When people find out I’m a novelist they ask, quite reasonably, what kind of books I write. That’s the moment when I long to be able to say ‘Mills & Boon,’ or ‘thrillers’. Then they’ll know exactly what they’re dealing with. As it is, the most helpful thing I can do is to murmur ‘social comedy’ and pray they don’t follow through with a supplementary.
The word ‘comedy’ raises certain expectations. More than once in my life the supplementary has turned out to be more an accusation than a question. Something along the lines of, ‘Really? You don’t seem like a funny person.’
In fact even my husband, most avid reader of and chuckler at my books, has been known to say, ‘How come you’re so funny on the page? Do you have a ghost writer?’
What can I say? It’s true I have a serious demeanour and a short fuse. I guess something happens to me when I sit down to work. I rattle away at the keyboard and sometimes what comes out makes even me laugh. How weird is that? But be the life and soul of the party? Tell jokes? Never. Actually I don’t very much like jokes though I have two friends who deliver the most excruciating ones so superbly that just picturing them makes me smile.
So what I do remains inexplicable to me. My sense of humour is like the soap in the bath tub. I know it’s there and sometimes I think I’ve got a handle on it, then it slips out of my grasp again. I believe people pay good money for courses in writing comedy. How does that work, I wonder? First you do A, then you do B, add a smattering of C and voila, a perfectly formed laugh, good to go. The Ikea School of Humour.
It’s a mystery, I tell you. A goshdarned mystery. Just don’t judge a book by its prune-faced author, that’s all I’m saying.