aka YA Literature

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Author Interview: John Green

A few weeks ago, I did a (now embarrassing) post about authors that I would love to interview. I went on at length about John Green and how I would love to interview him, but listed several reasons why it would not happen. Well, imagine my surprise when Mr. I Technorati Myself Daily posted a comment saying he would totally answer any interview questions we sent him. We spent one very fun day at the library trying to come up with interview questions. Thank you, John Green, for answering them!

Have you thought about what your "last words" might be? If so, what are they?
I've always felt that "I love you" are the worst possible last words, because A. they are so trite, and B. they aren't memorable, and C. they aren't funny. Ideally, if you are looking to be remembered by history, you have to aim for funny last words. But trite and unmemorable and unfunny as it is, I think I'd like to tell my wife I love her.

How does blogging and/or the Internet affect your writing and your relationship to your readers? What is the coolest/best thing that has happened to you because of the Internet?
"An Abundance of Katherines" would not have been possible without the Internet. In some ways, the web has turned us all into child prodigies--suddenly, I can translate (albeit very poorly) from English into a dozen languages using Babel fish. It isn't difficult for me to determine who the Prime Minister of Canada was in 1913. I can use a web-based program to help me anagram long strings of text. So it has affected my writing in the sense that I think a lot about the Internet, and also in the sense that I use it almost constantly.

And it certainly allows me to have a relationship with my readers that was not previously possible. Readers can see me as a (hopefully) halfway normal person who has a halfway normal job. That's always been important to me, because when I was younger, I felt like books were created by people who were different from me in some fundamental way. I felt that I could never be a writer myself, because I did not have this magical gene that they had. So I do think the Internet allows us to demythologize the whole concept of an "author" a little, which is nice.

The best thing that ever happened to me because of the Internet is Brotherhood 2.0. It has been so cool to do this with Hank.

Other books similar to yours have been published as adult books. In your opinion, what makes a book "adult" rather than YA, and why did you choose to publish YA? Do you write differently (either creatively or in the editorial/publishing process) because you're writing for a teen audience?
"An Abundance of Katherines" was published in two editions, one for adults and one for kids, in the Netherlands. I like that model of publishing a lot, and I'd like to see it in the U.S. But until that happens, I'm quite happy publishing for teenagers, because I really want them to be my core audience. I like teenagers. I think they are interesting people as readers, and I also think they are interesting people to write about. That's why I publish YA--I believe in the importance of good YA novels in an annoyingly evangelical way.

I don't think I write differently because I'm writing for a teen audience, but I have no way of knowing for sure, because I've never written a novel for an adult audience. I am not interested in condescending to teens in any way, though. There is no idea too difficult for them, no narrative structure too inherently complicated. Look at "Octavian Nothing." Most adults think that book is hard as hell to read. But teens love it. I mean, I read "Absalom, Absalom" in high school, and I wasn't that great of a student, and I loved it. So I never worried about writing TO teens.

Guilty books question: What book(s) that you "should" have read have you not, and what book(s) that you "shouldn't" have read did you read and really like?
There are loads of classics I haven't read; I have a lot of embarrassing holes in my reading, so I don't even know where to begin. I've never read "Remembrance of Things Past." Or "War and Peace." "For Whom the Bell Tolls." I could go on, but I'll stop.

As for guilty pleasures: I don't like bad books. I really don't. I believe that books should be smart and should have ambitions. But some people dismiss genre books out of hand, and I love good crime novels. So I like a lot of crime writers, from Hammett and Patricia Highsmith to Michael Connelly and Henning Mankell.

You have a minor, druggie-type character named Hank in Looking For Alaska . Any relationship to your brother?
None whatsoever. The only two things we know about the Hank in "Alaska" is that he plays basketball and smokes pot. So far as I know, my brother Hank has never done drugs, nor has he ever used a basketball.

What interview question do you most wish you'd be asked but never have? And what's your answer?
Oh gosh, I don't know. I'm not a very good interviewer, so I can never come up with good questions.

Although I [Sheryl] don't like either of these men, one of my favorite interview question and answers ever was when Tom Cruise asked James Lipton what turns him on and he said, "Words." What turns you on (in a completely Tom Cruise/James Lipton way, not in a "Letters to Penthouse" way)?
Tom Cruise turns me on. Just kidding. I think the true answer is people's voices.

Is there anything you would like to ask us?
What classics haven't y'all read? I feel like the humiliation should be shared here!
Sheryl - My guiltiest unread book and the one I most want to read but haven't is Animal Farm.
Holly - I don't really feel guilty about any of the great "classics" that I haven't read. However, I keep meaning to read Watership Down and Catch-22 (but I am having too much fun reading YA novels).
Cody - The Bible

By the way, if you haven't checked it out yet, John and his brother Hank have an awesomely hilarious video blog going at Brotherhood 2.o!


Sheryl said...

I'm extremely impressed and surprised that JG replied to us so quickly, considering his trip to the Netherlands and now his moving.

BTW, don't know if I've mentioned this here before, but two of my former HS students performed LFA for UIL competition and one of them won 1st place at district with it this year (he had to use his other piece in finals at regional). It's hard to cut a novel into a 7-minute performance.

I need to get on the TLA YART so I can get my YA author blogging panel for TLA in 2009. Want to do it with me, Holly?

Anonymous said...

thank! for this news it's a good infomation !

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