I want to thank Lisa for hosting me on her site for My Year as a Clown. Since Lisa is from the UK, I thought I’d take a different tact with this posting and address the cross-cultural aspects of my novel.
– My Year as a Clown chronicles a year in the life of Chuck Morgan, where day one is the spectacular, but brutal break-up of his marriage when his wife of twenty years informs him that she’s leaving for another man.
As you can imagine, the year starts off pretty crappy. Chuck’s story, though, is about second chances and the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, and of course reinvent himself.
My Year as a Clown raises lots of issues about how men and women see relationships differently. Chuck’s older brother, Jimmy is single, never been married and Chuck believes him to be misogynist. In many respects he his, but it isn’t until this break-up that the brothers start really talking, and only then does Chuck learn the truth behind Jimmy’s posturing.
Funny how when disaster strikes, sometimes good things happen.
Clown explores the feelings men have about relationships and it also delves into men’s inability to give voice to those feelings and emotions. An added communication complexity for Chuck’s marriage was the fact he was American and his wife was British.
I believe that Bernard Shaw said America and England are divided by a common language. This reminds me of an incident that happened to me when I was working in England for the British company HMV. It was a great job and I loved living in the UK. I had the fortunate opportunity to work for the chairman of the company and I remember one day walking into his office with a document and saying: I need your John Hancock on this. He looked at me askance, as if I was off my rocker. Perhaps many of you don’t know what I’m referring to either.
In the US, this is a common expression and refers to getting someone’s signature, as in John Hancock, the man who signed the Declaration of Independence large enough to ensure that the King of England need not wear his spectacles to read his name.
As you can imagine, that went over big with the chairman of HMV.
For Chuck Morgan, left to pick up the pieces after his wife dashes off with another man, he’s wondering what went wrong, and what signals he missed. Part of the problem he recognizes is that Americans and the English have very different cultural references that create potential issues when it comes to conveying feelings and dealing with conflict.
I hope that the book provokes some thoughts about men, women and relationships. People say that it’s actually very funny. I didn’t set out to be funny, it just came out that way!
I was fortunate to have My Year as a Clown edited by Joy Johannessen, a gifted editor that also worked on Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. There’s also a song in the book, available as a free download. It was produced by my friend, the Irish singer/songwriter Declan O’Rourke. We’ve done a couple of shows together here in the States and it was a true privilege to work with him.
Lisa wanted to know how being a songwriter helps my fiction, a great question: