An Evening with Audrey

I have returned from Bronte Country and will be very shortly posting about my trip BUT a very exciting thing happened to me tonight that I must share first!

Last week Claire told me that Audrey Niffenegger was doing a reading and Q&A session in London tonight and I planned to go, but then promptly forgot all about it in my excitement of going away to the land of Jane Eyre. Today Claire emailed to check if I was coming and so I rang Foyles to check there were still tickets and to cut a long story short I met Claire, and Jackie from Farm Lane Books, and we went to see Audrey at the Bloomsbury Theatre.

We were in the front row and it was AMAZING. I have never been to an event like this before or had my book signed or anything so it was an entirely new experience for me. I was completely enthralled. Audrey was charming and intelligent and very funny, with a dry sense of humour that came in useful when it came to some of the questions she got asked!

It was so fascinating to hear about her writing process, how the books germinated, where she got her inspiration from, and what changed and became more or less important as the story progressed and began to take on a life of its own. Her Fearful Symmetry began as the story of a man who couldn’t leave his apartment and had a girl come and visit him, and his apartment was in a part of Chicago called ‘Uptown’ and was next to a cemetery called Graceland. However, Audrey said that she realised this cemetery was going to become a big part of the story, and as this was the case, she wanted to write about a cemetery she absolutely loved, and so Highgate became the cemetery instead, and the story switched from Chicago to London. Audrey began researching in 2003, before The Time Traveler’s Wife was even published, and she was even a guide at Highgate for a while – I wish I’d visited when she had been doing the tours! It was just incredible the amount of research Audrey had to do – she said that the complexities of writing in British English were so much more than she had imagined, and setting the story in London rather than her native city was part of the reason why it took her SEVEN years to write it.

On top of all this Audrey said that when she started writing Julia and Valentina were just roomates, but then they morphed into twins, and then there wasn’t even going to be a ghost, but she realised that it wasn’t fair to kill Elspeth off in the first line so she brought her in, and inadvertently made her the focus of the story rather than the twins…it was so interesting to discover how much the plotline and the characters had changed from her original idea. Her Fearful Symmetry could have been a very different novel indeed.

Other great insights; the title comes from a line in William Blake’s The Tyger, and Audrey hasn’t seen the film of The Time Traveler’s Wife and doesn’t have plans to. Take from that what you will!

I just had the most wonderful evening and learning about the process of writing and just how long it can take as ideas go off on tangents and what started as being on the periphery becomes central was so exciting and eye opening for me, especially as I am starting a Creative Writing evening class next week! I have kept quiet about this as I am really nervous and worried I will be exposed as a terrible writer and my dreams of making a living from the fantasy worlds inside my head will be dashed but I suppose it will have to come out at some point so there it is – I am beginning the process of getting myself established as a Proper Writer. I hope. I will keep you updated in due course.

After Audrey had signed our books (or piece of paper in my case, as I had forgotten all about it and didn’t have my book on me!), Claire, Jackie and I went for a coffee to discuss books and blogging and Audrey and it was absolutely lovely; I was so pleased to finally see some book bloggers face to face!

So a thoroughly enjoyable evening…I am still in awe that I met Audrey Niffenegger!!!


  1. Darlene says:

    Welcome back from your travels! What a wonderful evening you ladies had…front row and everything, that's huge. I loved reading about how Niffenegger's ideas unfolded to become the story that it did and I'm especially glad that she changed the setting. Let's hope though that she doesn't keep us waiting years and years for her next book!Something tells me that you're going to do really well in your next venture, Rachel. Good for you!

  2. claire says:

    Sounds like a gorgeous evening! I'm not a big fan of The Time Traveler's Wife, it was just okay for me. But still plan to read Her Fearful Symmetry. But it's nice to have you back! Can't wait to hear all about your trip..

  3. makedoandread says:

    That sounds like a marvelous evening! I'm looking forward to hearing more about your trip to Brontë land, and even more about your creative writing course.

  4. verity says:

    Claire text me to tell me about the evening and I was so envious of you all! I'm not a huge AN fan but I love book events and to get to meet up with bloggers, well all I can say lucky you! Looking forward to hearing about your trip.

  5. Eva says:

    How marvelous! I can't wait for your post on Bronte country. 🙂

  6. farmlanebooks says:

    I'm so pleased that you enjoyed it as much as I did. It was great to meet you and I hope that we can meet up again as I love talking about books with other book lovers.

  7. Rachel says:

    Darlene – I know! I was surprised there were front row seats left! It was such a wonderful experience. I hope she doesn't keep us waiting that long either – my heart sunk a little when she said how long it took her to write HFS and she hasn't even started the next one yet!Makedo – Thank you. Bronte details will be coming later today I hope!Verity – I'm sorry you couldn't be there Verity, it would have been lovely to see you as well! It was my first blogger meet up so it was brilliant to finally put some faces to names!Eva – Yes, it was! Bronte will be coming later..Jackie – I just loved meeting you and hearing your opinions on books etc – hopefully it won't be long before we meet again!

  8. JoAnn says:

    What a wonderful evening! It's so interesting to hear about the way her novel 'evolved'…can't wait to read it.

  9. jennysbooks says:

    Sounds wonderful! I'm not surprised to hear that Martin was the original idea for the story – to me, he's the most vivid and interesting part of the book.

  10. Bloomsbury Bell says:

    I am so envious, I love going to literary events but your post has filled me in! I hope your creative writing course goes fabulously – we will want to hear all about it!

  11. Rachel says:

    JoAnn – Yes, I found that fascinating too. Read it as soon as you can!!Jenny – Yes, I thought that too – it's clear that Audrey had a real emotional connection to him as he is, for me anyway, the 'heart' of the book.Naomi – I'm so sorry you couldn't come! Never fear – I will keep you updated on my attempts to write!!

  12. verity says:

    Maybe you should all have an outing to Oxford…

  13. Rachel says:

    Verity, I've never been to Oxford – that sounds like a plan!

  14. Paperback Reader says:

    I am so glad that you enjoyed yourself and it was lovely to meet you in person.I can't wait to hear all about your creative writing course.

  15. Rachel says:

    Thanks Claire! It was lovely to meet you too! I will be sure to keep everyone updated with my attempts to write…I am gettimg nervous now!

  16. Danielle says:

    Somehow meeting AN makes coming home from a wonderful vacation okay! I just read Claire's posts (and loved her photos of Highgate) and am very envious as this sounds like a wonderful experience. I'm reading Her Fearful Symmetry now (thanks to your post on it a while back) and am enjoying it. It's nice to get a behind the scenes look into her writing process.

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