Sunday, March 18, 2007

Steve Hockensmith

Bob Tinsley of The Short of It interviewed Steve Hockensmith, author the "Holmes on the Range" mystery series, in 2005.

Part of their exchange:

TSOI: What do you think about the conventional wisdom that humor doesn't sell?

SH: It depends on the market you're looking at. When it comes to novels, the CW seems to be right. I asked a similar question of Bill Fitzhugh once, and his answer was, "You bet your ass humor's a tough sell, but you gotta write what you gotta write. If you enjoy writing humor, if you think you're good at it, then don't give up." On the other hand, I once got a ding letter from an agent who told me, "You're not funny, and if your name's not Hiaasen or Westlake you've got no business trying to be funny." In other words, give up. I think HOLMES ON THE RANGE dances around this particular minefield because it's not meant to be a comedy-mystery -- it's a mystery that, as an added bonus, just happens to be funny. At least that's how I see it.

When it comes to genre short fiction -- and here's one of the many reasons to love genre short fiction -- the conventional wisdom doesn't apply at all. You'll find humorous stories in EQMM [Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine] and AHMM [Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine] (and Analog, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Asimov's) all the time, and folks like James Powell and Ron Goulart have been selling humorous short fiction for years. Which isn't to say selling a (supposedly) funny story is going to be easy. Writers who want to take a stab at humor should keep in mind that (A) not all editors have the same sense of humor, (B) not all editors have your sense of humor and (C) not all editors have any sense of humor. But, as a wise man once said, if you enjoy writing humor, if you think you're good at it, then don't give up. I don't recall offhand where that quote's from, but I think it's good advice.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue