To celebrate National Humor Month, I have an author interview with Philip Rivera. We met through an Instagram loop and I’ve read early drafts of some of his hilarious humor stories about life in the suburbs. Raising my kids in the country, I’ve found his stories eye-opening to a world that is both very different and exactly the same as mine. No matter the setting, but parenting is parenting. Welcome, Philip!
What inspired your book Suburban Luchador: The Cul de Sac Chronicles?
Lots of idle time pushing my lawnmower back and forth across my lawn like a mindless, suburban drone. This combined with other quotidian activities like taking out the trash, taxiing the kids in my minivan, and co-managing a household of four kids. I was kinda like Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, fluttering from one domestic duty to the other, wondering if there was more to this suburban life. Instead of bursting out into song about this existential search (which would have alarmed my neighbors), however, I wrote about the ‘more’ that exists in suburban life, or at least the ‘more’ I imagined.
Your stories cover many different situations in family life. What do you think is key to taking real-life events and turning them into humorous stories?
Most real-life events have a story nugget buried deep within them. As authors, our job is to mine it out and polish it off with a little creative license and over-the-top imagination. For example, one of my stories was inspired by the everyday act of bathing my two kids in the bathtub. My daughter was one year old and my son was three. She was in the process of potty training. He enjoyed imagining his rhino-man action figure was a deep-sea diver who defused missiles. Add some fatherly creativity and the story almost wrote itself.
Which story was the easiest to write?
The previously mentioned story, Rhino vs La Caca, had so much built-in humor and gag-worthy potty mishaps, it just needed a story flow added to it.
Which was the hardest?
I’m currently working on the sequel to my first book, and I’m trying to expand my creative abilities. One story I’m writing is not based on a specific life situation, but more on the universal parenting experience of keeping a stirring baby asleep before it erupts into screams. I’m portraying the scenario as if I was a SWAT team bomb defuser entering a booby-trapped apartment. It’s a fun setup, but getting the details and tension just right has been challenging.
Who are some of your favorite humor writers?
Jack Handy, Dave Barry, and Jenny Lawson (although I could do without the profanity).
One of my favorite humorous stories was written by Dave Barry about how he, his wife, and infant daughter were pulled out of the line by security at an airport for a more intensive inspection. As he said, what terrorists brings their baby with all her gear to the site of a planned attack?
What advice would you give a writer who wants to write humorous stories?
Humor is everywhere! It’s the sudden twist that our brain wasn’t expecting. Start practicing by looking for it in your everyday life. Keep a notepad with you (just don’t write it down in front of your spouse if they are the subject. Not that I’ve ever done that.) Identify the main character in your scene and what his/her conflict is. Then identify the unexpected twist. Take the real-life ingredients and stretch them out into a humorous or awkward scenario. For example, a man at the self-checkout line keeps getting the “unidentified item in bagging area” alert. A clerk comes up to reset the protesting machine multiple times. Stretched out: the automated register accuses him of passing off a bag of dog food as a box of tic tacs and calls in the SWAT team, who bursts through the ceiling and apprehends the unwitting criminal. Just another day at the grocery store.
What a great way to look at a situation that would probably have me grinding my teeth at the check-out computer.
For another interview with an author who knows how to write humor, check out this post with Jen Turano.
His minivan is his chariot. His mower is his weapon. Enter the whimsical world of suburbia’s favorite underdog.
Meet the average Joe who’s a father to three, a husband to one… a hero to all. When he’s not fighting crime in his fighter-jet-cloaked-as-a-minivan, he teaches high school and patrols the ‘hood for story material.
In Suburban Luchador: The Cul-de-sac Chronicles, an ordinary guy conjures up extraordinary tales about his family, marriage, and teacher job. He’s the man who’s making mortgages, meatloaf, and the middle-class sexy again.
This is the anthem of those who envision mowing and mopping as legendary movie scenes. These comically self-deprecating short stories will inspire you to take a fresh look at the wondrous, valiant and touching moments in everyday life.
Dive into Suburban Luchador: The Cul-de-sac Chronicles and ride shotgun on a domestic road trip of epic proportions.
Award-winning author and family man, Philip Rivera, is out to dominate suburbia, one lawn at a time. Besides moonlighting as a humor author, he doubles as a high school teacher, diaper changer, princess ballerina ballet judge, and ninja fighter. His stories prove that minivans, child-rearing, husbandly duties, and teaching high school can be the subjects of epic adventures. His book, Suburban Luchador: The Cul-de-sac Chronicles, is a collection of humorous slice-of-life stories loosely based on his average Joe misadventures. Philip’s stories highlight the magic found in mundane life… if only we let our imaginations get carried away.
Follow his relatable and comical suburban struggle on Instagram @philipdrivera. Get free short stories by signing up for his author updates at philipdrivera.com.