Books I Love: All the Bright Places (Part Two)
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I recently shared with you a Q and A about All the Bright Places and its fantastic author, Jennifer Niven. You can read it in its entirety right here.
Here’s Part Two to help you learn more about Jennifer, whether you’re a fan, an aspiring writer, or both.
Favorite color: Purple—especially lavender and, of course, violet!
Favorite book(s) and/or authors: My favorite book is probably In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, though I also love To Kill a Mockingbird. My favorite author of all was my mother, Penelope Niven, but I’m wild about Flannery O’Connor. I also adore Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, the Brontë sisters, David Levithan, Laurie Halse Anderson, and I have a particiular fondness and admiration for British YA authors—Phil Earle, Louise Rennison, Melvin Burgess, and a slew of others.
The last movie you saw and loved: This is the End, which I recently rewatched for the millionth time with friends. I think it’s genius, and it makes me laugh from beginning to end.
What you would do for a living if you didn’t write: I’d be an international rock star detective (the thing I dreamed about being when I was little), a Broadway actress/dancer, a forensic anthropologist, or an archaeologist.
Where you’ll be professionally and personally in 5 years: I want to write many, many more YA books, another nonfiction book for adults, and, down the line, another adult novel or two, including an idea my mom intended on writing but never got the chance to. I’d like to write it for her. I’d like to see my books turned into movies. I’d also love it if one of them was turned into a Broadway musical a la Wicked. If that ever happens, I want a really juicy cameo (one that doesn’t require me to sing). In terms of where I’d like to be personally, I’d love to own a lovely house in LA but also split my time with London or Paris as long as my fiancé and three literary cats can come with me. Oh, and I want to realize my childhood dream of owning an animal rescue organization where all the homeless animals in the world can come live.
Favorite place/way to write: My favorite place to write is my office. It is stuffed with bookshelves and books and souvenirs I’ve collected throughout my career and my travels (not to mention my three literary cats and my computer, which is what I almost always compose on). I call it the nerve center of our home. It’s where magic happens. But when I’m deep into a project, I tend to write everywhere—I get ideas while driving or working out or spending time with friends or doing errands. I record them on my phone or write them down on any piece of scrap paper I can find. My mind is always writing, long after I’ve left my desk.
Hardest part about writing for you: Plotting/outlining and the middles of books. I hate the middles and mine are always too long and meandering. (EZ note: I disagree. All the Bright Places is brilliant from start to finish!)
Anything else you want to share about yourself with readers: I’ve lost so many people in my life—my father, my beloved grandparents, cousins, friends, mentors, cats, and, most recently, my mom, who was my very best friend. So much loss. But through it, I try to focus on something Violet realizes in the book: it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave. Every person I’ve lost has left me so much, and I like to think I carry them with me. I’ve also learned the importance of wandering the world, making it lovely, and leaving something behind. Additionally, I know the words to every ABBA song and I’m a huge Supernatural fangirl.
Anything else you want to share about yourself with aspiring writers: When I was first starting out, the actress Madge Sinclair told me, “Writing, like any art form, takes soul stamina. You have to be prepared to commit to it, want it more than anything, honor your gifts, and stick it out through thick and thin.” I was lucky enough to grow up with a writer mom, so I saw firsthand how demanding and stressful and unpredictable the business is. I also saw the commitment it takes. I’m grateful for that because I think so many people go into the business of writing with unrealistic expectations—not realizing that it is, in fact, a business, and that you have to be ready and willing to do it in spite of everything else. My other advice is to write what inspires you. Write the thing you’re burning to write. Write what you love. Write the kind of book you’d like to read.
If I didn’t love Jennifer Niven’s words before (which I did), I love them even more now (which I do). How lucky am I to have had the opportunity to interview one of my writing heroes and share it with you?
To learn more about Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places, and all of her great work, check out her website.
Image of Jennifer Niven courtesy of Louis Kapeleris.
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