In the spirit of the holidays I decided to give you all a gift: an interview. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Niven, author of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES.
Miranda Reads: In ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES, Finch uses Post-it notes to write down his ideas. Do you use Post-it notes to write down your writing ideas?
Jennifer Niven: Sometimes. It depends where I am when the idea happens. I’ve been known to scribble things down on napkins, receipts, wrappers, placemats—whatever happens to be handy. But recently I’ve started carrying sticky notes around with me, just in case I get inspired like Finch.
MR: In the "Author's Note", you mentioned the deaths you experienced when you were growing up. Did writing this book help you cope with the deaths of your loved ones?
JN: I wrote All the Bright Places about a hard, sad time in my life during a hard, sad time. A young writer asked me recently, “How did you write All the Bright Places without crying over it?” The answer is that I did cry while writing it, but I also knew that it was okay to cry because that meant I was tapping into all of the emotion that was going to help me write what I needed to write. Years ago, I knew and loved a boy, and that boy was bipolar. I witnessed up-close the highs and lows, the Awake and the Asleep, and I saw his daily struggle with the world and with himself. The experience of knowing him—and losing him—was life-changing. There are pieces of him and me and other people I’ve loved and lost in this book, and although I didn’t write All the Bright Places to help me cope with those deaths, I did feel some closure afterward. Writing has always been a cathartic outlet for me. Not long ago, my mother died unexpectedly, and now in the wake of her death, the writing is even more important. If you let it, the writing can save you.
MR: What do you hope readers will take away from ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES?
JN: One early reader wrote to tell me that as soon as she read the book, she ran downstairs and hugged her mother. I hope that the book inspires more of that. I also hope it inspires us to look deeper at the people and places around us. And I hope it inspires discussions about teen mental health. We need to make people feel safe enough to come forward and say, “I have a problem. I need help.” If we don’t talk about suicide or depression or mental illness, how can we expect anyone to reach out for help when they need it most? I want readers to know that help is out there, that it gets better, that high school isn’t forever, and that life is long and vast and full of possibility.
MR: Let's pretend you're performing in your high school talent show. What's your talent?
JN: I know the words to every ABBA song. I can apply lipstick without looking in a mirror. I can run very fast for short periods of time. I can count to ten in Japanese. And I belly dance. So maybe something that combines all of those things?
MR: Which author are you most looking forward to meeting at the 10th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
JN: All of them!
Thank you so much Jennifer! We are super excited to get our hands on ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES and meet you in May!
To learn more about Jennifer and her books check out her website. Also be sure to follow her on Twitter and like her Facebook page.
That's it for today. Come back to the blog for more book reviews, author interviews and more!