Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Walking The Line Between Serious And Silly

Debra Solonen is my guest today and is the author of over 30 books, including  THE SENTINEL PASS SERIES

Her series combines elements of serious and silly, weighty issues and just plain fun. Debra's series tagline gives you a hint of what to expect, "In this townand in this TV showlife imitates art."

Today Debra discusses writing humor into her stories and gives us a scene she didn't think would make it into her book. I have to say just picturing a scene like this cracked me up.

I love to read books that contain elements of humor. It doesn't have to be over-the-stop. In fact, slapstick is extremely hard to write. Believe me, I've tried. I usually get a scolding from my editor.

Something like,

“You're trying too hard here.”

“I don't find this humorous.”

“Less is more.”

Or the worst: a sad face.

I dread upside-down-heart sad faces. (Don't you think that should be an icon? And who agrees we need a thumbs-down on Facebook?)

Sorry. I digress. The point I'm trying to make is, with humor, everything is relative. I write the scene I see in my head and sometimes—not always—it works.

For example, I did NOT expect the following scene to make the cut in my book, UNTIL HE METRACHEL. And, yet, my editor adorned it with smiley faces and LOLs, and I've heard from a lot of readers who said it was their favorite scene in the book.

What do you think? Thumbs-up or upside-down heart?

She’d turned to finish picking up the boxes but something stopped her.

Rufus glanced around. “Uh-oh.” He put his hands on his hips. “Fred,” he boomed. “What have you done to Rachel’s…um…sex toys?”

Rufus leaned down to pick up the object Rat Girl had dropped beside his booted foot. The handle of the hot pink whip was as long as his forearm but tapered to a fine point, which was adorned with ribbons and brilliant purple feathers. He couldn’t have been more surprised if a marching band of elves had suddenly appeared.

He cleared his throat and picked up the gaudy, over-the-top instrument of…um…pleasure? He hated to admit he wasn’t sure how it might be used, but his initial impression of Rachel had changed. And a certain part of him could even envision testing out the silly thing. With her.

“Oh, my,” she said, her gaze following as a couple of bright feathers drifted back to the snow.

“Sorry,” he said, handing the whip to her, blunt end first, as if it were a knife or a loaded pistol.

Her chin rose with a kind of dignity Rufus admired, but her attempted smile betrayed her. “Faulty boxing. That happens when you hire family,” she said, a little hitch in her voice.

He was a single step away from her. Even in the dry, cold breeze, he could smell her. Not the cedar, pine, dog and earth he was most familiar with, but something fresh and feminine that he realized with a start he’d been craving. Their gazes met and held for what felt like too long. Especially given the nature of the objects scattered on the ground around them.

He was the first to move. He started toward the wreck of a box, intending to cram anything and everything back inside. She jumped sideways, arms out, to block his efforts. “No. Please. I’ll do it. This is so embarrassing. When I see my brother…”

Words spilled out of her mouth at a rate Rufus’s brother would have called super-soundic. Even as a little kid, Stephen was always making up new words.

He gave a mental shake to return to the moment. What part of this situation made me think of Stevie?

Farce. Stephen had loved gross-out comedy. The more inane the better. Their parents had hoped he’d out-grow it. Unfortunately, he never got the chance.

He was stuck in memory lane when he heard her low, “Uh-oh.” Her inflection sounded pained.

Since she’d positioned herself to keep him from seeing the worst of the spill, he had to peer around her to discover what unspeakable horror had her momentarily frozen in place.

“Yowch,” he said, one hand dropping to his groin without conscious thought. “I’ll replace it.”

Rachel looked at the horrified expression on Rufus’s face and wasn’t sure whether to laugh or pray for the earth to open up and swallow her alive. It was a sixty-five dollar, nine-inch, all-too-realistic looking dildo that Rachel had unwrapped at her bridal shower to the jeers —“Trust me. It’s better than the real thing,” one woman had proclaimed—and cheers of other party goers. Her friends and co-workers had even named it for her. “Dexter.” After the HBO serial killer with a conscience.

At the moment, Dex was giving extreme pleasure to the dog with the big, squarish head. Fred, she believed. And Fred was chomping on the pliable “life-like” rubber with such gusto his master actually looked pained by the image.

She fought to contain the laugher that started bubbling up from that horrible well of inappropriate responses that her exhusband had hated so much, but she simply couldn’t it hold back. Within seconds she was doubled over, howling. Tears—the Chris-Rock-on-a-roll kind—obscured her vision and she actually had to 
grab Rufus’s arm for support until her ab-scrunching guffaws diminished.

“Oh, wow,” she said through her sniffles. “I needed that.”

Around here, we refer to that as the “Sex toys” scene. Who woulda thought, right?

Tell me what makes you giggle in a book or when you think the author is completely out of her mind...and your name will go into a drawing for one of my books. They don't all have sex toys, but I guarantee there will be humor.

Presently, I'm at work on my new book and, as usual, I walk a line between serious and silly, weighty issues and just plain fun.

By the way, UNTIL HE MET RACHEL was named Best Superromance of 2010 by
RomanticTimes BOOKreviews, and it's one of your choices...if you're into that sort of
thing. ;-)

Buy: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, eHarlequin  You can find all the books of her Sentinel Series listed on Debra's Website. Books are available in both print and ebook.


Debra Salonen wrote her first story in crayon on the underside of her mother's coffee table. Her mother was not amused. Subsequent writing efforts included a screenplay for Flipper--in block print on lined paper (you can see why it never got picked up, right?), a spy thriller --okay, a blatant rip-off of James Bond; an Irma Bombeck-esque series of letters to her family, which might have come across as a tad more whiny than amusing, and, eventually, she enjoyed a four-year stint as an award-winning feature writer for a newspaper.

In 2000, her first romance novel was published by Harlequin for its Superromance line. That novel, THAT COWBOY'S KIDS, has recently been re-released, bringing Deb's total number of published books to 30. Her May 2010 release, UNTIL HE MET RACHEL, was honored by RTBook Reviews as the Reviewer's Choice for "Best Superromance of 2010."

In addition to her two current Superromance titles, RETURN TO THE BLACK HILLS and A FATHER'S QUEST, Deb is enjoying a renewed flirtation with short stories. Her first Kindle release, "A Hundred Years or More," looks at that special bond between a pet and his owner, and what happens when a pet--in this case, a parrot--outlives his owner.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Deb, welcome to Over Coffee. Help yourself to your drink of choice. Fresh cinna-buns today.

I love an author who can make me laugh. I really like mixing humor with serious subjects. I've read some books where humor was well blended--a recent one, Sherilyn Kenyon. Christine Feehan does it well too and neither author writes what you would call light books. Christy Reese writes humor into her contemporaries.

When it's well done it makes the book unforgettable, imo, because it adds a depth to the story.

Debra Salonen said...

Sia, I agree completely. If you can laugh at yourself, which I think sold my heroine to me completely in that scene, you're a step ahead of the game. Life is a complex balancing act and humor is definitely needed.

Thanks so much for inviting me. I love cinna-buns. And coffee. What a great way to start a day.


VA said...

Humor is a joy to read and tricky to accomplish. One author that seems to make it seem fairly easy is Lynsey Sands. She manages to do physical humor really well.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of sarcasm and dry wit. Though the dog gnawing down on Dexter and Rufus' reaction were epic.

Truthfully, the only humor that doesn't work is the one that seems forced. The timing is off or the delivery, or just the concept. Humor is really, really, hard to do well.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I like sarcasm and dry wit, too, Vivian. But, I agree that timing is everything when it comes to humor.

GABixler said...

Hi...I think part of my one thumb is bending down while half of that thumb and my other is thumbs up. I don't like S&M (and, sorry, I haven't read any of your books) but if your books are always centered on humor, then I think this scene adds much to the flavor and "pushes" your parameters enough to allow your wings to be a little!

Debra Salonen said...

VA/Vivian, dry wit gets me every time!!! One of my favorite authors who slips that sort of subtle cleverness into her work on a regular basis is Ellen Hartman. I LOVE her humor. She has a new Superromance out this month and I can't wait to read it.


Debra Salonen said...

Good morning, GABixler, so nice to meet you. Is that a double-jointed digit? I promise there's no S&M in any of my books. The set-up for this scene is poignant because these sex toys were wedding shower gifts leftover--untouched--from her failed marriage. She is trying to rebuild her life and re-establish some her faith in herself. She held on to this box as a symbol of the possibility that she might actually have romance, fun and sex in her life again. Laughter was a release on several levels.

I like your comment about spreading my writer wings and flying--we definitely need that.


Kat Sheridan said...

I adore humor in books but I think it's far harder to write than the deepest most angsty stuff. A humor writing friend once explained to me: "Funny stuff happens to everyone; not everyone can write it funny." Sounds like you caught just the right tone here--humor to defuse a sad moment!

Debra Salonen said...

'Morning, Kat. Great name. (One of the heroines in this series is named Kat. )

Your friend is very wise.

I think the best books are the ones that balance the angst and the humor. BUT finding that balance is the tricky part. All you can do is write the story you hear in your head, listen to your characters and give it your best shot.

Thanks for your comment.


Micole Black said...

Thumbs up for sure Deb! ;-)



Debra Salonen said...

Thanks, Micole. Appreciate you coming by.


Debra Salonen said...

BTW, I forgot to mention this in my blog, but Sia, I noticed you raise Great Danes. Have you read my book, Love, By George? George is a Harlequin Great Dane. I love that dog, and I wrote it by opening every chapter in George's point of view. Sadly, my editor at the time took out those parts because she didn't think Superromance readers would like them. I disagreed but she had final say. I did post the George snippets on my website, but it wasn't the same. :-(

Do your dogs talk to you?


Helen Ginger said...

What a cute scene. You wrote it well. I've never written that kind of scene, but who knows...maybe I'll find a way to fit one in.

Debra Salonen said...

If it calls to you, Helen Ginger, I say, why not? That scene started out in my head as far more serious, but once the contents of the box were revealed...and I learned that the hero had dogs...well, it sorta morphed from there. Glad you liked it. Thanks for the compliment.

Happy writing!

Ellen Hartman said...


Deb mentioned that she was here today talking about humor and writing and Superromance. What could be better? I love Deb's books and her sense of humor!

I agree with Kat and others that writing humor is hard. I was a competent writer long before I ever knew how to write anything funny. If I'm successful at all, it came from studying writers who are good at it--Larry McMurtry, was my first role model. Pacing, rhythm, editing, word choice, contrast, and repetition can all play a role.

I agree with the folks who said they don't like silly or slapstick. ;-) I enjoy books that include a mix of humor and more serious emotion.

P.S. Deb--that scene is so good. I loved it!

Snookie said...

I loved When he met Rachel... I like humor in books. I don't watch TV or go to movies so I read mostly for entertainment and humor goes along way...

Debra Salonen said...

Thank you, Ellen. A huge compliment coming from you. And you're so right about Larry McMurtry. He's one of my favorites and I have laughed out loud in certain scenes of his books--and cried.

Didn't you post a snippet on the eHarlequin Superromance thread from your current release? I can't recall the scene exactly but I remember grinning. It was so Ellen Hartman!! For those of you who haven't read her, that's a really good thing.


Debra Salonen said...

Oh, thank you, Snookie. And thanks for coming by. Appreciate your support. No TV or movies? I actually envy you, but I don't think my husband could function without Barrett-Jackson and the Speed Channel. Sigh.

But, I'm with you, give me a book over TV any day.


Joan Kilby said...

Hey, Deb. Great scene! I'm glad you got to keep it. What is it about sex toys that makes women laugh? In my latest Superromance, Two Against The Odds, the heroine's mother pesters the poor hero for sex advice and ends up buying an 'Orgasmitron 500' to spice up her failing marriage. I love reading humor and it invariably creeps into whatever story I'm writing. It's a great way to relieve tension in a book with otherwise serious emotional issues. I agree, slapstick doesn't do it. The humor has to come out of the characters.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Debra, I haven't read Love, By George, but yes, I will be looking it up. I'll rad your snippets too.

Currently, I have 4 Great Danes. Gidget (aka, Lady Sia's Defiance)is Harlequin. She's slated for motherhood late August and her partner in this is a Harlequin bred Black. He's gorgeous and owned by best friend, Alex, who breeds outstanding euro show Danes.

Sorry to be missing in action. Had a long list of appointments and my phone wouldn't connect to here and neither would my Kindle--which will work in a pinch.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Joan, thank you for stopping by. btw, I liked Rafe. Fun to see audits life from somewhere else than the US. My luck, they'd send some dweeb who looked like a gnome.

Debra Salonen said...

Joan, that is the funniest thing ever--the Orgasmitron 500. I'm giggling just picturing this conversation. I was hoping I'd find that in Her Great Expectations, which is sitting beside my bed at the moment, but, now, I'm going to have to pick up the latest, too.

Thanks for stopping by.

I know how that goes. I live in the country and between my house and town is a vast "dead" zone.

Your dogs sound fabulous. Oh...puppies. George would have made a great daddy.

I had a fun day here. Thanks for letting me hang out.


Talli Roland said...

I love humour in books, too, but it is very subjective. What I might find hilarious, another might find just silly or stupid. But I do enjoy a good laugh!