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In Iceland, you can see the contours of the mountains wherever you go, and the swell of the hills, and always beyond that the horizon. And there's this strange thing: you're never sort of hidden; you always feel exposed in that landscape. But it makes it very beautiful as well.
I still don't know why, exactly, but I do think people can have a spiritual connection to landscape, and I certainly did in Iceland.
People speak of the fear of the blank canvas as though it is a temporary hesitation, a trembling moment of self-doubt. For me it was more like being abducted from my bed by a clown, thrust into a circus arena with a wicker chair, and told to tame a pissed-off lion in front of an expectant crowd.
My dad would tell me bedtime stories, and he used to always leave them open-ended and finish at a crucial point with the words, 'dream on'. Then it was my responsibility to finish the story as I was drifting off to sleep. We would call them dreaming stories.
I had an interest in Scandinavian countries because I'd never seen snow.
The mystery at the center of 'Burial Rites' is not who killed whom on the night of March 13, 1828. It is the mystery each of us encounters: Can we every truly know another? Can we ever truly know ourselves?
You know you're going to have a good day when your morning begins with breakfast in the same room as Carrie Tiffany, David Vann and Lionel Shriver.
I used to have 20/20 vision, believe it or not; that's gone because of all the reading I did when I wasn't supposed to, reading in the back of a car, waiting for each street light to go past so I could grab another sentence.
I have a deep and ongoing love of Iceland, particular the landscape, and when writing 'Burial Rites,' I was constantly trying to see whether I could distill its extraordinary and ineffable qualities into a kind of poetry.
I first heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir when I was an exchange student in the north of Iceland.
I applied for funding to embark on an overseas field trip in Iceland, and spent six weeks there happily holed up in the national archives, museums and libraries, sifting through ministerial and parish records, censuses, maps, microfilm, logs, and local histories.
I had expected that at some point during the first draft a light would go on, and I would understand, finally, how to write a book. This never happened. The process was akin to blindly walking in the dark, feeling my way only by touch, and only recognising dead ends when I smacked into them.
I really hate the term 'historical novel' - it reminds me of bodice-rippers. But I'm hooked on research, and I really, really enjoy it.
I don't like to pretend I was guided in any way by the supernatural world, but the more you talk about that, the easier it is to dismiss those notions.
When I write, I write for myself, and I have high expectations... so I'm just trying to meet those. I'm not going to distract myself with other people's expectations.
I was a very imaginative child, and my parents were very encouraging of that. My sister and I would put on plays; I would write my own stories.
Most writers are drawn to what is unknown, rather than what is clear in any tale.
There are secrets at the heart of every story; there is something that must be uncovered or discovered, both by the reader and by the characters.
I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I just wasn't sure what I wanted to do as a money-making job.
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