Jennifer Niven, author of All the Bright Places, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

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The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jennifer Niven

author of All the Bright Places

Ten Terrifying Questions
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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in North Carolina, raised mostly in Indiana (after living in Okinawa and then Maryland). My move to Indiana in fourth grade prompted one of my earliest books— My Life in Indiana: I Will Never be Happy Again. I graduated high school there, went to college in New Jersey, and, following that, attended grad school in Los Angeles.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve, I wanted to be an international rock star detective—kind of like a Charlie’s Angel (i.e. Jaclyn Smith) meets Josie and the Pussycats. This is because I wanted to be a Charlie’s Angel and a rock star—the two most exciting things I could imagine— so I figured why not combine them? When I was eighteen, I wanted to be an actress because it seemed really, really glamorous, even though I was too shy to try out for any plays I didn’t write and direct myself. When I was thirty, I wanted to be a writer because writing has always been—for all my life—the thing I love to do most.

jennifer niven

Author: Jennifer Niven

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I secretly believed I was charmed, that I was invincible. And then my parents divorced, my grandfather died—the first loss I’d ever known—and I started questioning everything. I’ve since lost my other grandparents, friends, cousins, a boyfriend, my dad, and, most recently, my mom.  Over the years I’ve had to come to terms with how small I am in the scheme of things, but I’ve also learned the ways in which I can make an impact and leave an imprint behind. And, maybe best of all, I know what I’m made of.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Ray Bradbury’s short stories, Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison, and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” All three taught me that something economical can also be powerful. They taught me the importance of being succinct but expressive, and of saying a great deal in the most straightforward way.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Years ago, I knew and loved a boy, and the experience was life-changing.  I’d always wanted to write about it—only because it was so personal, I knew I would need to write it as fiction.  All the while I was working on my other books, I was reading YA novels for fun. So much of what’s being produced in YA literature is brilliant and daring and fantastically imaginative.  I always had the thought in the back of my mind: Someday I’ll write a young adult book.  When I decided on this particular idea, I knew in my bones it was time.

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6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

All the Bright Places is about a boy and a girl who meet on the ledge of their high school bell tower as they’re both contemplating jumping. It’s about bright places and dark places, about making it lovely and leaving something behind. It’s about acceptance in spite of everything, and realizing that you are your own bright place in the world.

Grab a copy of Jennifer’s new book All the Bright Places here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

One early reader emailed me to say that as soon as she read the book, she ran downstairs and hugged her mother. Another reader wrote, “I found after reading this that I wanted to do so much more with my life than just live.” I hope that the book inspires more of those feelings. I hope All the Bright Places will inspire others to look deeper at the people and places around them. And I hope it inspires discussions about teen mental health, so that people feel safe enough to come forward and say, “I have a problem.  I need help.” 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.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why? something-wicked-this-way-comes

I was lucky enough to grow up with a writer mom, who taught me that I could be or do anything I wanted to be or do. I’m an only child, and when I was a little girl, we used to have “writing time.” From her, I learned to find the story in everything, and I learned never to limit myself or my imagination. I also saw firsthand how difficult and stressful and unpredictable the business was. And I saw the commitment it took. Even during the toughest, saddest times of her life, she wrote. In so many ways, she was my hero. I think 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.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

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).

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write, read, and work hard. Remember to enjoy it. Don’t get hung up on making it perfect, because there’s no such thing. Write the kind of book you’d like to read. Write what inspires you. Write what you love.

Jennifer, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of All the Bright Places here


all-the-bright-placesAll the Bright Places

by Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch wants to take his own life. I’m broken, and no one can fix it.

Violet Markey us devastated by her sister’s death. In that instant we went plowing through the guardrail, my words died too.

They meet on the ledge of the school bell tower, and so their story begins. It’s only together they can be themselves . . .

I send a message to Violet: ‘You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.’

You’re so weird, Finch. But that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

But, as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?

About the Author

Jennifer Niven is the author of two narrative non-fiction books, The Ice Master and Ada Blackjack; a high school memoir, The Aqua Net Diaries; and four historical novels for adults: Velva Jean Learns to Drive (based on her Emmy Award-winning film of the same name), Velva Jean Learns to Fly, Becoming Clementine, and the forthcoming American Blonde. All the Bright Places is her first book for young adults.

Grab a copy of All the Bright Places here

VIDEO: Kooshyar Karimi on his incredible new book Leila’s Secret

Kooshyar Karimi is an Iranian Jew who fled his native country after years of living a double life; as a doctor performing secret and illegal operations and as a spy for his country’s secret police. He talks to Caroline Baum about his acclaimed new book Leila’s Secret.

leila-s-secretLeila’s Secret

by Kooshyar Karimi

In fundamentalist Iran, new life sometimes means certain death. When Leila comes to see Doctor Karimi, both are in danger.

Born in a slum to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother, Kooshyar Karimi has transformed himself into a successful doctor, an award-winning writer, and an adoring father. His could be a comfortable life but his conscience won’t permit it: he is incapable of turning away the unmarried women who beg him to save their lives by ending the pregnancies that, if discovered, would see them stoned to death.

One of those women is 22-year-old Leila. Beautiful, intelligent, passionate, she yearns to go to university but her strictly traditional family forbids it. Returning home from the library one day – among the few trips she’s allowed out of the house – she meets a handsome shopkeeper, and her fate is sealed. Kooshyar has rescued countless women, but Leila seeks his help for a different reason, one that will haunt him for years afterwards and inspire an impossible quest from faraway Australia.

Spellbinding and heartbreaking. Leila’s Secret shows us everyday life for women in a country where it can be a crime to fall in love. But for all its tragedy, this unforgettable book is paradoxically uplifting, told from the heart of Kooshyar’s immense sympathy, in the hope that each of us – and the stories we tell – can make a difference.

Grab a copy of Leila’s Secret here

VIDEO: Jacqueline Harvey on her amazing success and what’s in store for Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose

Jacqueline Harvey’s bestselling Alice-Miranda series began as an idea for a picture book but it soon became apparent that this perpetually positive seven-and-a-quarter-year-old had a lot more to say. The series has been sold to the United States, United Kingdom, Indonesia and Turkey and has been shortlisted for children’s book awards in Australia. She chats to John Purcell.

alice-miranda-at-the-palaceAlice-Miranda at the Palace

by Jacqueline Harvey

Alice-Miranda is off on a royal adventure!

It’s Queen Georgiana’s silver jubilee, and Alice-Miranda and her friends are invited. While Evesbury Palace is every bit as magnificent as they’d imagined, some of the staff are behaving strangely. Edgar and Louis, Aunty Gee’s grandsons and the palace’s resident mischief-makers, don’t exactly give their guests a friendly welcome. When they team up with an unexpected visitor, things soon go from bad to worse.

Behind the scenes it seems something much more sinister is at play. Why is Aunty Gee so determined to keep Alice-Miranda at the palace for the rest of the holidays? And who is her mysterious milliner? With the help of her friends and a trusty butler, can Alice-Miranda uncover what threatens to bring down the royal family?

Click here to view the Alice-Miranda series

VIDEO: Ros Reines on her new novel The Social Diary and the difference between gossip and news

Ros Reines is one of Australia’s best known gossip columnists. She chats to John Purcell about her new novel The Social Diary, which is set among Sydney’s A-list in the Eighties The Social Diary is her second novel after the well received Gossip in 2005.

the-social-diary-a-novel-signed-copies-available-The Social Diary : A Novel

by Ros Reines

A gossipy and glamorous novel of 80s excess from the author of the real-life gossip column Guess Who Don’t Sue.

When Savannah Stephens returns to her hometown Sydney after a stint as a music journalist in London, she is thrown into the burgeoning world of society parties and the excesses of the eighties social scene.

Savannah’s first job back on home soil is as the editor of the newly created Social Diary. Her days are spent battling old fashioned newspaper colleagues, who frown upon the so-called ‘women’s pages’ and tut when her stories make front page splashes.

By night she is awash in a sea of expensive champagne at the biggest and best parties the city has to offer. It is there that she collides with the unbelievable characters and larger-than-life personalities who are fast becoming legendary for their jaw-dropping antics.

Will Savannah manage to prove her critics wrong or will she be distracted by a very handsome yet mysterious man?

Funny and satirical, The Social Diary reads at times like an extended version of Ros Reines’ real-life gossip column feature Guess Who Don’t Sue, and is written by someone who has been through it all and lived to tell the tale.

For a limited time only, order The Social Diary and you will receive a signed copy.

VIDEO: The Incompetent Cook battles breakfast with Janella Purcell

Janella Purcell is one of Australia’s favourite nutritionists and cookbook authors. She shares the secrets of her delicious Bircher Muesli with The Incompetent Cook.

Janella’s Super Natural Foods

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Janella’s Super Natural Foods

by Janella Purcell

Keeping it deliciously simple is Janella’s healthy food philosophy. Using many superfoods and grains, she has created over 150 fantastic recipes that the whole family will love.

Superfoods. Food as medicine. Supergrains. Fermented foods. Wholefoods. Keep it simple.

In Janella’s Super Natural Foods every recipe will help you to achieve better health and beauty.

With over 150 delicious recipes for healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts, snacks, drinks and sauces, Janella uses wholefoods to satisfy everyone. A dynamic mix of superfoods and a good old-fashioned plant-based diet, Janella’s philosophy of using food as medicine is simple and easy to follow.

Many of the recipes have been influenced by Janella’s travels to Italy, Japan, India, the Middle East and South East Asia – healthy food has never been so tantalising nor so easy to create in your kitchen. Clearly marked throughout with symbols for gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, raw, soy-free, nut-free or grain-free, each recipe also contains alternative ingredient suggestions to please all your friends and family.

As a talented naturopath, nutritionist, wellness coach, herbalist and environmentalist, Janella Purcell is eager to share her wealth of knowledge and experience. Her passion for cooking and keeping things simple means that staying healthy has never been easier.

Grab your copy of Janella’s Super Natural Foods here

VIDEO: Robert Dessaix on life, love and humbug

Robert Dessaix is a writer, translator, broadcaster and occasional essayist, responsible for the acclaimed memoirs A Mother’s Disgrace and As I Was Saying. He chats to Caroline Baum about his latest book What Days Are For.

 

what-days-are-forWhat Days Are For

by Robert Dessaix

Witty, acerbic, insightful musings from Robert Dessaix, one of Australia’s finest writers.

One Sunday night in Sydney, Robert Dessaix collapses in a gutter in Darlinghurst, and is helped to his hotel by a kind young man wearing a T-shirt that says FUCK YOU. What follows are weeks in hospital, tubes and cannulae puncturing his body, as he recovers from the heart attack threatening daily to kill him.

While lying in the hospital bed, Robert chances upon Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Days’. What, he muses, have his days been for? What and who has he loved – and why?

This is vintage Robert Dessaix. His often surprisingly funny recollections range over topics as eclectic as intimacy, travel, spirituality, enchantment, language and childhood, all woven through with a heightened sense of mortality.

Grab a copy of What Days Are For here

VIDEO: Connie and Samuel Johnson discuss Love Your Sister, unicycles, and mortality

Connie has fought cancer three times in her life, but this time things are different. Connie is dying and she doesn’t have much time left. Faced with the fight of her life, she set her brother Samuel the toughest challenge she could think of. To set a new Guinness World Record for the most distance travelled on a unicycle, raise $1 million and spread Connie’s message of breast cancer awareness. They chat to John Purcell about their amazing story and new book Love Your Sister.

love-your-sister-signed-copies-available-Love Your Sister

by Samuel Johnson, Connie Johnson

Born a year apart, Connie and Samuel Johnson have always been close. Faced with the devastating news that they would soon be separated forever, they made a decision.After already surviving cancer twice in her young life, at 33 Connie was diagnosed with breast cancer. But this time it was a whole different ball game. This time she was told she will die, leaving behind her two sons. As a young mum faced with her own death, Connie wanted to make it all less meaningless, and she knew just the way to do it – send her brother, Sam, on a one-wheeled odyssey around Australia.

The aims: to break the world record for the longest distance travelled on a unicycle. To raise $1 million for the Garvan Research Foundation. And, most importantly, to remind women to be breast aware and stop others having to say goodbye to those they love.Their message is simple: ‘Don’t fall into the booby trap.’ Samuel has travelled through every state and ridden more than 150,000 kilometres to raise awareness and raise research dollars.But Connie had a secret fourth aim: to fix Samuel. And it worked. Sam cleared his diary, cleaned himself up and tenaciously kept his promise to his dying sister.For them the job isn’t over.

They are determined to raise more money for research. Connie vows to fight until her dying day and Sam says the fight will go on long after that. These two remarkable Australians share their tale, from childhood through to the finish line and beyond in this truly unique story. Part memoir, part travel diary, part conversation, Love Your Sister is an inspiring and unforgettable story that shows just how far one man will go for his sister.

For a limited time only, order Love Your Sister and you will receive a signed copy.

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