Readers + Writers week – Audrey Niffenegger Talk

I haven’t read her new book Her Fearful Symmetry but The Time Traveller’s Wife is an amazing book and definitely one of my all time favourites. I was quite excited to hear that she would be in town and I bought my tickets a few weeks ago.

I wasn’t disappointed. Audrey is a funny, geeky, articulate woman who inspired me and seemed down to Earth as well. The woman interviewing her asked her if, as a visual artist, she found that she had a better idea of what her characters looked like. Audrey answered that she always knows exactly what her characters look like, but that when writing novels she will hold back some of the description so that the reader can bring something to it. She said she liked to imagine all the visual variations people must have for her characters, and if you were to see them altogether they would look different but you could tell that they were the same character. It was pretty neat.

She talked for a while on her research processes and said that often her concept for something will change dramatically as the project does on. The end product will often have little to do with the initial idea. This made me happy, since it can happen to me as well. She described her concepts as basic starting points, ideas with no reasons for anything. You get the story to grow by asking questions about the idea and the characters.

They talked some about the twins aspects of Her Fearful Symmetry and how Audrey had endeavoured to write a 21st Century take on a 19th Century novel, basically a story where the characters all get the ending that they deserve. I like this idea. I think I shall have to read this book.

Audrey mentioned that in fiction it’s fun because all the characters have the same amount of reality attributed to them. Basically a small kitten has the same amount of reality that the lead male does, for example. If you can make them alive on the page then they become real.

Moving onto The Time Traveller’s Wife, she talked about time travel. She chose the way Henry travels in the book to be a genetic disorder rather than a physical time machine so that it was involuntary. She described it as a way in which your body betrays you. When asked if she herself would like to travel through time Audrey phrased it “In the list of crazy experiences we’re not allowed to have…” time travel wouldn’t be her number one.

In relation to e-books and the new forms of publishing available she said that new technology always tries to act like the old technology. For example at the moment e-books are trying to be regular books, and they’re not doing it that well. When it becomes it’s own thing, and people start to make things just for that format then it will be awesome.

During the question and answers section she revealed that she wrote Time Traveller’s Wife out of order. The first things she wrote for it were the last two scenes and then she wrote the scene where Claire loses her virginity, then the scene where Henry is five years old and in the Natural History museum after closing time.

I was brave and asked if there was anything that she has edited out that she misses or regrets but it turns out she couldn’t make Time Traveller’s Wife any shorter. Her agent said she could take out 50 pages and then more pages were added, and then an editor took some stuff out and then more was added and it always stayed the same length.

Afterwards I bought a copy of TTW and got it signed. I told Audrey that I loved it and it had made me cry a lot. She said ‘aww’ and was friendly and just a bit geeky. You can see me in my purple maxi dress reading in the signing line.


2 thoughts on “Readers + Writers week – Audrey Niffenegger Talk

  1. Thanks so much for this post Jenni,
    I had wanted to be at her talk, but couldn’t afford the trip from the South Island.

    But you summed it up so nicely, I feel like I was there.

  2. Hey, no problem Ripley 🙂

    There’s one more Readers and Writers week post coming, about Neil Gaiman’s town hall talk.

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