Author Interview: Jennifer Niven

Today, we have the lovely Jennifer Niven as our featured author! Jennifer is known for her lovely book, All the Bright Places. Read it and you’ll understand why I use the word lovely. #TF ❤

Jennifer Niven

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Niven has always wanted to be a Charlie’s Angel, but her true passion is writing. Her most recent book, All the Bright Places, is her first novel for young adult readers and tells the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die. All the Bright Places is the #1 Kids’ Indie Next Book for Winter ’14-’15, an editor’s Pick/Best Book of the Month, and a New York Times bestseller. The foreign rights have already sold to thirty-four territories, and the movie rights have been optioned with Elle Fanning attached to star. As a companion to the book, Jennifer has created Germ, a web magazine for and run by girls (and boys) — high school and beyond — that celebrates beginnings, futures, and all the amazing and agonizing moments in between.

With the publication of her first book, The Ice Master, Jennifer became a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writer. A nonfiction account of a deadly Arctic expedition, The Ice Master was released in November 2000 and named one of the top ten nonfiction books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, and translated into multiple languages, including German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Danish, and Icelandic. Jennifer and The Ice Master appeared in Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, Talk, Glamour, The New Yorker, Outside, The New York Times Book Review, The London Daily Mail, The London Times, and Writer’s Digest, among others. Dateline BBC, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel featured The Ice Master an hour-long documentaries, and the book was the subject of numerous German, Canadian, and British television documentaries. The Ice Master has been nominated for awards by the American Library Association and Book Sense, and received Italy’s esteemed Gambrinus Giuseppe Mazzotti Prize for 2002.

Jennifer’s second book, Ada Blackjack — an inspiring true story of the woman the press called “the female Robinson Crusoe” — has been translated into Chinese, French, and Estonian, was a Book Sense Top Ten Pick, and was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the Top Five Arctic books.

Her memoir, The Aqua-Net Diaries: Big Hair, Big Dreams, Small Town, was published in February 2010 by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, and was optioned by Warner Bros. as a television series.

Her first novel, Velva Jean Learns to Drive (based on her Emmy Award-winning film of the same name), was released July 2009 by Penguin/Plume. It was an Indie Pick for the August 2009 Indie Next List and was also a Costco Book of the Month. The second book in the Velva Jean series, Velva Jean Learns to Fly, was released by Penguin/Plume in August 2011, and the third book in the series, Becoming Clementine, was published in September 2012. The fourth Velva Jean novel, American Blonde, is available now.

With her mother, author Penelope Niven, Jennifer has conducted numerous seminars in writing and addressed audiences around the world. She lives in Los Angeles.


Favorite food?


Favorite color?

All shades of purple (especially lavender and violet)

Favorite flower?


Favorite song?

Too many to name! Maybe “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.

Favorite TV show?


Favorite place to read and/or write?

My office

Favorite book?

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.


Who are you when you’re writing?

I’m anyone I want to be, which is one of the most amazing things about writing. You can go anywhere, be anyone, and create new worlds.

Who are you when you’re not writing?

I’m a boy-crazy fangirl!

Which do you prefer more?

Me when I’m writing! I get grumpy when I’m not writing.

What drives you to write more?

The same thing that’s always inspired me to write, ever since I was a little girl— the need to tell stories.

How often do you experience writer’s block and what do you do to get out of it?

I work every day, and writer’s block is inevitable. I’ve found two things to get out of it—I try to write my way through the block, even if it means writing garbage that I’ll later delete. If that doesn’t work, I walk away from the work for a day or two and not think about it. I find clearing my mind lets me come back to the work refreshed. There’s also something I learned from Hemingway that can prevent writer’s block from happening—at the end of a really good writing day, when the work is flowing, I stop myself in the middle of it before I can finish what I’m working on. This makes it much easier to pick it back up again the next morning and keep the flow going.

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to your work?

Absolutely! Although I also try to remember that there’s no such thing as perfect. You just have to honor the work by doing the very best you can do.

Do you like making outlines when you write, or do you prefer to start from scratch and work your way from there?

I like to outline to some degree, and some stories—plot-driven ones—almost always need to be outlined. Going into a project, I know the overall story I want to tell, and beyond that I write down the most important scenes, the ones that I know will be in there. But often the in-between scenes, the ones that connect those important ones, are discovered along the way. I always compare writing a story to going on a road trip. You know where you want to end up and you know some of the stops along the way, but so much of the journey is discovering the detours you didn’t anticipate.

If you could do both at the same speed, which would you prefer: Writing on paper or typing your words? Why?

Typing my words. I’m not exactly sure why this is, but I feel much more comfortable composing on the computer.

What is the best writing advice that you could share with us?

Write the story you want to read.

Sorry for cutting in but this is so ❤ (This is why I write!)

Of all the things that you’ve ever written (poems, essays, short stories, novels, etc.), which one is the most special to you?

All the Bright Places.


What inspired the idea of your first book?

My first book, The Ice Master, was a nonfiction retelling of a real-life Arctic expedition from 1913.

What message would you like your readers to learn from that book?

Where there is life, there is hope, and even ordinary people can survive extraordinary odds.

What inspired the idea of your latest book?

All the Bright Places was inspired by a boy I once knew and loved.

Sorry for cutting in again but when I first read this on the Author’s Note, my heart broke for Jennifer. Seeing this again makes me want to cry.

What message would you like your readers to learn from that book?

Bright places are everywhere, even when things seem darkest. You can be a bright place too. You aren’t alone and you matter and it’s okay to ask for help. Life is long and vast and full of possibility.

What is the greatest challenge that you have encountered in the publishing world and how did you overcome it?

In late April of 2013, my literary agent died very unexpectedly. He was the agency—no other agents, no assistant. So the agency died with him, and it left me feeling completely lost. I was in the middle of a deadline (for my novel American Blonde) and I was suddenly faced with finding a new agent while trying to finish that book. In talking to new agents, I needed to think up my next project so that I had something to offer them besides my previous books. I thought about the last conversation I’d had with my agent—he said, “Whatever you write next, I want you to write it because you can’t imagine writing anything else.” So I really asked myself what it was I wanted to write, and I kept coming back to the story of this boy I knew and loved, which turned into All the Bright Places. I wrote the book in June, signed with my new agent in July, and we sold the book in August to Random House.


How would you define book discrimination?

The term “book discrimination” can encompass so much—it can refer to people who claim they don’t read (I’m always surprised when I meet them!), or those who only read by genre. It can also refer to judging a book by its genre or cover or subject matter before actually giving it a chance. At its very worst, book discrimination becomes censorship and book banning, which I feel is a dangerous thing.

How do you feel about it?

I love to read and there’s almost nothing I won’t read. My parents were big readers, and I was raised reading all kinds of books. They taught me the importance of reading. Period. Not reading this or that. Not giving more merit to this kind of book or that one. I have writers and styles I gravitate to depending on my mood, but the thing that makes my blood run cold is censorship. Book banning feels like a witch hunt to me, and I don’t believe in it. I believe we should make decisions individually about what we read and not have others make those decisions for us.

What do you think is the cause of book discrimination?

Fear and ignorance.

What would you do against it?

Keep writing the books I write in the most honest way possible and hope they reach the people who need them most. I’ve written adult nonfiction and adult fiction, and now I’m writing YA, but all my books have experienced discrimination at one time or other. I say let the words on the page make your mind up, nothing else.

Fill in the blanks. More people should read ________ by ________ because ________.

More people should read everything! They should read books they might not normally think of reading. They should challenge their reading tastes and step out of their comfort zones and let themselves discover whole new worlds.

Thank you so much for participating, Jennifer! Your answers are lovely. ❤

Signature II

Giveaway! ❤

Win an All the Bright Places swag pack! [US only]

[Includes a signed All the Bright Places shirt, post-its, and other pieces of swag]

11 thoughts on “Author Interview: Jennifer Niven

  1. “Write the story you want to read.”

    All the yes’es in the world!! 😀

    I haven’t read All the Bright Places yet but I am going to soon! I was excited upon its publication (and even before) but as mentioned, unfortunately I haven’t managed to read it yet 😦

    Awesome interview! (I’ve always liked author interviews haha)

  2. This was a great interview. I LOVED this book. Finch is forever in my heart. He was a keeper. I really like Jennifer’s comments on the message of her book, “Bright places are everywhere, even when things seem darkest.”

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