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When cold hard facts turn up authentic fiction

Hannah Kent had never seen snow so she ended up on a Rotary exchange trip to Iceland.

Jesse Blackadder had a fascination with cold climates and had applied twice to go to Antartica. She had a longing of coming to a snowy place where humans struggled. One day in a library researching the first women to go to Antartica she saw Ingrid Christensen’s beautiful enigmatic face smiling from a page. “You get a sense the character has chosen you.”

Blackadder first travelled as a tourist to Antarctica via South America and then on a fellowship which was a voyage of the same proportions Ingrid made four times each time with a friend leaving four children behind. Ingrid never mentioned her trips to her grandchildren

“The story had been whirling in my head,” said Blackadder. In the novel Ingrid makes the journey with two friends. Blackadder totally fell in love with one of the other characters, she was very elegant, very interesting. It was important to be in that landscape, to take footsteps on that ground. In a disused science lab on as stool by a bench as the ship rocked up and down across the Southern Sea, she wrote much of the novel, Chasing The Light

Hannah Kent was featured in an edition of Australian Story that it seems almost everyone in the country has seen which detailed her journey towards the writing of  Burial Rites.

“I arrived in January and I was homesick and didn’t understand the language she says of that first trip. She also became the local curiosity with cars pausing to observe the exchange student. Then she found the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, who was executed by beheading. She was drawn to this woman without knowing why.  Research was difficult when she didn’t speak the language.

She started with reports of trial. She heard  Ingrid was said she was very intelligent, a priest had made special mention and her reading age bore this out. Kent found out Agnes’s mother had abandoned her. Kent found the person and wanted to search for a character.

While the book is in third person it has passages for Agnes written in a sad sorrowful voice.

Sometimes you find things you didn’t hope to. Blackadder’s vision of Ingrid as a brave pioneer was thrown off balance by finding out she was wealthy and then change again when she found Ingrid’s mother went into the asylum when she was a teenager.

These two authors shows facts lead to fiction.

Marian Edmunds

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