Monday, March 1, 2010

INTERVIEW: Bestselling Author of "Time Travelers Wife' Audrey Niffeneger

Welcome to “Up Close and Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing their views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Audrey Niffenegger . She is the author of the outstanding debut novel, 'The Time Traveler's Wife,' which became an instant bestseller about a love that transcends time. The book is an inventive and unconventionally rendered tale of Clare Abshire and Henry Detamble, a man afflicted with a genetic disorder which causes him to slip sporadically through time.

Time Travelers Wife became a 2009 film starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. The film was directed by Robert Schwentke, screenplay by award winning screenwriter, Bruce Joel Rubin.

Her new novel which is now available in every bookstore and on line, Her Fearful Symmetry is a conventional ghost story /modern day gothic tale with just the right amount of supernatural to lend to the mystery, but not so much that it becomes really scary.

You will like the ghost story aspect of the book, which will surprise everyone. It’s a haunting tale with intricate complications of love, identity and sibling rivalry.

E.I. Would you share some early insight into who you were as a teenager? What were you like? Please tell us more about Audrey Niffenegger-- the woman behind the bestselling author?

A Niffenegger: As a teenager I was confused, depressive, reticent and spent a lot of time alone in my room, drawing and writing. In fact I was a slightly gloomier version of myself as an adult. Even now I tend to dislike talking about myself or revealing personal details; I'm not one of the great interviewees, I'm afraid.

E.I. What is it about the art form of writing that enchants you the most?

A Niffenegger: I am very interested in the way writing fiction allows me to make something totally abstract—a book full of words—which the reader can use to make an elaborate world full of people, places and events that don't really exist except in my mind and the reader's.

E.I. How do you imagine audience as you are writing? Do you try to do character development, chapter outlines, various novel-related brainstorming? Do you have sheets of newsprint covered in a story boards all over your walls?

A Niffenegger: I don't think about the readers very much as I write, except when it comes to questions of clarity: I don't want to confuse readers, but I also want to use ambiguity at certain points in the story to make the reader decide for themselves what has happened.

I don't use outlines, but at the beginning of a novel I will write down everything I know about each character and will refer back to these lists for continuity. I don't story-board unless I am working on a visual book.

E.I. What was your biggest challenge in developing the character, Elspeth in your book “Her Fearful Symmetry”? Did you work them out in advance, or did they evolve as you wrote the story? How did you overcome these challenges?

A Niffenegger: The most delicate thing about writing Elspeth was to make her gradually more monstrous as the book goes on. It had to be obvious why Robert had loved her, and also obvious that she was changing and becoming something other than human. Everything about this novel evolved slowly over the seven years I worked on it. The process was one of solving small problems one after another, with occasional revelations about the larger shape and purpose of the book.

E.I. How much of ‘Valentina, Julia & Robert’s life is planned out in your head? How do you know where you will go next with any of your characters?

A Niffenegger: At first there is no plan, there are only characters. It took me several years to figure out each character's story and to make them all converge, but that's the fun part of novel-writing, when you finally see how the chaos is going to become functional. How do I know what the characters will do? Often I have no idea until I write the scene; if I know the characters well I can improvise and they will behave in ways that are true and surprising.

E.I. If you were asked to read a page from “Her Fearful Symmetry” book, is there one that you would personally select to share with your fans?

A Niffenegger: I don't think there's any one page that would make sense on its own. Perhaps the bit late in the book when Valentina is sitting in the back garden, looks up at the window of the flat and sees Elsepth as a darkness against darkness.

E.I. When you finish a novel, it's off to your agent and publisher, then you're on to the next. Do you find letting your manuscripts, especially your characters, as easy to part with when finished?

A Niffenegger: By the time I hand the manuscript off it has settled and the characters have become quiet in my head; it is not hard to part with them because they are finished. At that point I am eager for the book to be edited and published so that the readers can take over the book.

E.I. You've created a cast of characters so remarkably captivating that your readers definitely clamor for more; are we to be so fortunate as to see them again?

A Niffenegger: No, see above; when a book is completed the characters and their story feel finished to me and I want to make something new.

E.I. What can fans anticipate from you in the coming months? Can you give us a hint of what to expect?

A Niffenegger: I am going to be touring for quite a while and also making art for an exhibition at my Chicago gallery, Printworks, in September.

E.I. And, finally, if you could say "thank you" to someone for helping you become a successful writer, who would it be?

A Niffenegger: There's no one person, it was a group effort. I had some excellent teachers in high school and art school. My agent was and is a marvelous teacher and editor, and I am fortunate to work with several terrific editors at my US and UK publishers.

E.I. Ms. Niffenegger, Thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers?

A Niffenegger: Patience is almost as important as talent.

To purchase her books, please visit AMAZON and Barnes & Noble.

For more of Ms. Audrey Niffeneger's book information please visit her website at

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