clips on your blog? If you use them, would you mind showing us one (please attach to this reply)?

None whatsoever. That's probably a drawback, but because it's a very personal blog it reflects the way I tick. And I'm so permanently occupied with words that the visual sectors of my brain have withered away. I should probably at least put the covers of the books I review up there, but no. On the other hand, that might not be all that important for fiction-lovers. I do have a picture of me reading a rude book up there, because I didn't want to be too anonymous. My daughter took it - I'm standing in the shower fully clothed, and you can just make out the shampoo bottles in the background.

How many readers do you have? How many would you like to have? Does their number matter to you at all?

Not as many as I'd like. Writing about books in a difficult foreign language is a thankless task. Yeah, I'd love to have thousands every day, but it's building very slowly and I do have a day job. As I said, I hope I can act as a multiplier.

Can you learn how to blog? Do you need to know a lot about computers? Do you have any advice for beginners?

I spoke to someone who started a blog to accompany her business, and she'd read a whole book about it beforehand. I certainly didn't do that. You don't have to know anything about computers unless you want to do fancy stuff. But for me - or for what I'm interested in - it's the content and way it's written that counts. I suppose I read a lot of other blogs before I started and took it from there. My tip would be to just leap straight in and find out what works for you.

Do you use twitter, too? Why (not)? What pros and cons do you see when it comes to twitter?

I don't. I'm already completely addicted to Facebook and I don't need another drug. Twitter's great for finding other people's content online and for seeing what time people go to bed at night. But if we all spend all our time tweeting who'll post the actual stuff?

Which other female bloggers can you recommend? Why?

I love Lizzy's Literary Life - because she's really down to earth and passionate about her book addiction. Also the Bookslut blog - mostly done by Jessa Crispin, who has a great voice and knows how to swear, and takes you to all sorts of unexpected places, from brain research to Angela Carter. Another translator's blog is Margaret Marks' Transblawg. And of course my friends and fellow translators Isa Bogdan - who writes about life and translating and books, and Monika Scheele Knight - who writes about life with an autistic child.


  1. Hi, thank you very much. good job.

  2. Thanks, Ian! Katy and I are sure glad you enjoyed the interview! Greetings from Berlin :)