A word (okay, a pile of them) from Melodie:
Readers of the Bad Girl Blog know that I celebrate all kinds of humour, from the broad comedy of my Goddaughter series, to the quirky humour that can tumble into a book unexpectedly and delight us all.
My friend and fellow Mesdames Lisa de Nikolits writes on the literary end of the scale. I invite you to read the following excerpt from The Nearly Girl, and then below it, her engaging post, "How Characters Create their own Brand of Funny." As always, I am astonished and delighted by Lisa's honesty and unique style. Enjoy!
from The Nearly Girl, by Lisa de
Dr. Carroll looked around the room. “There was a lot
of violence in this room last week— …. But wait, where’s Whitney and Joanne?”
“Having sex in the toilet,” Alexei said, morosely.
“I was nothing to her. I was just sex that meant nothing. And look at her, a
fat housewife, and me, I have such beauty.” He growled to show his manhood and
“They’re still in there?” Dr. Carroll looked at his
watch. “Who’s going to go and get them this time?”
“I will,” Alexei jumped to his feet but Dr. Carroll
leapt up and blocked his path.
“Not a good idea”, he said. “Time for you to do the
opposite thing. I am sure you want to hit them—”
“I want to kill them!”
“So you are going to do the opposite thing. You are
going to sit down and forgive them and love them and wish them happiness. Look
at it like this: you’re a spectacular specimen of manhood. You could get any
girl you want, why get hung up on a middle-aged neurotic woman?”
“Because I love her! And she loves me! I thought she
would leave her husband and be with me and we would have sex with each other
six times a day and have babies and be happy.”
“You can be as happy with somebody else,” Dr.
“Six times a day,” Shannon murmured, and she sat up
straighter in her chair.
“The only trouble is,” Alexei said pointedly to
Shannon, “I like blondes. Be a blonde next week and maybe we can try.”
Shannon looked like she was ready to leave right
then and there to go and address the issue of her hair at the nearest
“Sit down, Shannon,” Dr. Carroll said tiredly. “I’ll
go and get them. Please, everyone, sit still and wait, preferably in silence.”
Mike took hold of Amelia’s hand again and they sat
there, contentedly silent.
Alexei gave a few low growls now and then while
Ainsley told Persephone about how worried she was that someone would cut off
her finger in a McDonald’s in order to steal her ring.
“Any luck with the hoarding?” Shannon asked Angelina
“I tried to gather a tiny bag — just one little
plastic bag and fill it with junk and throw it out. It took me two days to get
the bag filled. And then I couldn’t throw it away. I put it in a corner of my
bedroom and left it there.”
“It’s good that you tried.”
“That’s nice of you to say so, honey, but it’s not
the truth. I’ve done that before and in fact, even better. I can package the
stuff up but I can’t give it away.”
“What do you think will happen if you do give it
“I feel like I will go crazy unless I get it back.”
“Angelina, we don’t use the expression ‘go crazy’,”
Dr. Carroll said, returning to the room with Whitney and Joanne in tow. “We say
‘experience a psychotic break’.”
“Yeah, that’s got a much more sympathetic ring to
it,” Persephone said. “Certainly reassures me.”
“Deconstruct the term ‘go crazy’.” Dr. Carroll said.
“What do you think it means? It means that your psyche loses touch with
reality. In other words, your psyche experiences a breakdown. Going crazy is
such a loose phrase. It can encompass so many of the mild and ordinary sins of
“Now,” he said, “I do want to check in with all of
you, but first I’d like us to meditate. We need to lower the anger level and
lower the testosterone in the room. We need try to dispel the feelings of blame
and self-hatred. To this end, we shall empty our minds and hearts and we shall
focus upon a lowly piece of fruit. We will engage our energies in studying this
mild-mannered unsung hero:, the crone of the vineyards, the wrinkled doyen of
the magisterial court; behold, the raisin!”
“I hate raisins,” Mike spoke up, and was soon
supported by David, Shannon, and Persephone.
“Come now,” Dr. Carroll raised his eyebrows. “Are
you not open to new experiences albeit it with old partners? Do not make the
mistake in life that each encounter with an individual will be the same. Give
your friendships with food and men and women more credence than that. Each time
you meet a person, or a dish of food, or even a book you’ve read many times
before, say, ‘hello Hello new friend, what lessons can you teach me today?’”
Alexei gave a snort. “I sure was surprised last
week,” he said, glaring at Whitney. “She gutted me like a fish, no mercy, no
care. That was a new surprise. You got that right.”
“Let’s move on,” Dr. Carroll said. “One day, Alexei,
you will thank Whitney for what she did. You embraced sex rather than anger and
that was good. But then you got too attached to the specific host of the sexual
experience as opposed to discovering that the sexual experience is a
transcendent act that unites the yin and yang of our human selves. You need to
let go of attachment, and find the opposite of that, and the opposite of
attachment is love and forgiveness. You see how everything is leading you away
from anger and hate?”
“You talk so much!” Alexei moaned, his head in his
hands. “I can’t listen to so many words, you’re killing me!”
“No more talking, at least for a while,” Dr. Carroll
assured him. “Time to meditate and find new meaning in old things. Everybody,
hold out your hands.”
How characters create
their own brand of funny.
by Lisa De Nikolits
I am not a funny writer. I am not a funny person.
And if I am, I am funny by mistake. I feel that I lack a sense of humour in
general – I am always the last one to catch the joke and most of the time, the
joke has to be explained to me. I avoid watching comedies because I find them
stressful – the level of chaos upsets me and I just want the misunderstandings
and disasters to be over and done with and for everything to be alright! Also,
the pressure to get a joke and laugh — it’s all too much!
do enjoy reading comedy (I love Melodie’s books!) but even reading humorous
books makes me feel tense – I get far more stressed and anxious reading
something funny, than a fast-pace thriller with axe-wielding murderers rushing
about, which I actually find quite relaxing!
But this book, The
Nearly Girl, remarkably, is funny. Well, parts of it are. There are parts
that are heartbreaking and while I never fail to laugh at the funny bits, the
heartbreaking parts leave me equally as moved, no matter how many times I read
Shortly before the book goes to press, the author
has read and reread the work countless times and sometimes one does weary of
that but it never happened with this novel; each time I started The Nearly Girl, I was just delighted to
be hanging out with the characters and it never got old.
at one point, during the edits, my editor Luciana Ricciutelli commented that a
certain chapter was absolutely hilarious and I was so happy – it wasn’t just me
who thought it was funny!
some of the characters in this book do crack me up but since I don’t set out
with the goal of trying to make them funny, it’s an interesting question as to
where it comes from, that element of humour.
a writer, I am very character-driven and therefore to a large degree, the
characters shape the plot and, of course, the tone of the dialogue. I have a
vague outline of a story when I start out but the characters dictate the action
and the outcome of the story.
characters all come from somewhere, there is always something that sparks them
off and mvery first inspiration for The Nearly Girl came about in 1984.
was, as those of you who were around at that time would agree, a stellar year
for shoulder pads, Bananarama, Wham! (yes, still with George Michael), Billy
Ocean and Bryan Adams’ Summer of ’69. TV shows were all fired up: Magnum, P.I.,
Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Hill Street Blues, Cheers, Knight Rider and The A-Team.
Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson, Brooke Shields and my own personal fav,
Paulina Porizkova, were hot on the covers of Elle and Marie Claire.
Hair was big, jeans were pleated and the fashions will never see a revival, as
dreadful as they were but there’s no doubt, we were living large and loving
none of that has anything to do with The
one book did. The Dice Man. Penned by
George Cockcroft under the pen name of Luke Rhinehart, the novel is about a
psychiatrist who makes decisions for himself and his patients according to the
cast of the dice. Hailed as a cult classic that would change your life, it did
change mine. I read it in 1984 and it made me want to write a book of my own
with a crazed psychiatrist with his own therapeutic methods of treatment.
My own exploration of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
(a core theme in The Nearly Girl)
came about when I was trying to untangle my issues with insomnia and
claustrophobia. This led to the creation of my character Dr. Frances Carroll
and his therapy called D.T.O.T. which is Do The Opposite Thing.
And one day, mulling over my problem(s) and feeling
super-annoyed with myself for having said problems, I snapped at myself – ‘just
stop it! Just do the opposite thing and you will be cured! Just sleep! Just get
in elevators, just go on subways, just get on planes!’
Of course, not being a qualified therapist, this did
not achieve the desired result BUT it did spawn my dearly beloved Dr. Frances
Carroll of The Nearly Girl, and he is
one of my favourite characters to date.
Such a nutter! And yet, so funny. Well, I think he
is hilarious and I hope readers will too but I shouldn’t set expectations about
the book in any shape or form – some readers may find him dangerous, or
annoying and think he should be locked up. All of these observations would also
I imagined Paul Giamatti as the good doctor and it
was a combination of his character in Sideways
and Barney’s Version that came
together in my mind.
There are other characters too, who add to the
humour; Alexei, the anger-filled hunky Russian, Whitney, the sex-crazed
middle-aged housewife, and Gino who really wanted to be called Gina and dress
up in his mother’s clothing.
I have no idea if you will find the book to be funny. Either way, I hope you
will let me know, I’d love to hear what you think.
One last thing I’d
like to add is that I love attending book clubs, so if you’d be interested in
having me at your book club, along with my characters, that would be fantastic!
I also do a lot
readings at the Toronto Public Library and other places, so if you’d like to
catch a live reading and meet me in person, please check out my website lisadenikolitswriter.com, as all the
events are listed there, along with reviews, photographs and all kinds of
interesting information. Thank you!
Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has lived in
Canada since 2000. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and
Philosophy and has lived in the U.S.A., Australia and Britain. Lisa lives and writes
in Toronto. The Nearly Girl is her sixth novel. Previous works include: The Hungry Mirror (2011 IPPY
Awards Gold Medal for Women's Issues Fiction and long-listed for a ReLit
Award); West of Wawa (2012
IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction and a Chatelaine Editor's
Pick); A Glittering Chaos
(tied to win the 2014 Silver IPPY for Popular Fiction); The Witchdoctor’s Bones launched in Spring 2014 to literary
acclaim. Between The Cracks She Fell
was reviewed by the Quill & Quire, was on the recommended reading lists for
Open Book Toronto and 49th Shelf. Between The Cracks She Fell was also reviewed by Canadian Living magazine and called ‘a
must-read book of 2015’. Between The Cracks She Fell won a
Bronze IPPY Award 2016 for Contemporary Fiction. No Fury Like That is
scheduled to be published in 2017 and Rotten Peaches in 2018. All books by
has a short story in Postscripts To Darkness, Volume 6, 2015, and
flash fiction and a short story in the debut issue of Maud.Lin House as well as poetry in the Canadian Women Studies
Journal (Remembering, 2013, and Water, 2015). Her short
stories have also appeared on Lynn Crosbie’s site, Hood and the Jellyfish
Review. She has a short story coming out in the anthology PAC’HEAT, a Ms.
Pac-Man noir collection and a short story in the Sisters In Crime anthology,
November 2016, The Whole She-Bang 3.
Where to buy the book:
In local stores in
hope the Amazons will be working, sometimes they really lag after the book has
been launched – but the Inanna link always works).