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  • Writer's pictureJerri Lynn Sparks

Blue Ridge Girl Interviews...A Blue Ridge Girl!

Happy Friday! I'm so excited to share this new section on my writer's page! I will be periodically profiling Southern writers and I'm kicking off the first Southern writer interview with the amazingly talented and oh so kind friend of mine, the beautiful Jennifer Niven! I met Jennifer many years ago when she came to Rochester to promote her novel, which would later be turned into a movie on Netflix, "All The Bright Places." I was one of her columnists in Germ Magazine and I found Jennifer to be every bit as enthusiastic and fun as she seems. Here's the interview and some gorgeous photos of one of the South's gems!

(Meeting with Jennifer at a Young Adult book fair in Rochester, NY circa 2015.) 1)When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve loved to write ever since I was a little girl. Before I could ever put pen to paper and form written words, I loved making up stories to entertain my parents and friends. My mom was also an author, and once she saw that I loved storytelling more than anything else, we had writing time in my childhood routine. From her, I learned to find the story in everything.

(Photo: Jennifer Niven and her mother, Penelope Niven, both Southern writers.)

2) What was the first thing you ever wrote and why?

The first complete book I wrote was called My Life in Indiana: I Will Never Be Happy Again. I wrote it when I was ten, shortly after my parents and I moved from Maryland to Indiana. Clearly I was not thrilled to be leaving Maryland for this brand new place! My mom had been teaching me to use writing as an outlet for my feelings, to pour myself onto the page. So immediately after writing the book, I handed the book to my parents.

3) What was the first place your work was published?

The DAR published an essay of mine in fifth grade. I won a state competition for it! And in high school my best friend and I edited the school literary magazine and published all of our own stories. ☺

4) What about you is uniquely Southern?

My manners, my humor, my warmth, and my love for spinning a good yarn. I come from a family of storytellers. It’s in our blood. I also come from a warm and loving family, all of whom also happen to be hysterically funny.

5) What projects are you working on right now?

I’m writing a new YA novel, brainstorming an adult mystery and a middle grade, and am finishing up my script for the Holding Up the Universe movie. I also have a new YA novel coming out before long, but more on that soon…

6) What is your fondest Blue Ridge memory?

Driving the Blue Ridge parkway with my grandparents. My granddaddy’s brother worked on the construction of the parkway and died tragically when a dam burst while he was working on it. My grandparents were so much fun, and I was the only grandchild. My mom made sure we spent summers with them in Asheville and with her parents and my cousins in Waxhaw, outside of Charlotte. From them, I learned the history of those mountains. Second favorite memory was walking the grounds of Highland Hospital in Asheville, where Zelda Fitzgerald died, and where my granddaddy had worked when he was a teenager. Oh, the stories he shared!

7) What is your favorite Southern food and why?

Cheese biscuits, specifically from my Great Aunt Geneva’s recipe. They remind me of my childhood and all the people I love who are no longer here.

8) What do you miss most about the South?

My family—both sets of grandparents, beloved cousins, aunts, and uncles, my wonderful dad, and my magical, beloved mom.

9) When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An international rock star detective—a career I invented—because it sounded like the most glamorous, exciting thing anyone could ever be.

10) When you are eighty, what do you want to be doing?

Writing! And holding hands with my husband.

(Jennifer and her husband, photographer Justin Conway.)

11) What is your favorite song of all time?

“Dancing Queen” or “Take a Chance On Me” by ABBA. Actually anything by ABBA!

12) Who is your favorite Southern author? (I think I know the answer to this one. Xoxo )

My mother, Penelope Niven. My second favorite? Flannery O’Connor.

(Penelope and Jennifer Niven, mother and daughter, both Southern writers.) ****** Links to Jennifer Niven's work and social media sites are here: Jennifer Niven (@jenniferniven) • Twitter The latest tweets from @jenniferniven Jennifer Niven (@jenniferniven) • Instagram photos and videos

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