Thursday, May 17, 2012

In Which Geoff Herbach Guest Posts about Why Funny?

Last month I had the pleasure to meet fellow Sourcebooks author Geoff Herbach at TLA. First I sat across from him at a very long table at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Houston at a wonderful blogger/author dinner arranged by fabulous Texas blogger/social media goddess, Maria Cari Soto.
Here we all are. That's Herbach, poking his head out three down on the right.
Then, I got to watch him sign his new book NOTHING SPECIAL, which is the sequel to last year's STUPID FAST. Here's Geoff signing: (or at least flipping through his own book)
Geoff's books are both funny and serious and it's that combination of humor and angst that makes me love his writing. (you'll understand this more in a minute when you get to his guest post) I'm a fan of humor under pressure and that's why I like Herbach: he knows that life sometimes sucks donkey balls and that all we can do really is laugh our way through. (see my posts from 2010 about thyroid cancer and going radioactive. Cause yeah. Getting super spider powers was kinda cool)

Here is what STUPID FAST looks like:
And here is what NOTHING SPECIAL looks like:
Both are about Felton Reinstein, a very fast runner/cool dude whose life is funny/tragic/funny. Felton's boy voice is pitch perfect and if you haven't read these books, get thee to your favorite bookstore/virtual store now! AND YOU WILL HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN THEM BELOW!!

NOTHING SPECIAL is described on Goodreads like this:
Felton Reinstein thought he had it all-a great girlfriend, an athletic scholarship in the bag, and football friends he could totally count on. Wrong Like an elephant storming a house of cards, it all comes crashing down. And it's Felton's fault. Turns out his little brother has taken an impromptu road trip to Florida (aka desperate flight from all the talented people) to make a bid for stardom (aka fronting a hotel rock band with escapees from a retirement community). What's a big brother to do but help pick up the pieces, even if it means giving up all the status, all the glory and once again facing a life of nothing special.

Anyway, Geoff stopped by today today to talk about Why Funny?
This is what Geoff looks like when he's not eating his weight in chips and salsa (seriously, the dude was crazy about the salsa. Almost nipped my hand off when I tried to dip a chip)
And now here's the man himself, Geoff Herbach of the great state of Minnesota, with his guest post. Enjoy! 
Why Funny?

By Geoff Herbach

I can’t help it.  When I write, I make jokes.  Sometimes the jokes are at weird moments, when things are going very badly my characters.  When I was a kid and got in trouble, I’d always make jokes.  I giggled when getting yelled at.  I’m not sorry.

The worst thing I can hear as a writer (and believe me, I’ve heard it): You shouldn’t be funny.  This is serious material.

It sort of sounds to me like: You shouldn’t be here.  Life is serious.

Hey, I know it’s serious.  I know people struggle (I struggle).  I know terrible things happen (I’ve seen some terrible, sad stuff).  Life is hard.

Humor is my best defense mechanism.  For my characters, it’s sometimes all they’ve got, the ability to laugh.

My father was born in 1940 in Antwerp, Belgium.  He was Jewish.  A couple of months after he was born, the Nazis swept into the country.  My grandmother watched the air battle over Dunkirk as the family fled by car south, into France and eventually to Portugal, where they were lucky to catch a ship to Brazil.

So many of their friends and relatives died.  And, yet, my father and grandmother were two of the funniest people you could ever meet. 

My dad’s favorite joke began with: Did you hear about the guy with the glass ass?  It ended with: Everyone has a glass ass (everyone has their own trouble).  In between the story of the guy with the glass ass is beautiful and hilarious.

I’m writing a three book series about a kid, Felton, and his little brother, Andrew.  Their dad committed suicide.  Their mom has gone fairly crazy (for obvious reasons).  They’re both messed up in their own way (glass asses). They’re left to make sense of the world.  Felton, really, is only happy when he is 1) running, or 2) making jokes.  He knows he can’t run forever.  Funny doesn’t leave.  Jokes take the edge off.  Jokes give him distance from the pain, perspective, so he can find his way through. 

I think authors use what they’ve got.  I do want to explore serious issues.  I don’t want to write a bunch of underpants jokes that go nowhere, lead to nothing but a laugh.  I do want to write underpants jokes, though.  I naturally write underpants jokes.  The ability to make jokes about tough content provides an opening, a perspective, a space to breathe, so I can talk about this stuff as honestly as possible. 

My hope, of course, is that the humor works the same way for the reader.  The funny stuff is sugar that coats the harder notions, the bitter pill.  My hope is that readers who have no desire to think about the hard stuff, will read for laughs and find the serious stuff inside engaging.  My hope is that opening with a joke gives the reader space to breathe, perspective, an ability to empathize with the characters when things are tough.

That’s my hope.

And for me?  I need funny.  I have a glass ass, like you.  I need a little sugar so I can breathe for a second then deal with it.
Glass asses. We all have 'em. And no one explains it like Herbach!

Sure you do!
Just comment on this blog and give Herbach some love. Do you also use humor in painful situations? Let him know and we'll put you in the giveaway hat!

Giveaway lasts through Sunday night, 5/20. Winner announced Monday 5/21.


Kristin Rae said...

What a fab guest post, and an interesting perspective on the power of funny. It was great meeting him at TLA--he truly is hilarious!

(You don't need to enter me for the giveaway, since I already have them. I'll leave the chance for someone else :)

DJL said...

Wow, that guest post really does put writing into perspective. Does it always have to be so serious? I'm very glad that it isn't because I think some readers would not be the readers they are without humor in writing.

I use humor when I'm teaching computer classes at the library because it's SO not easy to speak in front of a group of people. So yes, I do use humor in painful situations! :D

Thank you for the great guest post and giveaway and hopefully I'll get the chance to meet Geoff Herbach someday. :)

Cari said...

"The funny stuff is sugar that coats the harder notions, the bitter pill." <-- Love that!

Geoff is a very talented writer and we're lucky enough to be allowed into this wonderful world that Geoff has created.

(not an entry I have copies of the books)

Good luck to everyone!

Sue said...

Oh, my gosh, these books sound great. Thanks for sharing about them and Geoff!

The books need to go on my TBR pile whether or not I win!

Emily said...

I love funny books. I wish I was better at writing them. Count me in for the giveaway...

Christina said...

I totally support the use of humor as a defense mechanism. Life isn't unrelentingly depressing. There are moments of humor if you look for them. Joss Whedon certainly knows that.

Funny makes the heartbreak easier to get through, and the juxtaposition can really help you recall the book.

Geoff Herbach said...

Hey Joy, thanks so much for posting this and for just being excellent and fantastic, generally!

Cindy said...

I'm in - Funny is often vital to survival!