Humorous Fiction About Serious Subjects by Anne Goodwin – Guest Post

Humorous Fiction About Serious Subjects by Anne Goodwin – Guest Post

Today on the blog we welcome author Anne Goodwin with her guest post ‘Humorous Fiction About Serious Subjects’. Check out her post below and her new book ‘Lyrics for the Loved Ones‘ which was released on 15th May 2023. – This post contains affiliate links.

Anne Goodwin guest post pic

Anne Goodwin’s drive to understand what makes people tick led to a career in clinical psychology. That same curiosity now powers her fiction.

Anne writes about the darkness that haunts her and is wary of artificial light. She makes stuff up to tell the truth about adversity, creating characters to care about and stories to make you think. She explores identity, mental health and social justice with compassion, humour and hope.

An award-winning short-story writer, she has published three novels and a short story collection with small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Lyrics for the Loved Ones is her fourth novel.

Away from her desk, Anne guides book-loving walkers through the Derbyshire landscape that inspired Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

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Humorous Fiction About Serious Subjects

Fiction is a branch of the entertainment industry, so even serious novels need to raise the occasional smile. But even though there were moments of comedy in my first two novels, I wouldn’t have thought humour was my strong suit.

That changed with my third novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, published in 2021. It tells the story of Matty who has been shut away in a long-stay psychiatric hospital for fifty years after giving birth to an ‘illegitimate’ child in 1939.

I didn’t set out to make her story funny. In fact, when I discovered the humour in her eccentricities, I felt I’d been disloyal to the hundreds of women whose futures had been similarly stolen from them by warped twentieth century morality. Having spent my professional career in mental-health services, I knew that mental disturbance and emotional distress is no laughing matter.

Yet, when readers told me that the humour didn’t dilute the tragedy, I stopped worrying. Readers don’t laugh at Matty, they laugh with her. Or they laugh at the supposed experts who continually fail to appreciate what’s going on in her head. They enjoy spending time in her company as she navigates the asylum that she believes is her family’s country estate.

Editing Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home during the first lockdown, Matty helped me manage my anxieties about the strange new normal. I never intended to write a follow-up yet, when I dispatched her to my publisher, I realised I couldn’t let this character go.

Lyrics for the Loved Ones is Matty’s story thirty years on. Having finally left the hospital, she lives in a care home, anticipating her hundredth birthday, until lockdown cancels her plans. But the grandiosity that helped her survive fifty-plus years of incarceration, means she won’t be beaten. After a lifetime of injustice, she becomes a national treasure.

If that were the only thread, it could be a comic novel. But there are darker strands in Lyrics for the Loved Ones even if, at least initially, Matty is oblivious to them. While she has buried the pain of being forced to give up her new-born baby for adoption, through two other point-of-view characters, the novel explores the theme of a loss so fundamental the feelings can’t be expressed in words.

Lyrics for the Loved Ones also addresses another form of injustice that was brought to our collective attention when the world was in lockdown. The murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests confronted us with the inherent racism of the Western world. The toppling of the statue of Edward Colston reminded Britons of our hidden history in the transatlantic slave trade.

Serious stuff. Setting a novel in early summer 2020, I couldn’t miss this out. Obviously, I couldn’t approach such atrocities with humour, but I wanted to avoid making it preachy. My character Matty came to the rescue. Looking at the unfolding news story through her eyes, we see both the horror and the absurdity of, as she would put it, ‘living off the profits of buying and selling ladies and gentlemen’. Surely enough to drive anyone insane?

I was checking the proofs when I read Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. Deeply impressed at her ability to write a humorous novel that doesn’t minimise the evils of misogyny, I realised I was aiming for something similar with Lyrics for the Loved Ones. Whether I’ve achieved that is for others to decide, but early feedback is encouraging.

Lyrics for the Loved Ones by Anne Goodwin

Lyrics for the Loved Ones

Author – Anne Goodwin
Publisher – Annecdotal Press
Pages – 345
Release Date – 15th May 2023
ISBN 13 – 978-1739145026
Format – ebook, paperback

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After half a century confined in a psychiatric hospital, Matty has moved to a care home on the Cumbrian coast. Next year, she’ll be a hundred, and she intends to celebrate in style. Yet, before she can make the arrangements, her ‘maid’ goes missing.

Irene, a care assistant, aims to surprise Matty with a birthday visit from the child she gave up for adoption as a young woman. But, when lockdown shuts the care-home doors, all plans are put on hold.

But Matty won’t be beaten. At least not until the Black Lives Matter protests burst her bubble and buried secrets come to light.

Will she survive to a hundred? Will she see her ‘maid’ again? Will she meet her long-lost child?

Rooted in injustice, balanced with humour, this is a bittersweet story of reckoning with hidden histories in cloistered times.

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