I am the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. My novels include The Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and my most recent novel, MaddAddam, which came out in September.

Proof: https://twitter.com/MargaretAtwood/status/380032014339952640

Picture: https://twitter.com/doubledaypub/status/380030757974319104

EDIT: Thank you all for the questions! I enjoyed answering them, and sorry I did not get to all of them. Next time.... Goodbyyyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeee.......... (waves) (vanishes)

Comments: 626 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

NiagaraStalls463 karma

I can honestly say that without a doubt, 'The Handmaid's Tale' was the scariest book I have read. May I ask if you had someone in mind while writing the character of Serena Joy?

m_atwood481 karma

More like a type: women who make a career out of telling other women they shouldn't have careers. Also the Shelley Winter character in the splendid film Night of the Hunter (Robert Mitchum's best role, IMHO)

eiruduais264 karma

Hi, I’m a high school English teacher in Northern California who is rolling out a unit featuring The Handmaid’s Tale--we’re starting Thursday! My question: What would you say to a group of students from an affluent community weaned on science and technology to convince them of the enduring relevance of the novel? Thank you so much for your consideration; it’s been an amazing learning and professional experience teaching your novel—my students brought this ama to my attention and I couldn’t be more thrilled at the opportunity as well as the timing!

m_atwood318 karma

As they already know some science, show them some brain-science and evo-devo studies - folks studying the inherent human story-telling "platform." We tell stories because we're human. The novel appears to be the most brain-intensive media form - second only to being there.

WileECyrus201 karma

Maybe an odd question but one that interests me: have you written anything that you now regret?

m_atwood526 karma

Several letters :)

desolee169 karma

What are your thoughts on the current popularity (which is perhaps on its way out) of dystopian novels, especially in the Young Adult genre?

m_atwood314 karma

Lots of thoughts on that! I wrote Oryx and Crake before this wave set in, but there were a number in the 20th C. However, turn-of-century often causes folks to wonder where we're going, and how they themselves might behave if they find themselves in a bad version of There. And Climate Change and the resulting storms and floods, and the threats to the biosphere.. young people are attuned to all of that.

WillMain142 karma

Where did you find the inspiration for the characters of Snowman and Crake? Their friendship dynamic always seemed very realistic but completely bizarre at the same time.

m_atwood180 karma

I suppose just being alive, knowing people, watching how they interact.. listening to men telling stories about friends they had when they were younger. That mix of bonding and competition.

hurryscurryapple107 karma

I created a Reddit account just so I could participate in this AMA. I'm an English teacher who loves each of your books. My favorites have to be The Edible Woman and Oryx and Crake. I read each of your novels for entertainment in the last year of my English grad studies and they kept me wonderful company.

Anyway, I have a few questions and would love answers to any of them. First, do you think of yourself as a Canadian author? When I teach your books, I tell my students (we're in midwestern-US) that you are Canadian and they often don't know how to process that. How does being from or living in Canada impact your writing?

Second, how has been a woman writer changed since your first began publishing? Do you think it is a more accepting culture now than previous?

Thanks for doing this AMA!

m_atwood166 karma

Hello: Canadian is one of my defining adjectives, but I don't always write about Canada. Your students might like to listen to a You Tube called Canada's Really Big by the Arrogant Worms. Woman writers: certainly more accepting than 1961. Maybe less accepting in some genres than it should be. But women read a high percentage of fiction, and much of it it is by woman writers.

theuncool100 karma

What resources did you use to research the MaddAddam trilogy, especially the genetic engineering aspect? You write about it so accurately.

m_atwood175 karma

Hello: I grew up among the biologists and almost became one, so it wasn't too much of a stretch; but I tried to keep up via New Scientist, Discover, Scientific American, etc. We are launching a FlipBoard shortly that will have a bunch of background pieces on it.

MuForceShoelace92 karma

Onetime I looked through all your books with a word search thing and found that every time you use the word 'football' it's in association with some sort of oppression. Intentional?

m_atwood143 karma

As in "Kicked around like a football?" I never noticed this but thanks for pointing it out. I must look. I've also been asked about the frequency in my work of bathtubs, glass jars, eggs, and mauve; and, more recently, maroon.

poppy1770 karma

Ms Atwood,

I would like to ask about the role of a belief system and that act of story-telling that comes up again and again, especially in your 'ustopias'. The metaphorical interpretation of the God's Gardeners seem to me the most positive outlook (compared to the literal Gilead or PetrOleum outlooks). I know you've argued that humans are 'hard-wired' for a belief system, so what are your thoughts on the role that story-telling has on humanity's chances of survival.

Thank you for doing this AMA!

m_atwood192 karma

Hello: We are all telling stories to ourselves all the time, if it's only the story of our own life (and we're constantly editing that!) The brain folks are now telling us that memory evolved not to remind us ofthe past but to help us prepare for the future. That is one of the roles that story telling plays. Also, we are always seeking answers to those ultimate questions: who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? Why are we here? That adult -to-small-child response - Just Because, Now Stop Asking- never does seem to satisfy us. Telling the stories that will help us make it through: yes. A worthy task. First, Know Your Mushrooms.

ChaseIris64 karma

Relevant username!

I love your work, I have been a huge fan since first reading "The Handmaid's Tale." My best friend and I have been swapping your books back and forth since college, and I just had the pleasure of sending her "MaddAddam" for her birthday.

My question is about Snowman and Oryx. Did he ever really love her? Did he exploit her? What did you intend to convey in their relationship? Snowman is one of those characters that has been a thorn in my mind.

m_atwood176 karma

Thank you! I think Snowman did really love her at the time. But he was very young and easily distracted. Would Romeo and Juliet have stayed the course into middle age, had fate not been malign? Young emotions are intense and genuine but not always lasting. Hardly ever. (Snif, it's sad.)

JaredOfTheWoods59 karma

Hi Margaret! Big fan. I love your interactions with Rob Delaney on twitter. Anyways, I've only read Oryx and Crake by you, but it's one of my favorite novels, which is saying a lot because I'm generally not a fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction. My question is did writing about such horrible subjects (sex trafficking) have any effect on effect on you? I ask specifically because you write about such disturbing things in a especially eloquent way.

m_atwood115 karma

Hello: I think KNOWING about them (and yes, it's out there) had an effect on me and that's why I wrote about them.

Das_Motorbike54 karma

Hi Ms Atwood, I am a writer starting out my career - do you have any advice? I'm particularly interested in successful writers' methods and habits - like, do you write in the morning and edit in the evening (I heard King does this)? or is it more of an organic process for you?

thank you!

m_atwood113 karma

Hello: Read and read and write and write is the best advice, but for practical pointers you could try the many books out there, such as Bird By Bird or Stephen KIng's books on writing, or Chuck Wendig's blog and books (see Terrible minds.com) or Sarah Selecky's course, Story Is A State of Mind.com. Or put stuff up on wattpad.com and get some feedback. Therere's a huge amount out there!

halden44 karma

Do you view the dystopian world you created in the Maddaddam trilogy to be a cautionary tale or a an inevitable conclusion?

m_atwood111 karma

There is no THE future. There are many possible futures. So, more like a cautionary tale or an exploration of possibilities or what Ursula K LeGuin calls a THought Experiment.

snow_giant43 karma

Hi, I'm excited to see this since I'm reading The Year of the Flood right now. Thanks for doing this!

I've always been impressed by your ability to write both male and female characters that feel real - many authors seem to only be good at writing one gender or the other. Do you approach male and female characters differently?

m_atwood99 karma

I've known a lot of both in my life. I ask some actual men to take a peek and tell me if I got anything wrong. Helpful! (You can't shave off a beard with an electric razor, who knew?) I've had some swearing tips, etc. And there have been hot debates about whether a woman can be called an asshole. Stuff like that. The language is always changing, too...

kasjdflks41 karma

If you could bring to life any one of the genetically modified animals from the Year of the Flood series, which one would you choose?

m_atwood86 karma

I'd vote for the rakunks...

TheShittyBeatles32 karma

Hello and thank you!

Do you have one or more favorite science fiction films? What are your thoughts on the process of translating literature to cinema, generally or specifically in the genre of science fiction?

m_atwood108 karma

Blade Runner. Beautifully made. Let The Right One In, Swedish version; not SF but same problems faced (plausibility). With SF: I watched a large number of SF B movies when they first came out. The problem then was the low-budget special effects. Now it's likely to be holes in the plot, or over-slickness. But all of that's a generalization.

russiaranda30 karma

Hello Margaret. I just wanted to say that I am a big fan, and was hoping to see you at the Ottawa Writers Festival to say this in person, but it's sold out! As a new college student, reading your writing has been inspiring me to be better, and I want to thank you for that.

m_atwood38 karma


kasjdflks24 karma

It's getting chilly again! How are you going to prepare for your book tour circuit? Will you be wearing something puffy? :)

m_atwood48 karma

Haha! I will get some fashion advice from Jian.

dogwud7 karma


m_atwood146 karma

This might seem strange to you, but a person is often afraid of fewer things as they get (shhh!) Older. We know the plot. We know how this is likely to end. As Anita Desai once said, It Is The Cycle Of Life. But apart from that, spiders, if unexpected.