Monday, December 9, 2013

Interview with Robert Steven Williams, author of 'My Year As a Clown'


Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
With My Year as a Clown, Williams introduces us to Chuck Morgan, a new kind of male hero—imperfect and uncertain—fumbling his way forward in the aftermath of the abrupt collapse his 20-year marriage.
Initially, Chuck worries he’ll never have a relationship again, that he could stand in the lobby of a brothel with a hundred dollar bill plastered to his forehead and still not get lucky. But as his emotionally raw, 365-day odyssey unfolds, Chuck gradually relearns to live on his own, navigating the minefield of issues faced by the suddenly single—new routines, awkward dates, and even more awkward sex.
Edited by Joy Johannessen (Alice Sebold, Michael Cunningham, Amy Bloom), My Year As a Clown will attract fans of the new breed of novelists that includes Nick Hornby, Jonathan Tropper and Tom Perrotta. Like others in that distinguished group, Robert Steven Williams delivers a painfully honest glimpses into the modern male psyche while writing about both sexes with equal ease and grace in a way that’s both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.

Could you please tell us a little about your book?

My Year as Clown chronicles a year in the life of Chuck Morgan where Day One is the spectacular, but brutal break-up of his marriage. I wrote the book in first person, present tense to give the reader that experience of being in the front car of a rollercoaster.

Clown is as much about second chances and reconnecting with friends and family as it is about relationships. Many women have told me that this was the first book that provided insight into a guy’s perspective on a break-up.
This is a novel, but I did strive to remain honest with the emotional truths of relationships, break-ups and recovery.

Another interesting note: many people tell me My Year as a Clown is very funny. I didn’t set out to do funny, but I guess when a book is honest (which is different from factually correct), it resonates and often is humorous.
Okay, maybe I did try to be a bit funny.

Your biggest critic?

That’s easy, ME. I’ve fought hard to squelch that inner critic, but it isn’t easy. And yet having high standards is a good thing. Trusting your gut is also essential to creating art that’s honest.

What causes are you most passionate about and why?

Great question. I help a lot of not-for-profits tell their story, so it would be unfair to single out one cause. What I would say is that I’m in awe of people that dedicate their lives to help those in need, animals in danger, the environment. I’m amazed at the commitment for such little reward and recognition, doing what needs to be done because no one else is doing it. I’d say the same thing about teachers. What an important job, and yet look at how society values it in terms of salary and perks. These people are saints and if we all just had an ounce of their passion and commitment the world would be a very different place.

Who has influenced you throughout your career as a writer?    

Two significant writers graciously gave their time to me: Barry Hannah and James Houston. Both are tremendous writers and the fact that they were fans of mine and provided significant support and guidance still amazes me. Unfortunately, both passed away before My Year as a Clown was published.

What are you currently working on?

I’m in the process of releasing a Kindle Single – a collection of three short stories. I’m also working on a documentary about F. Scott Fitzgerald and his time in my home town, Westport, CT. He and Zelda were here in 1920 and I’m exploring how their stay influenced the writing of The Great Gatsby (what fun!).

Do you have any advice for writers or readers?

Writers need to write. Writers also need to read.

What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as an author?

Keeping at it. There were a gazillion reasons why I should have stopped long ago. Making a mid-career pivot into writing full-time was insane. I don’t recommend it to anyone, but this really wasn’t a choice, it was something I had to do.

What do you feel is your biggest strength?

Perseverance. I simply don’t give up.

Biggest weakness?

I can always find ways to improve my writing and sometimes I over edit.

What do you feel sets this book apart from others in the same genre?

         Few novels reveal this side of the male psyche, its raw, its honest, it will startle some, but I strove to capture honestly how many men deal with heartache and recovery.

What is the most important lesson you have learned from life so far?

Every moment is precious and don’t squander even a second.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

         I was fortunate to have an amazing editor, the woman who did The Lovely Bones – she’s also worked with Michael Cunningham and Amy Bloom. A good editor makes all the difference and it was true honor to work with Joy.

I also want to thank your readers for taking the time to consider my novel. I recognize that everyone is very busy and it’s a privilege to have this opportunity to talk about My Year as a Clown with you.


Since leaving the music-biz executive ranks, Robert Steven Williams has put in his 10,000 hours. His first novel, My Year as a Clown, released on the indie imprint Against the Grain Press, received the silver medal for popular fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards in 2013.
Robert was also a finalist in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and was awarded the Squaw Valley Writers Community Thayer Scholarship. His short fiction has appeared in Carve Magazine, The Orange Coast Review, and the anthology Tall Tales and Short Stories Volume II.
He was the executive producer of the critically acclaimed BOOM! Studios CBGB Comic series. He wrote story seven in Book 3. In August of 2011, the series was nominated for a Harvey Award for Best Anthology.
He’s attended Bread Loaf, Sewanee and the Squaw Valley Writers’ Conferences. He’d worked closely with the esteemed fiction writer, Barry Hannah.
Robert’s work has also appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine, Billboard, USA Today and LetterPress, a newsletter for writers. He is co-author of the best-selling business book, The World’s Largest Market.
Robert Steven Williams is also a musician and songwriter. In 2005 he released the critically acclaimed CD “I Am Not My Job,” featuring Rachel Z (Peter Gabriel, Wayne Shorter) and Sloan Wainwright. He studied songwriting with Rosanne Cash, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and several top country writers. The song, The Jersey Cowboy, was featured on NPR’s Car Talk. Robert was the subject of the documentary by Jason Byrd Round Peg, Square Hole.


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