Audrey Niffenegger trained as a visual artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received her MFA from Northwestern University's Department of Art Theory and Practice. She has exhibited her artist's books, prints, paintings, drawings and comics at Printworks Gallery in Chicago since 1987. Her first books were printed and bound by hand in editions of ten. Two of these have since been commercially published by Harry N. Abrams: The Adventuress and The Three Incestuous Sisters.
Initially imagined as a graphic novel, Niffenegger realized that her idea for a book about a time traveler and his wife would be difficult to represent in still images. She began to work on the project as a novel, and published The Time Traveler's Wife in 2003 with the independent publisher MacAdam/Cage. It was an international best seller, and has been made into a movie.
Niffenegger helped to found a new book arts center, the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts. Niffenegger was part of this group and has taught book arts and fiction writing there, as well as the Newberry Library, Penland School of Craft and other institutions of higher learning.
Niffenegger is a founding member of the writing collective Text 3 (T3), who publish the litmag little Bang. Niffenegger's second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, was published in 2009. In 2008 she made a serialized graphic novel for the London Guardian, The Night Bookmobile, which was published in book form in September, 2010.
In 2013, a major mid-career retrospective of her prints, paintings and artist's bookworks opened at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. Her illustrated novella, Raven Girl, was also published the same year in conjunction with the Royal Opera House Ballet production of Raven Girl, which was choreographed by Wayne McGregor.
She is working on her third novel, The Chinchilla Girl in Exile and a sequel to The Time Traveler's Wife. She has lived in or near Chicago for most of her life.
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An Interview with Audrey Niffenegger
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a
writer -- and why?
Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh. I first read this book when I was nine. I identified with Harriet so completely that I went out and got myself a spy notebook, and wrote in it all the time. My teachers made my mom take it away from me. I think I loved Harriet the Spy because I was a loner, because I read all the time and no one I knew did that, because I wanted to feel powerful, and writing can do that for you. I loved Harriet because she spoke her mind, because she lived in a big city and traveled around by herself without fear, because she knew what was what. The Long Secret, Fitzhugh's sequel to Harriet the Spy, is also a wonderful and very odd book.
What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?
Maus, Art Spiegelman
I am a visual artist as well as a writer, so many of the books I love are visual. Maus is a comic book about the Holocaust. It's the story of the Spiegelman family and their experiences in Auchwitz and afterward. It is extremely complex, subtle, and I cry every time I read it.
The Secret History, ...
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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