Louise Speck is the author of Tickles ‘n Tears: The Psychology of Humor under the nom de plume of Spec.
Tell me a little bit about who you are and where you live.
I moved up to northern Massachusetts to help my folks in their final years, and that was a good choice. I don’t know specifically where I should be now that they’re gone; I do like the area! I loved spending my summers on Martha’s Vineyard as a kid, so being near the ocean feels right.
Tell us about your profession and how it led to your latest work.
I’ve worked a lot of different jobs, and the ones I love are always working with people. The chance to get to know them, each unique, in unusual circumstances, is a fascinating adventure. Seeing how each interprets one’s own life and how we all laugh about life is great fun.
I’ve been especially lucky to work with residents of nursing homes, hospital patients and state school students, among others, in a way that enlightens ME as much as it affects them. I’m called a Clinical Clown because I’m essentially holding a group session (or individual sessions) in a fun way that provides insight and a new perspective. Participants have a laugh, and may find another way to deal with irritations or pain. At least they feel better for the moment.
With all this input, I eventually understood the major ingredients of humor, which persist across cultures and borders. My book presents these results to interested readers, without psycho-babble. The book is entertaining because the topic is entertaining, but it is not a joke book or a collection of aphorisms; instead readers will discover basic truths about humor and about their own sense of humor.
Are there any favorite local spots you like to visit, ones that inspire your creativity?
Gosh, even enjoying a fragrant cuppa in a coffee shop is inspiring as I watch people talk and share and laugh! Anywhere along the ocean is attractive to me; I always have a notebook to write in. I do like to get out in natural surroundings, but it is people that inspire me. Just for a treat for myself, I like to poke around in little shops, discovering crafts or vintage treasures.
Wow us with shock value. Is there anything about you that would surprise readers?
Shocking…? Besides going into tough situations to have some fun moments…? Well, I’m learning to sing! It’s slow work, but I love it. Maybe I’ll get good enough to do an open mic or amateur hour, but not yet. I’m terrible at practicing; I want to just open my mouth and the song will come out the right way…but learning to do anything well takes practice, so I’m still working on it.
If you could spend a day with any author, living or dead – who would it be and why?
Definitely Iman Wilkens, who wrote Where Troy Once Stood. He posits a totally new explanation of the Trojan War. His conclusions take the archaeological and literary evidence into account, and trace the geographical features of the story to Celtic settlements and trade routes. I always wondered about the version I was taught, set in Greece which doesn’t make sense – even Plato said Homer was an idiot! So I admire Wilkens for his logical approach and the courage to contradict the classical interpretation.
Does the area in which you live provide influence in your writing? How so?
I’ve lived many places in several countries, and each locale provides me more material to mull over and new perspectives to ponder. I especially enjoy experiencing different cultures, their customs and sayings – and finding similarities among us all!
What is the most critical piece of advice you would give to new authors?
Listen closely to all advice and feedback – even if the critic apparently knows nothing about the subject! File it all away so that one day in another respect or another part of your book it may be helpful. I am amazed at how often an odd remark suddenly slots into place in a new context, contributing to my comprehension and to the clarity of my writing. I’m very grateful for all the feedback I’ve gotten, even if I don’t know it yet.
Are there more books coming from you in the future? Do tell!
I hope so! First I want to translate this book into other languages and promote it world-wide – so everyone will explore humor. Then I expect readers will have questions, and requests of how to apply what they’ve learned. For example, I imagine teachers may want pointers on using humor to make unforgettable lessons. Also, more work must be done on connecting theory with neuroscience; exciting stuff! And I’ve only touched on survival value of humor and survival value of the traits that promote humor. There’s a big topic.
Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
I’m so glad you asked! www.ticklesntears.com has my schedule of appearances and interviews, as well as articles about humor and the book. I keep a blog (News & Views) about what I’m doing; readers can request a signed bookplate, or leave comments or find updates. And of course I love to hear from everyone!