Burial Rites

For the first KYD No. 13 teaser, our very own deputy editor Hannah Kent reflects on the process of writing her highly anticipated debut novel Burial Rites.

To read the rest of Hannah’s frank and fascinating piece, grab a copy of Issue Thirteen, released 9th April.

Just over two years ago, I was – to put it plainly – shitting myself. It was January 2011, and the novel I needed to write, the historical novel that was to be the creative component of my PhD in Creative Writing at Flinders University, could no longer be avoided. While, in the first few years of my degree, I had managed to stave off my supervisors’ queries with promises that I was performing ‘very crucial’ research into nineteenth-century Iceland, the time had come for me to finally produce my first attempt at a novel. My supervisors, their smiles slipping, were asking to see the goods. My scholarship – my only income – was rapidly drawing to a rude halt. The problem was, I had no idea how to write a book, and that terrified me.

I first heard the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir when I was an exchange student in the north of Iceland. It was 2002, I was 17 years old, and I had left my home town of Adelaide for Sauðárkrókur, an isolated fishing village, where I would live for 12 months. This small town lies snug in the side of a fjord: a clutch of little buildings facing an iron-grey sea, the mountains looming behind. When I arrived it was January, and the days were gripped by darkness, 20 hours at a time. There were no trees. The town’s houses were hostage to snow, and in the distance the North Atlantic Ocean met the north sky in a suggestion of oblivion. It felt like the edge of the world.

Hannah Kent is the deputy editor of Kill Your Darlings. Her debut novel, Burial Rites, will be published in Australia in May (Picador), and in the UK and US in September (Picador; Little, Brown). Translation rights have been sold to fifteen countries.

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