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.