Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he's got swagger, but he's also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can't recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He's the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can't understand what's going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone.
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world - theirs and yours.
Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are - and seeing them right back
Title: Holding Up The Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Published By: Penguin
Publication Date: 6th October 2016
We are delighted to welcome the lovely Jennifer Niven to our blog to talk about her latest YA book, 'Holding up the Universe.'
Author Q & A with Jennifer Niven
What was the inspiration behind this novel?
Holding Up the Universe came from so many different facets of my life—my grief over losing my mom, my own weight struggles as a teen, and the struggles of family members who have a neurological condition called prosopagnosia, or face blindness, which means they aren’t able to recognize faces, not even the faces of those they love. It also came from readers who wrote me after reading All the Bright Places to say thank you for letting me know I’m not alone. The theme of Holding Up the Universe is seeing and being seen, and you are wanted, you are loved. That message is a love letter to my readers.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Ever since I was a little girl. My mom, Penelope Niven, was an author, and I grew up with writing time in my childhood routine. It’s what I’ve always loved doing more than anything.
What other jobs have you had?
I worked as a writer and editor at House of Blues and interviewed all the musicians who played there. I was an Associate Producer at ABC Television, which is where I was working when I got the idea for my first book.
How did it feel when your first novel was published?
My first book, The Ice Master, was actually a nonfiction account of a deadly Arctic expedition, and I remember the first time I saw it in a bookstore. It was sitting on the shelves and all I wanted to do was gather up all the copies and run out of the store with them. I wanted to protect them! I wasn’t ready for the book to be out in the world, and none of it felt quite real. But then this man walked over and picked up the book and read the flap copy. And then set it down and walked away. I couldn’t believe it! In that moment, it all became oh-so real, and I wanted to chase after him and make him buy it!
Can you please tell us a little about your publishing story.
Two years after graduating from film school with a graduate degree in screenwriting, I was working at ABC when I stumbled across an idea that I thought would make a great movie. As I was talking to my mom about it, I kept saying, “I wish it was a book because I would love to read this story.” She said, “Why not write it yourself?” I worked at night and on weekends until I had a rough draft I felt good about, and I sent that to my dream agent, who said he wanted to represent me. We sold the book—The Ice Master— at auction three months later. I followed that one up with another Arctic nonfiction story, Ada Blackjack, which is currently being turned into a movie. But after the media started pigeonholing me as an Arctic writer, I decided to write my first novel, which ended up becoming a series of historical novels for adults (the Velva Jean series).
As for YA, I’d always wanted to write in that genre, but had never found the right idea. It wasn’t until the spring of 2013, following the sudden death of my literary agent, that I thought long and hard about what I wanted to write next. The last conversation I’d had with him, he said, “Whatever you write next, write it because you can’t imagine writing anything else. Even if it terrifies you.” I wanted to honor that and him, and I knew exactly what that book would be. The story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die, inspired by a boy I loved and lost years ago. I sent a rough draft of All the Bright Places to my dream agent, and she took me on. Just over a month later, we sold it in a pre-emptive auction to Knopf/Random House.
Have you ever had writer's block? If so how did you overcome it?
I try to write through the block to the other side, or I walk away from my desk for a bit to clear my head. I also try to pay attention to the reason for the block—usually it’s because I’m trying to force the characters or story into a direction they don’t want to go, and I listen to that.
What motivates you to keep writing?
It’s what I love to do most, and there are so many stories to be told. Beyond that, my readers. They are the brightest places in the world.
Where is your favourite place to write?
My big, sunny home office. It’s filled with books and souvenirs from my career and tours, and gifts readers have given me, and there is always at least one literary cat keeping me company as I write. (Not to mention my life-size cardboard cut-out of Supernatural’s Sam Winchester.)
Do your characters moods ever affect your mood and vice versa?
Absolutely. When I’m writing, I’m living in the book and living through the characters. I become them and they’re a part of me, and inevitably I’m crying and laughing alongside them and they’re crying and laughing alongside me.
What three pieces of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Write the story you want to read.
Always believe in yourself and in your work.
Which authors inspire you?
Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Flannery O’Connor, John Green, Jandy Nelson, Nick Hornby, Lauren Groff, Jane Austen, Ray Bradbury, Zora Neale Hurston, JK Rowling. My mom, most of all.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m rereading the Harry Potter series and falling in love all over again.
If your book was made into a film what song would you choose for the opening credits?
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. It’s happy and hopeful just like Holding Up the Universe.
Who would you choose to play your favourite character in the film of your book?
An extremely talented unknown actor who could become Libby or Jack on screen.
What is your next book about?
I can’t reveal that just yet, but I can tell you it’s a book I feel needs to be written. And it’s a book I want to read.
And now think about the books you've read and just give the first one that comes into your head for our quickfire 'Which book round.'
Which book has made you:
Laugh out loud? Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson series. I love it so much!
Cry your heart out? Me Before You
Want to read it again? Wonder
Think more? The Girls
Wish it would be made into a film? The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Shocked? We Were Liars
Scared? The Haunting of Hill House
Thanks for much for joining us today Jennifer
Thank you so much for these wonderful questions, and thank you again for featuring me.
Book Angel x
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. Jennifer lives in Los Angeles and you can learn more about her at www.jenniferniven.com.