Friday, February 20, 2009

Sandra Novack

Sandra Novack’s fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Gettysburg Review, Gulf Coast, and Mississippi Review, among other publications. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, and holds an MFA from Vermont College. She is the author of the novel Precious.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Precious is your first novel. How long did it take you to write, and what was the process like? Had the premise been swimming around in your head for a long time, or did the plot evolve as you wrote?

It was a bit of both, I suppose. The idea of the novel had been with me, though the plot evolved as well. I didn’t, for example, have any sense that Natalia would come back home, nor did I know until quite late what had happened to Vicki Anderson, the girl who goes missing at the novel’s opening. In part, I make a lot of choices in favor of structure—structural parallels, variations on theme and image. When I began the novel the possibilities of the world seemed rather endless, but every choice made on the page laid a new constraint and began to shape and to hone the world. That said, the story is and has always been inspired by an event from my life, that when I was seven, my sister ran away from home. So the idea of disappearances and probably the image of the girl riding off on a bike were always there, for a very long time, as was the town’s general setting and shape.

Your author’s note at the front of the book states that there are autobiographical elements of the story. Was it a vulnerable experience putting pieces of your life out there on the page? Have you ever considered writing a memoir?

It was hard to write from a place within me that had been silent for so long. After my sister left, that event was so painful my family stopped talking about her—it was too difficult, understandably so—but when you stop telling stories people can disappear even more. Writing is a great counter force against that negation, even if it is fiction that I’m crafting. I felt vulnerable in a way because of the emotions that writing stirred in me. But this is also the truth: I don’t know my real sister well. I might even say I don’t know her at all; I don’t know reasons for things, for why she left. So it could never be memoir, and I’ve never been a person very interested in writing “truth” or “real” life, anyway. I find life too messy. Things happen in our lives and we don’t always know why, ever. What fiction gives me is...[read on]
Visit Sandra Novack's website.

The Page 69 Test: Precious.

--Marshal Zeringue