Comedy Writing, One of the Greatest Jobs Ever.
In my personal opinion comedy writing has to be one of the hardest genres to write. Not only do you need a great sense of humour but know how to appeal to the reader - and just how far to go. One such successful writer is Ira Nayman, and I welcome him to The Scribe to discuss his latest release from Elsewhen Press, Bad Actors.
How did you get into fiction, and why?
I knew when I was eight years old that I wanted to devote my life to writing humour. There are many possible reasons for this. A rip in the fabric of space-time forcing me to access the mind of H. L. Mencken. An unhappy childhood which led me to the realization that laughing made me feel better, so I should make myself do it as often as I could. Poor toilet training as an infant. I would go with the poor toilet training.
Does it take you long to finish a WIP?
I am embarrassed to admit it, but the first novel I wrote took exactly two months. I decided I wanted to write a novel (blame Terry Pratchett). I spent a week developing ideas. The actual writing took six weeks. Then, I spent a week editing and polishing. Two months is a stupid
short amount of time to write a novel. Having said that, I feel the need to point out that I had been writing humour for over 40 years by that point, so I already had my voice, and some of the ideas in the novel (such as the Trans-dimensional Authority and the Alternate Reality News Service) had been introduced on my web site, Les Pages aux Folles. So, unlike a lot of first novelists, I wasn't starting from nothing.
That having been said, the other novels I have written have taken anywhere from six months to a year to write. Sometimes it's steady work, sometimes I need to take a break of a month or two. I sometimes miss the manic energy of writing my first novel, but I'm happy that the extra time I have taken with the others has allowed me to get the details right. (Readers of my fiction will know that it is dense with detail.)
Would you ever collaborate with another writer?
I have tried in the past, and it hasn't worked very well, so I'm reluctant to do it.
That having been said, I would like to see some of my properties adapted for television (I was a script geek before I was a prose geek; for example, I have written two pilots for series based on my novels). In some cases, I would want to be the show runner, which would mean that I would have to write with others. I know some fantastic writers (Hugh Spencer, Jen Frankel, Timothy Carter, among others) who I know I could work with who would bring unique sensibilities to such projects.
Do you have a set writing routine?
Not so much. I try to write for a few hours after I wake up but sometimes the day is shaped so
that I can only write after dinner, or even early the next morning. Sometimes, the shape of the day and when my creative energy is at its highest determines when I write. Most often, I write at my computer in a den-like space that shelves divide from my bedroom; on the hutch on the other side of the room is my shelf of books (oh, don't be surprised - every writer has one!) and a figure of a clown pulling a rabbit out of hat which is a lovely metaphor for what I do. However, I have also written the bulk of at least two of my novels in longhand in notepads on public transit. (I live in North York, a suburb of Toronto; it takes me the better part of an hour to get anywhere interesting.) Creativity finds a way.
Do you belong to a writing group or use beta readers?
No. I'm just arrogant enough to believe that what I do is so singular that input from other writers would not be of much help to me. sorry about that.
When you start a book do you already know the ending, or whether the story will/could continue in another book?
I have to know the beginning, ending and important plot-points in between, before I start writing a novel. This allows me the freedom to get really silly without having to worry that I will send the novel spinning out of control (any vertigo the reader may experience is totally on them!). I have also had a scene play out in one novel that was repeated from a different point of view in another novel (twice!), something that I planned in advance because they were successive novels. On the other hand, the inciting incident that sets the entire Multiverse Refugees Trilogy in motion at the start of book six in the series is a payoff of something that happened at the end of the second book in the series, something I had not planned for. I love connections across books; they make my fictional world seem so much richer.
Do life events influence your work?
I write a lot of satire, so they most definitely do. Take the current trilogy, Good Intentions, Bad
Actors (the book that has just been published), and The Ugly Truth (which has been submitted to my publisher, Elsewhen Press, and will be published in 2022). The books explore the immigrant experience from the perspective of an alien race that has to be transplanted from its dying universe. As with most people, immigration is a recent part of my family history: my grandparents on my mother's side came to Canada from Russia and my father and many members of his family (those who survived the Holocaust) came from Europe. In addition to our family stories, during the writing of these books, I developed a large pile of newspaper clippings about refugees; especially in the writing of the final book, I called upon them for inspiration.
That having been said, Les Pages aux Folles, my web site, is made up primarily of social and political satire; current events are its lifeblood.
Who’s work has place of pride on your bookshelves, apart from your own?
You see! You get it!
On top of the shelving unit are piles of books that have been signed by the author. Many of them are by people who have come to be my friends; I couldn't be more thrilled to have them. Either of them. The friends or the books. You know what I mean!
In You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head), Ira Nayman’s second novel
published by Elsewhen Press, a madman develops a machine which he hopes will destroy the multiverse. When he sets it off, nothing seems to happen. Not content with this state of affairs, Doctor Alhambra, the chief scientist for the Trans-dimensional Authority (which monitors and police traffic between universes) creates an alarm system that will alert him if any of the universes in the known multiverse should start to show signs of collapse.
In Good Intentions: The Multiverse Refugees Trilogy: First Pie in the Face, the sixth novel in the Trans-dimensional Authority/Multiverse series, the alarm goes off. The universe that is in imminent danger of collapse contains billions of sentient beings; the Trans-dimensional Authority develops an ambitious plan to help as many of them immigrate to stable universes as possible before their universe dies. Good Intentions follows the first alien immigrant’s journey to Earth Prime.
Bad Actors: The Multiverse Refugees Trilogy: Second Pi in the Face, takes place two years later. Tens of thousands of aliens have immigrated to Earth Prime, with mixed results. Some have been welcomed and aided by their human hosts. Others have been vilified, exploited and attacked. Just another day in the multiverse...
Reading a book by Ira 'is like going head-to-head with an selection of thirty three and a third disconnected Wikipedia entries filtered through seven layers of artesian coffee filters woven from at least three more fibers than permitted by the historic laws of any major religion in a blender made of a strange kind of cotton candy spun from titanium anodized in fairground colours with blades made of live sharks while simultaneously tap-dancing to a Steve Reich composition based on the absolute value of the square root of pi. In other words, simply and elegantly the most entertaining way ever invented to invert your brain over a platter prepared with roasted apples and a variety of field mushrooms for your own delighted consumption.' ~ Jen Frankel, editor, Trump: Utopia or Dystopia, author, Undead Redhead
“We’ve caught a case.”
“What’s that, Joe?”
“We caught a case, Bill.”
“Are you sure? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been on antibiotics since the Pizzicotti triple homicide!”
“You ever heard the expression TMI, Bill?”
“Sure, Joe. We all have. It’s an inevitable consequence of the information age.”
“Take it to heart.”
“I’ll give it all the consideration it deserves.”
“I said: we caught a murder case.”
“A murder case?”
“The first murder case.”
“Vic’s name Abel by any chance?”
“Love your quick wit, Bill.”
“Helps make the job bearable, Joe. You know how it goes.”
“Nope. Vic’s name’s Napoleon Frasmatic.”
“Frasmatic? Name rings a bell. Wasn’t he the poor mope who got himself caught cheating on his wife? Yeah. Yeah – it’s coming back to me. When she found out about the affair, she re-enacted the climactic scene of Titanic on him. Soggiest case we ever investigated.”
“No, Ed. The frasmatic was actually a Wi-fi enabled frisbee that was none the rage with the kids a few years back.”
“Would I kid you about such a thing?”
“You don’t got the sense of humour for it.”
“Hell kind of a name is Napoleon Frasmatic, Joe?”
“The alien kind, Bill. The alien kind.”
“Alien…like in Mexican?”
“Am I in the right universe?”
“I don’t follow.”
“Probably just as well. Following is a crime.”
“If it’s with intent, Bill. Intent, measured in closeness.”
“How close would you need to be?”
“One car length, half the length of a tall man’s arm or thirty-seven Farcebook posts.”
“You always had an eye for the details, Joe. That’s what makes you such a good cop. An eye for the details.”
“Thanks, Bill. Coming from you, that’s aces, that is. Real aces.”
Sergeant Joe…Something or Other and Officer Bill…No, Don’t Tell Me, It’s on the Tip of My Tongue had been with the Los Angeles Police Department for a long time. A very long time. So long that they wore fedoras that hadn’t been made since before the start of this century. So long that they typed their reports up on old Smith-Coronas that for some reason had the letter t upside down. So long that they appeared to everybody else in black and white. They probably would have been retired out of the force a long time ago, except for one thing: they had a perfect record. They closed every case they were assigned to. Every single one. Nobody knew how they did it; if they had, they would have replicated the feat, but nobody ever had. Not even close. Occasionally, somebody in the precinct would harbour a suspicion that they planted evidence to keep their closure rate so high, but one look at Bill and Joe’s rumpled grey suits and hangdog faces would drive the thought clean out of any suspicioner’s head.
Joe and Bill didn’t socialize with the other detectives of Robbery-Homicide. In fact, the other detectives of Robbery-Homicide would have had a collective heart attack if either Bill or Joe told a joke. The pair were so earnestly deadpan, you would have thought all the Teflon had been scraped off and the metal melted down to make a pair of earrings for a gangster’s moll.
In the interest of inter-officer amity, the desk Joe and Bill shared was in a corner on the other side of the table with the coffee maker and accoutrements. The corner wasn’t well lit, which emphasized the pair’s monochromaticism. One time, a recruit new to the division put the severed finger of a murder victim on one of their chairs. When the errant appendage was discovered, Bill and Joe talked for ten minutes about who it might have belonged to, where it could have come from, whether there could be some literary, perhaps metaphorical significance to its appearing there, why modern writers shied away from metaphor and focused on concrete physical description, whether attending literary schools generally helped or hurt said writers, but who were they to judge, really when –
Having been delivered a lecture on literary theory rather than the entertainment that he had been expecting, the detective who had placed the finger on the chair bitterly retrieved it with a muttered, “Oh, so that’s where that got to. I’ll just…collect it. Evidence, you know.”
“You wanna drive, Bill?”
“Is it raining out, Joe?”
“I look like The Weather Channel?”
“Never hurts to ask.”
“What difference does the weather make?”
“I’m a skidding hazard during periods of precipitation.”
“I did not know that about you, Bill.”
“It’s not something I share with the world, Joe.”
“I can understand tha –”
“Oh, for Gord’s sake, I’ll pay for your taxi if the two of you will just get on with the case, already!” somebody shouted from across the room. It may have been the Chng. As always. When you had a good thing, you didn’t mess with it.
Ira Nayman is a figment of the imagination of a lawn chair named Francois le Granfalloon.
Francois has imagined a rich life for his character Ira featuring the publication of seven novels by Elsewhen Press, the most recent being called Bad Actors. Francois’ creation has been updating a web site of political and social satire, Les Pages aux Folles, for 19 years. In addition to this, imaginary Ira has a PhD in communications from McGill University and was a regular contributor to Creative Screenwriting magazine. Ira was also the editor of Amazing Stories magazine for two and a half years, but Francois is thinking that that may strain credibility, so he may remove it from his imaginings. All of his friends on the patio have urged Francois to write this down before he forgets it, but, being a lawn chair, he doesn’t have the hands to do it...
For Day 3 of Ira Nayman's blog tour, please visit Sarah Udoh at: http://sarahudohgrossfurthner.com/
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