My Photo
Name:
Location: Russia

All content on this blog is copyright to Elena Dedukhina and Knizhnaya Vitrina 2005-2006. Please ask permission if you wish to use any of it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

INTERVIEW WITH AUDREY NIFFENEGGER

Published in the Book Review newspaper KNIZHNAYA VITRINA in September 2006


Elena Dedukhina: Nowadays there are quite a lot of debates about female writings going on in Mass Media

(For example: "I don't really like separating women from men novelists. Most female novelists of any caliber are not writing novels that remotely suggest that they're written by women." or "Of course women's writing is different from men's. It's bound to be. Our experiences are different." Another one: "Women have a 'heart' rather than a 'head' approach, a decidedly female sensitivity." And one more: "Women are noticeably going into traditionally 'male' territory, from adventure stories to sci-fi, with Audrey Niffenegger")

So, from your own point of view - is there such a thing as feminine writing? And which standpoint is closer to your own?

Audrey Niffenegger: These arguments make me feel rather tired. When I write I do not worry about whether I have a female point of view; I worry about representing both male and female characters in a believable way. I know more about the female characters, because they share certain aspects of my own experience. But I think I am actually better at writing the male characters. They seem to have a bit more flair, they are weirder. I don’t think any corners of literature are off-limits to any writer, male or female. I’d like to see more men writing chick-lit.


Elena Dedukhina: Once you said that had ‘wanted to write a book about waiting; about a perfect marriage that was tested by something outside the control of the couple.’ Why did you use such an unreal test for Henry and Clare’s marriage?

Audrey Niffenegger: Because it was a cool idea, that’s all. As a reader, I am not especially interested in realist fiction. If I want reality straight up I’ll go out and live my life. I come to fiction for strangeness and lives that can’t happen outside of literature.

Elena Dedukhina: Can we assume that your character Clare (Botticelli like) bears some resemblance to you?

Audrey Niffenegger: Very little. We both have red hair (at the moment). We are both artists (she’s a sculptor, I am a painter/book artist). We both went to Catholic grade school. Everything else is invention. As a person, I am more similar to Henry.

Elena Dedukhina: You said in one of your interviews, “My work tends to be... strange, and quiet.” How do those two things can blend together? Do you mean ‘quiet’ as ‘not noisy’, or there are some other, more profound meanings in it?

Audrey Niffenegger: My work tends to sneak up on people. It’s not always obvious about what it means, and people are often surprised when they figure it out.

Elena Dedukhina: How does the author of a novel, which has become the centre of attraction for millions of readers all over the world, feel about the time when her works were rejected with the words, “This is brilliant. We’re not going to publish it”?

Audrey Niffenegger: I understood why my work was rejected; it didn’t remind agents and editors of other books that were already published, so it was harder to convince anyone that it was worth publishing. There’s a certain amount of circular reasoning in the publishing industry.


Elena Dedukhina: According to your own words you don’t have “that level of optimism and romance” that people can find in your book ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’. Does it mean that you create the world which you would like to have around yourself (optimistic and romantic), but unfortunately can not, and that is your way to compensate its absence (or lack of it) creating a dream world on paper, in your book?

Audrey Niffenegger: No. I like my world just fine, though I could do with fewer Republicans in the White House right now. I originally meant the book to be much darker than it turned out to be. But I got in there and tried to steer it that way, and it was just too bleak. I felt that these characters would not behave in the ways I was trying to make them behave, and the logic of the book called for some lightness in the midst of the inevitable loss and waiting. It was a question of balance, of letting the book follow its own rules and tendencies.

Elena Dedukhina: What about your new work?

Audrey Niffenegger: The book I’m working on now, Her Fearful Symmetry, is about what people are afraid of, and how they cope with that. It’s also a ghost story.


Elena Dedukhina: You’re an American writer. Do you have any explanation to the fact that quite a lot of American writers are becoming keener and keener on going to Europe in search of their inspiration? Your next work is going to be set up in England too...

Audrey Niffenegger: It could be because we all grow up reading Austin and Conan Doyle and the Brontes and Oscar Wilde and Martin Amis etc etc, so Britain starts to be the place where literature happens. That’s how it was for me; I expected to be disappointed when I went to the UK for the first time, because I had all these notions about how it would be. But, in fact, it was better, both familiar and different.

Her Fearful Symmetry is set in London’s Highgate Cemetery because I needed a cemetery for the book, and Highgate is my favorite. But I could probably have made it work using Graceland Cemetery here in Chicago. Once I was allowed to spend time at Highgate I fell in love with it; the history and the place itself are quite unique and interesting.

Elena Dedukhina: As soon as your novel had come out, the film rights were bought by J.Aniston and Brad Pitt’s Production Company. Yet, it has not been made into film so far. Do you feel some kind of frustration not having a film version of your novel up to now? After all you said quite truthfully that when you had been writing the novel the movie had been there in your head.

Audrey Niffenegger: No, I’m more than willing to wait. I’d rather have no movie than a bad movie. So they can take their time, it’s fine. The movie that’s in my head won’t be the movie that gets made, anyway.


Elena Dedukhina: You admire work of Donna Tartt (Secret History) which I admire myself so much that once the book came out I read it 5 times during the same year. But Donna Tartt writes very slowly, and between her books there is approximately 7 years time. What is the best option for you as a writer – to be as good as one of your favourite writers and write slowly but surely, or be as much prolific as possible in order not to give your readers any chance to forget your name? How important is it for you (once to become a household name) to stay that way as long as possible?

Audrey Niffenegger: Donna Tartt is a good role model. She’s slow, and she writes what she wants to write. I believe she actually spends about ten years on each of her books.

I honestly do not care about being a “household name”. It was never a goal of mine in the first place. It’s nice to have readers, and I hope that when I finally get around to publishing Her fearful Symmetry there will be some people who want to read it. Because I am also a visual artist, I spend time painting and drawing as well as writing. And then there is teaching, and traveling. . .I don’t think I will ever qualify as prolific.


Elena Dedukhina: How much the initial idea and the narration of ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ changed from the time of the novel’s conception and its final scenes?

Audrey Niffenegger: At the very beginning it was written in third person, but I rapidly abandoned that. The order of the scenes changed quite a lot, it was originally structured thematically, but early readers deemed it too chaotic and impossible to follow.


Elena Dedukhina: Your first picture book ‘The Three Incestuous Sisters’ (not translated into Russian yet, alas), took you 14 years to make 10 copies which were sold at fabulous price, yet it didn’t make you as famous as ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’. What do you think of it? Are there any feelings of regret? Is there any possibility that one day you adapt that illustrated book for the general reader as a literary book?

Audrey Niffenegger: I won’t change the Sisters into another kind of book, but there are some people who are working on turning it into a ballet, which I think would be wonderful. I never expected the Sisters to make me famous, and I am very pleased to have a trade edition published so that more then ten people can have a copy.


Elena Dedukhina: Where did your interest in taxidermy spring from?

Audrey Niffenegger: That’s a difficult question to answer. I am fond of memento mori generally, and there’s something about taxidermy that is fascinating (here is a creature one couldn’t encounter in the real world because it would run away or hide) and perverse (what strange things we humans do to nature). I don’t collect anything exotic or endangered. Most of my collection is battered or just forlorn. Being surrounded by these creatures reminds me to live wisely in the time allotted.

Copyright © Elena Dedukhina 2006
Copyright © Knizhnaya Vitrina 2006

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home