Thursday, 19 March 2020

Book Spotlight with Extract: Surviving Me by Jo Johnson

Surviving Me by Jo Johnson

Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.
Tom's lost his job and now he's been labelled 'spermless'. He doesn't exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.
All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family's future out of the water.
If they can't be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.
This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

Surviving Me by Jo. Johnson

This excerpt describes a conversation between Tom, my main character and a teenage girl in the cafe where he is hiding. He and his wife are desperately trying for a baby. So far, she has not conceived and he has convinced himself this due to his lack of masculinity, like everything else. Lydia ran out of the cafĂ© in floods of tears last time he spoke to her. Harry is Tom’s closest friend.

Remembering Harry’s raised eyebrows, I puzzle over what to say. I must look odd standing with my hands buried in my front pockets like an awkward adolescent about to ask a girl on a date. I pull out a chair a couple of seats from her.

She gives me an instant mega-wattage smile. ‘Sorry, it wasn’t personal.’
‘Didn’t think it was. I’m used to girls crying when I speak. So what’s up, kiddo?’ I ask, with what I hope is a cheeky, not creepy grin. Lydia withdraws her eyes and turns her attention back to doodling in her drawing book. Her hand tenses around the pen and her black scribbling becomes purposeful and dense. I can’t quite see what’s she’s working on.
‘I have to sort it out on my own. There’s nothing you can do,’ she says to her illustrations.
‘Maybe not, but I know from experience that a problem shared does make it feel lighter.’
‘I’ve told Dawn.’
‘Did that help?’
Lydia keeps her head down. Her pale skin is suddenly flushed. Am I being intrusive, unfair, bullying even?
‘No, not really. Now I feel ashamed when I see her as well as when I look in the mirror—’ and her words come in a rush. ‘I wish I hadn’t told her. Before I could pretend everything was okay when I was here – that I was a normal student, at college, using a coffee shop to do my coursework. Now she knows, it’s ruined here as well.’
‘I know what it feels like to pretend; it’s harder than it looks and soon it makes life even harder, whatever your secret.’

She looks up. Now it’s me feeling regret. What am I doing, hinting to young girls that I’m living a double life? How is that going to help her? I remember what Gemma said to Harry last time she visited. We were actually talking about how open his grandmother is with all her nursing home chums, but Gemma can twist any conversation around into a character assassination of me, and so she said, oh, he always puts his foot in it, our Tom; even as a child he told our private business to all and sundry. I can’t remember exactly what Harry said. I know his response would’ve been in my defence, but even so, now would have been a good time to keep quiet.

Lydia is silent. My feet are restless, desperate to do what they do when situations get too intimate. I push my palms firmly into the tops of my thighs, wiping off the moisture at the same time as steadying my legs. Harry would say, come on Tom, say what you feel without second guessing others.

‘You don’t have to tell me anything, but I promise you there is nothing you can say that would make me think less of you.’
‘I’m pregnant.’
My eyes flit unintentionally to her belly. I try to sound casual, as if I don’t feel sick. ‘I’m guessing not planned?’ My voice sounds prepubescent. I’m desperate to sound kind and supportive rather than judgemental, but my thoughts are racing. Why does it have to be that secret? Anything but that would’ve been okay. I’d predicted she’d run away from home, fallen out with a friend, a boyfriend, was in debt, had been shoplifting... but pregnant? She’s rake thin, for goodness’ sake.

Jo Johnson is a clinical psychologist specialising in neurological disorders and mind health. SURVIVING ME is her debut novel.

Follow this link to read the reviews on Surviving Me or to purchase the book on Amazon:

I’m very excited that my debut novel ‘Surviving Me’ is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.
I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when i left to write and explore new projects.
I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.
Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”. 
In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout.
Giveaway to Win two signed copies of Surviving Me & five Surviving Me fridge magnets (Open INT)
1st Prize - 2 winners each winning a signed copy of Surviving Me
5 Runners Up - each winning a Surviving Me Fridge Magnet
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