Fiction

My Year as a Clown: Behind the Scenes–recording of Chuck’s song

Here’s an interview with Doug and Rob, two awesome musicians that were introduced to me by my pal, Declan O’Rourke. Doug played drums and Rob played bass. Watch this brief video to learn more about them and the track we recorded in Williamsburg two days before Hurricane Sandy struck our area.

My Year as a Clown Enters the World

 

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Today my book went live on digital book sites all over the world. After seven years of writing, it’s a relief to know that I won’t have to do any more rewriting on this one!

Of course, once you let go, there’s nothing more you can change, and I’m sure at some point, I will revisit something in Clown and say, Jeez, I’d love to tweak that passage one more time.

I’d like to share three comments that came in during the process of publication from three incredible people who have spent their entire life in the arts — one is playwright, novelist and musician. Another is singer, picker and songwriter, the other an editor.

Here’s what they had to say about my novel:

“With MY YEAR AS A CLOWN, Robert Steven Williams has written a terrific novel. He pulls back the curtain on male masculinity — showing us what a guy really goes through when dealing with the difficult mess of his beloved spouse’s infidelity and the ensuing divorce. Williams’ characters give us the real-deal:  a gut wrenching and often humourous look, showing us the everyday horrors of what it’s like to start all over again as one approaches middle age.”

Suzan-Lori Parks,  Pulitzer Prize winning playwright for Topdog/Underdog

“When we first meet Chuck Morgan, the main character in Robert Steven Williams’ new novel, My Year as a Clown, he’s broken, twisted and confused. And that’s what makes him so interesting. Like other intriguing literary heroes, Chuck is at his best after life has knocked him to the ground, forcing him to find a new way to be strong again; damaged maybe, but more confident this time, with a kinder, more open heart.”

Jimmie Dale Gilmore, singer, songwriter, guitarist, member of the Flatlanders

“Robert Steven Williams has written a novel of tremendous honesty, humor, and insight. His story of Philadelphia Eagles-loving Chuck Morgan, cast adrift on the rocky shoals of dating when his wife of twenty years suddenly leaves him, does for men what Bridget Jones’s Diary did for women.”

Joy Johannessen, editor (Alice Sebold, Amy Bloom, Michael Cunningham)

A special note of thanks:

I was humbled by the love, friendship and many acts of generosity that kept me going as I embarked on this creative journey.

Without the backing of Wally Schwartz and his wife, Liz, this scrappy, publishing campaign on Against the Grain Press would not be happening. They have also underwritten this website and other activities related to my novel. I cannot thank them enough for their support.

I hit the literary lottery when Joy Johannessen agreed to edit My Year as a Clown. Her brilliance and intuitive sense of what I wanted made working with her effortless.I was fortunate to have four fiction mentors, men gracious with their time, each treating me as a peer. Unfortunately, all four didn’t get to see this day, but I’m confident that they knew it would come. Both Barry Hannah and James Houston gave me the confidence to forge on. Two Westport writers, Frank Weiner and Robert Pollock, were also great supporters.

I also want to thank the following people for their feedback, inspiration and love: Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Gerry McKeveny, Declan O’Rourke, Suzi-Lori Parks, Rosanne Cash, Janet Gilmore, Roxanna Robinson, Rachel Z, Omar Hakim, Ina Chadwick, Richard Epstein, Eileen Winnick,  Mark Standish, Carl Timpone, Jayson Byrd, David Wilk, Rich Fahle, Heather Huzovic, Sloan Wainwright, David Roth, Penny Nichols, James Hall, Tom and Charlie Phillips, Bill Gessner, Paul Winsor, Lisa Goren, Malcolm Smith, Mike Taplinger, Paul Schwarzbaum, Michelle Jurich, Laurel Leigh, Kerrith Solomon, Jessica Saxl, Tom Marsh, Phil and Louise Fletcher, Dick Marra, Paul Lanning, Sara Bassett, Jim Kempner, Louise Staley, Martin Smith, Jonathan Fanton, The Munce Man and Cleo, the Squaw Valley Writers Community.

A special note of recognition goes out to my mom, stepdad Lou, sister Lisa, Dad, and of course, my girlfriend, Mary.

The Williamsburg Recording Sessions: Part 2

I spent ten hours in the studio on Friday down in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, finishing up the track for the novel, My Year as a Clown. The story’s protagonist, Chuck Morgan writes a love song for a girl, but doesn’t have the courage to play her the song. Purchasers of the book will be given a code to download a high quality MP3 of the track.

Last month I recorded the basic tracks with Doug Yowell on drums (Duncan Sheik/Suzanne Vega) and Rob Calder, bass (Angus Stone). Declan O’Rourke introduced me to them and studio owner/engineer, Tim Mitchell—Tim’s worked with guys like Springsteen and Sting.

Recording is lots of fun, but its hard work too. It was a tad daunting going into the studio with such great musicians, but part of the reason they are so great is that they are so easy to work with–they also always come up with great parts that serve the song well.

Some of that session was captured by Mark and Carl, a video crew. They’re making a short promotional piece for my website that will be posted soon. There’s lots of extra video bits that will crop up over the next few months also.

At this second session I added a couple of guitar parts. One was an electric part in stereo. I played my 1966 Gibson ES355, which has two separate outputs that plugged into an old VOX amp;, the other, an old Fender Twin. Standing in a room with both amps cranked, playing these parts, its the sort of thing found on a some folk’s bucket list.

The electric part is used as an enhancer, not a main feature, so it’s as much about the tone and sound as it is the actual notes I’m playing.

Over the next few months, I’ll post snippets of that part on its own for those interested.

 

 

 

 

 

The Epic Struggle to Support Losers

It was another gut-wrenching afternoon of Eagle football, made worse when I saw an advertisement for an upcoming movie about a romance with a die-hard Eagle’s fan. The film features Bradley Cooper and at first glance, it was like I’d been sacked by the entire Cowboy defensive line. My book comes out in January and this film comes out now.

The Eagles are a train wreck. This might be the most unproductive group of talented players on record. And then to see this film trailer—someone else used the Eagles in a novel about relationships. I was reeling.

And yet, there I was, more concerned about how this team could eke out a victory.

But after the Dallas punt return I knew.

I kept the game on to the bitter end, watching our rookie QB get hammered at the goal line with less than a minute to go. The ball fell free and Dallas scooped it for one last kick to the gut.

Although Chuck Morgan, the protagonist in My Year as a Clown, is a die-hard Eagle fan, football is only a small aspect of my book. This movie is serendipitous. I guess one could ask why it’s taken this long for the passion of the Philadelphia sports fan to become literary inspiration. The Eagle’s struggle is Shakespearean.

I haven’t seen this movie or read the book, but I will. For me Chuck’s football obsession is  about loyalty. A guy who can stick by a team in tough times is a guy who can tough out a difficult patch in a relationship, unfortunately for Chuck, his wife was a fair-weather fan.

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