Dating profiles aside, I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a Good Sense of Humour – I suspect it’s more about compatible senses of humour. John O’Farrell is one of my favourite writers ever, because his sense of humour exactly matches mine; his writing always makes me laugh. He fascinates me, because he writes something that is pretty unusual, a sort of male chicklit.
The Man Who Forgot His Wife is a prime example. The main character – indeed, the first person narrator – is Vaughan, a middle-aged man. The plot is basically a love story, about a man who loses his memory and discovers that he is acrimoniously divorcing his wife (whom he has now fallen in love with again). If the characters’ genders were swapped, it would have Dorothy Koomson’s name on it and would be on the Women’s Literature shelf. (For the record, I love Dorothy Koomson too).
But O’Farrell hasn’t written about a woman trying to win back her husband, he’s written about a man, and it’s frankly fascinating. It’s extra fascinating for me, because I often find my protagonists to be male, and I’ve often wondered whether I should be more worried about the “who is your readership” question. Don’t women’s books usually have a female lead? Should female authors focus on female characters? Etc etc. O’Farrell is hardly topping bestseller lists, but he’s published something like a book a year for over a decade, and I’d take that as heady success. And he’s not afraid to write women either, May Contain Nuts has a female narrator and it works just fine.
Another thing I like about both Koomson and O’Farrell is that although their books are reasonably light reads and generally involve a bit of love and laughter, they deal with more interesting topics than simply romance. Total amnesia, cancer, adultery, adoption … these are not light subject matter – these books are not pure beach-reading chicklit. This is another element that matches the way I like to write, which is perhaps not surprising – I’m sure most writers write the kind of books they would enjoy reading.
If you’ve never heard of John O’Farrell, but this sounds like the kind of book you enjoy reading, I would strongly recommend you pick it up. This and The Best A Man Can Get are both fantastic, and if you have school age children, or know anyone who does, you won’t go wrong with May Contain Nuts either.