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Getting away with comedy

Although there are usually comic moments in my historical romances, it's another thing writing an out and out comedy. I had this problem when I set myself up for potential disastrous failure in promising a comic play when I was writing and directing in my drama teaching days. We used to turn into a theatre company for the last days of the summer school term and do three performances over a gala weekend. I would decide on next year's production then and there so we could advertise it ahead.

So there I was, come May the following year, with rehearsals set up for early July, a titled play, costumes already being made and no script. I had the characters because - in a reversal of tradition - I made them up as the costumes were produced. As in, "Oh, that looks like the lady of the manor" or "Aha, that one has got to be the heroine" etc. As insane a method of working as the script turned out to be in the end.

I started writing and despaired after getting down the first few scenes. This was not in the least bit funny. No one was going to laugh. What was I doing saying I'd write a comedy? Who did I think I was, Woody Allen? Then I brought in the cops and the humour took off all at once. I saw how to turn the whole thing into a farce and it started to fall into place. Thank goodness the audience found it funny and laughed in all the right places. I got away with that one.

When I wrote Seventh Heaven many moons ago, my inspiration was Septimus Berowne, Poet, who suddenly popped into my head and started behaving in pseudo-dramatic fashion - throwing a hand to his brow and making extravagant gestures. The heroine, a capable female, immediately saw through him and became a foil for his wit. And then there was his family.

Don't ask how this idea originated because I really don't know. Septimus turned into the seventh child among a crazy bunch of impecunious siblings all named for numbers because their parents couldn't be bothered to think up names for them. My heroine Louisa, a wealthy widow, is naturally a target for the male members - apart from Septimus of course. Cue a madcap romp.

It's certainly a different read from my normal historicals and I was relieved when readers did find it funny. Comedy is a tricky beast. One man's funny is another man's bore. I find it much rougher on the nerves putting out a comedy than a serious romance. You just hope somebody is going to laugh.

At least with a book, I don't know because I can't see them reading. Nothing worse in the world than acting or directing a play and thinking it's hilarious and the audience sits there stony-faced. Argh!

Septimus Berowne, poet, has no intention of succumbing to the warmth and charm of the wealthy Lady Louisa Shittlehope. Can he stop her embroiling herself in his family’s affairs? She befriends his sisters and his brothers have designs on her fortune. Mistaken identity and a madcap chase ensue. Society’s disapproval is certain. Or is Louisa in more danger from the attraction of the poet’s delightful wit?

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