Author Spotlight: John Inman On Writing with Humor
The stories of John Inman are a true favorite of mine. I think of John Inman and his stories and immediately I start to smile. He has the ability to convey the emotions and thoughts of real people with startling issues in his stories through humor, frankness, and acceptance. Interspersed, of course, by the occasional moments of angst.
“Laughing through our tears” is probably a phrase most readers would associate with this author, whether it is through his books, Shy, Hobbled, or the recently released Spirit. I invited John to talk a little about how he combines the authenticity of every day problems and real life difficulties with humor. John has brought a copy of his latest release, Spirit, to give away. To enter to win leave a comment and an email address where you can be contacted. The contest ends June 4 at midnight.
Writing with Humor by John Inman
I was recently asked how and why I temper the impact of real issues with humor.
Well now, there’s a question and a half, huh?
Questions about why I write the way I do always go flapping over my head like distraught pigeons, because I honestly never know how to answer them. My motives are a mystery even to me. They always have been.
I do know there are times when I’m trying to delve into serious issues in a story and it’s an uphill battle for me to not start cracking jokes or going for a laugh. I’m talking about my writing here. In real life I’m much too shy to shoot for a belly laugh from anybody. I’m the guy sitting in the corner behind the potted palm slurping down cocktails to calm his frazzled nerves and trying to be inconspicuous. On paper, however, I’m fearless.
I honestly had not thought about it before, but behind every one of my comedies — SHY, HOBBLED, SPIRIT, LOVING HECTOR, SERENADING STANLEY — (I’m leaving out PAULIE because the only serious aspect to that story was the fact that everybody wanted to get laid, and I mean seriously.) Taking those other stories in order, the serious issues are Social Anxiety, Murder and Kidnapping, just plain Murder, Physical Abuse, and with STANLEY, an apartment building full of crazy people and the MC’s Inferiority Complex.
Even my serious novels have a good deal of comedy interwoven into the story. Take A HARD WINTER RAIN, for instance. With all the people being violently mowed down left and right, that one simply cried out for mood lighteners. So I gave them to the reader through the gallows humor of two homicide detectives chasing down a serial killer. JASPER’S MOUNTAIN, too, had its lighter moments. How could there not be an underlying comedic tone when the main character had three dogs, two cats, a couple of baby pigs, and a shitload of alligator lizards infesting his mountain retreat?
I think even in the most serious story lines, there is a need to lighten the mood now and then. I realize I go a little overboard with my humor sometimes, but still it serves a purpose. I know when I’m reading a long, sad, morose tale of abuse or angst or heartbreak, I require an occasional chuckle just so I won’t set the book aside periodically and toddle off to the bedroom to blow my brains out.
When I was a high school kid back in Indiana about a thousand years ago, I remember my English Lit teacher giving us an assignment to write a story about ancient Rome. Growing up in Switz City, Indiana, with a population of 212 people, and with only one stoplight, one feed store, one tiny market where the clerk doled out change from a cigar box, and about a gazillion churches, I had, of course, never been to Rome in my life, ancient or otherwise, and unless I was sorely mistaken, I was pretty sure none of the other kids had been there either.
So instead of writing a story about something I knew absolutely nothing about, I wrote a commercial. A commercial like you might have seen had ancient Rome been bombarded with endless hours of mindless television shows like we are. (Yes, even as a kid I hated TV.) Remember Cal Worthington and his dog Spot (who was actually a tiger) hawking used cars all over TV? That’s the type of guy I based my commercial on. Only Cal wasn’t Cal anymore. He was Calicus. And he didn’t sell cars, he sold chariots. Calicus stood there in his lot full of used chariots, his toga flapping around his pale skinny legs, touting the wonderfulness of his inventory in a loud booming voice, while his bigass pet elephant, Spot, followed him around like a Corgi.
I fully expected to get an F on the assignment, but strangely enough Mrs. Donahue (who I always thought hated my guts) –see? I was paranoid even then — well, Mrs. Donahue gave me an A+ and asked that I read my creation in front of the class, which I refused to do because I was just too damn shy. My best friend at the time, Linda Strietelmeier, of brave German stock, took pity on me and offered to read my story to the class in my stead.
I still remember the kids laughing at my silly commercial as Linda stood at the podium reading it out loud. Even sourpuss Mrs. Donahue cracked a smile or two. I sat there looking down at my lap, blushing up a storm, and loving every fucking minute of it. Looking back now, I do believe that day was the beginning of my need to write comedy.
It isn’t a pretty story, I know. But it is my own. And as true as the day is long.
So in answer to the question, how and why do I temper the impact of real issues with humor, the answer is — I have no choice. It’s just what I do, what I am, how I write. There is no big mystery to it. I’m just doing what I enjoy doing. And in truth, I think the answer to the question is pretty simple.
Not only am I simply wired that way, but maybe even more to the point is the fact that I’m doing it because that’s the kind of writing I like to read.
And what better reason is there than that?
John has been writing fiction for as long as he can remember. Born on a small farm in Indiana, he now resides in San Diego, California where he spends his time gardening, pampering his pets, hiking and biking the trails and canyons of San Diego, and of course, writing. He and his partner share a passion for theater, books, film, and the continuing fight for marriage equality. If you would like to know more about John, check out his website at—-
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If you are unfamiliar with John Inman and his stories, I have listed a few,ok a lot of my personal favorites below. Check them out and prepare to start laughing. It’s the only way to go. Those marvelous covers are by artist Paul Richmond except for Spirit whose wonderful cover was done by Reese Dante.