A short series of guest posts explores what it means to be a female author…
THE MYTH THAT WOMEN CAN’T BE FUNNY
By Heide Goody
I have been co-writing comedy novels with Iain Grant for six years. We’ve written ten novels now, so our man / woman team is well-established.
I was fascinated to hear about Barbara’s blog series on women’s views and influences. I thought you might like to hear what I think about women and comedy, and what my experience of co-writing with a man has been.
Women and comedy
The books of Sue Townsend were the UK’s best-selling fiction of the nineteen eighties. When I encounter someone who says that women are not funny, I want to hit them over the head with The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. I have encountered this attitude a few times but not enough to make a serious difference to my own activities. It’s a bit like people who think that the earth is flat; they might exist in the world but they won’t make me worry about going to Australia if I feel like it.
I have been lucky enough to spend some time with Sue Townsend’s manuscripts which are held at the University of Leicester. It’s fascinating to see the edits she made to her own work. She clearly knew how to make things funnier, using techniques that I recognise and use myself.
I have wondered a few times how Sue Townsend’s work would be presented today if we were seeing it for the first time. I am suspicious that she would be urged to write books with a young female as the protagonist rather than a teenage boy. I am also suspicious that they would have a candy-coloured cover put on them and they’d be marketed to women. It’s tricky to think of modern female writers of comedy who aren’t presented in this way, unless they started out as stand-up comediennes.
The horrible trend for everything to be gendered (pink lego, pink razors, pink pens) is pervasive and unhelpful. There are many factors that have slowed or even reversed the progress of feminism in recent years, but who could have imagined that marketing would play such a significant part? It is one of the reasons that independent publishing is so appealing. The comedy that I write with Iain Grant appeals to men and women (I have stats to prove this) and we create book covers and marketing accordingly.
Co-writing with a man
When Iain and I decided to try writing together, we were in the same writers’ group and we were the ones who were most interested in collaborative writing. It was a happy coincidence that we gave it a whirl. It wasn’t a coincidence that it worked so well, because we quickly discovered that we were very well-matched in terms of our work ethic and our goals. We worked out everything else as we went along. We even wrote a non-fiction book about collaborative writing because we learned so much about it.
We are very aware that we bring different skills and interests to our work. Iain is great at structure and witty dialogue. I love silly, wild slapstick. In terms of non-writing jobs we share the labours there as well. Iain is the planner and setter of deadlines, while I enjoy marketing our work.
It’s impossible to evaluate whether readers are influenced by the fact that we are a male / female team. People will occasionally make muddle-headed assumptions about the way that we work, with the unspoken idea that Iain is “in charge” being at their core. As a general observation though, we’re increasingly finding that our joint names are recognised by readers as a brand. We spend quite a bit of time interacting with readers, online and in the real world, and it’s our personalities and our work that sell books. Someone who organised a meetup that we went to in Leeds earlier this year told us that we’re not allowed to stand apart, because she wouldn’t recognise us, “like Ant and Dec”.
Heide and Iain’s books can be found on Amazon.
The Clovenhoof series, where Satan is made redundant from Hell and sent to live in Birmingham
The Oddjobs series, has been described as “Men in Black meets The Office”
Their latest book, Disenchanted, is a modern day fairy tale starring a heroine who won’t accept her happy ending.
Heide inflicts unsuitable content upon the world by whatever devious means she can find. Technical documents in her day job have been found to contain coded messages if you read them backwards.
She is, with Iain Grant, co-author of the Clovenhoof Satan-in-suburbia comedy series. Her first solo novel, Million Dollar Dress, is also published by Pigeon Park Press.
Heide lives in North Warwickshire, England with her husband and children.