One of my favourite Twitter personalities is C.L Ogilvie. She’s funny, quirky, genuine and always changing her hair. So, I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to interview her for my blog. Glad I did.
Tell us a little about your background and how you became interested in writing.
Growing up, I loved it when my parents read to me, but I was also very impatient. If they were busy, I’d have story time by myself. The first book I remember reading on my own was 101 Dalmatians when I was approx. four years old. In school, I performed plays and skits for Show and Tell. I wrote my first “book” when I was seven, a story about a unicorn who goes on an adventure looking for a boyfriend, so clearly, my love of romantic comedies started early. I’ve just always loved stories.
You’re published already. Tell us about your books and how you came up with the stories.
I wrote Some Assistance Required in 2014. It’s about a woman named Glenda Melner looking for a job after the portal to the other realm opens and the market is flooded with magical creatures. She becomes the legal assistant for a vampire lawyer who eventually decides he doesn’t want to ever have to replace her. It was inspired by my boss in Yellowknife. She was one of the top lawyers in northern Canada, incredibly smart and completely scatterbrained. She used to joke about asking the military to delay our next posting. There were also a lot of vampire romance novels out at a time that usually involved a woman falling in love with a vampire and wanting to become like him, and I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if it was the complete opposite, like the woman has absolutely no interest in becoming immortal? Once I decided to make fantasy and supernatural creatures an everyday occurrence, the story kind of took off from there.
My second novel, Skipping Out on Henry, is about two friends, Posey and Tabitha, who are on vacation in London, England and accidentally end up back in the year 1539, just as Anne of Cleves is about to marry King Henry VIII. After Posey unwittingly convinces Anne to skip out on the wedding, she and Tabitha pose as the princess and her lady-in-waiting while they try to restore the correct timeline. It was basically a tribute to my best friend, Jill. Originally, it was just going to a contemporary novel based on our real-life plans to go to England together, but my husband made an offhand joke about how Jill and I always get ourselves into ridiculous situations. “I don’t even want to think about where the two of you would end up.” And boom—time travel novel. Also, Anne of Cleves is my favorite of King Henry’s wives. I’ve always been fascinated by his claims he’d been misled by her portrait.
Do you believe you can develop humour writing skills or is it something you are hard-wired to do? I got my sense of humour from my dad, what about you?
I think I get my sense of humor from my whole family. We’re all very sarcastic and quick to make a joke. Any time we all get together for a game night, it always descends into Lord of Flies with (good-natured) trash talk. We even have an annual family camping trip where we compete against each other for a trophy, with water balloon fights, scavenger hunts, and grudges that last a lifetime. (Ask my mother about the difference between seaweed and sea kelp. I dare you.)
Personally, I think anyone can be funny, but comedy requires skills you need to work at and develop. Humour is so subjective, you really have to fine tune your particular brand. A joke has to match the tone of your novel, otherwise it won’t land. I tend to rely on dialogue more than scenes or settings for humor, so one thing I do is watch a lot of comedians and pay close attention to their timing, delivery, and word choice.
Who are your favourite funny people and what about them do you like?
I love Mike Birbiglia and Pete Holmes because they can be very funny without being mean-spirited or relying on shock laughs. And Mindy Kaling is an absolute queen of blending self-centered snark with genuine heart. In my personal life, though, my husband makes the worst dad jokes (which I love, don’t ever stop), and I love my best friend Jill’s random but hilarious observations.
Who are your inspirations in the literary world and beyond?
Leigh Bardugo is a big one for me. I love how she can seamlessly blend character banter into intense action scenes without it coming across as flippant. And her world building skills are phenomenal. I’m also a huge fan of Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown and their Tales of Wendy series, a Peter Pan retelling. Their humor writing is so tight and perfectly executed that by the time I finished the first installment, The Wendy, an eyebrow was my favorite character!
You’ve compared your books to junk food. Aren’t you knocking your own brand? Are serious genres necessarily better?
I don’t think it’s knocking it at all. Junk food is tied to some of my best memories. Eating cookie dough at sleep overs while watching movies and giggling about school crushes. Beef jerky and Cheetos during all-night Risk games. Super Bowl parties, game nights, stopping for snacks with my roommates on our way home from the clubs. That’s what I want my brand to be: silly fun.
I don’t really buy into the idea that one genre is better than another, they just offer something different. Their value lays in what the readers get out of it, and they each come with their own set of challenges. I don’t think one is “easier” to write or consume than another. Each genre is just its own examination of the world. It can’t all be 1984, that would be so bleak!
How have you evolved as a writer?
I’m not entirely sure that I have. Most days I still feel like a newbie. One common mistake I feel I made in my first two novels was mashing too many genre elements together. A time travelling historical romantic comedy is a bit of a marketing nightmare. I’m also making a concentrated effort to write tighter dialogue and improve pacing. I tend to cram in as many jokes as I can and then have to rush through to the ending.
I follow your tweets and you have some interesting idiosyncrasies and pet peeves. Would you care to highlight the key ones for the 68 people who follow my blog?
I love cooking but dread doing it for other people because I’m always worried I’ll make them sick somehow. I’m horrible at reading maps and get lost all the time, even in the cities where I live. Once I got myself stuck in a dress while shopping and had to call for help. I have a knack for injuring myself in really weird ways, like dislocating my shoulder while I was changing my shirt.
Also, please don’t ever take me to a restaurant on my birthday and have the wait staff ambush me with a song in front of everyone. It’s mortifying. Normally, I love it when I get free cake, but not like that.
Is there anything different you would like to try in the future?
Right now, I am working on a dystopian story. It’s been a challenge to tackle darker subject matter while still adding my own style of humor.
Where can we find you online?
If you like book reviews and random thoughts on writing and humor, you check out my blog clogilvie.wordpress.com, or you can follow me on Twitter (@CLOgilvie) and Facebook.