Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren (Author Guest Post & Interview / Book Review)

Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host a virtual book event for The Clock of Life by author Nancy Klann-Moren!

Author Guest Post

The Perfect Profession For A Control Freak

Control freaks come in all shapes and sizes. The calculating boyfriend who thinks he needs to control his girl’s life, the mother who micro-manages her kids every second of every day, or the shrieking wife who thinks the husband can’t do anything right. 

They even have lists of the best professions for control freaks. Military Officer, Surgeon, Accountant, and Air Traffic Controller are at the top. No one consulted me, but had they, my number-one-top-of-the-list would be Fiction Writer.

Think about it. The writer crafts characters and feels perfectly at ease telling each and every one of them how to live their lives. Depending on the complexities of the story, or series, there could be 20 personalities or more―or even more. Every one of them will engage in conversation. During said tête-à-tête’s the novelist will infiltrate the conscience of the participants and dictate the exact words they must speak, and what the response will be.

The author decides the age of each person, determines where they came from and what they did before they entered the story. He controls their speech pattern, chooses their favorite beverage, and secret fears. The all powerful author manipulates them in and out of danger, and calculates whether they should be rescued, or perhaps, murdered.

The characters rarely protest. Except in the case of Harold Crick in the 2006 movie, Stranger than Fiction, written by Zach Helm. Harold’s a book character who’s an average IRS agent with a monotonous lifestyle. One day while resetting his watch, he hears the narrator explain, “This seemingly insignificant act would lead to his imminent death.” Harold, played by Will Farrell, pleads his case, and ultimately lives. That’s a rare accomplishment when dealing with the ultimate you-know-what.

I go back and forth on this one, but I think I might have let Harold Crick meet his maker. That’s just me. What would the control freak in you have done?

Author Interview

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Nancy!

Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

Over the years I’ve had two husbands, two sons, 5 grand kids, and a whole mess of cats. I carry the wanderlust gene and travel for treatment as often as possible.

I learned to handicap the ponies and take no prisoners at the poker table, from my bookie Grandpa. On my eleventh birthday Gramps took me to the track, where I ate my first pastrami sandwich and then picked the daily double, to win $657.

I love the folds on the legs of toddlers, a great shower head, convertibles, a 75% off sale, the chatter of morning birds, the Basque country, cheeseburgers, long, long walks along the ocean shore, and the taxi drivers in France―really.

I make primitive wall hangings from found objects collected on walks. I gather pods and seeds from trees, and pieces of driftwood, and the occasional palm cloth.

I love to make up stories and have been writing fiction for over 15 years.

Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career?

I had a career in advertising and marketing. When the economy tanked the work slowed down, then stopped. Now I have a part time job two days a week and do my “Authorpreneurship” work the other five.

Please give a brief description/storyline about The Clock Of Life.

It’s probably best to insert the book blurb here:

In the small town of Hadlee, Mississippi, during the 1980's, Jason Lee Rainey struggles to find his way among the old, steadfast Southern attitudes about race, while his friendship with a black boy, Samson Johnson, deepens.

By way of stories from others, Jason Lee learns about his larger-than-life father, who was killed in Vietnam. He longs to become that sort of man, but doesn't believe he has it in him.

In The Clock Of Life he learns lessons from the past, and the realities of inequality. He flourishes with the bond of friendship; endures the pain of senseless death; finds the courage to stand up for what he believes is right; and comes to realize he is his father's son.

This story explores how two unsettling chapters in American history, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, affect the fate of a family, a town, and two boyhood friends.

What was the inspiration for this story?

The idea of human inequality and how it comes to be has always baffled me, so the foundation for this book was more emotional than cerebral. This narrative began as a short story of about 4,000 words. In my mind, that was the end of it, until one morning while in a workshop at The Santa Barbara Writers Conference, I read an excerpt. When I finished, the instructor, Sid Stebel, asked what I was doing for the next couple years, because, “What you wrote isn’t a short story, it’s a novel.”

Realizing that the subject matter was so important, I took up the challenge. By the way, that first short story is titled, Fate Carries Its Own Clock, and is included in my short story collection titled, Like The Flies On The Patio.

How did it feel to have your first book published?

Because of the state of the publishing industry, I opted for indie publishing, which feels extremely satisfying because I had creative control. With that said, there are also the challenges of learning to market the books. 

There are huge obstacles when it comes to spreading the word through established review venues like Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Times, or even “established” local newspapers. Thank goodness for outlets like Jersey Girl Book Reviews to help. I’m confident that through word of mouth, The Clock Of Life will become a must read.

Do you write books for a specific genre?

Until taking this first plunge into novel writing, my primary “genre” was short stories. I love the discipline, with its economy of words. There’s a magical element about peeling the layers and exploring the characters motives, their decency, and their struggle to make sense of the turns their lives have taken.

Since finishing The Clock Of Life, my heart is leaning toward literary fiction – the long version.

Do you have a special spot/area where you like to do your writing?

I write on the computer, in my office. The first and most difficult step is sitting my butt in the chair and giving my writing a higher priority than, oh, everything else. I don’t write in coffee shops, or public places, and I don’t have a musical playlist to write to because I prefer silence. I “see” the scenes in my head, and “hear” the voices during the conversations. For me, outside noise gets in the way of the process.

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?

I like to write about working class, blue collar relationships, and quirky characters. In the short story genre, my initial intensions are to explore a characters struggle with something, and then I insert a friendship, real or imagined, and the characters guide me to the end. The Clock Of Life started as a short story, and so did the manuscript I’m working on now.

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?

I’m more of a whenever the inspiration strikes girl. There are times when I suffer with the idea that the writing is lacking creativity and it’s boring―as if the “muse” has gone down for a nap. When that happens I let it sleep for a few days, then I return to the work refreshed and creative again.

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

It’s advice I got from a playwright friend. “A writer must be especially mindful about the way their characters think and speak.” He said a character must never say something just so the writer can get a point across. That advice served me well.

Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?

I don’t believe any of the characters are based on anyone I know, but a few of the events in the book were based (with embellishments) on stories I’d heard from others. One in particular was the time my husband told me about getting his first suit, and the unfortunate instructions his mother gave the tailor. Any further explanation of this would be a spoiler. But, those who have already read the book know the disastrous outcome of that one.

Also, the scene where my protagonist and his best friend drink moonshine for the first time, I knew from personal experience:

“You gonna drink that or what?” 
I couldn’t come up with one more excuse to prolong my reason for being there. “Sure am.” I brought it up to my lips. “This stuff smells like my mama’s nail polish remover.” 
“Just drink.” 
 Not one second after I took my first swig a fire hit the back of my throat, then roared through my chest and settled like smoldering embers in my belly. “Tastes bad as it smells,” I said between chokes. pg 77

What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?

Ray Bradbury, Flannary O’Connor, Pat Conroy, Susan Cisneros

From these skilled pros I learned that writing can be playful. I’m drawn to the rhythms throughout their work. For me, they transform writing from the craft of storytelling, to fine art.

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?

The book I’m working on now also started out as a short story. Without giving away too much, the premise is loosely based on the time a friend and I found an old diary, and went to find the person who wrote it. This novel takes two women on a cross country road trip. Their names are not Thelma and Louise, but I’m hoping their story will be just as memorable.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes. Readers hold the key to any writer’s heart. Readers are our raison d’être, and I am particularly grateful to everyone who has expressed appreciation for my efforts.

Nancy, thank you for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing career. 

About The Author

While traveling for her work as an advertising and marketing executive, Nancy Klann-Moren began writing short fiction for fun. She soon started taking writing classes and attending writer’s conferences and workshops. The goal was to create unique stories told in a distinctive voice.

Her short stories are eclectic and poignant. They were her primary genre until the day she read an excerpt in a class and the instructor said, “What are you doing the next couple years, because what you wrote is a novel.” She took up the challenge and produced the novel, The Clock of Life.

 Her collection of short stories is titled Like The Flies On The Patio.

She's now working on a new novel based on her short story titled The m&m's.


Book Review

The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren
Publisher: AnthonyAnn Books
Publication Date: November 5, 2012
Format: Paperback - 364 pages / Kindle - 500 KB / Nook - 374 KB
ISBN: 0988494418
Genre: Literary Fiction / Coming of Age

BUY THE BOOK: The Clock of Life

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Book Description: 

In the small town of Hadlee, Mississippi, during the 1980's, Jason Lee Rainey struggles to find his way amongst the old, steadfast Southern attitudes about race, while his friendship with a black boy, Samson Johnson, deepens.

By way of stories from others, Jason Lee learns about his larger-than-life father, who was killed in Vietnam. He longs to become that sort of man, but doesn't believe he has it in him.

In The Clock Of Life he learns lessons from the past, and the realities of inequality. He flourishes with the bond of friendship; endures the pain of senseless death; finds the courage to stand up for what he believes is right; and comes to realize he is his father's son.

This story explores how two unsettling chapters in American history, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, affect the fate of a family, a town, and two boyhood friends.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 16


Not two days after Boyle came to dinner, life around our house took a confusing shift. Mama turned silent, weighed down in sadness. Her manner grew still. She didn’t ask for my help with chores, and she stopped tending to them herself. Before long, she took to her bed. I was at a loss to understand what was going on. 

At first, it seemed she just needed a rest. After a full week passed, she couldn’t gather the strength to dress or work. She didn’t set foot in her office, and she unplugged the phone cord from the wall without us realizing.

After a couple days I asked, “What about your work―the transcriptions?”

“That’s nothin for you to worry about.”

Soon her only reason to leave the bedroom was to use the toilet. The skin under her eyes turned dark, and I couldn’t figure how she could sleep all day and still look so tired.

When a lady from the Coalition couldn’t reach her by phone she came by the house to drop off the week’s cassettes and see if Mama was all right. She wouldn’t come out of her room but had me tell the lady she’d caught a flu bug and to give her assignments to someone else.

The phone being dead was one thing, but when we didn’t show up at the Grinnin’ Catfish two Saturdays straight, Miss Therese rushed over. After Mama gave her the same old flu story, her friend looked at her suspiciously.

“You don’t say. Well, I’ll be by every day next week to check up on y’all.”

Each time she came by, Miss Therese brought a plate of leftovers from the lunch shift and a handful of the pinwheel candies from the bowl by the register.

She said her sickly father had come down from Tippah County to spend his dying days at her place, so she only stayed long enough to peek in on Mama and tell Uncle Mooks and me we were doing a fine job. 

Mama’s new disposition triggered a curious change in Uncle Mooks’ behavior, as if he’d attended a healing meeting and the preacher put a hand to his forehead, and miraculously helped him to be more aware. The special string that weaves through the hearts of twins before they are born began its work. He grew more mindful of the fact it was her turn to be taken care of.

In the evenings he heated up the food Miss Therese brought and carried it into Mama on her favorite yellow tray bordered with delicate sweet pea blossoms. Each time he went back to her room to fetch the tray, she had barely picked at the meal. He left a candy on her nightstand.

Uncle Mooks spent less time on the porch, which meant his messy nature overflowed into the house. Even though I was in school until three every day, there was no more shutting myself away in the solitude of my room because it was up to me to take care of the real chores. Mama had always made chores look easy, but there was nothing easy about picking up after that messy guy.

The time we ran out of clean clothes I had to wash four loads and hang each and every item on the line. I dropped two of Mama’s nightgowns and a whole mess of socks in the clay soil on the way to the line. Yellow clay doesn’t shake off. Wiping at it is worse, which meant another washing.

There was the evening I tried my hand at making Mama’s Amalgamation cake, thinking it would be just the thing to get her back on her feet so we could all return to life the way it was before.

When I pulled the flour from the shelf it slipped out of my hand and spilled across the linoleum floor. I figured I’d clean it later, until one of the eggs dropped while I carried a handful from the refrigerator. The cleanup took some time, but I finally got back to the cake. For the first time in my life I creamed sugar into a stick of butter and sifted flower with baking soda and salt. It’s harder than it looks, with all the ingredients and measurements.

While the cake baked I thought about making the meringue, but I mixed some powered sugar with milk instead. It turned out the cake needed to cool before the frosting went on, so, when I went to spread it with the the knife to get a smooth frosting layer, huge chunks broke off and messed up everything. I closed my fist into a ball and punched the cake clear through to the counter. Uncle Mooks came in and helped me salvage about half of it.

After supper I cut a thin slice for Mama and carried it to her room, fingers crossed it’d be the cure. She turned toward me in bed, sadness all over her. Her arms looked thinner than before. I moved closer. “Look here, Mama. Look what I made you.”

“I’m in no mood,” she said vacantly. “Take it away.”

“You sure?”

She closed her eyes. The sight of her skinny arms stayed like a bookmark inside my head. I gently closed the door on my way out.

Later, Uncle Mooks and I took the rest of the cake to the porch. The song of cicadas filled the distant trees, and we listened to the end of the game. The Braves beat Pittsburgh, 4 to 3. Neither of us finished our cake. I must have confused a couple of the measurements.

The following day Parnell Boyle’s Buick came up the drive. I rushed to Mama’s bedroom door and gave it the shave-and-a-haircut knock.

“Mr. Boyle’s here.”

“No, Jason Lee.”

“What should I do?”

“Say I got the flu. Now leave me alone.”

I went out front and leaned over the porch rail. He stepped out of the car.

“Mama can’t see you.” I looked him straight in the eye. “She’s sick.”

“Yes, and hello to you, too.” His shoulders stiffened and he fiddled with the button on his sleeve.

“Give her my best.” He got back into his car then rolled down the window. “By the way, your phone’s not working.”

It was hard to see Parnell Boyle without thinking about that damn suit. As I watched him drive off I had to admit I was getting scared about Mama, and I feared she might be dying. You need a proper suit for funerals, too.

I chewed on my fingernails. Uncle Mooks rocked back and forth more than usual. Neither one of us made mention of the problem with Mama.

My Book Review:

Every once in a while a compelling story comes along that tugs at the reader's heartstrings and stirs their conscience, The Clock of Life is that story. Author Nancy Klann-Moren weaves a powerful and captivating tale written in the first person narrative that follows young Jason Lee Rainey's journey of coming of age and self-discovery in the small Southern town of Hadlee, Mississippi from 1974 to 1985.

This story documents Jason Lee's growing up in the South during the tumultuous time period of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. The reader follows Jason Lee from the age of six in 1974 to the age of sixteen in 1985. Through these years he experiences many life lessons: his first day of school where he learns about racial bigotry; standing up for what's right as his friendship grows with a young colored boy named Samson Johnson; the importance of time in his life; and the importance of family and the bond of friendship. Through stories from family and friends, he learns about J.L. Rainey, his father and namesake that he never got a chance to meet; from his father's journal he learns about his father's legacy during the Civil Rights Movement; and he learns about how his father lost his life in 1968 while serving in Vietnam. There are many "first" milestones that Jason Lee experiences during these years: first time walking to school by himself was his first taste of independence; his first taste of moonshine and chewing tobacco; the first time sneaking out of his house at night; getting fitted for his first suit; his first taste of sorrow and loss; and his first crush on a girl named Reba. For Jason Lee, The Clock of Life is symbolic with the trials and tribulations in his life as he progresses from childhood to manhood, he soon discovers that he has indeed become his father's son.

The author weaves a compelling and captivating tale rich in detail and description of the small Southern town setting and tension filled historical events. The reader is transported back to the time period of the 1970-1980s as if they were a visitor sitting in a rocker on Jason Lee's front porch. You can't help but feel the racial tensions of that time period and the mixed reaction to the Vietnam War, the author provides the readers with a fascinating history lesson as they follow Jason Lee's journey. With a mixture of seriousness and madcap childhood adventures, Jason Lee's story is one that has the reader feeling the full gamut of emotions.

With a wonderful cast of characters who are realistic and flawed, whose locale southern dialect and way of life pulls the reader into their lives; with engaging dialogues and dramatic interactions; and a smooth flowing storyline of one young boy's struggle to come of age through learning about his past and finding his voice; The Clock of Life is a wonderful story that embodies the spirit and culture of the past, while emphasizing the importance of a person's life ticking away with the passage of time and the bonds of friendship.

The Clock of Life is a poignant and timeless tale of coming of age that will resonate with you for a long time.


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