Can a historical romance be funny? Absolutely! Author Janet Mullany joins us today to talk about humorous historicals.
Thanks for inviting me to guest blog! My books are either funny historicals, mostly, or books where terrible things are done to poor Jane Austen; my latest, out this week, is JANE AUSTEN: BLOOD PERSUASION, where Jane’s a vampire. It’s not sidesplittingly funny but it has its moments. So naturally I thought I’d write about how to write romantic comedy.
Quite honestly I have no idea how to write romantic comedy. Yes, you need a strong voice, you need a sense of timing, you need well-chosen words—but isn’t that what every writer strives for? I am not one of those writers who claim that it takes all sorts of terrible angst and sweat to produce a funny line. I can’t help myself. I write a passionate love scene and lo and behold, there’s a banana peel on the bedroom floor. It just happens. I think if you’re a funny person who likes to tell jokes and loves word play and puns you’ll do ok. Otherwise, I think you should stick to a heroine obliged to have sex with half a dozen alpha males to save the world, and then you get into the situation of unwitting comedy. Doesn’t that just beg for someone to intone, “It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it?”
From the reactions to my funny historicals, the first one of which was The Rules of Gentility, some readers were confused. Should romance be, well, that funny? Isn’t love a serious business? And should romantic comedy go beyond the witty repartee and one-liners that seem to define the subgenre?
I say yes. So, as an example of comedic craft, let’s funny up a very famous proposal scene.
… to her utter amazement, she saw Mr. Darcy walk into the room. In an hurried manner he immediately began an enquiry after her health, imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she were better. She answered him with cold civility. He sat down for a few moments, and then getting up, walked about the room. Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a word. After a silence of several minutes, he came towards her in an agitated manner, and thus began,
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
Elizabeth’s astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement, and the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt for her immediately followed.
An unmistakable sound filled the room.
“I beg your pardon, sir,” Elizabeth said. “It is one of Mr. Collins’  whoopee cushions.  Lady Catherine de Bourgh is most insistent that there be one in every room.”
Well, it’s not that great, but this is how it works. At  we get the first deviation from Austen. If you know the scene, he does not sit down, so you know something is going on.  is the leadup to  the joke when you realize what indeed they both heard and  is an additional bit of absurdity, the cherry on the cake, if you like, which both relates it to the truth of the book—Lady Catherine de Bourgh is the clergyman’s overbearing and micromanaging patroness; and the deflation, so to speak, of Darcy’s dreadful proposal.
What makes you laugh?
Here’s a quick look at Janet’s latest book JANE AUSTEN: BLOOD PERSUASION
It’s 1810 and Jane Austen settles down to some serious writing in the peaceful village of Chawton. But it’s not so peaceful when the Damned introduce themselves as her new neighbors. Jane has to deal with the threat of a vampire civil war, her best friend borrowing her precious silk stockings for assignations with the Damned, and a former lover determined to hold a grudge for eternity.
Explore diversity in fiction when IRMC Books, a publisher of multicultural and interracial romance, joins us on Monday, October 10th.
Bio: Find Janet online at www.janetmullany.com where there’s a contest, an excerpt from JABP and lots of info about her books (including the funny ones).
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