Today I’m hosting the hilarious P.H. Oliver whose book, THE GYNESAURS, was the ONLY self-published novel to hit the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour long-list (ie. Top 10 funniest books in the country and one of Canada’s oldest literary awards). Full disclosure: I was lucky enough to be the freelance editor on this book (because who doesn’t like snorting coffee out of their nose when working?) and trust me – it’s extremely entertaining. So if you’re interested in all things GYN, giggling in bed (whilst reading 😉 ) and maybe, just maybe, finally writing that novel that’s been inside you all these years, then read on, my friend. (Or maybe you’re just bored at work and/or hiding from the children in the bathroom?)
Tell us a little bit about THE GYNESAURS.
THE GYNESAURS tells the story of four single women, past their reproductive prime, who work in an ob-gyn office. For that reason, they call themselves “The Gynesaurs”. They are united not only by their work, but by their personal lives, which are often as colourful as the patients who seek their counsel. One national critic described the book as “a bold, delightful, strangely edifying read,” perhaps because although it is a fictional work, it is inspired by true stories and medically factual, so it gives its readers a peek behind the sanctity of the clinic doors.
Who was your favourite character to write?
Choosing your favourite character is a bit like choosing your favourite child. You hope that you have invested all of them with something compelling, memorable and worthwhile – even the most minor of them (the characters, not your children). There are a couple of characters who were closely patterned after real people and these are the two that readers seem to have the most fun with. I asked the woman who inspired Carolina, the Italian Mafia member’s daughter, to read the book and tell me if there was anything she would like me to take out, in case anyone recognized her. She chastised me, saying that I hadn’t put her “best stuff” in. Auntie Ceri was my sister Christine, who died before the book was published. I didn’t need to make much up about these two intriguing women, they are unforgettable. Many of the other characters are composites who eventually become independent of the author’s will and dictated their own personalities.
How did you get so hysterical and what’s your best recipe for laughter?
I was a middle child of four, with three very accomplished sisters – being funny as what I was good at. My father was a strict, somewhat stern man who was easily undermined by his own sense of humour. Most people feared his disapproval, but I learned that I could manipulate him (and many other authority figures) by making them laugh. It became my singular pursuit to try to either get attention or get out of trouble by making people laugh. We also moved a lot and being funny helped “The New Girl” fit in fast. I got away with a lot. My best recipe for laughter is to surround yourself by people funnier than you – as someone once said, “If you’re the best in the class, you’re in the wrong class.”
How did you find the self-publishing process?
As a first timer, I found it frustrating – largely due to my inexperience and poor computer skills. I made a lot of errors which cost me extra money to change. It would be much easier the second time, as I would know and understand the process. Now, I hear that Createspace is no longer providing the service I purchased and that is disappointing. Also, they don’t pay foreign royalties unless they amount to over $100.00 – with no alternative (last time I asked) to get that money back. Personally, I would probably investigate a local publisher or certainly a Canadian self-publishing organization for my next book. The good part is, is that I have a book on my shelf and that alone, is a great reward – well worth the money and effort spent.
How did it feel to be the only self-published book Long-Listed for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour Award?
When I researched the 70 authors on the Stephen Leacock submission list, I felt like a fraud amongst so many impressive, award-winning authors, “a shabby curate who has strayed by mistake, into a drawing room full of dukes,” as W. H. Auden put it. I shook my head and contented myself with seeing my little effort listed beside their names. At least I had finally full-filled two of the three New Year’s Resolutions I had made for the last 20 years which were:
1. to write a book
2. to submit it to the Leacock Medal for Humour Competition
3. to lose weight.
Apparently the first two of these are easier to accomplish than the third. Upon hearing that I had made the Long List – Top Ten in that august list of writers, I literally ran around the house howling like a mad woman. It was a heady moment, and still is.
Any advice for aspiring authors out there?
I am 64 years old. The woman who won the Leacock Award, Jennifer Craig for GONE TO POT, is 84. . . keep writing.
Thanks P.H. and good luck with THE GYNESAURS!
*PS. If you’re looking for a freelance editor for your next project please don’t hesitate to reach out! Here’s what P.H had to say about working with Wildflower Literary (no wine was involved in the bribing of this message):