It’s been a busy few years for Kelly Clarkson. Not only has she been working on awesome new music, but she’s had two kids, toured the world, and most recently, published her very first children’s book! We had a chance to chat with Kelly about her inspiration for the book and what motherhood means to her.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
It’s actually so funny. I was travelling with my little girl and we were just going so many places and she was one years old. And I thought ‘Well she’s never going to remember any of this anyway’ so I started taking pictures of her at each place we went, like the London Eye, the kangaroo sanctuary in Australia…Then on the flights between Europe, Asia and Australia I started writing little stories to go with the pictures so she could read them when she starts learning to read. It just started off as a cute, weird mom thing. Then one day when my husband woke up on the plane to NYC and he asked “Have you been awake this whole time?” and I was like “Yes! I need to write these stories while they’re fresh in my memory.” So I gave him a story to read and he told me I should turn them into children’s books. But I was like: “No one is going to care.’” Obviously, he cared because it’s about our child, but then our nanny grabbed it from him and told me it would make a great children’s book, too. So it wasn’t my idea, it was theirs. I later met with HarperCollins and they loved the stories, so we picked one which ended up being the story about the zoo. It just all went from there. It’s the craziest dream I didn’t know was inside of me.
And here I was thinking ‘Maybe she’s always dreamed of becoming a children’s author.’
I’ve always loved children’s books. My mom is an elementary school teacher who taught first grade for most of her career, so we always had a plethora of children’s books all over our house. She’s an avid reader, as am I. I grew up reading Shel Silverstein, Matilda, books that were magical, books that rhymed. I had River Rose rhyme as well, which was actually quite difficult because children’s meter and how they read is a lot different than music and when you’re writing a song. But it ended up being a cool thing I have between my daughter and I.
The character River Rose is friendly, curious and adventurous and would much rather play than sleep. Is your little one anything like this?
I mean, it’s hilarious—she’s identical to me as a child. She just doesn’t stop talking and if you tell her not to press a red button, she will want to press it 10 times. She’s just that kid that’s not bad, but curious and willing to risk it for the adventure of what’s going to happen. When I started writing these stories, she was one years old, so I didn’t know how her personality would really play out. So I kind of based the character off of her and myself as a child. The character River Rose is very much this Punky Brewster-type, a little fun kid who’s in her own bubble and thinks she’s awesome. It was just a fun character to bring to life.
There’s a special lullaby that the mom in the book sings to her daughter. Where did the inspiration for this song come from?
Well I actually had already written the song before the book because I’m so not original and every artist probably does that for their kid. River Rose didn’t cry horribly all the time or anything, but it took a while for her to go to sleep. So I would rock her and hum. Eventually that hum became a song and I put lyrics to it. I’ve been singing it to her for about a year-and-a-half now. Then when writing the book, I thought that would be a cute mode of magical travel. So I incorporated that musical element into the book because I thought readers would appreciate that since that’s how people know me.
I’m guessing lullabies are a regular occurrence during bedtime at your house. Are there any other ones you sing to River Rose?
Oh yes. She’s very particular. I have to sing the one in the book, but also one by Patty Griffin that’s called “The Rowing Song.” It has a lullaby cadence to it and I guess I hummed it one night and now River Rose demands it. Also, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” is a big hit.
Speaking of bedtime routines, what’s that usually like for you and your kids? Does it include bedtime stories?
We pretty much have it down-pat and River Rose won’t let anyone else put her to bed besides me. And I think that’s just because I have this whole routine with her. We go to her room, she brushes her teeth—she loves it and I hope that sticks—then we get her in her PJs and crawl into bed and read. It’s usually one of these four books: Pinokey (Pinocchio), Rella (Cinderella), Beast (Beauty and the Beast), or River Rose because she loves that her name is in the book. I feel like she thinks that every kid gets a book with their name in it. I don’t know if she knows the character is her. Her favourite part is the back of the book because it’s Mommy’s face—the picture is gigantic! After we read, we turn off the lights, lay in bed and I sing to her. Sometimes I’ll work so much that the hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. is all the time I get with her, so those hours are really precious and I don’t mind the long routine. But my husband’s like “That’s a long routine so I’m glad she asks for you every night.” It’s going to be very interesting though when our five-month old gets older because there won’t be two routines, I’ll just have to incorporate them.
What do you like best about being a mom?
I think it’s something to be so proud of, being able to mould their lives, whether it’s the two from my womb or the other two kids from my husband’s side. We’ve now started homeschooling the older two kids so they can travel with us. With my mom being a teacher, I hold education to a very high bar. Being a part of that and what they learn is a pretty cool thing. Being a parent, your job is to make your kids the best humans possible. Even though being part of the process is awesome, I’m not going to lie, there are moments when you’re like “Where’s the eject button?”—for yourself, not them.
Has being a mom influenced your song writing?
It hasn’t, really. I wrote “Piece By Piece,” which is definitely affected by my husband and daughter. But all the songs I’ve been recording for the new album, my 20-year-old self would’ve recorded. Just because you’re a mom, it doesn’t mean you stop having that adventurous spirit—moms are still women. I’m still a woman at my core and I still have all the same emotions, desires and needs. Maybe I do feel a little deeper because being a mother, you just have a deeper understanding of love and what that really means. I’m not that mom that talks about kids all the time, though! It’s very important to keep your individualism. I think sometimes women lose themselves in it and you become this robot…it’s just about finding the balance, and that’s hard, but doable.
Now that your first book is out, do you plan on writing more?
There will be definitely more of River’s adventures to come down the pipeline!
Want to win a signed copy of River Rose and the Magical Lullaby? Enter our contest here and you could win this plus a whole library of picture books from HarperCollins Canada!