Wednesday, April 1, 2009

OVER TO THE DORK SIDE—WRITING IT FUNNY.

My guest is Tina Ferraro, author of The ABC's Of Kissing Boys. A story about a girl who didn’t make varsity soccer with her teammates, and comes up with a crazy-but-just-might-work scheme to get promoted that involves learning everything she can about the art of kissing.

Some authors seem to have the knack of being able to write humor. One would think its inborn gift and one that requires little effort on the part of the author. So receiving a note from your editor with the suggestion to make it funnier should be an easy thing to fix, right? Tina discusses how she handles those sort of suggestions:

I once read an interview with the witty actress/author, Carrie Fisher, where she recounted how painful it was for her to go on talk shows. For not only did she need something interesting to say, she was expected to be funny. And while she knew she was capable of making people laugh, she simply could not count on her sense of humor walking out from behind the curtain with her.

I totally related. While no one’s going to ask me onto a talk show, the young adult novels that I write for Random House are considered by my publisher and reviewers to be humorous. I admit that I have an eye for the absurd, and have been known to “crack up” my fellow airport shuttle bus riders or the back row of a PTA meeting with LOL one-liners. But like Carrie Fisher, my humor is not something I can control.

So imagine my horror when I got the line edits back on my 2008 release, How to Hook a Hottie, and saw notes from my editor that said things like, “Good, but make this funnier.”

Make this funnier? Make this funnier?

Would if I could!

I went into a total tailspin--including taking a dive for cover underneath the nearest bed. Only to find the space crammed. With the workout clothes. Dust bunnies. Tooth fairy teeth. Which meant in order to complete my breakdown, I was going to have to clean. And sorry, but that was a deal-breaker.

So back I went to my line edits. Make this funnier.

Heaven help me.

Next up: I grabbed a carton of ice cream and my Sienfeld DVD’s, and began my own private marathon. Trying to immerse myself in the obsessive, zany, and over-the-top humor that makes me laugh.

Eventually, I had no choice but to return to the manuscript. With a heavy heart and even heavier stomach, I flipped to those scenes and addressed my editor’s concerns, and tried to make them funnier. Whether or not I hit the high notes is a subjective call. But I must have done “well enough” because the American Bookseller’s Association named it one of their top teen picks of the season. And it was recently named a finalist in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence contest. I’m proud of those accomplishments, and of the book.

But here’s the thing. If we ever meet face-to-face (and I hope we do), and you want to see a glimpse of my humor? Don’t mention this blog or my books. Don’t ask me about my writing process or my kids’ teeth.
Tell me I have leaves in my hair. Or better yet, that I sat in something that looks like melted butter. I can pretty much guarantee, in the throes of my utter embarrassment, I’ll be funny. Because I’m starting realize...that’s where my humor goes when I can’t find it.

Over to the dork side.

Hey, think this revelation could help Carrie Fisher?


Tina Ferraro is the author of three young adult novels, Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress, How to Hook a Hottie (2009 RITA finalist), and The ABC's of Kissing Boys. Her fourth book, When Bad Flings Happen to Good Girls, releases summer of 2010.
She lives behind a computer screen in southern California with her husband, their cat, and whichever kids happen to be home.
Some of Tina’s favorite things include reading, drinking lattes, hanging with her family, watching the TV show Lost, and chatting with her readers through her Website, www.tinaferraro.com
and her blog at www.yafresh.blogspot.com.














29 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

I want to give a warm welcome to Tina and thank you for taking tome out of your busy schedule to be here.

I've written humor and admit that it's not as easy as it seems. It takes a different mindset. My question Tina, would be, does your humor start out with the absurd glitches that seem to populate a teen's life? Having a teen, I do know that even things they see and take as serious can make an adult laugh, but how to do you get that across to another teen reading your books?

SueO said...

Good lawd! Even though I'm considered a mostly irreverent person, I can't imagine someone pointing to me and demanding "You! Speak in Tongues of Humor!". I like to slip a little humor into the story, but I so deeply admire anyone who VOLUNTEERS to stand before that firing squad.

Thanks for writing this blog and giving us a good feel for the challenge.

Janie Emaus said...

It's hard to be funny "on the spot." I like how Tina said humor comes from her dork side.
I can totally relate.

~Sia McKye~ said...

"You! Speak in Tongues of Humor!" *lmao* Sue, you are marvel to me. I love your sense of irreverence.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Janie, I know my sense of humor is definitely on the dork side at times, especially when I've done something silly or am embarrassed...

Kat Sheridan said...

Tina, great interview, and thank goodness no one ever asks me to be funny. I am known far and wide as humor impaired. The only time I'm really funny is by accident, usually when I've done something hair-brained. COngratulations on your previous books, and best of luck with the Rita nomination! And Sia, you always have such wonderful guests!

Conda V. Douglas said...

Fun post, Sia and Tina. And I can't remember who said this, does anybody know?, but a famous comedian said as he lay dying, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard."

Too true. I've tried in my writing as well and sometimes gotten the blank look of "what's so funny about that?" Urgh.

Sheila Deeth said...

Oh, that was fun. Really fun.

TinaFerraro said...

Thank you, Sia, for hosting me here. What a pleasure!

You asked, "Does your humor start out with the absurd glitches that seem to populate a teen's life?"

I think it's safe to say yes. When my daughter was in middle school, I became captivated with how all the kids constantly hugged. See, back in my day, you didn't touch someone unless you meant business. Love or war! ;)

I studied the different kinds of hugs, the body language. Next up was secretly naming them, like BFF Hug, The We-Used-To-Be-Friends-So-I'm-Being-Polite Hug, and The I-Want-Your-BF Hug...you get it.

From there, some humor was born and I grew more comfortable in making comparisons between then and now, and finding areas that girls today might think amusing, as well.

And BTW, my daughter is my biggest supporter, and reads everything I write before it goes to my editor!

TinaFerraro said...

Sue, speaking on tongues of humor...wah, that would send me running for cover! =) And for what it's worth, every time I start a new ms., I ask my editor if it's okay this one isn't funny because I don't think I can do it again. She always says yes! But so far, the humor's arrived, anyway, through side and back doors...

TinaFerraro said...

Janie, dork humor is comfortable humor. In fact, I'm at my most uptight when in speaking of my books in a serious way!

TinaFerraro said...

Thank you, Kat, and for the record, I've done my share of hare-brained things, too. My brother still loves to tell the story about how he tricked me into pouring milk on my head when I was a senior in high school!

TinaFerraro said...

Conda, I've heard that quote, but can't pinpoint it, either. But believe me, when I TRY to be funny, it doesn't work. It's usually just when I'm deep into the main character's POV and letting the other characters really have at her vulnerable sides.

TinaFerraro said...

Thanks for joining us here, Sheila!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, I know for a fact, that you can and have written humor and some very funny things too. But I think, like Tina, it just happens first and then you embellish it.

Regardless, humor takes work to tweak so you get a laugh. Timing with humor can be a problem. If I'm in the right mood, I can write humor, if I'm not, it's hard.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Tina,

I've noticed the differences from when I was in middle school and watching my son's peers in middle school now. I've often wondered if MY parents secretly laughed at our Life and Death moments, so crushing and important to us at the moment and so forgotten the next day.

But I liked the premise of The ABC's Of Kissing Boys. It's so spot on with the thinking of that age group. :-)

TinaFerraro said...

Oh, yes, I'm sure my parents had behind-their-hands chuckles and my brother's and my antics, too. It's the circle of life, huh?

And so glad you like the premise of ABC's. It was really fun to write!

John Philipp said...

Great topic, Sia and Tina,

Been there. When I need to "be funnier" I go to the Dave Barry archives at the Miami Herald website and read a few of his columns.

That puts me in the mood and sometimes I stumble across a humor device or two I can adapt for what I'm writing.

Janet Evanovitch works for me as well.

TinaFerraro said...

Hey, John, yeah, I'm a huge Janet Evanovich fan, too. And I'm thrilled to get to hear her speak at the Romance Writers of America conference in July!

Pat Bertram said...

As hard as humor is, in a pinch you still managed to be funny. (Maybe because of the pinch?) But what amazes me is that you are able to write books teenagers can relate to. That's really hard!

~Sia McKye~ said...

John, I enjoy your humor Articles. You seem to find the most straight forward stuff and write it funny. I'll remember not to expect you to be cracking humorous quips left and right when I finally sit down with you with a group of Wombats, lol!

Thanks a lot for stopping by John.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Tina, how did the Book faire go? It has to be a thrill to meet up with your readers.

Helen Ginger said...

You've got nothing to worry about. Even your blog post was funny!
Helen
http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sharon Ford commented on Facebook:

"Of course when you have the [proverbial]gun pointed at you saying "be funny", that is when you can't think of one funny thing, he,he.."

~Sia McKye~ said...

I want to thank Tina for taking the time to visit us Over Coffee.

I'm wishing you the very best, Tina!

Valonia said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Joannah

http://linuxmemory.net

TinaFerraro said...

Hi, all! Just because life is always interested, the morning after this blog was posted, my 16 year-old son woke me up to say he was in severe pain...and many hours later, had an emergency appendectomy. He's now home and resting comfortably, and I am back here, with apologies for seeming like I dropped the ball!

Thank you, Pat--I love writing for teens.

And Helen, I'm glad you found the blog post amusing!

Joannah, I agree, this is a great place to hang out!

And Sie, I actually did two signings this week, and both were a lot of fun.

In fact, one boy came up to me at one, with wide eyes and asked, "Are you famous?" You gand your readers here know my humor well enough to know my instinct was to make fun of myself right there. But I could see in his eyes that he wanted me to say "yes." So I smiled and said, "Well, Romance Writers of America just nominated one of my books for Best Young Adult Book of the year, so I think I might be getting there." And he beamed...

~Sia McKye~ said...

Lolol! Oh how sweet Tina. That age group is special in so many ways--when they aren't yours and you are wanting to pound on them.

Glad to hear your son is ok, god how scary!

We enjoyed having you Tina and Don't be surprised if I come 'round knocking again, :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Joannah,

I'm so glad you found me! I'm glad you've enjoyed the content here and look forward to seeing you again. :-)