Monday, October 23, 2006

In the Coop with Lisa Yee

A Three Silly Chicks Interview

Lisa Yee is the comic-quirky-brilliant author of MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS and STANFORD WONG FLUNKS BIG-TIME. The Three Silly Chicks are absolutely crazy about her, even though she occasionally tortures peeps.

How do you know when what you write is funny?

My daughter claims that I'm always cracking myself up. It's true. For example, I'll be in the grocery store and remember something weird, like the time broccoli came out of my nose, and start laughing. This causes the people near me to slowly move away.

I am aware that things I find funny, others might not. (My husband thinks that objects that come out of other people's noses are disgusting. BTW, it is my theory that in relationships there is always one person who doesn't mind looking at someone's scab, and another who totally squeamish.) Oh dear. I'm drifting. Back to funny. I guess I'm always afraid people won't get my sense of humor. It's so quirky. So I test it out on my family. If they laugh, then it's good. If I have to explain it to them, then it's not.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?

The best way to write a funny book is to write an unfunny book first. By that I mean, the story has to hold up without the humor. There needs to be emotion and pathos in it. Well, not all funny books, but the ones I like best. The ones that are about a character we care about, and not just a slapstick situation.

To test this, take out your best jokes or funniest parts. Does the story still hold up? If yes, then you've created a wonderful foundation to build the humor on.

Has being funny ever gotten you into or out of trouble?


What are some of your favorite funny books?

On the adult side: I am a HUGE fan of Anne Lamott and David Sedaris's essays. I enjoy the twisted humor of Edward Gorey, and the quirky characters from James Wilcox's books. Anne Tyler is hysterical, in a very quiet way. And I recently read QUEEN OF THE ODDBALLS by Hillary Carlip. I liked it so much I sent her a fan letter.

On the kid side: SOMETIMES I'M BOMBALOO by Rachel Vail and Yumi Heo wonderfully combines visual humor with irony. D.L. Garfinkle took an embarrassing situation and crafted it into a LOL story with STORKY. You can't beat Calvin and Hobbs for sheer delight. I adored the humor, emotion and angst in ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NOT . . . by David LaRochelle. And I love all things Beverly Cleary.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?

Both my first two novels (and number three, SO TOTALLY EMILY EBERS) take place in the imaginary town of Rancho Rosetta in Southern California. They are overlapping stories. I idealized Rancho Rosetta because I felt the kids had enough angst in their lives, and I didn't want to have to have them worry about safety and bad guys and taxes and pollution and whatnot and therefore.

However, my forth novel, CHARM SCHOOL DROPOUT (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008) takes place in Kissimmee, FL and Hollywood, CA. So, I guess of those places, I'd live in the imaginary town of Rancho Rosetta and hang out with Millie, Emily and Stanford.

Who do you like more, The Marx Bros or Three Stooges?

The Marx Brothers. I love wordplay.

What was your best Halloween costume?

One year, in college, I wore one of my mom's old pink taffeta cocktail dresses, long gloves, and lots of (fake) pearls. I hardly ever dress up, so it felt very chic and irreverent at the same time. I suppose if I wore that today I'd look like Gwen Steffani, minus the blonde hair, musical abilities, and clothing line.

What is your Dream Job for a Day?

To be an author on the day the first hardcover copy of your book arrives in the mail. Oh wait, that's really happened!!! (It is sooooo surreal and totally cool.)

Clown V. Mime Deathmatch. Pick your winner.

Oh dear. This is a tough one. I don't suppose they can cancel each other out? Hmmmm, I have to really think here. I am scared of clowns, but mimes also freak me out. I get really quiet around mimes. But I don't get all clown-y around clowns. Not sure if that is significant. I guess if I had to choose, the mime would win. And then, to celebrate the victory, I would take him/her to a movie. Only, not a silent one. To sit next to a mime during a silent movie would be torture.

Funniest dead person you’d like to meet?

Dorothy Parker.

BONUS QUESTION! Halloween Candy: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Thoughts?

I am totally in favor of Halloween candy. Love those tasty fun-sized treats. I just hope my kids never find out that I eat their candy when they are in school. Shhhhh. I do it for love though. Too much sugar is bad for children.

I guess the good would be anything chocolate. The bad would be anything with hair stuck on it or the word "filet" on the package. And the ugly would be, well, the same as the bad.


letsbefriends007 said...

interesting ...

Little Willow said...

As always, Ms. Yee is hilarious!

dink said...

What a fun interview!


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