Rosemary Sutcliff spoke about when and why she started writing when she spoke on BBC Radio’s famous Desert Island Discs programme.
I set up as a miniaturist and found commissions coming in. In the war I had quite lot of work to do: quite often, rather sadly, from photographs of young soldiers who weren’t coming back, and things of that sort. I worked at home, and also at the local art school (in Bideford); I was allowed to use a room. I enjoyed it, but I found miniature painting cramping. I was a good craftsman—but I always had this feeling of having my elbows tucked too close to my sides when I was doing it.
I think for this very reason, that I began to feel that I’d got to do something to break out. I gave it up to write. And I could write as big as ever I wanted to, I could use an enormous canvas if I wanted to.
I had not written as a child, I had not written stories. I wasn’t at all writing-minded at school. I don’t know when it started, I just wanted to write. And I scribbled happily most of the time through the war. It was quite dreadful, it was rather a mixture of Jeffery Farnol and Georgette Heyer. They’re both good writers, but I took the worst elements from both of them.