Rosemary Sutcliff to BBC Radio Times in 1977 on her historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth and hero Marcus

Early picture of author Rosemary Sutcliff

When the BBC adapted and broadcast Rosemary Sutcliff‘s historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth in 1977, the BBC Radio Times wrote about her approach to children, writing, the Romans and her hero Marcus—’part of me was in love with him’.

Her passion for the Romans stemmed from her childhood. Her mother read aloud to her from books like Rudyard Kipling‘s Puck Of Pook’s Hill.  His three Roman tales entranced her.

I didn’t read myself till the last possible minute, about nine. I was brought up on Arthur Weigall’s Wanderings In Roman Britain and Wanderings In Anglo-Saxon Britain. He mentions this eagle dug up at Silchester and I’ve been fascinated by it since I was five.

The Radio Times journalist wrote of Rosemary: “She writes, superbly, of adventure, battle, young warriors. Rosemary Sutcliff‘s conversation is rapid and merry and very funny”.

In the BBC TV publicity material she claimed to be completely uneducated.

I left school at fourteen. I haven’t got a very literary or intelligent kind of life. I have very ordinary friends.

In fact, she completed art school and was a successful professional miniaturist in her late twenties when she turned to writing and secured the publication of her first book. It just “happened to be” for children; and most of her books kept on being, theoretically at least, “for children”. But she definitely did not believe in a rigid division between adults’ and children’s books. “When I was a child I was reading Dickens and Beatrix Potter at the same time”. As far as writing goes she did not find it restrictive.

Very occasionally a subject is verboten. And one may have to simplify—no, not that—uncomplicate a very complex emotion. But usually I just write as I want to write.

She said that she did not know all that many children and did not automatically like them .

I like a child or a dog or an adult according to their merits. I am prone to like more dogs on a percentage basis.

The Eagle Of The Ninth, published in 1954, was one of her favourite books.

I rather wish it weren’t, because it is quite early. I think and hope I have written better since. But it is my best beloved. Part of me was Marcus, and part was in love with him.

When aged only about three she had  juvenile arthritis (Still’s Disease) which was another factor in her writing:

I think most children’s writers are writing a chunk of unlived childhood.

Source: Radio Times, September 3, 1977

The distinctive features of historical novelist and children’s Rosemary Sutcliff’s ministrel’s magic

Signature of Rosemary Sutcliff showing her name is not Sutcliffe with an E

Helen  posted  a comment on this blog about on “the features which make up the ‘sum of parts’ that are a Rosemary Sutcliff  novel” and  “the indefinable minstrel’s magic that makes it all alive”:

  • A hero, set apart from his peers both by his injury and his past
  • Landscape and the seasons as living entities in themselves
  • Friendship
  • Adventure
  • Scenes of slow tension and thrilling escape
  • Flashes of both humour and horror
  • The sense and quest for justice and fairness
  • The clash of two worlds and the places where the distance narrows to nothing between them
  • The relationship between man and dog, and to a lesser degree, man and horse
  • The slow romance
  • Understanding of a military world
  • A hopeful, ‘song of new beginnings’ ending
  • Devon!

 

British writer Rosemary Sutcliff re-tells legends of Robin Hood, King Arthur, Beowulf, Tristan & Iseult, Finn Mac Cool, Cuchulain, the Iliad, the Odyssey

Portrait of historical novelist and children’s author Rosemary Sutcliff by Mark Gerson

Always at the same writing desk, seated in an old captain’s chair, Rosemary Sutcliff imagined a rich cast of characters to people her historical novels. But many of her works also draw heavily on legend.

In her first published book in 1950, she re-worked her  Chronicles of Robin Hood. The best-selling Sword at Sunset in 1963, written for adults, re-made the story of King Arthur. Later in her writing career, she created a trilogy of books aimed at children and young people retelling the tale of Arthur again—The Light Behind the Forest: The Quest for the Holy Grail (1979), The Sword and the Circle: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1981), and The Road to Camlann: The Death of King Arthur (1981). She  also wrote novels re-making the stories of Beowulf, Tristan and Iseult, and the Irish heroes Finn Mac Cool and Cuchulain, The Hound of Ulster, as well as re-telling Homer’s Iliad and The Odyssey

Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Tips for Writing Short Stories

Photo of author Kurt Vonnegut
  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Source: Medium