The cover for 'The Harm in Asking' hints that a lot of things will go wrong in Sara Barron's new book.
Author and comedian Sara Barron is releasing her second book "The Harm in Asking," and without giving away any spoilers, it’s safe to say that the author bares it all in these very personal essays. We talk with her about putting it all out for the sake of comedy. And for the sake of coping.
You’re really exposing yourself in this book. Isn't that nerve-wracking? When you write a book, it’s this unbelievably private process that then produces a public product. So when you’re writing it, you can't think too much about the idea that anyone will read it. I wanted it to be entertaining and funny, but at the same time avoided thinking about what would be too embarrassing to write about because then I would have held back more than I should.
Have you always been aware of your awkwardness? I think early on I figured out that to get through awkwardness, you have to make fun of yourself so you are less alone coping with it. When you’re a little kid all you want is to be cool and popular. I didn’t embrace it so much then, but as I got older I realized that that part of me isn’t going away. I haven't grown out of that. So at this stage then how do I deal with it? I deal with it by turning to comedy.
If you could talk to that 10-year-old girl that locked herself in the bathroom every day after school with the three imaginary friends, what would you tell her? I would tell her that it doesn’t get better. Because your mother will still be obsessed with your brother and he'll always be the favorite, so get used to it and find a way to cope. And I say that of course a little bit in jest. It’s 75 percent a joke, 25 percent truth.
There are some really funny descriptions of your mother in the book. What did she think when she read it? This is the second book I’ve written, and my mother is featured very prominently in the first one, so she has dealt with that once before. I had her read the first chapter before it was published, because I make a lot of fun of her having an over-the-top reaction to my brother's asthma. It was a more touchy way of making fun of her than I had before so I just wanted to run that by her. Luckily, she has a good sense of humor. She also understands that if I don’t do these things I don’t really have much of a job. So she sacrifices her own dignity so I can work.
Humor writing is a lot harder than people think. What's the secret to doing it right? Humor is such an objective thing. We all think we’re funny, but it’s only a certain percentage of people that agree with us. I know people who don’t want to read what I’ve written and think some of the things are disgusting. That’s fair, but what I can do is just to think about what I find funny and work as hard as I can to write the story in a tight, efficient way.