Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Guest today: J. H. Bográn

I welcome J. H. Bográn to my Travels today. His book, FIREFALL, takes us across the US to Central America on a wild ride. His first statement below is that Spanish is his first language. Don't let this fool you! His English writing reads like an American-born speaker.

Straddling two cultures

My native language is Spanish. I began learning English halfway through high school. I fell in love with thrillers in my first year in college when a friend of mine presented me with a box of old paperbacks where I discovered Ken Follett, Robert Ludlum, and Clive Cussler among others.

So why am I writing novels in English? Easy, because my mind began phrasing stories in that language way before I thought of writing in English. I believe I recognized English as the language to tell stories in a subconscious level.

Now, don’t think I forgot Spanish. I’d never do that. Perusing my website you’d find that I have several projects—screenplays, flash fiction, even novels—that are in Spanish.

In the writing of Firefall, I incorporated bits from the two cultures as I have two main characters, one from each nation, who must learn to work together, not unlike an odd couple of sorts.

Research plays an important role when I’m developing characters that live, and have grown up, in the U.S. For instance, Sebastian Martin from Firefall was born and raised in New York, then moved to Dallas. I had the opportunity to interview people from the two cities, both natives and late-arrivals. I got wonderful material from a newcomer’s perspective of Dallas, as my main character is, thus I was able to add some Yankee flavor to his descriptions. Although I’ve visited New York a couple of times, I must admit I still have yet the pleasure to be in Dallas. I’ve come as far as Houston, where I bought a few state maps and fridge magnets with the Lone Star logo. Hopefully that is enough until I can make a proper visit.

We’ve all heard about how people like to visit exotic locations in novels. Then in hit me, I live in what can be very exotic to people in other parts of the world. Proud as I am of my heritage, and of course, also a bit of “write what you know,” I made a few places in Honduras the main locations for the novel.

The action of Firefall takes place in Dallas, where the main character Sebastian Martin works, but also in San Pedro Sula and most important the port city of Tela. A few scenes take place in New York, Guatemala and Puerto Cortés. Oh, and let’s not forget the erupting volcano of Masaya in Nicaragua!

These days I write in both languages, hoping that they complement each other instead of running parallel, or worse, run interference.

Author Bio and links:
J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the Short Fiction Writers Guild and the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor their official e-zine The Big Thrill.

You can find this book at:

Follow J. H. here:
Website at:
Twitter: @JHBogran
Amazon author page:


  1. Do you write your own translations of the same book? Do you write some books in Spanish and some in English? Is there some aspects of the books that lend themselves to one language or another? Sorry for all the questions, but I've wondered how languages apply in mystery. For example, I'm not fond of Scandinavian mystery novels. I'm not sure why, they don't appeal to me, and I've wondered if they don't translate well to English. Thanks!

  2. Hi E.B.

    Excellent questions all of them. Let me tackle them one by one:

    Do you write your own translations of the same book?
    I tried to translate a short story. It didn't work. I ended up rewriting it. Before writing stories, I did translations for tourism magazine and discovered that many details got lost in translation. In fact, I think a better word is “interpretation” because you are reading one person’s understanding of another writer.

    Do you write some books in Spanish and some in English?
    Yes, sir. Luck, or perhaps fate, had it that my recent Spanish opportunities have been with movie scripts. To be perfectly honest, I live in a small country and crime fiction novels are not the most popular. Honduran writers tend to develop a deeper literary vein where my preference is commercial fiction. That said, once I imagine project, I select the language right from the start. For example, I wrote a novel about a pirate-in-training (think Harry Potter but with pirate boats and swords instead of wands), but I knew I could not master the language enough to write pirate dialogs, no matter how many times I watched Pirates of the Caribbean, so that novel I wrote it in Spanish. Need to polish it a bit before I can find a home for it.

    Are there some aspects of the books that lend themselves to one language or another?
    Yes, like my pirate novel above, the dialog in particular is one hell of a deterrent. Hmm…I can’t think of any other aspect that would have such big influence. Perhaps the target readers; like I said, thrillers are more popular in English.

    Hope this covers it. Anything else, you know where to post. :-)

  3. Interesting, J. H. My current WIP has a pirate. Yes, he is very English, so I understand your confusion. Boatlick and scallywag probably don't translate into Spanish well!

  4. Hi JH. As an ESL teacher and student of espanol, I'm impressed when people can write in both their native tongues and their second languages. My thrillers are sent in Mexico and I use a lot of Spanish that I still have to have corrected by my maestra.
    Bilingual books and books dealing with the Latin American experience and culture (from both sides) are really important these days. I'm from California where our population is over 50% Latin heritage. It's time for us to know each other! Thanks for the post. I'm looking forward to reading your work.

  5. Dear Ana,

    Thank you for commenting. I am glad you like the post. I agree that it is time we all get familiar with one another's culture.

    Hope to hear back from you after you catch up with Firefall.

    Best regards,


  6. Not speaking another language than English, I always admire anyone, who can speak more than one language. Even though you write in English, do you use at least a few words of Spanish in the dialogues? Louise Penny does in her French/Canadian books, and I like that.

    I'll have to add Firefall to my TBR list.

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  8. Dear Gloria,

    i confess I like that too.

    Many of scenes in Firefall happen in Honduras, so yes, I put some Spanish here and there for flavor.

    I don't stop there though. For my short story The Assassin's Mistress for example, the lead female character is French so I also add a few word, or expressions in her native language.

    Thank you for stopping by.