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Talking with Daniel Mason

Author Daniel Mason spent a year doing research on malaria in Thailand and Myanmar before returning to attend medical school. “When I came back to the U.S., I was so affected by the experience I didn’t want to forget it. I was trying to readjust and get ready for going to school.” His original impulse was just to write something down “to preserve memories. The early parts of the book were just descriptions of things I’d seen.” Mason keeps a fictional journal. “I write down something I see and then I try to make stories around it.” He finds the stories always interesting, but he believes they can “be more interesting if fictionalized.” Since his journals are essentially fiction, it was just a matter of which story he would choose to tell. His astonishing first novel, THE PIANO TUNER, is the result.

Mason received his copy of the text the same day that the audiobook version arrived. He listened to it with his father, and “both of us were pretty emotionally affected by it. The whole recording is wonderful!” They listened to the abridged version of the book read by Graeme Malcolm. “His style and his cadence are really the way I imagined it.”

As he was writing, Mason read parts aloud, but “no matter how hard I tried, I always heard the characters speaking with the voice, the physical voice, of a 26-year-old American. I couldn’t be them.” Hearing Malcolm’s reading “just opened them up and made them richer.” Random House “did a very nice job on the abridgment. At first when I heard it was being abridged, I didn’t know what to think. You spend so much time creating this whole novel, and then you hear that they’re cutting out half of it. I see it as a different product. My book is my book in its original form…and it’s out there. I see the abridged form as just an interpretation.”

Mason dedicated his book to his grandmother. “My grandmother can’t read because she’s having eye problems. I’d read her parts but never the whole thing. Having the audiobook has been a way for her to read it. She’s a painter. She has a fantastic eye for the world. Just growing up with her around, teaching me what to look for, patterns and light, really influenced my writing.” Mason was eager for the audiobook “so I could give it to her, so she could finally hear the story. She’s listened to it several times.” Mason travels to Brazil next, to research his new book. “It’s going to be about the history of Brazil.” But that’s all he’ll say.—S.J. Henschel

©2003 AudioFile, Portland, Maine

Photo © Elena Siebert

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