Frank Roger has been my friendly nemesis for some years. Every time I have a story translated into a new language, Frank has stories in two new languages. I decided to catch up with him in the hopes of capturing the secret of his success...
How did your first translated sale come about?
I had been writing for a number of years and had a series of stories published in Dutch, in various Belgian and Dutch magazines and the odd anthology. For a few years I was happy to see my work published in those small magazines. However, I quickly understood that if I continued this way, little else would happen for the rest of my life. Somehow I felt there had to be more to writing, that there had to be a way to reach a bigger readership. I needed to break out of the relatively small part of the world where Dutch was spoken. After all, why limit oneself?
So when I had a story in French, I submitted it to a fanzine put out by a Walloon friend, the late Alain le Bussy, and it was published in 1990, my first publication in another language than my native Dutch. I tried a few more magazines: some stories in French ended up in French fanzine Octa, a story submitted in English was published in Finnish magazine Tahtivaeltaja in 1991 – my third language. Then I discovered German magazine Solar-X, which ran a whole bunch of stories by me over the years. Lithuanian magazine Dorado Roganos followed, and I just kept going as I knew by then that there was an interest for my work abroad.
Do you write in both French and Dutch, and does your style vary depending on the language?
I usually write in English, and afterwards make a Dutch version (rather than a translation) of the story – sometimes it’s the other way round. Occasionally I translate my stories into French. I think my style is the same regardless of the language I’m working in.
Did you set out to lead the way in translations, or did it just happen by accident?
I submitted to magazines and anthologies in other languages on a regular basis, and as it seemed to work, I just kept going. There was no plan behind it really, but after a while I grew curious as to how many languages I might reach, and I actively started looking out for new markets. I’m still doing so, with (at the time of writing) work published in 44 languages.
Is there another language you’d really like to be published in?
Basically, all the languages I haven’t been published in so far. Japanese would be fine, for instance, or some African languages. Some European languages are still missing, like Czech. We’ll see how far I can take this.
You write stories in a variety of genres. What appeals to you about writing in those different styles?
Although my work is quite varied, I don’t feel as if I’m working in different fields or styles. I tend to think of my work as a big jigsaw puzzle - each story is a piece of that puzzle, and each piece may have a different shape, size or colour from the rest, but all the pieces together form the puzzle, the complete picture.
Which publication are you particularly proud of, or excited about?
I’m proud of all my publications, but naturally of the professional ones especially, such as my twenty or so stories in Greek magazine Ennea, or my stories in magazines/anthologies in France (Galaxies), Poland (Nowa Fantastyka), South Africa, India, China… And of course my story in the anthology “Chilling Horror Short Stories” from a major UK publisher.
What do you have planned for next year?
As always, I hope to do more and better work. And I may add a few more languages…