I am pleased to welcome Audrey Niffenegger, best selling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and the just released, Her Fearful Symmetry to Readers Loft today. I was lucky enough to be able to ask her a few questions about her work.
ME: I’ve read in past interviews that you wrote The Time Traveler’s Wife the ending first and then added new scenes as they came to you. Was writing Her Fearful Symmetry a similar experience for you?
AN: I started writing HFS thinking that I was beginning at the beginning, but it later became the middle, the scene in which the twins arrive in London. I am apparently incapable of writing anything long from beginning to end, I have to jump around. It’s more exciting that way, that’s for sure.
ME: I also read that you read Wilkie Collins (whom I adore!), Henry James and other 19th century writers while preparing for Her Fearful Symmetry. How did they influence your work?
AN: I borrowed certain motifs from The Woman in White, including the doubling, mistaken parentage, etc. Henry James is endlessly interesting to me; I used his plot line in which the young American girl(s) come to the old country and experience extreme culture shock (Portrait of a Lady, Daisy Miller).
And the ambiguity at the core of The Turn of the Screw (are the children haunted or is the governess insane?) gave me courage to include a few ambiguous wingdings of my own in HFS.
ME: One of my favorite characters was Martin. Did you do any special research to get into the mind of this excessively OCD character? Did you try to live as he did to see what it would feel like?
AN: I once had a friend who had fairly severe OCD. He was not like Martin as a personality, but he did give me some insight into how the condition can affect one’s life. I also read books written by doctors who treat OCD and other similar disorders. I have not tried to mimic OCD, it’s not something to trifle with.
ME: I find it fascinating that you are a guide at Highgate Cemetery. What is that like? Have you had any ‘interesting’ experiences there?
AN: It is a great privilege to guide at Highgate Cemetery; the Guides are very knowledgeable and they were an immense help to me, both in researching the book and in putting together my own tour.
Every Guide has his or her own tour, all based on the same body of facts, but you will see different things depending on who’s giving the tour. It’s wonderful to see the Cemetery in all weathers and seasons, and I’ve had many interesting conversations with the visitors, who come from all over the world.
If by “interesting” you mean “supernatural”, I haven’t experienced anything like that at all. Of course, I don’t believe in ghosts, so if there are any they probably wouldn’t bother themselves with me.
ME: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
AN: A variety of things, most obviously a sense that time is passing and the urgency of living intensely now.
ME: There is one thing I’m dying to know. I just saw The Time Traveler’s Wife. What did you think of the movie adaptation? (I was upset they changed the ending!)
AN: I haven’t seen it, myself, so I don’t have an opinion about it, sorry.
Thank you Ms. Niffenegger for answering my questions.
James Gray has a life-long interest in politics, travel, the environment, and global affairs. He works in IT but his heart truly beats for the written word.