This week, the Chicks welcome Lillian Bell, author of the Funeral Parlor mysteries. Lillian is giving away a signed copy of her latest book, IF THE COFFIN FITS, to one super-lucky commenter! Take it away, Lillian!
I love to laugh. I’m not sure there’s anything that can turn everything around for me faster than a big belly laugh. Laughter has gotten me through a lot of very bad times, maybe even more bad times than denial has and I am like Cleopatra, baby. I am the Queen of Denial.
My family uses laughter to release tension all the time. We can’t help ourselves. The second something awful happens, we start to crack jokes. The more awful the thing is, the worse the jokes are. It’s why we’ve gotten kicked out of so many ICUs and Emergency Department bays. It’s also why we’ve held onto the shreds of our sanity from time to time.
Jokes – and humor in general – tend to work because they defy expectations. There’s the set-up where a pattern is established, then a twist that surprises us which is the punchline or payoff. There’s a build-up of tension and then a release. (BTW, Hannah Gadsby talks about this – and a bunch of other things – brilliantly in her special, Nanette. If you haven’t seen it, go do it now. I’ll wait.) If we laugh at the same things, we have a bond. I know I’ve made friends by catching someone else’s eye just as we both found something amusing. It’s that moment when you wordlessly say to someone, do you see this the way I see it? Is it as ridiculous and absurd as I think it is? If that person feels the same way you do, you know you share at least a bit of worldview.
Because humor is often found by defying expectations, it’s a great way to point out problems. If you’re making people look at things in new and uncomfortable ways, though, it helps to make them laugh while they’re doing it. It’s part of why satire is such a great way of pointing out issues with the status quo. When you do it with a laugh, it makes it a little easier to take. Yeah, everything’s still terrible, but at least we’re smiling. On top of that, there’s some research that points to laughter releasing endorphins, those feel-good chemicals we get from exercise and sex and hot peppers. We get a little reward when we laugh at ourselves.
All of these things contribute to why I write funny books (or at least try to) like my Funeral Parlor Mystery series. I’m a bit of a people-pleaser. I like making people happy. If giving them something to laugh at can make their day a little better, I’m all for it. I also try to get at least a few messages across here and there. I tend to write about rebuilding after emotional catastrophe. I can show someone a path to do that while rewarding them with some endorphins at the same time.
When we read fiction, in general, we step into someone else’s shoes. It’s an opportunity to see the world in a new way and maybe come to understand someone different than us. Maybe that understanding will bleed into real life and lead someone to show a little extra compassion for someone else or connect with someone else by sharing laughter. From there, maybe we can learn something about each other and open our hearts a bit more to the world.
As I mentioned at the start of this blog, my family tends to laugh inappropriately a lot. One of the worst times was at my father’s funeral. One of my sisters had her arm around my shoulder as we sat listening to the other sister eulogize our dad. When she removed her arm to go up and speak, her bracelet caught on my hair and she yanked my head over to the side as if I was a puppet on a string. Luckily, when you drop your face into your hands and your shoulders heave at a funeral, everyone thinks you’re crying. It was everything I could do not to do one of those awful snort-laughs.
About the book:
Funeral director Desiree Turner deals with death by natural causes all the time. Death by unnatural causes? Not so much. Yet, she and her boyfriend Nate have heard some not-so-dear things about the recently departed. A suspicious remark by the late Frank Fiore’s daughters sparks some concern. And when Violet Daugherty faints behind the wheel of her car, Desiree suspects she’s got a front seat to murder.
Desiree can’t help but look into Violet’s untimely end, but soon after, rumors begin to spread that she’s accusing her clients of murder, which quickly spurs a mass cancellation and Desiree is on the verge of going out of business. What began as an effort to do due diligence for her client turns into a wild goose chase for Violet’s murderer. Desiree must find her proof before everything she works for is lost. But that’s easier said than done, because while everyone else in town is looking to take their business elsewhere, the killer sets sights directly upon Desiree.
Now it’s up to Desiree to find the murderer before she becomes the next body her funeral parlor serves.
About the author:
Lillian Bell is the author of the Funeral Parlor Mysteries published by Crooked Lane Books. She also writes as Eileen Rendahl, Kristi Abbott, and Eileen Carr.
She was born in Dayton, Ohio, but moved when she was four and only remembers that she was born across the street from Baskin-Robbins. Lillian remembers anything that has to do with ice cream. Or chocolate. Or champagne.
She has had many jobs and lived in many cities and feels unbelievably lucky to be where she is now and to be doing what she’s doing.
Visit her website to learn more about Lillian Bell and her books.
Do you laugh inappropriately? What’s your worst/best story? Share in comments for a chance to win a signed copy of IF THE COFFIN FITS!