Things that make you go 'Eww!'
Published on: 23 April 2020 Author: Emer Stamp
Author Emer Stamp absolutely loves writing about yucky things - from farting pigs to headless cockroaches! She tells us why...
There’s a bit of theme to my books and I’m not too shy to admit it. They tend to lean towards things that are a little bit yuck. You know, a bit ‘eurgh’ and ‘ewww’. By that I mean they touch on themes which are not always the most pleasant. Take my latest book, PESTS – a story that, you guessed it, centres around creatures like mice and rats and spiders and all the horrid things they do. And before that there was the Diary of Pig series, the tales of an animal unable to go more than an hour without blowing off. And I’m not even going to mention Daddy Fartypants (I think you can probably tell what that was about.)
Am I just an author who can’t stay away from the repulsive, revolting and downright disgusting? Well, perhaps, yes. But whilst what I write might leave those among you with a fragile constitution feeling a tad queasy, I would argue that I don’t write gross-out humour purely for the sake of grossing my readers out. I write it because disgusting things do most definitely happen in the worlds I create. Let’s look at the evidence…
I made my debut writing about a flatulent pig. And it’s the truth – pigs do fart. A lot. I even did a quick check on the internet to make sure. It threw up this hilarious headline – PIG’S FARTS START HUGE GAS LEAK SCARE – followed by the story that a flatulent pig sparked a gas emergency in southern Australia when a farmer mistook its odour for a leaking pipe. I mean, that’s the start of the fifth Diary of a Pig book right there. I know kids find pigs farting funny. Let’s be honest, kids find anything farting funny. But I like to think they enjoy this character’s parping even more, because they know it really does happen. They can picture it and that makes it all the more amusing.
Back to my new book, PESTS. A book about a school that caters for mice who hide their poo, rats who crawl out of the sewers, cockroaches with immortality issues and pigeons who like to unapologetically destroy the paintwork of cars with their poop. Yes, all written for laughs, but also all written with real, bona fide facts at their heart. I mean, when it comes to pests, honestly, the truth is so weird it reads like fiction.
In researching storylines and characters for the book, I discovered many amazing and, often, disgusting things. For example...
- A cockroach can live for a month without its head and can be pregnant its entire life. You simply couldn’t make that kind of horror up!
- Flies taste their food with their feet. Which might not initially strike you as disgusting until you consider what they may have been tasting, and in what order. Dog poo, followed by something putrid in the bin, followed by that yummy cake you forgot to cover. Mmmm, you’ll never leave anything out again…
- Pigeon poop is so acidic it’s one of the major causes of damage to lime and sandstone buildings. Not to mention the havoc it plays with the paintwork on your car if you don’t wash it off asap.
- Rats can swim for up to three days without drowning. They can also survive being flushed down the toilet and can even swim back up the same way. Have a good think about that next time you are sitting on the loo.
- And finally, mice are the kings of pooping. Not once, twice or twenty times a day – nope, we are talking a staggering seventy times a day. Which would give them definite cause to hide it when they’re trying to be sneaky, pretending they aren’t all living behind your washing machine like my lead character, Stix.
Yes, I do use a lot of themes in my books which are, possibly, a little unsavoury. But for me, it’s not these things alone which make the stories funny. What is more important is the plausibility that these things can occur. The humour comes from the fact that my readers can picture what is happening, because it could happen.
Even with the more fantastical story elements, I like to think it’s almost possible they could happen. Perhaps, down on a farm somewhere in rural Devon, there is a pig chatting away about his flatulence. Or somewhere hidden away in the basement of a block of flats, there is a school for pests, who right now are plotting and scheming about ways to get one over on you.
The fact that my stories are peppered with moments that make you go ‘ewww’ or ‘eurgh’, is part of what brings them to life on the page. Because we can all imagine what a thunderous turnip-laden fart or a pancake of pigeon poop must look like, sound like and smell like. And it’s why I love writing them.
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