I am very exited to share this weeks Ask the Author with you guys. I had the pleasure of asking the very lovely Jennifer Niven, author of All the Bright Places, a couple of questions, nine to be exact. It took me a while to come up with them but they are nothing compared to the beautiful and honest answers she gave me.
Here is her book and her interview:
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
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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.
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
Interview with Jennifer Nieven
1 – Describe All the Bright Places in form of a haiku/or six adjectives.
Here’s my haiku attempt:
With all the colors
in one at full brightness, they
wander. Not lost. Found.
2 – Before writing All the Bright Places you wrote novels for adults. Why did you decide to write YA and what lead you to writing a story which deals with as heavy, though still important to be talked and read about, topics such as teenage mental health?
I love to read YA and have always wanted to write it. When I was thinking of story ideas, I kept coming back to an event in my own life and a boy I used to know. I’d always wanted to write about it and him, but was never sure I’d be able to. Back then, through that experience, I felt firsthand the stigma associated with mental disorders—both from the boy’s perspective and from mine—and I realized that 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?
3 – How much research went into All the Bright Places and how important was it for you to depict Finch’s bipolar in a truthful manner?
While I did do some research into mental illness/depression—which included speaking with experts—in many ways, I really just wrote the story I knew. 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. As for Violet, she is struggling with loss, and that is something I know too well. I’ve lost both my parents, all four grandparents, and numerous other family members and friends, so loss is something I know inside and out.
4 – When you were deciding on where All the Bright Places should play, why did you decide upon Indiana? How important was it for you to show some of the things Indiana has to offer?
I grew up in Indiana and went to high school there. Because of that, it felt like the most natural setting for my high school story. When I was living there, I—like Violet—thought it was ugly and boring. My mom used to tell me, “Just remember, what’s ugly to you is beautiful to other people.” I couldn’t imagine Indiana could be beautiful to anyone, but she made me stop and at least try to look at it differently. All these years later, I have this newfound appreciation for growing up there, and I thought it would be great (and important) for Finch to help Violet see their state in a new light.
5 – Writing a book as long as All the Bright Places can, depending on the author, take a year or more, how did you manage to write it in just six weeks?
Finch’s voice came out pretty much fully formed, as if he’d been waiting for me to write him. Violet took a bit more work, but for the most part, the writing of the story just flowed. I like to say it’s the book I’ve been carrying around inside of me for some time, but didn’t put on paper until 2013.
6 – Are you happy with the cover the book has received?
Yes! Omg I love it! By the time Random House showed it to me, they had been working on it for months and had gone through many, many different versions. The final cover is very similar to the one they first showed me. I love how different it is from a lot of other books. I think it stands out. :)
7 – Mild or Spicy?
Somewhere in between.
8 – If you were forced to participate in The Hunger Games, as female from District 12, what would be your strategy? Fight or flight?
Hmm… I think it would really depend on the situation. I supposed I’d fight if I absolutely had to, but I’d prefer flight—not in a cowardly way but in a super-stealthy, Katniss sort of way.
9 – In terms of YA books, what comes next? Are you working on something?
As soon as I finish touring, I’m going to work hard on my next YA novel. It’s about a boy who can’t recognize faces and a very visible girl who feels invisible. It’s about seeing, being seen, and learning to recognize what’s important. It’s about what makes us love someone.
By the time I was ten, I had already written numerous songs, a poem for Parker Stevenson ("If there were a Miss America for men, You would surely win"), two autobiographies (All About Me and My Life in Indiana: I Will Never Be Happy Again), a Christmas story, several picture books (which I illustrated myself) featuring the Doodle Bugs from Outer Space, a play about Laura Ingalls Wilder's sister entitled Blindness Strikes Mary, a series of prison mysteries, a collection of short stories featuring me as the main character (an internationally famous rock star detective), and a partially finished novel about Vietnam. I was also an excellent speller from a very early age.
In 2000, I started writing full-time, and I haven't stopped... I've written eight books (two of those are forthcoming), and when I'm not working on the ninth, I'm contributing to my web magazine, Germ (www.germmagazine.com), thinking up new books, and dabbling in TV. I am always writing.