Rosemary Sutcliff on writing Sword at Sunset in the first person

Press cuttings about Historical novel Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff

Rosemary Sutcliff once said about writing her Arthurian novel  Sword at Sunset – a bestseller in 1963:

… after I had finished the story I had great difficulty getting back into a woman’s skin, because I had been living as a man for eighteen months, thinking as a man, making love as a man, always looking from a man’s viewpoint. I am always deeply involved in my books. For me the book doesn’t work if I am not. But I have never been as deeply involved as that before or since.

When I started writing Sword at Sunset I made at least three false starts, but I couldn’t think what was the matter. I knew exactly what the story was that I wanted to tell, but it wouldn’t come. Then suddenly the penny dropped: it had to be first-person singular. I had never done first-person singular before, but the moment I started doing it that way it came, like a bird. But I had problems with it: first-person singular is very different from third-person writing, and I had no experience of it at all. But it was the only way it could be written.

Author: Anthony Lawton

Chair, Sussex Dolphin, family company which looks after the work of eminent children’s & historical fiction author Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92). Formerly CEO, chair & trustee of various charity, cultural & educational enterprises in UK.

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