Hello Reddit! I am author, visual artist and professor, Audrey Niffenegger. You might know my novels The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, but I am also a printmaker, I write and illustrate graphic novels (The Night Bookmobile), illustrated books (Three Incestuous Sisters, The Adventuress), and produce handmade, limited edition artist's books. My latest illustrated novella, Raven Girl, was adapted as a ballet by Wayne McGregor for the Royal Opera House in London. I'm currently at work on two novels: Chinchilla Girl in Exile, a novel about a girl with hypertrichosis, and a sequel to The Time Traveler's Wife centered on Henry and Clare's daughter Alba, who shares her father's condition. A 25 page excerpt from the sequel can be found exclusively on zolabooks.com.

Proof is here on my website.

[Edit: Proof 2—Redditing!]

[Edit2: It's time for me to say goodbye and sign off from snowy New Jersey. Thank you to everyone who left a comment and participated in this AMA! I may be able to come back tomorrow to check for new questions—so please, keep commenting.]

Comments: 150 • Responses: 53  • Date: 

jastanaway16 karma

Hello, huge fan of The Time Traveler's Wife here!

A couple questions if I may,

1) I struggle to find other books that keep my interest as well as your novel, do you have any favorite authors that have a similar style? What - if any - works did you draw inspiration from while writing The Time Traveler's Wife?

2) The level of detail you put into Henry and Clare's lives is fantastic, did you ever get confused or lose track of where you were or what has happened to them while you were writing?

Thank you so much for you time! I'm looking forward to reading the rest of these questions!

audreyniffenegger13 karma

I don't know how similar these books are, but some favorites of mine are The Secret History and The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, and The Goldbug Variations by Richard Powers.

No, I worked on the book for almost five years, so I had time to keep track of even the tiny details. Thanks!

charlesofdensen15 karma

If I win Saturday's Powerball drawing with the DeTamble's numbers, am I obligated to give you a cut?

Thanks for stopping by to talk with us. I adore TTTW, and Her Fearful Symmetry affected me emotionally at a far deeper level than it should have.

audreyniffenegger10 karma

If those numbers ever win I will be very pleased for you, but I won't come around with my hand out, it's all yours.

charlesofdensen3 karma

Ill just have to buy a copy of your each of your novels for all the high schools in Texas then.

They will be promptly banned.

But there's no higher honor for a novel than to be banned by the ignorant. It generally means the author's doing something right.

audreyniffenegger2 karma

Absolutely. And if you win big, give a little to Gemini Lit in San Antonio, they combat illiteracy.

cali_grown2214 karma

Hi Audrey...I was so excited to see you were doing an AMA. I just want to personally tell you that the Time Traveler's Wife is my favorite book and is the only book I've ever finished and then started again right away because I wasn't ready to say goodbye to Henry and Clare. It is such an emotional book and I see so much of myself and my relationship in it as well.

audreyniffenegger16 karma

I'm slowly working on a sequel, though it's mostly about Alba, Clare and henry do appear.

sometimesyoufly7 karma

I don't have a question either, but I couldn't miss the opportunity to express personally just how much I loved The Time Traveler's Wife! I had no idea there was to be a book about Alba and I'm more excited than words can express. As soon as the snow melts and we are not housebound I shall have to get my hands on Her Fearful Symmetry! Thank you for doing this AMA!!

audreyniffenegger11 karma

Thank you! The book about Alba should be ready in 2018 or so (I know, I'm slow, sorry).

mulletplace7 karma

Audrey, one of the things I love about TTTW is the HUMOR - there's a great dry wit in bits of dialogue, in the character portraits, and in some of the situations. So I was wondering if you have any favorite ... comedians/movie or TV comedies/comic novels? Thanks!

audreyniffenegger10 karma

When I was a kid my favorites were Monty Python and SNL, especially Gilda Radner. I like absurdity.

KGallooch7 karma

Hey, Audrey! I'm so excited about you participating in an AMA. I have two questions I'd love to ask.

The Time Traveler's Wife was such a beautiful mixture of a sci-fi/fantasy element in a contemporary love story. Could you recommend any books for those of us who loved that style?

Also, I'm ecstatic that you're working on the sequel! What made you decide to follow up on Alba?

audreyniffenegger9 karma

Jack Finney's Time and Again is about to be reissued, I just wrote an introduction for it. And certainly Little, Big by John Crowley is a masterpiece, it's got several love stories and fairies, too.

I started working on Alba's life because Zola Books was issuing the ebook for TTW and they asked for an "extra". Then I got a bit obsessed with her, and decided to keep working on it.

lyndar6 karma

I miss Henry. Will we get to see him again in The Time Traveler's Wife sequel?

audreyniffenegger15 karma

Yes, he does manage to show up here and there.

dearmeganmaria6 karma

Hi Audrey! What does the quote 'world enough and time' mean to you, and what made you decide to make the Marvell poem such a big part of The Time Traveler's Wife? The idea of world enough and time means so much to me. I'm curious as to what it means to you. I also wanted to tell you that The Time Traveler's Wife is my favorite book, and holds such a special place in my heart. Thank you!!

audreyniffenegger12 karma

It's a clever, huge poem, huge in its comprehension of time and space and love, a very erudite plea to a lady who imagines she'll be young forever. It seemed to sum up a mood that Henry, in particular, feels often, time racing past him, taking everything with it.


When eBay suggested I buy "Three Incestuous Sisters" after buying the Bronte sisters books, I had a serious WTF moment before I learned it was one of your books. Waiting on it arriving this week.

Thank you so much for The Time Traveler's Wife, it made me cry so hard and I fell in love with every character.

I have no question, just wanted to beg you not to break my heart too much with the sequel ;) (spare the child, please?) I can't wait for it!

audreyniffenegger9 karma

I'm doing my best not to kill anybody I shouldn't.


And now I wish I'd used my nice named account to talk to you, dammit.

audreyniffenegger14 karma

Ah well, it's like a bad hair day, you never know who you'll meet.

monkee_needs_help5 karma

I love your book, The Time Traveler's Wife. When I read it the first time, I was really surprised by the amount of sex in the book. Why was it important to you to include those scenes in the novel? And how do you really reconcile a man's interaction with a little girl who he ends up marrying, without making it creepy or pedophillic?

audreyniffenegger13 karma

Well, some people did find it creepy. But the important thing to remember is that Henry is not seeking out little girls, per se, but his wife, who happens to be a kid just at that point in time.

I think if you write about couples, married or not, you ought to be able to include the sex. It's a big part of being a couple.

batcowsbestfriend4 karma

What do you think of Steven Moffat, showrunner of Doctor Who, citing your book as an influence?

audreyniffenegger3 karma

That's rather nice of him.

solidmixer4 karma

Hello, Audrey, Thanks for doing this AMA! Personally I'd like to admit The Time Traveler's Wife is one of my all time favorites and I've been following you since... I think it's much more rich in details and small themes than most of the books I have read in the past and it's really refreshing!

So my questions are

  1. Henry and Claire were so rich in their poetic and literary favorites, were any of those drawn from your own favorites (for example their shared love of Marvel)? Were you trying to convey something specific with the different quotes they would recite to each other?

  2. Were there any influences from your real life that contributed to TTW? If that's personal I completely understand, but there was something in the acknowledgements that made me curious. Also Claire has a few similarities to you, i believe, as you are an artist much like she is, though I vaguely remember you denying a connection in an interview.

  3. Do you have any other major influences, be they poets or novelists, that you would recommend to someone who enjoys your writing style? Perhaps maybe someone you imitate? I saw your recommendation on The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern), which is why i picked it up (and loved it).

Also, does there exist a video of the Raven Girl ballet? I would love to see it.

Good luck on the next novels, I'm really looking forward to them!

audreyniffenegger6 karma

There is some video of Wayne McGregor rehearsing Sarah Lamb and Eric Underwood in the final duet, it's on youtube.

  1. Henry's tastes are my tastes, some of Clare's as well.
  2. TTW took five years to write, so many things that were going on in my life then influenced the book, but it isn't autobiographical. Clare has some of my background but she isn't similar to me as a personality.
  3. Richard Powers, henry James, Donna Tartt, John Crowley are all people I've read very attentively. Also Katherine Dunn.

solidmixer1 karma

Thank you! I will be sure to check some of those out. Out of curiosity, does Henry's huge punk influence / other musical tastes mirror yours as well?

EDIT: I guess this is pretty much my answer

audreyniffenegger1 karma

Yep, that's all identical to my own tastes

ErrotheWanderer4 karma

Hi Audrey. I want to start out by saying thank you for creating such rich stories and characters. The Time Traveller's Wife is easily my favorite novel and* Her Fearful Symmetry* is very high on the list. I was so pleased to find out you're an artist, as well. I'm an artist, too, but that's not my only passion. It's great to see someone excelling and combining passions.

I just moved to Chicago after graduating from university. What are your favorite things about Chicago? Places I shouldn't miss?

audreyniffenegger3 karma

Oh gosh. There are a few things I would have put on the list that have recently vanished, such as Bookman's Alley. But certainly you should go down to Hyde Park and visit all the bookshops there, and the Art Institute has a wonderful Japanese room that has many big wooden pillars and is kept quite dark, that's a good place to go and think. And of course the Violet Hour, for cocktails.

emohelelwhy4 karma

Hey Audrey! 'The Time Traveler's Wife' is one of my favourite books, my copy of it is falling to pieces from how many times I've read it. I absolutely loved just the details of Henry and Clare's lives together and their love story.

My question is, how did you feel about your book being made into a film?

audreyniffenegger6 karma

It was jolly because it made lots of new readers aware of the book; on the other hand, I didn't have input into the film, so it was not perhaps my ideal film, though not having seen it I am not sure.

growltiger_nimbus4 karma

I really loved The Night Bookmobile, I actually read the whole thing standing up in a bookstore and had to buy it. How much of the story did you have planned out before you worked out the visuals?

audreyniffenegger5 karma

I had already published The Night Bookmobile as a short story, in Zoetrope in 2004. So at first it did not have images. When the Guardian asked my to do a comic for them in 2008, I thought it would suit them well (off beat, literary story) and so I adapted it into comics form. There are other stories in that series, the Guardian published Moths of the New World last year, you can find it on their site.

artmaid4 karma

Hi Audrey, thanks for doing this AmA. No questions as such, but I really just wanted to let you know how much I admire you and your work. I'm someone who has always regrettably struggled to get into reading... I enjoy the experience, but I haven't found too many books that have inspired me. However, The Time Traveler's Wife has always been one of the few books that truly inspired me and gripped me for the entire journey. I just... love the story, the characters, the writing, the non-linearity. The whole book is a masterpiece in my opinion, and it was also probably the driving force in my participation in NaNoWriMo 2012. I didn't complete the month, but I made more progress with my creative flow than I ever had done previously. So really, just thank you so much for being wonderful. I can't wait to see what your future holds.

audreyniffenegger5 karma

Thank you! I'm very glad to hear that you are writing, I think it's good to do both. My writing made me appreciate the things I read in certain (often technical) ways, and my reading has always informed my writing, more than any class I have taken. Thanks for your comment.

ramahawk3 karma

Which do you like more, writing prose or making visual art? As a reader, I want you to write faster! But it seems like you're still painting, so is that your preferred medium?

audreyniffenegger8 karma

I love the thing I am not doing at that moment. So if I'm writing I wish I was painting, and vice versa.

FormerlySalve_Lilac3 karma

Hello, Audrey! I have to admit that I've never read any of your books, but I know you are (or at least were) a professor at Columbia College. I applied there and was accepted a few years ago, but decided to attend a different school. How do you like teaching there? Why did you choose to teach at Columbia rather than another school?

Thanks for doing an AMA! :)

audreyniffenegger3 karma

Columbia College is mostly an art school, and they have a very hands-on, practical approach to teaching and learning. I like being there because the students are surprising, diverse, clever; they are a pleasure. The college also encourages unusual disciplines, such as the Book and Paper program I helped to found there.

lizwontcry3 karma

Hi, Audrey. I just wanted to say that the Time Traveler's Wife is not only my favorite book, but my favorite love story ever. Thank you for writing such a beautiful story. I also enjoyed the movie. Did you enjoy the story the movie told? I was glad they didn't give it too much of a Hollywood ending where Henry overcomes his problems and lives forever or what not.

Anyway, thank you!

audreyniffenegger8 karma

Ummmmm… I haven't seen the movie. I know, I know. But I am glad you liked it. I am a chicken.

lizwontcry3 karma

Oh! That is interesting. I mean, if you haven't seen it yet I doubt I'm going to be the person that talks you into it, but it's kind of amazing. Rachel McAdams is a great Clare.

audreyniffenegger3 karma

That's good. I saw her in that Sherlock Holmes movie, she seemed very lively.

zutsuit3 karma

Hi Audrey, thanks for doing this AMA. TTTW is one of my absolute favorite books, probably the one I've most often given as a gift.

I had no idea you were working on a sequel but am so psyched to hear that. Already digging the idea of Alba being pulled between two men since it makes her love story different from Henry and Clare's. What I'm curious about is--what changes will we see with how the world responds to Chrono-Displacement in Alba's future?

audreyniffenegger6 karma

I'm not sure yet, though it is implied in TTW that the world knows about this and it has become an acceptable thing, though perhaps still rare.

Oliver, one of Alba's husbands, is from the second half of the 21st century, so he has seen much more evolution in society's ideas about time travel.

chadnyc3 karma

Hi Audrey, Do you think the Pixies are still the Pixies without Kim Deal?

audreyniffenegger2 karma

Eh. I haven't heard the new stuff yet, so it's hard to say. I wish them luck, though.

SafeAsMilk3 karma

Writing seems to be more of physically constrained cerebral communion, while sculpture and painting are (ostensibly) more physically free expression. How do you navigate those boundaries? It seems that the question of the chasm between mind and body, along with mortality, is a recurrent theme in your work.

audreyniffenegger4 karma

I'm most interested in narrative, and I like having multiple methods of telling stories. I prefer to be in the art studio, moving around and making stuff, because I feel so tired if I sit all day. It's good to mix it up.

aliceinponderland3 karma

Hello! Do you ever struggle with motivation, inspiration, or just getting the words on the page? If so, what do you do to combat the entropy? (Thanks in advance from a fan and aspiring writer!)

audreyniffenegger10 karma

Deadlines. They are magical. If you don't have any, get some, they will cause you to get stuff done.


Read that as dandelions, thought it was something poetic. I am potato.

audreyniffenegger9 karma

You are potato. But maybe that's a good thing. It's hard to tell. On the internet nobody knows you're a potato.

operation_hennessey3 karma

Audrey, What are your top 5 (or 10, if you need) favourite books of all time? Are there certain books that you read over and over?

audreyniffenegger5 karma

Harriet the Spy The Woman In White The Turn of the Screw The beast in the Jungle The Secret History Galatea 2.2 Gaudy Night The Goldfinch

ElectricFeedback3 karma

Hey Audrey! Id like to know when you got into writing, not just professional and for a living, but maybe as a kid?id just like to know about your early experiences with writing. Thanks!

audreyniffenegger1 karma

I used to draw and write in my books. I still have some of the books I had as a kid, they are covered in scrawl that I thought was language. Then I learned how to make sense, somewhat, and started making my own tiny folded stapled books.

l_AM_NOT_A_COP3 karma

Did you have any idea how successful your books were going to be before publishing them? What surprised you must about their success?

Welcome to reddit, and thanks for this AMA!

audreyniffenegger3 karma

No, I thought I would be lucky if a few thousand readers read my first novel, that is the usual fate of first novels. I was pleased and surprised by all the different sorts of people who have read my work, they are young and older, men and women, artists, military persons, lots of students. It has been amazing to have so many readers and to know that they spent so much time in my world.

l_AM_NOT_A_COP1 karma

Thank you thank you thank you for responding! The time travelers wife was my 9th grade bible, by the way. Best of luck on your future literary endeavors!

audreyniffenegger1 karma

Thank you!

Kknowsbest2 karma

Who was your role model growing up?

audreyniffenegger3 karma

Iggy Pop.

TheCaliHaze2 karma

I have never read anything from you before. If I were to go pick something up, which ONE would you recommend I read?

audreyniffenegger2 karma

The Time Traveler's Wife seems to be the most popular, but if you are a young Victorian sort of person possibly Her Fearful Symmetry might suit you.

Comeau_Sushi2 karma

What are your thoughts on the movie About time that featured Rachel McAdams who was also starred in the movie based off your book The Time Travelers Wife?

audreyniffenegger2 karma

I haven't seen that one either. Was it good? I'm way behind on my movie and tv viewing.

solidmixer2 karma

I think it was fair, but what was lost were the richer depth of their relationship besides the main plot. There are a lot of subplots (Gomez, Claires mom, Henry's childhood/adolescence, etc) that were completely absent. It worked, but I'll take the book over the movie any day. :)

audreyniffenegger8 karma

Maybe some day they will make an HBO series, that seems to be the best format for narrative richness.

[deleted]2 karma


audreyniffenegger6 karma

The phrase The Time Traveler's Wife popped into my head, and I started wondering what sort of lady would marry a time traveler.

growltiger_nimbus2 karma

How did you get interested in hypertrichosis?

audreyniffenegger2 karma

I invented Lizzie, the character who has it, rather flippantly, and then started researching the condition. It has an interesting history.

natznerdzz2 karma

Audrey, I just want to say that TTTW is my favourite book, not just ONE of my fave but my fave. I remember staying up till the sun came up just to finish reading your book.

I just want to know, what can we expect from TTTW sequel? Also, what inspired you to write it?


audreyniffenegger4 karma

The sequel is about Alba, mostly Alba as an adult. It's about her relationships (she is married to two very different men) and her family life and her struggles with making music.

I began writing it because Zola Books was publishing TTW as an ebook and they asked for an extra to go with that. And then I got interested and decided to carry on.

chikyaya2 karma


audreyniffenegger2 karma

Which book? Time Traveler's Wife? The title just came into my head one day while I was drawing.

l_AM_NOT_A_COP1 karma

I know A movie can never be as powerful as the book it's based on, BUT, how did it feel seeing the Time Travelers Wife made into a Hollywood movie? What did you like/dislike?

Super excited for the sequel you're writing by the way

audreyniffenegger3 karma

I haven't seen the movie based on TTW. I did read the screenplay, and realized that the film makers were doing their own thing, so I decided to let go and I don't feel the need to see it.

I do think there have been good adaptations. I liked Cloud Atlas, both the book and the movie.

the_ninjew1 karma

Hi Audrey! I'm a huge fan!! I absolutely love all of your books. I'm an aspiring writer myself and I would love to know what your writing process is like. Do you start with a plot? Characters then the plot? How much do you outline things before you start writing? How did you come up with the premise of Time Traveler's Wife?

Thank you so much in advance!! It's been a pleasure to read your books.

audreyniffenegger2 karma

Usually I begin with characters, then I imagine a situation for them, then I try to construct a structure for the book. I try not to make the characters behave to suit the plot, that usually gets awkward.

For my second novel I outlined the whole book, then began writing into the outline and changing things as I went. For TTW I had a basic story arc but I wrote the book completely out of order and kept rearranging it until it made sense.

mulletplace1 karma

I know you like an atmospheric old cemetery. Have you ever walked the Granary Burial Ground in Boston, just off the Common. Hemmed in by buildings, busy street not far off, but still, a peace, with the old slate markers engraved with winged-heads. Or maybe Trinity in NYC?

audreyniffenegger2 karma

No, I haven't been in either of those, but I will add them to the list. It's fun to imagine that some day it will stop snowing and we can all go strolling in cemeteries again.

onefactorial1 karma

I really enjoy your illustrated fiction, and would love to see another graphic novel from you. What are some of your favorite graphic novels? What are the graphic novel/comics creators that inspire you?

audreyniffenegger1 karma

I'm a huge fan of Charlotte Salomon's Life? or Theatre? And Eddie Campbell and I are collaborating these days. His Alec stories are favorites of mine. Chris Ware is wonderful, and I just saw a Dan Clowes retrospective that was terrific.

jezebelshakes1 karma

Hi Audrey, What is your link with North London? I think of HFS every time I'm passing through Highgate! Can't wait to read Alba's story too.

audreyniffenegger2 karma

I became involved by writing about Highgate Cemetery, and then spread out and became interested in London itself. I was always a fan of books set in London, but the real city is even more exciting.

VinWalker-1 karma

I've been in a writing rut for awhile now (I have the ideas, but I just can't express them). Do have any advice on how to get started again?

audreyniffenegger1 karma

Perhaps you could use some structure? Join a class or a writing group? Sometimes one needs assignments and deadlines, at least until you feel you can move along on your own.

jace531 karma

What is the creative process that you use/need to come up with an original story/plot?

audreyniffenegger3 karma

The most useful process is to ask questions. So if your idea involves, say, a time traveling husband, you might ask, who is he, and who would marry such a man? And how does that affect their marriage? And on and on. Questions build the book.

chiggins751 karma

Hi Audrey, want to tell you that I adore TTTW. Easily my favorite book, I have read it dozens of times. I have just used quotes from it for a play I am writing. I wanted to ask if you've ever considered writing for theatre?

audreyniffenegger2 karma

No, but I am working on an opera (very slowly).

[deleted]1 karma


audreyniffenegger2 karma

I read some physics books for people who cannot cope with the math, that was very helpful. And I read quite a lot of articles that were coming out then about genetics.

InvisiblePants11 karma

What do you think of the movie adaption of The Time Traveler's Wife?

audreyniffenegger11 karma

I haven't seen it. It belongs to the people who made it, not to me, and they did what they wanted to do with it. So I try to be detached and not spoil anyone's fun.

idealisticrat5 karma

The book's ending was much better! so moving.

ramahawk4 karma

The thing I hated about the movie was that the book is truly cathartic because it's about loss - how we have no real control in life and need to learn to live in the moment and appreciate all we have. When I finished, I felt like I was seeing the world with new eyes.

And the movie was just like, it's all OK, because we'll run across a field and kiss each other and romance will triumph! Well, no. And it's because no one beats death that life has meaning.

audreyniffenegger5 karma

One of the important rules of the book is that things happen, and they are not reversible, just like in the real world, we have to live with the consequences of things that happen. So I don't know what the movie was up to. I imagine it involved focus groups.

[deleted]1 karma


audreyniffenegger3 karma

It would be impossible to unsee it. And I am kind of a coward about it.

Dariukx0 karma

Do you judge people who don't like books like me?

audreyniffenegger3 karma

I don't think so. Do you judge people who like books?