Guest Chick: Laura Jensen Walker

Hi all, Ellen here! I’m thrilled to host Laura Jensen Walker today, writing about a topic dear to my heart – the importance of humor in our books and lives, and the frustration we feel when it doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

Make ‘em Laugh

I never planned to write “funny.” I’m a former reporter who always wanted to write books, preferably novels. Writing humor never entered my mind.

But years ago while preparing to attend my first writer’s conference (with BOOK PUBLISHERS!) I cobbled together a non-fiction book proposal that turned out to be funny, much to my surprise. I was so new and clueless though that I didn’t include a chapter. After the second editor rejected it, saying there was no chapter, and with only one last chance to submit, I grabbed the magazine article I’d brought about coping with breast cancer with humor and paper-clipped it to the proposal as a chapter. The next day when I nervously picked up my final manuscript submission, I cried when I read the words from the rock star editor of the conference: “This is hilarious! I guffawed. See me.”

I made an editor guffaw? Oh. My.

When I met with that editor, he said, “People don’t realize that writing humor is hard; some authors think they can throw in a few jokes, others try too hard to be funny, and it comes across as forced, but you’re a natural.” A year later I signed a contract with the guffawing editor for my first book.

Since then I’ve written several fun, lighthearted non-fiction and fiction books. Humor doesn’t get much respect among the literati, however. I discovered this with my first (chick lit) novels and have run into the same thing with cozies.

At my first mystery writers conference, I brought my cozy, the first mystery I’d ever written, which I still found hard to believe. I never dreamed I could write a mystery! I was both excited and nervous at the same time. I knew I had a lot to learn about this new genre, which is why I signed up for the conference even though Murder Most Sweet had already been edited by a freelance developmental editor and been given a thumbs up from my agent who had started shopping it around. At the conference I was taken aback by the (overall) condescending attitude toward cozies. More than once someone said, “I don’t write about talking cats,” to general audience laughter. (Which made my heart sink since I have a “talking” dog—readers hear his occasional thoughts—in MMS.) Happily, a couple months later, I got my first cozy contract.

My books are not dark, deep or “important.” I’m grateful I have the ability/gift to write books that can provide an escape from the hard things in life and make people laugh. We all need laughter, especially these days.

Two months ago a friend texted me a photo of her mom on hospice reading Murder Most Sweet. She said her mom “loved” the book and it was providing a welcome respite as she neared the end of her life. I wept. Two weeks later my friend texted again and said she’d gotten her mother Hope, Faith, & a Corpse for her birthday and her mom was “so excited” to read it. Her mother zipped through Hope and loved it as well. A week or so later, she began to decline and passed away not long afterwards.

To know that my cozies brought respite and joy to a dying woman in her final days. . . Words fail. Heart overflows.

Do you enjoy fun, lighthearted books? Why? If you write humor, did you set out to write funny? Comment for a chance to win a copy of Laura’s second cozy, Hope, Faith, & a Corpse.

BIO: Laura Jensen Walker has loved mysteries ever since she read Trixie Belden in the fourth grade. A former journalist and the author of several books, including Murder Most Sweet, and Hope, Faith, & a Corpse, Laura’s third cozy (and twentieth book) Deadly Delights, comes out in June. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Laura loves hearing from readers. You can connect with her through www.laurajensenwalker.com, on Twitter @LauraJensenWall or Facebook.

SYNOPSIS: Hope Taylor arrives in Apple Springs to start her new life as the first female pastor of Faith Chapel Episcopal Church. But where is Father Christopher? The kindly old rector who hired Pastor Hope was supposed to meet her upon her arrival, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Hope goes looking for her boss but finds church elder Stanley King instead—his skull crushed by a burial urn. The last time Hope had seen Stanley, he had shouted drunkenly that she would preach at Faith Chapel over his dead body. The new pastor is now the prime suspect in Stanley’s murder. With her black Lab Bogie’s four-footed assistance, Hope is determined to find the real killer and clear her name…even if it will require a bit of divine intervention.

BUY LINK

46 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Laura Jensen Walker

    1. Thanks for commenting! I like laugh-out loud funny too and was delighted when the always hilarious Catriona McPherson told me she laughed out loud upon reading the first page of HOPE, FAITH, & A CORPSE. Made. My. Day.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I noticed I preferred cozies years ago. They provide a welcome escape from the cruel world and never leave me feeling anxious or would up like some of the darker mysteries. And I agree-humor is harder to write and doesn’t get the kudos it deserves!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Katy. We need that welcome escape especially now, don’t we? I love writing humor and am grateful every day that I get to do something I love.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Three cheers to you, Laura, for writing humorous stories! They are important and we need them in our lives. Everyone could use a good laugh from time to time, right?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, J.C.! I agree wholeheartedly. We all meed a good laugh every now and then–especially these days. Thankfully, there’s now light at the end of the title. Yay!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this, Laura! I too came by the humor writing by happenstance. It’s what I liked to read, so it was natural to start “writing funny” as well. Also like you, I’ve questioned the importance and frivolous nature of our cozies in the world … until I started getting messages from people telling me my books got them through some terrible times. There’s something quite magical about that and I’m grateful when they tell me. I’m so glad you visited Chicks today. I can’t wait to start your series! Best of luck with it!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Becky! It sounds like we’re birds of a feather. It is pretty magical when readers tell us our books helped them get through hard times and brought them a much-needed escape. I treasure that kind of feedback. Hope you like HOPE 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I do enjoy light-hearted, especially after I’ve read something a little more serious. And you’re right – writing humor is hard. I can’t do it, at least not deliberately. Anything I write that is funny is often accidental.

    What famous actor is it who said drama is easy but comedy is hard?

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Becky, your answer piqued my interest so I had to Google it. Turns out *Edmund Gwenn was on his deathbed in the Motion Picture Home and when a friend visited him and said (dying) must be hard, Gwenn said, “Not as hard as playing comedy!” (Or a version thereof. Different sources report different versions of the exchange. Turns out Jack Lemmon repeated this story in a 1975 interview, which is why I thought the quote came from him. Read the link I posted below–fascinating. Peter O’Toole then used the line, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” in the wonderful ’80s film, “My Favorite Year.”

        *Other sources attribute it to Donald Crisp famous for “How Green Was My Valley” and the wonderful father in “National Velvet” with Elizabeth Taylor. (Can you tell I adore old movies? 🙂

        Liked by 5 people

  5. I love lighthearted books, and humor makes everything better. And how touching to know your books had such an impact on your friend’s mother’s last days. Any author who can bring such comfort to a person in pain deserves respect, in my opinion.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Marla. I was deeply moved by my friend sharing that with me and sending me a picture of her mom reading my books in her final days–an honor I shall always treasure.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Reading cozy mysteries is one of my favorite ways to relax, they’re a good way to unwind at the end of the day. Thank you for the chance to win this book!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Laura, so great to have you visiting with us again on Chicks! MURDER MOST SWEET has one of my favorite opening lines ever! Looking forward to reading Hope, Faith, and a Corpse!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hi Merri, so sorry you’ve been in the hospital and rehab, but I’m glad cozies are making you laugh. Laughter is the best medicine.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I LOVE cozies! I read them, don’t write them! I have so much respect for anyone who writes, and writes well. That includes cozies. And romance, which is another genre that has been condescended to by those who are far above such “immature” books. Their loss. Good writing is good writing. Good humor is essential! DO keep up the good work, it is needed!!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Happy to have you on the Chicks today, Laura! Thank you for sharing such an important message about humor. I hear you about the talking cats .

    I’ve been amazed and touched by readers’ comments about how cozies and light-hearted books have been a balm during this pandemic. What a wonderful story about how your books brought such joy.

    I think I fell into writing funny even though I enjoy reading humorous mysteries. It wasn’t until my critique group was laughing at my lines that I realized I’d written a funny mystery. (Oh, and I also had an editor laugh out loud at a chapter–hurrah!)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I’m delighted to be back with the Chicks again and can’t wait to meet you all in person one day. (Maybe at next year’s Malice? Or LCC? I’m planning to attend both for the first time in 2022. Can’t wait!)

      I too have been so touched by readers’ comments; such a privilege to provide much-needed balm during these difficult days.

      Isn’t it great when we make an editor laugh out loud? The best.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. There is a reason I read cozies. I like the light and humor. When I pick up fiction, I do it to escape. If I want something serious, I have real life for that.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Thank you, Laura, for brightening our St. Patrick’s Day morn with your fun post! Your story about your friend’s mom literally brought tears to my eyes. We Chicks are all in for humor, of course–and one of our favorite things is having people come up to us at conferences to tell us they enjoy our blog because we and our guests often share lighthearted stories (although, truly, we welcome all stories–and we are really into any kind of murdery fiction!). Your books are going straight to my towering TBR pile–and you have inspired me to write faster on that (hopefully) humorous WIP!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Lisa! I like most kinds of “murdery fiction” but can’t handle too dark and twisted 🙂 Thanks for adding me to your towering TBR pile and good luck on your humorous WIP!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for this important blog post, Laura, because it’s so true that light and humorous mysteries so often don’t get the respect they deserve. Humor is what makes us human, and you’ll find it in the darkest of times–it’s what keeps us sane.

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, and so glad that editor guffawed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen to that, Leslie! Humor is definitely helping me get through the pandemic. Me too. (Glad that editor guffawed. It’s been many years now, but that’s when my humor writing journey began, so I’m grateful.)

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you so much for visiting us today! I’ve been looking forward to your visit. Love this post and was teary (for real) by the end.

    We all are fans of humor around here for sure. Once, I saw Mike Myers talking about his father’s belief that (paraphrasing here) laughter = the sublime moments of life and everything else was just what happened in between… 🙂

    Like

  14. Oh, Laura, I absolutely adore this. You’re so right about humor not getting the respect it deserves. It’s darn hard to write, and I believe it’s one of the best (and most fundamental) way that humans connect.

    It’s funny that you talk about accidental humor. Sometimes humor just…happens!

    Thanks for joining us and for bringing light and laughter into the world.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s