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!!!