Jennifer Niven is the New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places, Holding up the Universe and more. These books are hard-hitting, and made all the more heartbreaking by the fact that they are inspired by the author's personal experiences. I had the opportunity to ask Jennifer a few questions about writing and books.

— Catriona Feeney, YA Ambassador

Catriona Feeney: Has writing always been a part of your life? When did you realise that you wanted to become an author?

Jennifer Niven: Writing has always been a part of my life. My mom was an author, and when I was little we would have writing time in my childhood routine. She taught me to see the story in everything and to never limit myself or my imagination. I think a part of me always knew I wanted to write professionally, but I didn’t actually decide to pursue it until I realised I was never going to become a rock star. That was what I truly wanted to do!

What is the worst writing advice you've heard?

My high school guidance counsellor told me I needed to think about taking secretarial classes 'in case the writing thing didn’t work out' and this only inspired me even more to become a professional writer. The worst advice I hear — always — is be realistic, don’t dream too big, and know that it probably won’t happen. My mom used to say, 'Too many people in this world will tell you no. Don’t be one of them.'

If you could have any career aside from writing, what would it be?

I would be a dancer, a forensic anthropologist, or a detective. Or, of course, a rock star!

What is the weirdest thing you've had to research for a book?

I had to research how to create a traceless poison out of household ingredients.

Which of your novels has been the most fun to write?

I loved writing the Velva Jean series because she was such a fun, funny, feisty character. All the Bright Places wasn’t exactly fun to write because it was such a personal, emotional story, but it was probably the most fulfilling.

'The worst advice I hear — always — is be realistic, don’t dream too big…'

Jennifer Niven, author of All the Bright Places

Do you have any unfinished stories stowed away that you might try to revive one day? 

I have a file of them! Not necessarily unfinished stories, but files of ideas and research and notes.

What story would you NEVER try to revive?

I once wrote a screenplay about a small Indiana town that thinks Disney is coming to build a theme park there. It was a sweet little idea, and one I had fun writing, but I don’t think I ever need to revive it.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment? Is there anything you can tell us about them?

In addition to the All the Bright Places movie script, I’m working on two YA novels, one with a collaborator, the other on my own, and I’m also developing a TV show with my best friend.

And now for a lightning round of this or that writing questions! 

Plot or pants?

Definitely a combination of both.

Edit as you go or fly through the draft?


Day or night?


Public or private space?


Silence or music?

Both, depending on the scene I’m writing.

Handwritten or typed?


Both Jennifer Niven and Catriona Feeney will be appearing at All Day YA at Riverside Theatres in Parramatta. For more information and tickets, click here.