Sussex Creative Writing DPhil student, Sue Eckstein, had her second novel published by Myriad Editions last month.
‘Interpreters’ explores the lives of four generations of a family affected in very different ways by the Second World War.
Protagonist Julia Rosenthal’s return to her suburban childhood home leads her to question the nature of her seemingly normal, middle-class upbringing.
Meanwhile, her brother Max is happy to lead an alternative lifestyle and leave the past untouched. Sue Eckstein was required to submit a novel and an accompanying thesis as part of her DPhil.
Her thesis was ‘Homage or Damage, The Scope and Limitation of Autobiographical Fiction’.
While ‘Interpreters’ is fictional, Eckstein admits that she did base the character of Clara (Julia’s grandmother) upon her own grandmother.
When speaking of the development of Clara’s character, Eckstein said: “I drew very heavily on my own grandmother’s memoirs.
They were in the public domain and this was something I felt she would have been pleased about”.
Eckstein originally studied English Literature at Durham University. After a career in overseas development with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), Eckstein then moved back to academic life, studying Research Ethics at King’s College London.
Eckstein then moved to the University of Sussex to undertake a post-graduate Diploma in Dramatic Writing, and an MA in Creative Writing.
Her first novel, ‘The Cloths of Heaven’, was published in 2009 and was serialised in 2010 for BBC Radio Four’s ‘Woman’s Hour’.
Eckstein wrote ‘Interpreters’ and worked on her DPhil thesis part-time over four years, whilst working as a lecturer in Clinical and Biomedical Ethics at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS).
In addition to teaching ethics, Sue has created optional humanities-based ethics modules for BSMS students.
Since she began working full-time at BSMS, Sue admits it has been difficult trying to find time to write.
However, she has found an original way of combining her busy workload with her passion for literature.
Eckstein said: “I do nearly all my writing in short, incredibly intensive, bursts at a retreat house called St Cuthman’s in West Sussex. I write on my laptop for about 11 hours a day.
“I only stop for meals and I don’t need to speak to anyone or lose my train of thought the whole time I am there. I can write thousands of words a day”.
Although many will find this an unusual way of working, it has clearly led Sue to academic success and widespread critical acclaim.