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Cover Story

October 11, 2007
I Wonder What on Earth Possessed Me
A conversation with Bobbie Ann Mason
by Michael Sims
Scene: How did the protagonist of your new book, Nancy Culpepper, materialize in your mind?

Mason: In about 1980 I wrote some notes in a notebook about my grandmotherís photographs, along with the name NANCY CULPEPPER.
 [ ... ]
Scene: You wrote a dissertation on Nabokovís Ada. Your method of creating a character piece by piece reminds me of Nabokovís method of composing all over the canvas at once on those famous oversize index cards.

Mason: I donít use index cards, but Nabokovís kaleidoscopic method of imagining the surfaces is something I identify with. I donít have a logical mind that can seize a linear narrative. To me, writing is like working a giant jigsaw puzzle, with the pieces mixed up and facing downward. Little by little I discover how theyíre put together.

Scene: Do you have an idea of whatís next for you? Or have you already written new work that has yet to be published?

Mason: I donít have anything new, but Iím working on a novel. Iím in the beginning stages. Usually I flounder around for a year, getting distracted by research (far more than necessary), and procrastinating. This is a miserable and scary process, and I wonder what on earth possessed me. But I recognize this stage and have grown more patient with it. Sooner or later, things start to click and then I get more focused. By the end, I donít want to quit.

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