Jo has shared an extract with us but first, here’s a little about the book.
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.
Grab that hot drink, biscuit, chair and enjoy.
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This excerpt features a conversation with my main character, Tom and his best friend, Harry, a doctor. Tom has recently lost his job and is too afraid to tell his wife as she’s desperate to start expensive fertility treatment. They talk about Harry’s new job but then Harry encourages his friend to tell his much younger wife about his predicament. Adam, is his brother-in-law, the other main character.
Harry and I can spend long periods without saying much. Eventually he describes his new job. ‘It’s exciting, Tom. I will actually get to know my patients and the staff.’
‘Explain what’s wrong with them?’
‘A care home?’
‘Not at all; they will be under sixty-five, most younger. The brain injuries are often blokes in their twenties. They will be stable, so not dependent on nursing care, and stay Monday to Friday. I will get weekends off and more evenings.’
‘I haven’t heard you talk about work like this for a while, all fired up with medical-student passion.’
‘I know. I was getting more and more disillusioned, which I didn’t like. This will give me more control and I have the freedom to work as I see fit. I intend to stay for years so no more moving from pillar to post.’
‘I am pleased for you, and for me if you’ll be about more. Shame I appear to be infertile. You’d make a great-uncle Harry to our non-existent kids.’
‘When are you going to lose your old man’s tone? It’ll happen. If it doesn’t, there are plenty of other options.’
‘She might have to grow up a bit and accept that we don’t always get what we want or deserve, however meticulously we plan.’
‘Maybe. I love Siri almost as much as you but Adam still indulges her like she’s his first child.’
‘She kind of was.’
‘When she was a kid, fair enough, but you took over where he left off. She’s nearly thirty for goodness’ sake.’
‘Thanks. That makes me feel so much better. You’re saying she married me for the parenting? What kind of walking cliché does that make me?’
‘Get over yourself, sugar dad. You suit each other. No question you two are a match made in heaven. But life happens.’
It isn’t until we are back at the station that he broaches my job situation. I know full well the timing is deliberate. ‘Tom, you told Siri about your job?’
‘You are going to have to, mate. You’ll get caught.’ ‘I know, but I just don’t know how.’
‘It will be the deceit she won’t like, so tell her soon and the job will come; don’t risk your marriage over it… It’s over two months, Tom. What are you doing all day?’
‘I’m still at the café. But I’m doing hours for Dawn now.’ ‘Great, so you have a new job. Just tell her.’
‘I will, when our tests are finished. If all is well, she’ll forgive me anything.’
‘I hope you’re right.’
On the train journey home, I stare out of the window at nothing specific, caught in my head. I’m stuck in a sick board game that I don’t get to choose. If the dice throws well, I get the ladder: it’s happy ever after, stay-at-home dad to triplets. If the snake takes me to infertile, I am off the cliff, no way out. My head feels crowded by my double life, my fertility worries and a diminishing redundancy fund. The thought of the return to ‘routine’ tomorrow fills me with dread.
Jo Johnson is a clinical psychologist specialising in neurological disorders and mind health. SURVIVING ME is her debut novel.
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Jo: I’m very excited that my debut novel ‘Surviving Me’ was 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.