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

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.

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

Midsummer’s Eve | Rosemary Sutcliff’s Official Birthday | Obscured 2016 by EU Referendum!

Rosemary Sutcliff always remarked on Midsummer’s Eve (June 23rd) in her diary. She called it her ‘official birthday’.

Rosemary Sutcliff's mother Nessie Lawton

Rosemary Sutcliff always remarked on Midsummer’s Eve (June 23rd) in her diary. She called it her official birthday; so she had two birthdays a year, like Paddington Bear and the Queen. It was also the birth day of her mother. Here in the UK we largely missed Midsummer’s Eve this year, with the EU Referendum looming, and the turmoil in the wake of the resul

1988 June 23rd Thursday … There’s another blackbird’s nest in the front garden, in place of the one the ginger cat took.

1989 June 23rd Friday … Started to watch last day of Ascot, but of course it disappeared – industrial action …

1991 June 23rd Sunday. Midsummer’s Eve—Cold as winter, and pouring with rain all day.

1992 June 23rd Tuesday. Midsummer’s Eve. My Official Birthday. Mummy’s birthday … Went and stood out in the garden for a few minutes before bed. Was lovely, smelling of grass & night scented flowers.

June 23rd 1992 Diary entry Rosemary Sutcliff

… The may all coming out along the lanes … (Rosemary Sutcliff’s Diary, 10/5/88)

Rosemary Sutcliff’s diary entry for May 10th 1988. Covers May Tree or hawthorn.

Hawthorn or may tree blossomMay 10th Tuesday. Went along for the ride when Ray took Mrs Prosser home. The may all coming out along the lanes. Joan collecting my earrings and a white shirt for dying grey in Chichester today. Should be back in half-an-hour or so.
© Anthony Lawton 2012

The may refers to the  ‘may tree’, or hawthorn. The blossom appears on the tree at the beginning of May in the south of England. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, “until the calendar was changed in 1752, hawthorn would be in flower for May Day, which used to be 11 days later than it is now”.

At  the May Day celebrations people and houses used to be decked with may blossoms or boughs (‘bringing home the may’) which were traditional decorations, associated with the woodland spirit known as the Green Man.

I think of her writing this always in bed at night – I sometimes sat there when she did, as I recall. However, maybe my memory plays tricks, for this entry is apparently written during the day (‘Joan will be back’, from shopping, ‘in half-an-hour or so).

How did Rosemary Sutcliff’s novels emerge? | “I start with an idea, never a plot” | “Discovery Trumps Planning, So Plan to Discover” (Bill Barnett)

Academic Bill Barnett, from Stanford University Business School, has posted about his view that most successsful business strategies emerge, they are not carefully planned in advance—”Discovery trumps planning”. This accords with the views I have peddled for many years, first at Leicester Management Centre and then Warwick Business School, and latterly as a CEO in the not-for-financial-profit sector in the UK.

But it also made me think of parallels with something Rosemary Sutcliff said once to an interviewer about how she went about writing her novels:

I start with an idea; never a plot. I’m not very strong on plots, but I start from a theme, which grows from the idea. I do have a certain amount of framework: I’ve got to know how I’m going to get from the beginning to the end, and a few ports of call on the way.

I do not write to a standard length. I do not know how long a book’s going to be. I find that a book takes its own time and gets to its own proper ending place.

Dog in Rosemary Sutcliff book illustration by Charles Keeping

Rosemary Sutcliff on writing historical novels and children’s books: “I start with an idea, never a plot” and “I do not write to a standard length”

Rosemary Sutcliff on writing - plot and length

More of Rosemary Sutcliff’s own words here, on this web-site.