I’m pleased to welcome Sam Clarke to my Author Spotlight. Sam is a talented artist as you will see if you visit her website. I have been fascinated recently watching her Instagram videos of her creating clouds and rain! However, her memoir The Clearing has recently been published in paperback and that’s what she’s going to be talking about today.
Thanks for joining me Sam. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I’m a visual artist and writer, and I’ve lived in Orkney for the past 5 years. I lived in Edinburgh for a long time, but I had good friends here in Orkney and loved the place whenever I visited them. So when my partner and I realised we could both work remotely we decided it was time to make the move. We’ve never regretted it.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always written as part of my creative process as a visual artist, but it’s only in more recent years that I began to explore writing as something I might share more widely. I write to explore the same kinds of ideas and images as inspire my visual artwork, but in a different medium.
Tell me about your journey to publication
I actually wrote my first book as part of a creative writing PhD at the University of St Andrews. It seemed like a good way to get some input, advice and a framework that would make me get the writing done, and I was lucky enough to get scholarship funding to cover my tuition fees. It was a very long and roundabout path to publication as the PhD alone took 6 years part-time, another year or so to get the manuscript ready to send out to publishers, and another 2 years to bring it to publication.
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
“The Clearing” is a memoir about ‘spaces between’ and what may be learned in them. As I cleared the family home after the death of both my parents, the memories held there prompted reflections on my family’s flawed strategies for coping with my mother’s mental illness, the isolation of my father in caring for her, and how these relationships shifted as my parents aged. In “The Clearing” these are threaded through with insights drawn from scientific ways of understanding empty space, like the ‘ether’ and dark matter, and from the calm, contemplative space that art has always offered me. It’s a journey towards another kind of clearing, a reconciliation with the past.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
The title was the result of a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with my editor! The book was originally called ‘The Subtle Ether’, but my editor felt that was too obscure, and we struggled for a long time to find an alternative title we could both accept. It was quite a painful process, as I was very attached to the original title the book had for so many years of writing, but we got there in the end with The Clearing!
How did you celebrate publication day?
The hardback was published just days before the first lockdown was announced, so everything was cancelled and it was all a bit of an anti-climax to be honest, after so many years of work! However, when the paperback came out this March I did my first Instagram Live which was quite exciting! And then I had a glass of something fizzy afterwards to unwind and celebrate!
Do you have a work in progress just now?
My first book was preoccupied with space, or ‘ether’. Now I am fascinated by another element, water, an element that surrounds me here in Orkney. Water is always present, yet always changing, and raises lots of questions about the nature of time, of boundaries, of our connection with and reliance on the natural world. So I am writing a lot about that just now, and hope this will become the next book in due course.
What one book would you recommend to a friend and why?
Well, it very much depends on which friend! But right now I think Rebecca Solnit “A Paradise Built in Hell: the extraordinary communities that arise in disaster” is a good book to have to hand. It’s hopeful and positive about ordinary people, and how we come together in difficult times to help each other.
What are you reading just now?
Right now I am reading Carlo Rovelli “The Order of Time”. I am always fascinated by science, especially physics, as a way of understanding ourselves and the universe we inhabit. Physicists are not afraid to ask really big questions. Rovelli has a great skill for communicating complex ideas in a way a non-scientist can understand and here he is exploring the nature of time itself. It’s wonderful. I’m only a few pages in and already he’s blown my mind!
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
Anything by the Buddhist nun and teacher Pema Chodron. A desert island would be a good place to stop making excuses and do some serious meditation practice!
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
No. The book is ALWAYS better than the film! You can be immersed in the world of a book for days at a time, not just a couple of hours. Your imagination isn’t limited by the capabilities of computer generated imagery, and you can decide which bits to linger over and which bits to romp through. As a teenager reading The Lord of the Rings I felt like I had this whole second life going on in Middle Earth for the months and months it took me to read the whole series. Frankly, the Ents in my imagination were so much better than Peter Jackson’s CGI!
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
Instagram and Facebook @samclarkartwrite or Twitter @sam_clark_art
Or my website at http://www.samanthaclark.net
The Clearing is available now in all formats.
You’ll find buying options for various retailers here: The Clearing