HIGHLANDS CREATIVES // Sarah Clutton
Meet Bowral based Sarah Clutton, local author of The Daughter’s Promise.
It’s hard to keep a naturally talented wordsmith away from writing and while a legal career may have distracted Sarah Clutton momentarily she eventually succumbed to the temptation of life as a full-time writer which resulted in two published books, Good Little Liars and The Daughter’s Promise.
We caught up with Sarah to find out more about her U-turn into the writing world and what she loves about living and creating in the Highlands!
1 // How did you get involved in writing?
In high school, English and Drama were my favourite subjects. So when it came time for university, I decided I should choose something vaguely English-y because I figured acting was unlikely to pay the bills, and my acting skills were only brilliantly mediocre anyway (the ‘brilliantly’ is only in there because my mum might read this). Anyway, I decided to study law.
After a job as a Judge’s Associate in the Queensland District Court (way too many distressing assault trials), then a stint in a top-ten Sydney commercial law firm (way too many stressful billable hours spent reading affidavits and researching really boring bits of legislation) I became a drop-out writer and began freelancing.
After a decade or so of that, I decided to challenge my internal narrative that said I’d never manage to write a whole novel. When a story dropped into my head one day, I wrote it down and that became my first novel, a mystery called Good Little Liars. When I got a two-book contract after pitching that novel, I quickly had to come up with another story. Luckily, the North-West Tasmanian setting for The Daughter’s Promise (my second book) was very vivid in my mind as I come from there originally, so the story seemed to write itself (think stormy sea cliffs, a dilapidated church, a forty-year-old unexplained death and a strange bequest bringing the protagonist all the way from Oxford!)
2 // Tell us about a career highlight.
As a freelance writer, I’ve been lucky to meet amazing locals. I loved sitting down with local antiquarian book dealer Leo Berkelouw to hear his amazing stories and working with his family across their time building Bendooley Estate into the amazing venue we see today. I’ve met some fabulous and fascinating people through freelance work.
In fiction writing, I was very excited when I was awarded the Dymocks/Fiona McIntosh Commercial Fiction Scholarship in 2018. Apart from being a tremendously successful commercial author, Fiona is also amazing at fostering connections, and it gave me the confidence to keep going.
3 // What challenges have you experienced in your career?
If you want to be a writer, you need to be comfortable with rejection and just keep doing your thing. I was strangely lucky that the first fiction piece I ever wrote (a kids’ short story) was published by NSW School Magazine (and they pay really well - so that really skewed my expectations!) but since then there have been lots of rejections in between the successes.
I heard something like this said once: ‘every rejection is a gift, because it means you are submitting work, which means you are one step closer to having something accepted’ (I think the amazing indigenous poet Kirli Saunders said that, or maybe I half made it up after butchering the original quote with my dodgy memory, but either way I really like it).
4 // What advice would you give anyone wanting to write for a living?
Being a wordsmith is fun, but unless you are Liane Moriarty or have a prodigious work ethic (i.e. you are not easily distracted by your garden, dog, children, spiderwebs that need cleaning, coffee with friends) it doesn’t tend to pay very well. So, I guess my advice would be to keep your day job (if nothing else, it provides good inspiration for fiction that you will later deny was in any way inspired by your day job... real life is usually way weirder than fiction).
Apart from that, just write. If you want to write a novel but don’t think you have the time, then maybe it’s not the right time for you to start, because if you really want to make it happen, it often involves sacrificing something else in your life (usually something fun).
5 // Why do you love being a creative in the Southern Highlands?
I absolutely love being a creative in the Highlands! I wrote a blog piece once for my website about the utterly brilliant Harriet Goodall who created three marvellous, oversized woven pendant lights for my house – just because I wanted people to share in her gift.
Painters, printmakers, screenwriters, cheesemakers, sculptors, weavers, potters, silversmiths, antiques curators, interior designers, architects, permaculturalists and gardeners, sublime cooks and chefs... if you take the time to find them and befriend them, creatives in the Southern Highlands will change your life.
We love supporting our local authors and you can too by popping into the Bookshop Bowral to buy a copy or two or three of her two, fabulous books, or head to Sarah’s website and clicking on the Amazon link to get her books delivered to your door.