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Best-Selling Author Visits O’Dowd

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Best-selling author Jennifer Niven made a return visit to O’Dowd last week to talk about her latest young adult novel, Holding Up The Universe, which was released October 4. Several classes were on hand for her presentation, held in the theater. “The best thing about being a writer is getting to meet and talk to readers,” she said.

She last visited O’Dowd in January 2015, the day after her first young adult book, All the Bright Places, was released. That book became a New York Times/International best seller, and a movie based on the book, starring Elle Fanning, is set to be released in 2017. Niven is writing the script for the movie.

Niven has written nonfiction and fiction, both historical and contemporary, adult and young adult. “At first glance my books are all over the map, but if you look closely they share a common theme: they are stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” she said.

English teacher Damian Barnes was thrilled that Niven returned to campus.

“She is so approachable with the students, and I love that they feel comfortable enough to ask questions about her process and her career. These book talks from authors invited by Mrs. Counts in the library and the Book Club give students the chance to learn about what it takes to write literature,” he said.

The primary creative influence in Niven’s life was her mother, author Penelope Niven. “She taught me to observe life and people, and told me that you can find a story anywhere,” Niven said.

Written while Niven was touring for All the Bright Places, Holding Up The Universe is about two teens, Libby and Jack, who meet through a cruel high school game and form an improbable friendship. It’s also about learning to love yourself, Niven said.

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During a question and answer session, Niven talked about how she deals with writer’s block, shared who her favorite authors are, described how writing a script is different than a novel, the writing process, and her day-to-day life as a writer.

Students were curious about the nuts and bolts of writing a novel – particularly if Niven followed any kind of writing formula. “Each book I’ve written wants to be written differently,” Niven said. “I tend to be a combination of pantsing (writing by the seat of her pants) and plotting. But I always leave myself open to detours,” she said.

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