Author Series: Kathleen Kent

As a part of the annual Author Series, author Kathleen Kent visited Hockaday on Jan. 8

Descendant of an alleged Salem witch Martha Carrier, Kathleen Kent brings historical fact and family lore to Hockaday with her novels “The Heretic’s Daughter” and “The Traitor’s Wife.” As a visiting author of the Author Series initiative, Kent lunched with Hockaday girls and taught junior English classes.

A writer of historical fiction, Kent draws from her unique family history and from the stories passed down from her ancestors as inspiration for her writing. Kent elaborates, “The idea for the first book “The Heretic’s Daughter” came from hearing stories from my grandmother when I was a child…she used to talk about…[how] the wife Martha Carrier was one of the 19 men and women hanged for being a witch in Salem in 1692.”

However, because the oral tradition may have altered historical fact, Kent dedicated years to research on the Carrier family before writing her novel. “All through high school and college, I did research whenever I could on Martha Carrier…it took me five years to research and write the book,” recalled Kent.

For Kent, writing reflects her love for historical fiction as a child. “I think authors write about what they like reading, and I grew up loving to read historical fiction,” said Kent. But as she read through the books on Salem, Kent realized the story she wanted to tell.

“In reading all of the fiction and nonfiction stories about the witch trials, there was one element that was missing to me, and that was the story and the narrative of the children who were imprisoned,” Kent said.

Though most people believe that the hanging of the witches marks the end of the historical narrative at Salem, Kent disagreed.

“After those 19 men and women were hanged, there were a hundred people or more that were left to languish in prison…I wanted to continue that story.”

Outside of writing, Kent believes her family history has helped her develop strength as a woman. Kent recalled, “my grandmother used to say that there is no such thing as witches, just ferocious women. The two career paths that I took before taking on writing…were not immediately friendly toward women. I think [my grandmother] gave me those stories to give me a sense of strength.”

Kent believes that no matter what careers Hockaday girls may choose, they can always return to writing. “I think people have a misconception that to be a success, you need to start off really young. But stories do not go stale, and writing gets better as you get older. It is never too late to start writing.”

During her visit at Hockaday, Kent discussed her books with the students and introduced writing exercises to junior English classes. “I love coming to Hockaday. I was…so impressed with how engaged the students were and their energy.”

Though Kent left after a short visit, her history and books have brought discussions about writing and the Salem witches.