What I Learned From Audrey Niffenegger


During my PhD I read only books directly or indirectly related to it (mostly the numerous biographies of Marlowe and Shakespeare, and their complete works but also items like Bruce Lipton’s ‘The Biology of Belief’).  I continued buying contemporary fiction, however, and built up a considerable stack of books I would read once it was all over.  The very first of one of these to find it into my less-than-manicured paws just over a month ago was The Time Travellers Wife, and like a considerable portion of five million readers the world over, I was blown away.

Thus I couldn’t pass up a chance to see Ms Niffenegger when she recently visited my home town, courtesy of my excellent local bookstore City Books, to speak about her latest creation.

Here’s what I learned:

  • She writes between two skeletons. They have been identified as elderly men from the Indian sub-continent.
  • If she had the option to write in any genre at all, it would be Opera.
  • Related to the above: “Composers are mercenary”. She was shocked to find they only write for money.
  • Writing The Time Traveller’s Wife:  she wrote the ending last.  She didn’t write it sequentially, but in pieces which she arranged afterwards (like patchwork quilt). I had wondered.
  • The idea came initially only as the title.  “The Time Traveller’s Wife” floated into her head.  From there, all kinds of questions arose. She began to answer the questions and new ones arose. And so on.  Four an half years later she had a book.
  • She takes a very long time to do things. One of her books took 14 years.
  • She doesn’t think of herself as a writer. She goes under the label “Artist” which includes writing and anything else you fancy.
  • She finds the job of promoting books conflicts with the business of writing them.
  • She thinks Science/Speculative Fiction should be on the school curriculum.  (Yay Audrey! I so agree with you there. Ray Bradbury was a huge inspiration for me as a child).
  • Like the rest of us, she works better when she has a deadline.

Speaking of which, I must return to writing about the River Stour, which in places (and at certain times of year) looks much like the river pictured here, only without the mountainous backdrop.


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