ROBERT STEVEN WILLIAMS is an author, documentary filmmaker, singer-songwriter, and musician. His debut novel, My Year as a Clown, was published in December 2013 by Against the Grain Press.
As a writer, Williams was a finalist in the 2014 Great American Fiction Contest sponsored by The Saturday Evening Post and the 2005 Raymond Carver Short Story Contest. He was awarded the 2004 Squaw Valley Writers Community Thayer Scholarship. He attended Bread Loaf, Sewanee and the Squaw Valley Writers’ Conferences, and worked closely with the esteemed fiction writer Barry Hannah. His short fiction has appeared in Carve Magazine, The Orange Coast Review, and the anthology Tall Tales and Short Stories Volume II. Additionally, he was the executive producer of the critically acclaimed BOOM! Studios CBGB Comic series in 2010, nominated for a Harvey Award for Best Anthology. Robert’s work has also appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine, Billboard, and USA Today. He is also co-author of the bestselling business book, The World’s Largest Market.
As a musician, Williams studied songwriting with Rosanne Cash, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and several other top country writers. In 2005 he released the critically acclaimed CD “I Am Not My Job,” featuring Rachel Z (Peter Gabriel, Wayne Shorter) and Sloan Wainwright.
As a filmmaker, he is currently working on a documentary about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time in Westport, CT.
For more information, visit his website at https://www.robertstevenwilliams.com/
Biggest literary Influencer:
F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nick Hornby.
Last book read:
Hamilton by Ron Chernow
The book that changed your life:
The Great Gatsby. For the past five years I’ve been working on a documentary about the Fitzgeralds’ time in Westport, CT. I’ve mingled with literary royalty from Charles Scribner III to one of Scott and Zelda’s grandkids–it’s been the adventure of a lifetime. Most important, this deep dive into Fitzgerald gave me a much keener appreciation into the challenges of earning a living as a writer. Fitzgerald died broke, thinking his career was a bust. If the business can humble a man as great as Fitzgerald–on those days I’m feeling down, I remind myself that if Fitzgerald struggled most of his career, maybe I’m too hard on myself. Gatsby is less than 200 pages and yet packs such a punch. It’s a great insight into that cliché “less is more;” clearly it often is.
Your favorite literary character:
Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby – because of Fitzgerald’s choice to tell the story from Nick’s point of view. He’s an important character, yet his primary function in the book is to filter the story to the reader. Typically, one would have gone omniscient, or told it through Gatsby’s eyes. Like Ishmael in Moby Dick, sometimes a character runs too hot, whether it’s Gatsby or Ahab, both books would be very different if told by them. I may have dodged that question, but it got me thinking about the role of characters in a writer’s palette in terms of how a story is told.
Currently working on:
Completing my second novel, The Sound of Money.
Words to live by:
“If I had more time, this piece would be shorter.” — Mark Twain
Advice to new and aspiring authors:
Novels aren’t written, they’re rewritten.
“With My Year as a Clown, Robert Steven Williams has written a terrific novel. His book 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 humorous look, showing us the everyday horrors of what it’s like to start all over again as one approaches middle age.”
— Suzan-Lori Parks, novelist, playwright and screenwriter. Winner, 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama 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, founding member of The Flatlanders