So yesterday, this happened. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111
photo credit to Kate!
*HYPERSQUEAL MODE ON*
I woke up at 6:30 AM even though I slept at 3AM because I was coming from Bulacan and Makati is practically another planet. Hello, nothing will make me late to meet Jennifer Niven, NOTHING. So a little background...
Back in November 2014, I stayed up until 5AM despite having work at 8:30AM because of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES. It was such an amazing book I had snot all over my pillow from crying. I was a zombie at work, not only from lack of sleep, but because I was just zoning out, trying to accept it all and process my emotions. It was the first book I've read about depression and it was an eye-opener.
So, THIS IS A BIG DEAL. I initially wailed when I thought I wasn't gonna be able to go to #JenniferNiveninPH because my dragon boat team's regatta was originally scheduled yesterday. So when it was announced that it was moved, I definitely rejoiced. There might have been shouting and jumping up and down, just saying.
Anyway, when I first saw Jennifer yesterday, I literally squealed then covered my mouth. TO SEE HER WAS SURREAL. And then to hear her talk and answer our questions? EVEN MORE SURREAL. This is the person who brought Violet and Finch to life. This is the giver of feels and tears.
Because even though I'm still high from the experience, I will always be lazy to quote Jen's answers word per word SOOOOO I'll just provide the gist of her answers. And off we go!
JM of Book Freak Revelations asked if Jennifer was to write a sequel to ATBP, what would be in store for Violet Markey?
Jen said that Violet will wander New York and go to NYU, where she hoped to go. After she graduates, she'd wander around the world and one day, will write a book about Finch.
FEELINGS. WRITE A BOOK ABOUT FINCH. Hold meeeeeeeee
By the way, Jen is so soft-spoken and she's so sincere. She's just so down-to-earth too. I mean, ATBP has been lauded by so many as the best book of 2015 and practically everyone loves it but she's still so humble! Gah, I love her!
Jasmine of Jasmine Pearl Reads then asked if Jen would change the ending of ATBP given the chance and why or why not. Jen said she wanted to make it a happy ending when she was writing it. She told us how she was torn between writing what she knew (her experience) and a happy ending. But then at the end of the day, she wrote her experience, which will hopefully lead to happier endings for people who've read it.
ISN'T JEN THE SWEETEST I JUST CANNOT
Salve of Cuckoo for Books: Was there anything any of the characters could have done to change the end of the novel/the fate of THAT character? Or was it, like Finch said, something that always had a built-in ending?
I especially love Jen's answer here because she said that there's a lot that could have been done. Finch's mother could have paid more attention and his classmates could have been more accepting and less judgmental. Lastly, Finch could have reached out, let people in, and been more responsible. I think it was a great answer because the environment does play a huge role in pushing people with depression to go to places we don't want them to go. But ultimately, Jen still made sure to say that Finch had to do something too. Sure, his environment was not optimal but if only, if only Finch opened up. Then, I guess, that's the lesson of the novel, isn't it? For people to be accepting and for people's feelings to be validated and that it isn't taboo to ask for help. HUHUHUHU I MIGHT CRY WHILE WRITING THIS RECAP HELP
Kevin of Tomebound: All The Bright Places shed some light on some mental health issues that are relevant in today's society. How much research went into the novel for it to have such powerful and emotional portrayal of severe depression and was it difficult for Jennifer to take it all in while writing the novel?
Knowing the boy Jen knew who was like Finch and what he went through created Finch's character. Of course, she talked to experts and people struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts as well. But mostly it was knowing that boy and what he went through.
Jesselle of The Lifelong Bookworm: What can readers expect from your new book, Holding Up the Universe?
Jesselle and Jennifer are friends and Jesselle actually has a cameo on Holding Up the Universe! I mean, HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!?!
Jen said that if ATBP was a ten-boxes-of-tissues kind of book, HUTU was just a five-boxes-of-tissues. WHEW, thanks, Jen, for saving us some tissues! Haha! Jen said HUTU was a little bit happier than ATBP and she had fun writing Libby. It's about seeing others for who they really are and she hopes that readers get "all the feels with a little less tears". I EXPECT THAT, JEN. IF I END UP BAWLING LIKE I DID WITH ATBP I WILL HOUND YOU hihi
might sound cheesy but these people are bright places in my life
photo credit to Kate!
Kai of Amaterasu Reads: As your previous books were non-fiction, what made you transition into writing YA stories and how different is it to write for teens instead of adults?
Jen started writing non-fiction then moved to adult. While finishing the fourth book of her series back in 2013, her literary agent of 15 years unexpectedly died. The last thing she wanted was to write. But she remembered a conversation she had with her agent, the last one, where her agent told her to write what you can't imagine not writing. She thought long and hard on what she wanted to write and she felt like she had to honor her agent's wish. She kept coming back to this boy she loved years ago and she has always loved reading YA and been wanting to write it. She asked her fiancé if anyone would read a book like that and he told Jen that she had to write that book. And then she did.
By the way, said fiance was there as well and he was so soooooooooo supportive. Taking so many photos of Jen and even Jen with us.
And it's time for my question! Of course I'm very interested in the film adaptation of the book (and I still wish Freddie Highmore gets cast as Finch HAHAHA). So my question was: How different or difficult was it for Jennifer to adapt her own book as a film screenplay?
Apparently, Jen went to film school but even though she had the cred to write the screenplay, she was really scared since it has been a while since she had written one. The director of the film told the producers that he'll only accept a screenplay adapted by Jen herself so she had to do it. With film not having as much space as a novel has, Jen certainly had to cut scenes out, which has been stressful for her because she felt like everything needs to be in there, which would then result to a 12-part film as the director said. As Jen thinks the readers are the most important, she asked them which scenes should totally must be in the film. So she listened to the fans and made sure that their favorite lines and scenes were there.
I MEAN, COME ON. Jen just loves her readers so much and listens to them. Thank you so much, Jen!
Movie news: They'll start shooting in the fall. GOOD LORD, WHO IS FINCH WHEN IS THE ANNOUNCEMENT COMING (apparently at the end of summer)
I forgot who asked this question (fail) but it's: What do you do on your writing break?
Jen writes almost all of the time as she works a lot. But in her downtime, she plays with friends and family. She also loves to dance! And hiking and travel. And of course, read. And binge-watch TV. We all know how big a fan of Supernatural she is, right? She needs these activities to recharge herself and escape for a bit.
Leslie of bibliophilekid: Mental illness is still somewhat of a taboo in our society today. What made you decide that Finch and Violet's story needed to be told?
Jen felt that we needed to talk about it and be there for teens. She wants to tell it because it was something she went through and has been carrying for so long. At the time of losing this boy she loved, people do not talk about mental illness. So she had to keep quiet and keep it all in. But with ATBP, she finally had the chance to talk about it, but not only for herself, because so can people can talk about it too. She believes that teens don't get listened to by the adults in their life and get their feelings invalidated. ATBP is there to make them know that they're not alone.
YES SO MUCH YES
Lastly, Lyra of Defiantly Deviant asked: How was the writing process for Holding Up the Universe different from the writing process for All the Bright Places?
Jen has written nine books by now and each book wants to be written differently. She was still living in Violet and Finch's headspace (actually, she has been living in that headspace for so long even before writing the book) so it was particularly challenging to write Holding Up the Universe. To help her get into Libby and Jack's headspace, she made playlists for each character to get into the mood. HUTU was fun to write because Jen and her characters kept surprising her as everything was unexpected.
Then Jen gave her readers a teary and emotional message HUHUHUHU CUE TEARS
video credit to Kai!
Thank you Jen and Penguin for the chapter sampler of Holding Up the Universe! And to Sab for the Polaroid hihi. AND JEN FOR EVEN GIVING ME AN ATBP POST-IT NOTEPAD AFTER I REGALED HER WITH THE TALE OF ME READING ATBP
After that, I went to the public signing! I wasn't able to hear the questions and the photos that I took suck so here's just a video of SOME of the people in the venue because I wasn't able to include them all in the video. THERE WERE SO MANY! Jen is such a rock star and she deserves it all~
.@jenniferniven is a rock star! Look at that crowd! #JenniferNiveninPH @nbsalert pic.twitter.com/V6yqb4z2nL— Dianne (@oopsireadagain) May 29, 2016
I will be forever grateful to National Book Store for bringing one of the loveliest authors here in the Philippines. Thank you so much NBS and to everyone who worked to make #JenniferNiveninPH such a success!
Here are links to recaps by friends! Be sure to check them out!
Jesselle of The Lifelong Bookworm
Kai of Amaterasu Reads