Sherry Thomas, author of Private Arrangements (Bantam, 25 Mar 08), is today’s Guest Author and she’s here to share several posts with TGTBTU’s readers. So read on to learn more about this amazing author…
Learning English the Passionate Way
by Sherry Thomas
Some of you might know — Sybil, for instance, though I’m not sure whether she remembers such things — that English is not my native tongue. In fact I hardly ever spoke it during the first eighteen years of my life — the first thirteen couldn’t be helped, I was living in another country; the latter five, well, let’s just say I found American teenagers to be more alien than Martians and observed them from a distance with a mixture of astonishment and alarm.
But while in my teens I did not speak English in any noticeable quantities, I read a great deal of it. My bio tends to give the exaggerated impression — as bios are wont to do — that I learned English solely from reading romances. That was, of course, not strictly true, as I had a vocabulary of about 200 English words — likely less — when I got off the jumbo jet, not enough to read anything beyond little booklets provided by my English-as-Second-Language classes.
But I disdained those little booklets as a French gourmet disdained le Big Mac. I’d read thousand-page wuxia novels for breakfast back home, and here I was, stuck trying to decipher 10-page picture books about puppies.
So as soon as I could, I moved on to bigger and better things; and by bigger and better things, I mean those books with very colorful covers depicting a man and a woman in various stages of proximity, books that were stocked in K-Mart, Wal-Mart, the grocery stores, and the university bookstore that was a ten-minute bicycle ride from my new home (the married student dorm, since Mom was a grad student then.)
I still remember trying to decipher the back blurbs on some of those books with my very limited English. One book touted an “infamous pirate”—and left me scratching my head. I knew if you put “in” in front of another word, the resulting word meant the opposite of what the original word meant. So why would anyone care about a not-famous-at-all pirate?
Another book said it featured a governess. I got excited. I knew that a governor was the head of a state. And a governess was, of course, a woman governor. As I flipped through the first few pages, however, I became more and more confused. Since when was a governor given a small room in somebody’s house and expected to look after the children?
The first romance that I bought and brought home was Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers, when I was a few months short of fifteen. I still have it. A couple of days ago I flipped through it and its tonnage of adverbs rather struck me. Characters stared dourly, interposed lazily, and exploded violently. But you know what, the lack of finesse in the writing was one of the reasons it made perfect reading material for me — all those I-hate-you’s were easy to understand for someone whose grasp of the language was still shaky at best. And the histrionics kept me turning the pages.
I went on to read Lindsey, Devereux, and McNaught, though no one else gave my dictionary quite the workout Rogers did. It wasn’t obvious to me then, but in retrospect, I see that at eighteen I possessed the vocabulary of a Victorian old lady. It was perfectly slang-free, since I never talked to the kids at school, and remarkably old fashioned.
For example, I am almost sure that I didn’t know—or at least never used—the words “pee” and “poop” until after I’d had a baby of my own. “Dweeb”, “twerp”, “nerd”, were those even words? And all the infinite variety and splendor of the words and phrases that could be made out of “fuck?” They were Greek to me until I started reading blogs in 2003.
But I knew just about every synonym of ardor that could be found in a thesaurus. I knew that a marquess was ranked higher than an earl, who was ranked higher than a viscount. And I knew a thousand and one ways not to call a penis a penis.
And so…I became a historical romance writer!
Comment on any of today’s four Sherry Thomas guest posts with whatever crazy thing you’ve done for love, and you could win an ARC of Sherry’s 29 July 08 Bantam release, Delicious, and a Private Arrangements t-shirt! (Two prizes, one winner.)
Remember, only one entry per IP address is eligible for the prize, but you can comment as often as you wish. Winners will be chosen from comments entered between now and midnight tonight, 24 March, according to the blog’s timestamp (U.S. Central).