Trying to get my novels out to the rest of the world has been an absolute nightmare. I have shed oceans of terrified tears and felt utter despair, and fear, on many occasions. But humour is magic when used correctly – and can transfigure the face of the worst effort sent by the Morrigan. As in the dream world, so in the day-time zone. Lightened by laughter, the worst dream loses its sting in the retelling; lightened by laughter, the most harrowing fear’s ability to freeze the mind begins to thaw.
Humour is a large part of who I am and what I write. May its use end the nightmare!
People I meet for the first time always ask some variation of that very British question: ‘What do you do for a living?’
My standard answer has little variation: ‘I taught English for thirty years – and now I am a full-time writer!’
We then get to the narrowing-down side of the questioning process – and that, education not being the most riveting of subjects (even for those currently mining down the Great Chalk Pit of Life!), tends to be, ‘Ooh, what do you write about?’
And this is the point at which I have to gauge my audience – 0r, in some cases, benign inquisitor – before I carry on! You see, I am often unwilling to admit to writing about sex to the obviously Godly!
‘Well, Vicar!’ I don’t say. ‘The book I am most proud of publishing is Come Laughing, my very explicit collection of personal opinions, memories and alter egos ranting about sexuality and, not to put too fine a point upon it, bonking! Should be de rigueur for every religious faith and mandatory as a GCSE text!’
As you can imagine, this is not a conversation I even broach with certain classes of humanity! They tend to get an in-depth discussion about Bloomsbury and ‘Riding at the Gates of Sixty’ (my Virginia Woolf book), until their eyes glaze and they scurry off to purchase something made-up and wholly unnecessary from a shop that went out of business in 1950.
I always sense which people will, if you’ll pardon the expression, be open to sex, or, at least, a full and frank discussion of same. Often, groups of women will salivate at the very thought, especially when I add the magic ingredient of humour to the mix.
To spare their blushes, I will not identify my latest victims – er, willing volunteers – save to say that they all work for the same corporation, and, bless their cotton socks, all evinced extreme enthusiasm for, and begged to have their own signed copy of, ‘Come Laughing!’
Only one minor problem: I had loaned my final personal copy to a woman for her book group some weeks ago – and, assuming they were still trawling their way through the sixty-nine stories, was reluctant to hoick it back!
So I sent off for one! Like you do! Not one of the first edition purple-covered jobbies (with its bland picture of a courting couple), nor the second, still purple, one with a miserable picture of Yours Truly (looking about as far from laughter, or climax come to that, as it’s possible to get); nay, nay, this was the Full Monty, the Real McCoy, the pulsatingly passionate red cover with the word ‘CENSORED’ covering the draped naked lady (NOT me, I hasten to add!).
The book arrived yesterday! I was so thrilled – did hold an inner debate of the ‘Should I disguise it in a plain brown paper bag?’ variety, and then thought, ‘Bugger it! No way! I am out and proud when it comes to writing humorous erotic tales!’
I drove the few miles to my voracious would-be-readers’ place of employment, chuckling inwardly at the thought of their reaction and, I have to say, such chapters as ‘Roundheads and Cavaliers’ (which, let me warn you, has only tangential relevance to the English Civil War) , ‘Talking Dirty’ (which has even less!) and ‘The Rime of the Ancient IUD’ (which wouldn’t know a civil war, English or otherwise, if it ingested one!)…
The ladies, when they saw me, red book in hand, giggled. I have this effect on people! I couldn’t swear they were salivating. But they certainly looked pretty damn keen to get stuck in!
As a good psychological ploy, I had slipped them one between the whole group (as the actress said to the General Synod) – and am hoping that this will result in a mass stampede upon Amazon/CreateSpace in search of more!
Obviously, it is great publicity for me – but also I love the thought of these women (around my age and, therefore, ripe for re-education!) reading snippets to one another, in the idle hours at work, and belly-laughing, nodding in sage agreement and, in some cases, wincing in sympathy.
Some may even recommend said tome to their nearest and dearest!
The look they gave me as I left is one with which I have become familiar (though not as familiar as I would like!). They looked at me, and down at the book; they checked that it was, indeed, signed (it was) and then realisation dawned: A woman they know (me!), a woman standing in front of them, had written a funny book all about a subject which is still taboo in some cultures and seen as a sin in some religions! Not only that: A woman they knew was perfectly open and unembarrassed about this book!
Respect! Amazement! Slight embarrassment? Laughter! Pleasure…