Modern Times are a Hindrance | Rosemary Sutcliff on Writing Historical Fiction

Sadly stuck behind their pay-wall are The Times Archives. In January 1983, within a long interview by Caroline Moorehead, Rosemary Sutcliff said of actually visiting battle sites:

“Modem times are a hindrance. The natural features of the land have been lost.”

Mind you, such research trips would anyway always have been a major project for her, given her severe physical disabilities. Some other quotes from Rosemary Sutcliff from the article are:

On writing her memoirs Blue Remembered Hills:

l happened to have a winter free. I was in between books. And being an only child, with far older cousins, who else is there to remember? And it was a happy childhood.

On periods of history she avoided:

I can’t get inside the medieval skin. I find the complete permeation of religious life too much for a free-thinker like myself, and beyond the eighteenth century is too cloak and dagger for my taste.

On when she wrote:

I hit that sudden post-war flowering of children’s literature and the golden age of –  the Oxford University Press.

On her rocking horse, Troubador:

About 15 years ago I decided that I was old enough, ugly enough, and successful enough, to indulge my eccentricities.

One of Rosemary Sutcliff's eccentricities | Her rocking horse Troubador
One of Rosemary Sutcliff’s eccentricities was supporting a rocking-horse maker (who went bust!)

Some of 10 Quotations from Writers about Writing at Interesting Literature blog

A few days ago, over at the blog Interesting Literature: A Library of Literary Interestingness (?!), these quotations in particular from  ‘10 Great Quotations from Writers about Writing’  appealed to me:

Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper and quite often the blank piece of paper wins. (Neil Gaiman)

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. (Thomas Mann)

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. (Cyril Connolly)

I think the hardest thing about writing is writing. (Nora Ephron)

I recall again here that, amongst many interesting comments about writing, Rosemary Sutcliff once said: “The only thing more frightful than writing is not writing”.

More quotes on this blog here



Interview on publication of The Flowers of Adonis (1969) | Rosemary Sutcliff in The Times

Alkibiades, the hero of Rosemary Sutcliff’s  novel The Flowers of Adonis, was one of the more enigmatic figures of Greek history. When this historical novel ‘for adults’ was published in 1969 by Hodder and Stoughton (costing 35 shillings in old money), Rosemary was inteviewed by The Times  newspaper (Oct 27, 1969).

I was trained at art school, but then the desire to scribble came over me. I got my interest in history from my mother who had a sort of minstrel’s, rather than historian’s knowledge. Inaccurate, but full of colourful legend. I disliked history at school ….

… They do say that to be a successful children’s writer one has to have a large lump of unlived childhood in one. I certainly think I have that.

You have to show children that good does overcome evil, but that does not necessarily mean that the old lady you helped then pays for your ballet lessons! The satisfaction should just be coming from the fact that you have done right.

… It is easier to give a book a historical setting, because children will take things happening then rather than right on their own doorsteps now.

Source: The Times, Oct 27, 1969, p6.

Writer E. M. Epps gives thumbs up for A Circlet of Oak Leaves by Rosemary Sutcliff.

A Circlet of Oak Leaves:  cover of book by Rosemary SutcliffA self-described “bookseller, reader, science fiction; fantasy writer, photographer, and gluten-free cook”, who signs her “name E. M. Epps”, gave a “thumbs up” for A Circlet of Oak Leaves by Rosemary Sutcliff at her blog “This space intentionally left blank”. She wrote”

A little novella taking place in Roman Britain. A slight book, but beautifully written as I would expect from Sutcliff.

“So he took them on, through a vicious squall of slingstones. Where the ground grew too steep to ride they dropped from the horses and ran on, crouching with heads down behind their light bronze-rimmed bucklers. By the time they reached the spur, hearts and lungs bursting within them, he had no idea how many or how few were still behind him; he had no chance to look round. He did not even know that many of the horses, lightened of their riders ‘ weight, had come scrambling after them, bringing their own weapons, the stallions’ weapons of teeth and trampling hooves, into the fight. He only knew that the time came when there were no more Painted Men left alive on the spur, and that the terrible boulder [perched above them], swaying as it seemed to every breath, was still there.”

Source: This Space Intentionally Left Blank – writer E. M. Epps’s blog.