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Audrey Niffenegger Interview

December 7, 2003


Audrey Niffenegger
MF: The novel's musical references are extensive and betray punk rock tendencies. What are you listening to, these days?

Audrey Niffenegger: Here's what's in the stack of CDs next to the stereo: the new Duvall album, ELO's greatest hits, Systems/Layers, by Rachel's, The Ballad of the Red Shoes by Andrew and Beth Bird, Hot Shit! by Quasi, Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea by P.J. Harvey.

I've been going to lot of live shows lately. The best were Sonic Youth, Quasi, Crooked Fingers, and Danger Adventure, and of course my beloved Avocet (my boyfriend, Chris Schneberger, is their drummer). I also broke down and went to see the Sex Pistols at the Aragon Ballroom, and was semi-amazed to find that it was not too bad. Very peculiar to see them though, and not at all subversive or thrilling. It was somewhat like running into a guy you dated at 17, and he's balding and has three kids, but it's nice to see that they are still out there.

MF: Henry and Clare have disparate spiritual ideas. Would you care to talk about where you fall on that subject?

Audrey Niffenegger: I'm an agnostic. I don't believe in interfering with other people's religious beliefs. I think it is especially misguided to kill people in the name of God. When I was a child I had a great, encompassing faith, but I've lost it. The evening news wrung it out of me. I stopped going to church and watching television around the same time.

MF: Free will -vs- determinism. I think your book indicates that we have free will in the present. Is this your belief?

Audrey Niffenegger: Yes. I'm all for free will. As the novel indicates, even if there was no such thing, we would have to act as though there was, to avoid despair.

MF:What do you want your readers to take away from the novel most?

Audrey Niffenegger: I wanted people to think about the intimacy of time, how ineffable it is, how it shapes us. I wanted to write about waiting, but since waiting is essentially a negative (time spent in the absence of something) I wrote about all the things that happen around the waiting.

MF: What are you working on now?

Audrey Niffenegger: A new novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. It's set in London, in a flat next to Highgate Cemetery. It's got mirror-image twins, mistaken paternity, a little tiny ghost, an obsessive-compulsive, and an accountant. I'm trying to write a modern Victorian novel. It's very early in the project, though, so it's hard to say what it will be in the end.

MF: What are you reading now?

Audrey Niffenegger: I just finished Stiff, by Mary Roach, a terrific non-fiction book about cadavers. And Julie Orringer's book How to Breathe Underwater was quite wonderful. I loved Middlesex (but everybody loves Middlesex) and I am happily reading everything by John Irving, whom I'd never read, and who was thrust upon me by Chris, my boyfriend.

MF: Are you a very disciplined daily writer? What was your routine while writing The Time Traveler's Wife? How about now?

Audrey Niffenegger: I am very erratic. I write when I have time (which is often in the middle of the night, or on weekends, or whenever I'm not teaching). This past fall I've been book touring, and nothing much got written.

MF: What do you do when you're not reading, writing, teaching, or making art?

Audrey Niffenegger: I go out to the movies, and to hear bands. I also garden, play with my cats, and lounge aimlessly. I could use more aimless lounging, actually. It's been a busy year.
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