Saturday, December 27, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: Jennifer Niven

Happy Holidays!

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!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Hello readers,

I finished reading ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven and it was incredible. Take a look:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Oh my goodness! I don't know how to describe this book! I can write a book about this book using just adjectives. It was amazing, heartwarming, tearful and life-changing. And those adjectives don't give ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES justice.

Jennifer Niven's debut young adult novel is an eye-opener to mental illnesses, something that society should become aware of and be treated with care. It's real and honest. Often the subject is avoided because it scares people. Mental illnesses can also be the butt-end of a joke and is stigmatized but it shouldn't be. Becoming aware of mental illnesses will help save lives and can save yours. If you know someone who is going through a rough time, try to support them. Reaching out to someone can mean the world to them.You can even do some of your own research and educate yourself on different mental disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and more. ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES isn't all about mental illnesses and grief, it's about living life to the fullest. It's about young love, friendships and family. It's about finding those bright places that make you happy and happiness is everything.

I highly recommend this book for fans of Jay Asher, Gayle Forman (who is coming to TBF 2015!), John Green and Rainbow Rowell.

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES will be at a bookstore near you on January 6th, 2015. So save those gift cards and money to buy this incredible book!

That's it for today. From everyone here on the TBF blog, we wish you a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tamora Pierce

Hello readers,

Unfortunately, due to conflicting scheduling, Tamora Pierce will not be attending TBF 2015. However, she is hoping to attending TBF 2016. But chin up, readers, we still have 28 INCREDIBLE authors who are attending TBF 2015. I mean, look at these authors that are coming to Rochester this May:
  • M.T. Anderson
  • Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Charles Benoit
  • Heather Brewer
  • Jessica Brody
  • Michael Buckley
  • Cinda Williams Chima
  • Ally Condie
  • Matt de la Pena
  • Kevin Emerson
  • Gayle Forman
  • April Henry
  • Ellen Hopkins
  • James Howe
  • Tonya Hurley
  • Julie Kagawa
  • A.S. King
  • Jo Knowles
  • Emmy Laybourne
  • Sarah J. Maas
  • Jonathan Maberry
  • Katie McGarry
  • G. Neri
  • Jennifer Niven
  • Jason Reynolds
  • Neal Shusterman
  • Heather Terrell
  • Terry Trueman
151 DAYS UNTIL TBF! Who's excited?!

That's it for today. Be sure to check out the blog again for more book reviews, author interviews and more!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: Charles Benoit

Hello readers,

Photo Credit: Kurt Brownell Photography
I have another interview for you this week! I had the pleasure of interviewing TBF author, Charles Benoit.

Miranda Reads: This year will be your fifth time coming to TBF. What brings you back to TBF
Charles Benoit: TBF is THE coolest teen book festival in the world, filled with rabid fans, amazing authors and volunteers who make authors feel like rock stars back when it was a big deal to be a rock star. TBF has more fun crammed into one day than many week-long book events I've attended. So it's less 'what brings me back' as it is 'try to keep me away'!

MR: Are you working on a new book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
CB: Just today I penned the last line in what (I hope) is the latest "last draft." We’ll see what my editor has to say about that. The working title is SNOW JOB, it's set in the last weeks of 1977 and it's my first first-person novel. Nick’s a (failing) high school senior who tries to turn his life around by following a list of four ideals that he’s sure will make him a better man. But Nick’s life gets a lot more complicated when he makes a (drunken) bet he can’t cover and is bailed out by a guy he helped send to jail. Then there’s the mysterious girl he’s falling for, the one who works for a coked-out drug dealer, the same dealer who wants Nick to work for him. The story’s got sex, violence, lies, betrayal, strained friendships, indifferent parents and just a tiny flicker of hope—so something for the whole family!

MR: In Cold Calls, the characters get blackmailed into bullying classmates. Were you ever blackmailed in high school?
CB: Not in the sense that I use in COLD CALLS, but I often did things I knew were wrong because I feared the social blackmailing that would come if I didn’t. Not just parents-say-it’s-wrong stuff that everybody does, but illegal and dangerous and totally stupid things that any idiot would be smart enough not to do. But I did them, and then had to deal with the numerous times after when someone would say, “Do this new thing or I tell about the time you [fill in the blank].” It’s an awful feeling knowing that someone else controls your life.

MR: Let's pretend you're performing in your high school talent show. What's your talent?
CB: Since my only talent in high school was doing the very least possible to earn a C, I’m going to go back in time with a current talent and wow the heck out of everyone by playing One Step Beyond on my tenor sax.

MR: Which author are you most looking forward to meeting at the 10th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?

CB: Don’t try to fool me with your trick questions, Miranda! You know I’m excited to see them all. I’m pumped that my pal April Henry will be making her first TBF appearance, and I’m looking forward to hanging out with Terry Truman again (the man knows how to tell a hilarious story), and I want to track down G. Neri to tell him how much I loved SURF MULES. 

Thank you so much Charles! SNOW JOB sounds interesting and we're all excited to get our hands on it!

To learn more about Charles Benoit's books, check out his website. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

That's it for today. Come back to the blog for more book reviews, author interviews and more!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: A.S. King

Hello readers,

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving and read a ton over the break! I have an interview to brighten your day. I had the pleasure of interviewing TBF author, A.S. King!

Miranda Reads: This year will be your fifth time coming to TBF. What brings you back to TBF? We love when you come!

A.S. King: I love TBF. From the minute I arrived the first year I attended, I knew I wanted to be a part of the festival as often as I could. Why? Because Rochester Teen Book Festival is the best teen book festival in the country. The team of volunteers is AMAZING and the attendees are the most enthusiastic readers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Now that I've been there a few times, I've developed close friendships with other regular author attendees and with many local librarians and teachers and I find myself missing them throughout the year. Being an author is weird. I am usually sitting in a room by myself writing books. Human interaction can often be awkward with people who don't understand reading or writing--so coming to Rochester TBF is a little like visiting family or something. You all are my Rochester family.

MR: Have you ever considered writing outside of the contemporary genre? Maybe write a fantasy, dystopian or sci-fi novel?

ASK: That's a tricky question. A lot of people think I already do write fantasy, sci-fi or dystopian novels. I've been nominated for awards in fantasy and sci-fi. And a lot of people have called GLORY both sci-fi and dystopian. It all depends on who you ask. That said, I consider my novels mostly based in contemporary reality, and I don't think I can escape that. For me, there is magic in everyday life. There is dystopia in everyday life. I think I really love drawing those comparisons in my work, which is why I tend to chew some fantasy or sci-fi into my realistic gum. Next year's book is a surrealist novel. Some people call what I write magic realism. I'm not sure what to call it. I just hope the stories keep coming out of my head and onto the paper. So far, that's still happening. In the future, look for another historical novel from me, and maybe a graphic novel or memoir as well. I've got them all in my head, but finding the time to write them is the issue at the moment.

MR: What is your most memorable experience relating to your books?

ASK: Wow. That's a really hard question. I've been writing books for 20 years and have a lot of memories relating to books or writing. But I guess if I were to pick one memory, it would be the day I was called by the Printz committee about Please Ignore Vera Dietz. I was taking a break from writing in my basement office. I miss my kids a lot when I work even though we're all in the same house. So I came upstairs and we were all cuddled up on the couch watching the Candice Bergen episode of The Muppet Show and the phone rang. It was Sunday. It was a number I didn't recognize, so I thought about ignoring it. I then picked it up and a woman introduced herself and said something about Printz and let me explain...I knew what the Printz was, but I never thought I would ever be considered for it. I got up from the couch. My husband had a worried look on his face because I rushed to a quieter place to talk. I sat in the stairwell of the old log cabin where we used to live and asked the caller to start over. She explained why she was calling. I listened. I reacted and said thank you. I cracked a joke or two. I hung up and then I cried for a minute. See, at that point in my career, I thought my career was close to over before it started. My publisher hadn't wanted my next book, I had to move to a new place, I wasn't sure of Vera Dietz because since I'd left, the book had fallen into that quiet book abyss, you know? It never made it into Barnes & Noble. I thought everything I'd worked for for nearly 20 years was kinda almost dead. Winning that Printz Honor was a moment of true joy because it meant that maybe I could have a chance at writing more books, which is all I ever wanted to do. Anyway, I came back to the living room where my husband still had that worried look, I paused The Muppet Show and I told my family what the call was about and we all hugged and jumped up and down like we'd just won Family Feud. Then we took a walk in the snow. My memories of that day are many, but the feeling of pride was the biggest thing I remember. I felt like I'd done something good.

(Readers, check out blogger, Victoria's book review of PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ)

MR: Let's pretend you're performing in your high school talent show. What's your talent?

ASK: I have talent show talents, but I'm too shy to perform at my high school talent show. I'd be stage crew. I'd be the one who puts on the music for the lip synch contest or something. But I wouldn't dare stand up there and sing even though I could sing back then. Too shy. Hard for people who know me to believe, but I'm way too shy.

MR: Which author are you most looking forward to meeting at the 10th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?

ASK: I'm looking forward to seeing EVERYONE at the 10th annual TBF. Old friends, new friends, everyone. As an author, it's really cool to meet people I've never met before who do the same thing I do. Again, being an author is weird sometimes. Meeting other authors is a relief because we all know what it's like to do what we do. So, I hate to be so all-inclusive, but it's my way. I can't wait to meet everyone.    
Thank you so much A.S. King! We can't wait to see you in May!

To learn more about A.S. King's books, be sure to check out her website and follow her on Twitter and like her Facebook page!

That's it for today. Come back to blog for more book reviews, interviews and more!