Today’s post isn’t so much a frequently asked question, as much as me addressing a common theme I’ve noticed among Champions. When I speak–whether it’s on Facebook Live, Youtube Live, or on a panel/discussion–I’ve noticed Champions are always disappointed with themselves because they say character/country/place names differently than I do.
Please allow me to assure you, there is a 95% chance I’m slaughtering my own characters’/country/place names, and I’m the one saying it wrong! There are two main reasons for this!
- Some of my worlds–cough, Timeless Fairy Tales, cough–have countries based on historical countries/empires from the real world. In example: Trieux culture, names, and fashion are all heavily based on historic French culture/fashion/etc. I don’t speak French, so there is no possible way I’m going to be able to pronounce the French-themed names.
- I have a reading disability which makes it hard for me to tell letters apart.
Oohhh, dropped a bit of a bomb on you with that second one, eh? Yes, I have a really hard time correctly pronouncing a lot of regular words from the English language because I can’t for certain tell which letters are used and–as a result–what sound they’re supposed to make. My Midwest accent covers the worst of it–my words tend to slur together so I don’t say letters crisply, meaning it’s harder to tell if I’m for certain saying something correctly or if it’s just my accent. But the biggest giveaway of my reading disability is that if I’m responding to a question and reading a Champion’s name from the comments, I find it really, really difficult to tell what his/her name really is. (Of course it’s extra stressful because it’s LIVE so I’m trying to figure out as quickly as possible what your name is, so I almost always end up mispronouncing it.)
For the sake of those who are curious, my reading problems boil down to my inability to tell the difference between letters. I know d and b are different letters, but looking at them together I have no idea which letter makes what noise because I can never remember which one faces what direction. I rely heavily on memorization, and use keywords to remind me what letters make what noise. In example, if I’m looking at a word that uses a d or b, I’ll visually recall the word “dog” because I 100% know what that word looks like, and I know it starts with a d. I’ll then mentally compare “dog” to the letter in the word, and figure out if it matches or not.
This problem is also why a few of you have caught it when I randomly change the way a character’s name is spelled. I accidentally shifted the Purple Rider’s name between 12 Dancing Princesses (Neera) and Frog Prince (Nareena). When a reader reported the problem to Meg, she sent me the email to let me know there was an issue. I had to count out the letters in each name before I could finally “see” there was a difference, even though one of them has extra letters.
Professionally, this means my poor editors have a lot more work than they might normally, and it’s also why my books will always squeak through and get published with a few minor errors. I’ve gotten lots of offers from people to proof read, but because of my reading disability, I could have ten people go through the book and it would STILL have errors at the end, and the book would take about five times longer to release. And while it is generous and kind of people to offer to proof read, I’m not looking for anymore proofreaders or beta readers at this time.
I’ve settled into an arrangement where editing only takes up about half of the book launch process, and the books have a livable amount of errors when they do get published. I know the errors make some people upset, but this is the very best I can do and still keep up with my launch schedule. So I understand when people choose not to read my books as a result–I even encourage it! We all have our own things that make a book or author vibe with us. This is something I will never be able to fix about myself, and as a fellow reader I want people to read books that make them personally happy!
I ventured off topic for a little while there, but all of this is to say that the next time you hear me say a character name in a wacky or wild way, fret not! 😉 More than likely, you’re the one that’s saying it correctly!
Thanks for reading, Champions! I hope you have a splendid day!
Sarah Allred says
My daughter and I always stare daggers on how we pronounce names differently. Now, I can tell her we are both right! I love that you are so open with the pronunciation of your characters’ names…and with us about your reading disability. I love that you haven’t let it inhibit you with how much you dedicate to writing. You have such an amazing storytelling gift…not to mention your wit! Everything we experience in life shapes us…and then shapes what we do. So, I believe we can thank your experiences with your disability for helping shape the stories that we love from you. I know we all would love to give away our disabilities or whatnot, but would we want to give away the perception and strength we gained through them? Thank you for being an example to so many in this situation.
I can’t imagine writing all the amazing books you do and as quickly as you do with the extra challenges. Thank you!
I didn’t know I was dyslexic until I was an adult. Luckily I’ve adapted well enough to love reading even if I can’t spell or read well out loud. I’ve always had a hard time telling left from right and I was always so confused by the people who told me that your left hand forms an L. I couldn’t figure out how that would help anyone because the right and left hands both made Ls to me!
It was really interesting to read about reading disabilities and thank you for sharing! I think that there are many similar things that people have little to no awareness of, and even when they do it’s often hard for people to really understand how it feels and how something would be difficult so taking the time to describe the experience is really helpful.
Not to mention that it’s always good to have an extra reminder to not judge (ourselves or someone else) or assume things because we never know what piece of information we’re missing. In this particular case it’s always hard when it’s written words you never really had a reason to pronounce, exactly like you wrote in your first point about the European-based names. It’s one of my personal pet peeves, actually – I’m not a native English speaker, but I speak it really well with a very soft foreign accent. For the most part I pronounce things correctly, but I will get things I never had to pronounce before wrong, or sometimes pronounce things in my native language’s pronunciation (when we use the same word). While I don’t mind being corrected, some people actually laugh, and while it’s not ill-intended, it’s the same concept of forgetting there are a lot of factors to how people speak and pronounce things, for example.
You are amazing and I love your work! Thanks for sharing this info. It makes you even more incredible to me.
Wow! That second thought you shared about reading struggles stopped me in my tracks. I have a 10 year old son with an amazing vocabulary and story-telling ability, but can hardly read at all. He struggles with the same things you described. It is so heartening and encouraging to see that such an incredible and successful writer can find solutions despite reading struggles. Thank you for your stories, your humor, and sharing about yourself.
I got my dad and my younger sister hooked on your books, and they both have different ways of pronouncing some of the names. (Like Arianne- I pronounce it Air-ee-AH-nee, and my sister says it like AIR-ee-un)
Really? That’s interesting, I pronounce Arianne like Are-ee-ANNE….it’s cool how different people pronounce names/places.
I always find when reading books that if I discuss it with people face some place/character names will be pronounced differently. After all there are plenty of words that get mispronounced by people who have only ever seen them written down and never heard them said aloud before.
Personally I am welsh and have a tendency when reading to things my mind will automatically try to pronounce any names that look welsh in accordance to the welsh alphabet. So with the elves of Lessa when I read the name Gwendafyn the single f is pronounced as a v and then I occasionally wonder if fyn is meant to sound like vyn or fin. I always assume it’s the latter since she is an elf girl not a welsh girl 🙂
I read The Grey King by Susan Cooper when I was younger, and I loved the section where Bran was explaining Welsh pronunciations to Will! Welsh Gwendafyn sounds so elegant
So this is how I pronounce some of your country names and I got most of them wrong
Verglas \(‘)ver:gläss \
What do you think book four in your elves of lessa series will be about
Book 4 for Elves of Lessa is going to be about Seer Ringali’s son and Blaise
Really wow I thought it was going to be something about the kings other son looks like I was wrong
Thank you so much for writing! This revelation just makes me love you all the more. I don’t have a reading problem so much as I have health problems. It’s all good now so long as I take care of myself, but I discovered your books during that hard time when we didn’t know what it was or how to treat it. Your books gave me something to look forward to. I especially appreciate that I can recommend them to my middle school and younger book buddies and still enjoy them with my mom. Your my favorite author and have been for years. So thank you very much for everything you do. Don’t ever stop! 😊
What Lys said 🙂
My daughter and I both read your books. We are constantly comparing how we say names and places. We love your books and enjoy them so much. Thank you for sharing part of yourself with us. I love that you call us champions. Stay safe. Stay healthy.
Merie Shen says
I never thought you were the one mispronouncing– I always thought I was, haha! A close writer friend of mine is dyslexic, so I totally understand how that can bleed into writing!
I totally get it. It took me 15 times reading through life reader before I noticed any errors and I didn’t notice the purple rider thing. I get the struggle of pronouncing names and words too. I’m trying to learn french, and whenever I read a word it’s barely passable. You are my favorite author, the author who got me interested in fantasy, and the author who got me into romance. I don’t care about little errors.
I totally understand. I have dyslexia and its hard for me to write a simple text message. I always know what word i want to use but i cant always find the first letter and have to say it out loud and really look for it on the keyboard. Never let anyone look down on you for that. There are some good things that come out of reading problems. I can read things backwards!!! Try it its fun!!
Lauren P. says
Thank you for your sweet and generously open explanation about this!
Dyslexia is VERY strong in my extended family. Despite being a large group of intelligent and voracious readers, it definitely was a huge problem for many of us as kids, and still causes some issues (and anxieties!) that we mostly adapt to as adults, but are difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t see the world that way.
I’m glad that you’ve found what works for you as a writer, and that you know where your reasonable boundaries and expectations are so that you don’t allow an attempt at perfection to paralyze you and keep you from writing.
I really admire not only your work, but how you go about accomplishing it. And that admiration only increases when you share things like this. You go girl! (And way to go, all of you valuable and talented editors, artists, beta readers, and support team members, too!)
Honestly, I never noticed any mistakes. I frequently change the order of the letters in my head, so I didn’t notice that you changed the Purple Rider’s name. I love your books. They are my favorite.
Kitty’s book are for relaxation and escape. Plus they are great stories well told. Just keep up the great quality, especially in the areas that truly count! Of course, while taking care of yourself!
To complain about spelling is like refusing to wear a pair of great pants because they aren’t the “right brand”! If someone can’t tell quality unless everything is spelled correctly and grammatically correct, they need to go work in someone’s research lab and leave the rest of us in blissful, imaginative, CLEAN, fun peace.
Thank you for writing, inspiring great writing, and giving us great escapes, guilt free!
Yes I totally agree with you
Sabrina Nelson says
Absolutely agree with Marietta! Kitty has what really counts for a great author. But I have to ask, what inspired you to be a writer?
Oh I forgot, Kitty your books are amazing, and they are the only books I read these days on my kindle.
Even though I do not have any reading disabilities, I always mispronounce foreign names or words, or names and words in general. I often will just go to my mom to tell her about what happening in the book I’m reading, when then I say a certain word I don’t know how to pronounce and she looks at me weirdly and then tells me the correct pronunciation. The most recent mess up for me was Evariste’s name (still can’t pronounce it).
Excuse me I meant to say Erlauf based on Germany and Trieux based on France.
Could you tell me which countries in timeless Fairytales are based on which ones in the real world? You mentioned the French aspects in Erlauf. I thought Trieux may be based on Germany. The countries in The Little Selkie seem to be based on Ireland and Scotland. And the country with an emperor could be based China or Japan? I’m curious about these and all the rest of the countries. Please enlighten me!
I think Kozlovka is Russian
Hi!! I have never ever had a problem with anything in regards to “errors” in the books OR in how you pronounce anything! AND I was trained as an English Tutor, but that also means that I’m VERY aware of reading issues such as dyslexia and more. I also specialized in those learning English as a second language, and English is such a hard language that I’ve never expected anyone to get it always right, especially myself. And when we’re reading your books, they’re so wonderful and enjoyable that if there are any errors, it doesn’t matter. The story does! And seeing where you’ll take us next!
I agree with TQueenJanet. I have a touch of dislexia so regardless of whether or not there are errors I always trip up on things from time to time. But I never let that derail me from enjoying the story, because I get so caught up in the story that any errors really don’t matter. On those stories that don’t catch my fancy to the same degree that yours do I will struggle a bit more, but I do get through them and I enjoy them, though, not to the same degree. The only time I don’t finish a story is because I just don’t like the story for reasons that have nothing to do with spelling or grammer. Kitty, you don’t have that problem. I alway enjoy your stories. Not only are you a good story teller, you tell good stories. I’ve seen good story tellers tell awful stories. It doesn’t have anything to do with their skill as a story teller (in fact, their skill at story telling actually makes it worse) but it has everything to do with the story they’ve chosen to tell. I so appreciate that you chose to tell good stories.
Case in point: Look at what you did with the DonkeySkin story. That has to be one of the most sick and disturbing stories ever, and you told it in such a way that made it a good story! Not everyone has that gift! In conclusion, just know that I both appreciate and am jealous of your ability. And I love that you are so willing to share your gift is such a way that makes this world a better place to live. So, thank you, thank you, thank you!
I’ve never been disappointed to hear you pronounce characters’ names because I assume that I am the one reading them wrong because I also have a reading disability. In the words of Lightning Thief the musical, dyslexia? Not cool. Most of the time my brain doesn’t even register potential errors until the third read. You are one of my favourite authors of all time, error or no error, so please be kind to yourself.