Spotlight on Literary Translators is a regular feature here at Intralingo. The aim of these interviews is to get the word out about our profession and the works we bring into other languages. The insight the interviewees provide is also sure to help all of us who are aspiring or established literary translators. Enjoy!

Spotlight on Literary Translator Rafa Lombardino

LC: What language(s) and genres do you translate?

RL: I mainly translate in either direction of the Portuguese-English language combination, having completed five EN>PTbr books with a sixth one on the way and three PTbr>EN titles with two more in the works. I’d love to translate books in my other languages as well, that is, from Spanish and Italian into Portuguese/English.

I mostly work with thrillers, some with supernatural components (ghosts or zombies―the latter of them being my guilty pleasure), while other titles include serial killers, international intrigue, and crime in general. Apart from that, I’ve worked on two non-fiction books so far: one was written by a psychiatrist who specializes in treating victims of filicide, and the other one was about Capitalism and Humanism, which interestingly enough is the same theme of a novel I’m currently translating from Portuguese to English.

LC: How did you get started as a literary translator?

RL: I had been working as a technical translator for fourteen years when I finally got my first book deal in 2011. Literary translation is what actually attracted me to this career, but considering my professional background in IT and Communications, I had been working with translations in computers and technology, education and business for all those years.

Then I got a Kindle reader as an end-of-the-year gift in 2010 and discovered the world of eBooks―more specifically the independent authors publishing books directly to their faithful audience. I had unsuccessfully tried to establish some contact with publishers in Brazil, my native country, but even though some editors liked my samples I was never offered a book to translate. I decided to be more proactive then and contacted those self-published authors myself.

At the same time, I launched a website called Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories to promote Brazilian authors in English. We’ve been publishing one short story every 15 days and published our first collection as eBook and print-on-demand (POD) in December 2012.

Since then, I’ve been working on book translations back to back and established a great relationship with KBR Editora Digital, a publisher in Brazil that is a pioneer in eBooks―before Amazon and other players reached the Brazilian market. They have a steady demand to translate their catalog into English and I’m really happy about this partnership.

LC: What do you love most and least about this work?

RL: I love the fact that I’m finally working on what I always thought I was meant to do: bring books to an international audience. My technical work has a very straightforward, informational purpose; that is, to facilitate communication between businesses, give step-by-step instructions to employees using computer software, and help people understand more about issues that affect our health and environment.

However, with book translation you get a little bit of that sense of longevity, because good books will have more than an immediate effect and stand the test of time, affecting many generations to come. As someone who loves to read, feeling that you can somehow contribute to a dialog between readers who speak a different language than the authors of their favorite books is definitely something I cherish.

As for the negative side of this activity… I’d say I’m always frustrated that I cannot translate fast enough to know how the story ends! I rarely have a chance to read a book from cover to cover before I sit down to translate it, even though such approach helps a translator make progress faster―as I have noticed with one book I really liked as a reader and later had a chance to translate after contacting the author directly. However, that’s not a very realistic approach when you have deadlines to meet, and I do enjoy the fact that my feelings and impressions as a reader can contribute the translation in real time during the rough draft.

Also, when I work with self-published authors and we don’t have an editorial team behind us, I also need to wear different hats apart from that of a translator. As much as I enjoy having a more hands-on role in the publishing process―contributing to everything from preparing the final book format to marketing―it can sometimes be very challenging and a little overwhelming until you are finally satisfied with the final product.

LC: Can you tell us a little about a recent project?

RL: I’m currently juggling three book translations:

Mahkos Knife.jpg

* Mahko’s Knife, by John O’Dowd, which I’m translating into Portuguese. As the synopsis aptly says, the main character is an Apache version of Jason Bourne, and it’s a fast-paced story of a father doing everything he can to rescue his son from the hands of Colorado drug lords who fled to Mexico taking the kidnapped teenager in tow.

* Aliança ― As sete moradas de Deus, by Beto Córdova. Already a best-seller among digital books in Brazil, this sci-fi thriller narrates the story of a group that is trying to destroy the world in hopes to live a free live on the “Other Side” and another group that will do their best to stop those lunatics and keep Earth intact.

* As duas faces da abóbora, by Caco Porto, is a touching novel about a Capitalist brother and a Humanist sister from New York. His only concern is expanding the reach of their corporate empire, while she believes in helping others through difficult times. When she goes to Brazil to comply with her mother’s will, she discovers a family secret that is hard to untangle and could potentially put her brother’s plans on hold.

LC: Wow, Rafa. Your proactive approach to literary translation has certainly paid off. It’s fantastic to see – and to learn from. Thanks for participating in this Spotlight.

For those who haven’t read them yet, Rafa offered fabulous advice in her guest posts Literary Translators and Self-Publishing, Part 1 and Part 2.

rafa 2013Rafa Lombardino was born in Santos, a coastal city in the State of São Paulo, Brazil, in 1980. She is an English into Portuguese translator certified by the American Translators Association (ATA) and a Spanish into English translator certified by the University of California, San Diego Extension, where she currently teaches classes about the role of technology in the translation industry.

Currently the President and Chief Executive Officer at Word Awareness Inc., a small network of professional translated established in California, Rafa has been dedicating more time to literary projects, mostly in partnership with self-published authors, having completed five EN>PT books and three PT>EN books in the past two years.

In her spare time, she also coordinates the literary project Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories, dedicated to publishing the English translation of contemporary short stories written by Brazilian authors, and collaborates with, a website that publishes news about the world of electronic books.

Rafa moved to the United States in 2002 and now lives in Santee, San Diego County in California, with her husband and two children.

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