Friday, August 12, 2022

A Conversation with Aki Fuyuto and Yooichi Kadono


One of the most validating things that can happen to a writer is when their work gets picked up for translation. As much as we'd all like to believe our work is "universal," the only actual proof you have that that might be even a little true is when a publisher in another country is willing to invest in your writing-- believes that their audience will enjoy your stories and be able to relate to your characters enough to actually make their investment a reasonable business decision.

There are practical aspects to having your work translated, as well, of course. First off, we're all always seeking ways to expand our audience, Secondly, that passive income stream can occasionally be a lifesaver. Which is why I warn against blithely handing over your translation rights when you sign with a publisher. Just because no one is interesting in translating you now doesn't mean that will always be the case. The global market is booming. Which means so is the translation market.

My work's been translated into a number of languages at this point, and I still love seeing the translated covers and hearing from fans who've only (or mostly) read me in their native language. Their comments and questions are particularly interesting, framed as they are by cultural differences.

Anyway, my Japanese translations are some of my very favorites. Partly that has to do with how engaged the Japanese readership is, partly it has to do with the fact that (the publisher) Shinshokan has been really good to work with--I feel like over the years my translator has become a friend--and partly it has to do with the fact that these translations are illustrated. Because of the wonderful art, a surprising number of my readers who don't speak Japanese have gone ahead and bought the translations! (So...kind of genuis on the part of the publisher. ;-))

Because I'm asked so often about the translation process (by other writers, yes, but also by readers), I thought it would be interesting to "interview" translator Aki Fuyuto and artist Yooichi Kadono (who, among other works, does the illustrations on the Art of Murder series).  


Hello to Josh and the readers of this blog! We are excited to get a chance to talk about ourselves here.
For those who wonder who we are, here is some information about ourselves.

Aki Fuyuto: a translator, mainly working on M/M romances with Monochrome Romance label, a sub label of Shinshokan. My first work as a translator was Josh's 'Icecapade.'

Yooichi Kadono: an illustrator. Worked in the film industry, which led to painting. With an offer from an editor in Shinshokan, started as an illustrator. My first work as an illustrator was Josh's 'The Case of Christmas.'

JL - Are you able to choose your own projects or are they assigned to you? If you're able to choose, what attracts you to a particular work? What do you look for? And if you're not able to choose, then what do you find especially satisfying in a work?

Aki Fuyuto: Yes, I can. I make a short list of M/M romance to translate for the publisher and decide with them which one is to be next.
What attracts me is difficult to put into words, but I like the intensity between two people and love to watch it turn their lives upside down, so savagely.

JL - That's it, isn't it? Love is a disrupter and a catalyst for change. It's not always positive--although in our stories it is.

Yooichi Kadono: I don't choose the project. I'll do it if an offer comes, unless I have other things already scheduled. I love to experience the new and unknown. I don't know much about 'satisfaction' in a work, um.

JL - :-D :-D :-D 

JL- What advice do you have for others wishing to enter your fields?    

Fuyuto: Love languages, dictionaries, and Google Search. Sometimes the latter two deceive you, so don't trust them, just be pals with them!

JL - Yes, more than once, Google Search has broken my heart. ;-D

Kadono: Most crucial thing is staying healthy. Even in the busiest time, you have to take good care of yourself.

JL - I think artists in general have trouble remembering this.

Questions for Aki Fuyuto

JL - My feeling is translation is a greatly under-appreciated art. How did you become interested in this line of work? Do you also write original fiction?

AF - I was always interested in translation work as a reader. It's fascinating to get a glimpse through the "window" between two languages.
But becoming a translator... kind of just happened. When my editor contacted me, I was merely an active M/M romance reader and reviewer. After giving some advice about the M/M genre, like which books were popular, I got a chance to translate one of them, so I went for it, thinking it's now or never.
I used to write some fan-fiction and original fiction, though not since starting as a translator. There is just no time. Maybe one day?

JL - That's so interesting! I had no idea. I think this is inspiring for other aspiring translators to read.

JL - What would you say is the greatest challenge in your work? For example I think humor must be especially tricky to translate.

AF - Oh, humor and jokes are always the most difficult ones! When a character says "no pun intended," I want to mutter "SO WHY YOU SAID THAT?" so many times, haha.

JL - *whistling and looking skyward*

AF - Sometimes a word or words contain cultural backgrounds, like history or common knowledge which is not so common here, it gives me a massive headache.

JL - I'm assuming that translation is a fairly solitary occupation. Is that a plus or minus for you? Did you find it difficult to work during the first years of the pandemic?

AF - I think it's a plus for me, being not much of a social person. So staying home during the early pandemic was not so difficult for me as for some others. Though I miss the long train trip so much.

JL -  - What is your work day like? Do you work under tight deadlines?

AF - Usually, I work from noon to night after getting some household chores done.
Not with so tight deadlines, unless when the publishing date gets dangerously closer and closer.

JL - The deadlines do have a habit of sneaking up, knife in hand. ;-D

JL - What do you wish authors, readers, (really anyone) better understood about the work you do?

AF - Just be kind to a messenger, haha. Sometimes translators ask so trivially-seemed questions to authors, but please bear with us!

JL - For the record, I never mind the questions! My Chinese translators catch a lot of funny little inconsistencies in the AE series, which is amusing, but also mmakes me think HOW HAVE THESE BEEN MISSED ALL THESE YEARS? :-D

JL - Which is your favorite of our shared titles/series? And why?

AF - Adrien English Mysteries, though this is a tough question and I may choose other books if asked other days.
I first read AE Mysteries a little time after I found the M/M romance world so that I could enjoy reading as just a reader. The feeling I got while reading them is rich, intricate, and sometimes almost painful. That made this series so special for me and led me deeper into M/M romances.

JL - Those characters still live in my thoughts and imaginings.

JL - How do you refresh your creative energy? Where do you find inspiration?

AF - Playing with my 4-year-old cat, cooking challenging recipes, walking around with my camera, and watching sports on TV like tennis or marathon.
These days, I love going to figure skating shows!

JL - I love seeing the pictures of your cat! 

JL - What relationship advice would you give to Sam Kennedy and Jason West if you could talk to them? ;-D

AF - Wow, relationship advice to those two? I think it's beyond my capacity! LOL.


AF - i have a joint answer with Kadono-san for this, so see below for our solution.

JL - Do you have advice for authors hoping to have their work translated into the Japanese language?

AF - Um, honestly, not much to give. The translation market in Japan is sadly not big, so it depends on the luck mostly to be picked. Just please make sure to put in your contact information if you self-publish! There is no guarantee, but I'm always seeking good M/M short stories, so give me a shout if you have a story under 15,000 words, I promise to get a look.

Questions for Yooichi Kadono

JL - I know Aki told you I'm a huge fan of your work. My niece is now also a great fan and so the first question comes from her. She'd like to know the artists you feel have most influenced your own work and also the artists you think most highly of.

YK - There are so many...though this two are very special for me, Tabata Kihachi III and Dries Van Noten.

Tabata Kihachi III, 三代 田畑喜八(1899−1956), was a textile-dyeing craftsman for luxury kimonos, and his book 'Flora sketches,' 三代 田畑喜八の草花図, is my favorite. His artistic flow feels so free and pleasant, so natural to me.

Seeing the collection of Dries Van Noten always inspires me. Especially, I love those collections in 1993, 2015,16, and 17.
His documentary film is also my favorite, I feel super recharged every time after watching it.

JL -  Do you select the scenes you illustrate or are those scenes chosen for you? If you choose the scenes, how do you make your choice? If the scenes are chosen for you, do you find that difficult?     

YK - The editor selects the scenes more often than not for me, though it depends on the case. It takes the same amount of effort, regardless of whether I select the scene or not.                            

JL - What is your work day like? Do you find that deadlines constrain your creativity?

YK - Getting out of bed at ten in the morning, working from noon after lunch, taking dinner at six in the evening, working again from seven, and going to bed at three. (Actually, I want to get up at five in the morning and sleep at 10 in the evening!)

Deadlines make me more concentrated, but I hate it when a shortage of time rushes me to decide on composition without thinking through it.

JL - Yes, deadlines have a way of doing that. ;-D And I agree.

JL - What do you find most challenging or difficult in your work?

YK - To materialize the image in my head, while the images are always so ahead of my hand. It’s the most challenging and frustrating thing.

JL - I was so excited to learn that you have two books out. Please tell us a little about those (include links!)

Many men in suites sketches!

Simple sketches is the theme, I think...

JL - I have to interject here to say that I have both of these books and they are WONDERFUL. I highly recommend them!

JL - Which is your favorite of our shared titles/series? And why?

'Night Watch.' I cried a lot, to my surprise, when I read it the first time. It feels like Henry's words and actions helped me during that hard time.

The Art of Murder series is also my favorite!

JL - Of course I love all your work, but the art in that particular series is genuinely inspiring. I can't wait to see what you do with The Movie-Town Murders.

JL - I'm assuming that illustration, like translation (or just writing!) is a fairly solitary occupation. Is that a plus or minus for you? Did you find it difficult to work during the first years of the pandemic?

YK - It has a plus and a minus. The plus tops the minus very slightly, by a grain of sand, making the solitariness easier so I can get along with it.

I'm also an indoor person like Fuyuto-san, so it's not difficult to work during the pandemic years. However, my close one got Covid and was admitted to a hospital for a long time, I think the experience changed my perspective more than a little.

JL - I'm so sorry! I hope they're better now.

JL  -  What relationship advice would you give to Sam Kennedy and Jason West if you could talk to them? ;-D

Fuyuto: Wow...really?
Kadono: I don't think they will have an ear for the advice, especially from us. LOL.
Fuyuto: Their communication skills are dubious, to say the least.
Kadono: Though it seems they talk to each other pretty frankly on the phone...
Fuyuto: THAT'S IT.

So our relationship advice to them is that:
Talk to each other on the phone, even when they are face to face at the same place.

JL - LOL. I have to work it into the final book somehow. :-D

JL - I love and appreciate every artist who helps bring my stories to life, but something in your work particularly resonates with me. What do you consider your strengths as an artist? What are you always seeking to improve?

YK - Umm...I'm not sure how to answer this. My strength as an Never giving up art?
The thing I'm trying to get is the basics. Sometimes I get back to the basics to learn again from there.

AF & YK - We want to ask you some questions too!

What do you think of translation, not a particular work but a whole idea of translation, as an author? (Fuyuto)

JL - I think I answered this a bit above, but I find it validating yet also humbling. One thing that is always on my mind is the concern that I'm representing these characters (who ultimately become symbolic) correctly. Not just the characters, but also U.S. culture and society. Portraying things fairly yet accurately (or as best I can given that my viewpoint is subjective and my experiences limited) without getting overly political. If that makes sense.

YK - Do you visit museums often? If so, can you tell me some encounters you remember well? What opinion do you have about the restoration of old artwork? (Kadono)

JL - I don't visit museums as much as I used to or would want to. I love all kinds of museums. The last large museum I went to was the Met in New York a few summers ago with a dear friend. That was wonderful. I could have stayed all day.  And then when the SO and I went to Montreal, I dragged him to just about every museum we came across. He's a huge fan of Tom Thomson , so we tried to find every exhibit we could. I also love little weird hole-in-the-wall museums! 

When it comes to art restoration, I want art to be protected and preserved. What I struggle with is when, for example, an earlier sketch or an an abandoned idea by the artist is discovered and then "restored." From my perspective, the artist's final vision is what matters and what must be preserved. Also, like Jason West, I get a little homicidal when it comes to people who steal or damage these treasures that are part of our world heritage. These things belong to all of us. So even if I believe in a particular political cause, if someone glues themselves to a irreplaceable piece of art, I'm okay with doing any necessary damage to them to save that work of art. (Which doesn't mean I won't continue to donate to that cause.)

Do you have a favorite tea? (We just want to know a trivial thing about you!)

JL - I do! White peony tea is my favorite. 

I want to thank my two talented guests for being so generous with their time and information! I so much enjoyed learning a little bit about you both. I hope it won't be our last such converation! :-) 


  1. *raised hand* I'm ones of those people who has the Japanese editions because of the illustrations! And because they're cool. Thanks so much for the interview, Kadono-san and Fuyuto-san!
    You have got to do something with Jason and Sam, sitting back to back, talking to each other on the phone.
    I don't care if it's in a book, or a coda, or just send it directly to me, (what?! I can dream, right!?) but it MUST be done!

    1. That would be great. I can see it so perfectly. :-D Yes, I believe there may be a coda in there.

    2. Long before I ever imagined I would have Japanese translations of my work, I used to buy the Kizuna manga simply for the beautiful art. I still have them. :-)

  2. I’m not good at English, so I read Lanyon-san’s original work and then read a Japanese version.
    Fuyuto-san’s translations are great.
    She cherishes word orders and rhythms in your works, though her translations are natural, clear and amazingly refined. I can understand characters’ feelings beyond cultural differences. Except sometimes Sam's feelings.

    Great original works, great translations, great arts. Art of murders series make me so happy.
    Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much! You're so kind. I love working with Fuyuto-san. She worries about annoying questions, but as an author, that tells me she's doing her job. ;-)

  3. I'd love to read the scene of Jason and Sam talking via phone to each other face to face, haha! I wish Kadono-san could draw some sketches about it.
    Thank you for having us here. We enjoyed it so much!

  4. That was fascinating! I love everything about the creative process and their input was so interesting. I think both their jobs would be so difficult. Transacting idioms, sarcasm, etc. is probably a nightmare. And I'm intrigued that Yooichi Kadono is able to nail the moods of the scenes even with someone else selecting which ones to illustrate. I'd think it would go more easily to select a scene that spoke to her.
    Thank you for this!