“There is So Much Material Within the Human Race.” Tara Conklin on Writing Funny
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Tara Conklin is the guest. Her new novel, Community Board, is out now from Mariner Books.
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From the episode:
Brad Listi: Let’s talk about writing funny. Is this something that comes naturally to you? Because you said earlier, you explicitly were in the mood to try to be funny. Was this a pivot for you? Were there things you had to do for this book that you didn’t have to do for others? Did you have particular funny friends that you were vetting your material with?
Tara Conklin: You know, I kind of just trusted my gut with it. It was definitely a pivot. I was worried that I couldn’t do it. But because it was coming from such a need for me—I wouldn’t say it was easy to write, but this was by far the easiest book I’ve written. I mean, granted, this is my third novel. It’s not like I have dozens and dozens to compare it to. But my first book, as a first novel, is just this utter obsessive act of faith and love and craziness, because you have no idea if anything is ever going to come of it.
And then my second, I really felt like I grew so much as a writer. The task that I set myself at the beginning of that book, The Last Romantics—it’s a family epic that follows four siblings over about 100 years.
Brad Listi: So, easy.
Tara Conklin: Yeah. I actually turned that book in three times. The first two times my editor said, Tara, this is not the book that we’re going to publish. And I was like, no, no, no, this is the book, this is the book I’ve been working on. It took me about five or six years when I thought it was going to take me two or three. There’s blood on those pages of that book. I learned so much writing it and really grew as a writer writing that book.
And then with Community Board, I had a very clear project that I wanted to do. I wanted to look at the Next Door app and the communications that arise in it. Once COVID started, I was like, okay, I want to examine these conditions, but I don’t want to say the word COVID. I want it to be completely before COVID. So I set it in 2019. It takes place over this one calendar year. And so it was a much more manageable project.
I found Darcy’s voice pretty early on and I just kind of went with it. There’s so much material on Next Door. There’s so much material within any kind of community board. And there is so much material within the human race. There’s so much silliness and nonsense. That’s the quote from Our Town that’s in the epigraph: “When you get near the human race, there’s layers and layers of nonsense.” So that was my jumping off point, and finding the nonsense wasn’t that hard.
Tara Conklin was born on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands and raised in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Last Romantics and The House Girl.