The Story Behind My Year As a Clown by Robert Steven Williams

Story behind My Year as a Clown

My Year as a Clown is loosely based on a number of divorce, lay-off and natural disaster stories that happened to me, friends, family and people I read about in the newspapers. Nothing is off-bounds as a source of material – the criteria for getting into my novel is first, it has to be real, not contrived, faked, or formulated to fit some concept of marketability. Second, it’s got to be something that matters, something underneath the leaves, not stuff that’s clichéd, obvious, or shallow. Third, it’s got to be engaging, something that grabs you by the scruff of your neck and makes you want to know more.

My Year as a Clown took five years to write. The early drafts were in third person, but I decided that I wanted a more immediate impact for the reader, as if it was happening to them. First person, present tense is like being in the front car of a roller coaster and that’s exactly what I wanted folks to feel reading Clown.

That often makes people think Chuck is me. Even folks that know me, make the mistake of believing that what Chuck thinks and does, are things I thought and did. People mistake being factually correct with staying true to the emotion I felt going through divorce.

This is why so many people are responding so strongly to My Year as a Clown. It resonates because Chuck’s story is honest and raw. It feels like it happened, because we have all experienced Chuck’s vulnerability when something goes bad in our life.

Joy Johannessen edited the book. She’s one of the world’s finest editors and has worked with international bestselling authors like Alice Sebold, Michael Cunningham and Amy Bloom. I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with her.

The story is about second chances, the opportunity to reinvent yourself. It’s about faith, loyalty, and relationships. On my website I have bonus material and a section called FAQ’s, answering many questions about where the characters and ideas for the story came from. You can learn more here.

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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.


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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