The third in our new series of conversations with inspiring voices from the creative world delves into the magic of life....and death with the wonderfully talented, Clover Stroud.
What do you do to feel motivated creatively or otherwise?
Simply waking up as a human being for another day in the world is a pretty extraordinary, beautiful, terrifying experience. I feel creatively motivated, almost every day, to try to express what this feels like. I write about the way life feels - the big, exceptional days when beautiful or terrible things happen, but also the every day, the mundane. I have a very intense and busy life, with five children and lots of animals, so simply stepping into the day gets me going. I like a lot on my plate. That’s how I function and create best, I think.
I stopped drinking in 2021, but it’s only more recently that I really started to see and feel the profound benefits of the way absolute sobriety has transformed my life. I very, very rarely miss alcohol now since my world feels as it if has creatively expanded so much since I took it out of my life. I was talking to my eldest son, Jimmy, about this recently during a long car journey as I drove him back to university and described it as feeling as if alcohol had created a barrier between myself and my experience of processing the world. I had not thought I had had a habit with alcohol, and stopped for various different reasons, but now that it’s totally gone from my life, my ability to absorb and experience life around me feels much more vivid, much more colourful, much more intense. I love the extremes of this feeling: there’s certainly nothing boring about sobriety. In fact, quite the opposite. It’s intense. It’s trippy, at times. I love it.
I don’t always do it, but when I do I really love getting up very early, and spending some time alone, before my children get up. Sometimes I will light a candle in the kitchen and make some tea while I sit down to write. I find this time very productive. The knowledge that the kitchen will soon be filled with chaos and sound concentrates my mind. I wrote a lot of my third book, the Red of my Blood, during lockdown in these pockets of time I created in the early morning. I feel excited by how much I can achieve in really quite a short period of time in the early morning. But I will admit that I don’t always write then. Sometimes I walk into the field near my house and let the feeling of the morning spread around me so that the barriers between myself and the world are dissolving. I love this feeling. It happened this morning when I walked for a few minutes before the children got up. I could sense spring being close, and that made me feel awake, alive, alert and happy. By about seven or half past seven, some of my children will start getting up. Usually, my son Dash is first. He runs around the house hunting for a screen, any screen, he can watch, and he will often find a laptop that I thought I'd kept very hidden. Then some of my other children will join him, Lester and Evangeline; they are at primary school and breakfast is always chaotic and very noisy. I’ve been through stints of trying to create order and routine, but it never works. If I am lucky, one of my elder children, Jimmy and Dolly, who are both at university, might be around to help tussle with school shoes and book bags. I’ve been a parent for 22 years, but I still don’t know how to get my children out of the door without a huge drama around school shoes, every day.
I love being a writer so much, and I feel deeply privileged that I get to call this my job.I started writing in my early twenties, after I had my son Jimmy, and by 27 I was a single mother to Jimmy and his younger sister Dolly, writing full time for a living. I was a journalist for a decade and a half before my first book was published. I love hearing other people’s stories, and I think this innate curiosity about other lives was what inspired me to keep writing. I’ve been combining journalism with writing books since 2017, and I am most fascinated by real life. I am at the moment writing my fourth memoir, not because I have had an outstandingly exceptional life, but because I write about the way life feels: I write about grief, motherhood, marriage, sex, addictions, love, lust, domesticity, and a lot of magical thinking. What I write about are the kind of things everyone experiences; you will certainly find some of your own life experiences reflected in my deeply personal and highly confessional memoirs.
I love the feeling that memoir writing gives me of being an explorer of the human heart. My second book, My Wild and Sleepless Nights, is about what it really feels like to be a mother, to both babies and grown-up children, the mundanity, the beauty, the frustrations, the sensuality, the boredom. I wanted to record it in beautiful words so that the reader really felt is alongside me, which is what I also did in my third book, The Red of my Blood. I wrote that after my sister died in 2019, as I wanted to communicate the sensations of grief: how physically debilitating it is, how strange, how terrifying, how beautiful, and ultimately how transformational it is, how it cracks your life open, if you allow it, so that pure colour flows out.
There are some huge changes approaching this year, for me and my family, but I am still processing them internally, so I can’t tell you about them: not yet, but soon. I am nervous and excited and upset and delighted about the prospect of what this change represents, all at the same time. I think the next few years will be a really rich time creatively because of this. I’m also in the last month of finishing my fourth book. It’s about what home feels like and represents and writing it has been a strange and beautiful experience. I’m excited to see it reach its conclusion, as I’ll be finishing it this spring.
I grew up listening to the country music my parents played, and I think this had a big influence on my whole family. My brother even has a record label, Loose Music, nurturing the talent of Americana artists. I really admire what he does and his dedication to supporting the lives of music artists in this way. I love the stories, the yearning, the melodies, the romance of country music, and it also makes me think of the years I lived on a ranch in Texas in my twenties, which I wrote about in the Wild Other, my first book. So, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson singing Pancho and Lefty absolutely kills me every time, in a good way. It makes me feel a lot, and that is always is an interesting place to be. It was the first song at my wedding to my second husband too and might be one of the most unusual first dances!
What is your favourite possession and the story behind it?
If I could go anywhere, I’d immediately take a portal to the place where my Mum and my sister Nell are still alive. To be with them both is the place I’d like to visit the most, although I also know I could not stay there. A day, an hour, even a few moments with them both, is something I’d like more than anything in the world.
I love this cardigan so much. I love its softness, the shape of it, the colour, the fact it makes me feel snug but also able to get on with my day. I will wear it with black jeans and trainers, the clothes I live in, and with the four gold necklaces I wear every single day without fail. I like wearing gold against wool, as I love that sense of the colliding textures, and I think my gold necklaces will look special against the soft biscuit colour of the cardigan. Gold is glamorous too, but the cardigan is snug. Glamorous and snug: I like that.