John Green grew up in Orlando, Florida, within spitting distance of Disney World. He moved to Ohio for university, where he studied English and Religion. For several months after graduating, John worked as a chaplain at a children’s hospital. While there, he was inspired to write his first novel, Looking for Alaska, which became a bestseller in the United States and won many literary prizes around the world, including the Michael L. Printz Award in the US and the Silver Inky Award in Australia. John’s second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, was published in 2006, and became a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize as well as being named a Michael L. Printz Honor book. Paper Towns, published in the US in 2008, debuted at #5 on the New York Times bestseller list and won the prestigious Edgar Allen Poe Award for best mystery novel. In 2009, Paper Towns was also voted #1 in the ALA (American Library Association) Teens’ Top Ten by over 11,000 readers. The Fault in our Stars is his latest bestselling literary tour de force.
In January of 2007, John and his younger brother Hank began a year-long project in which they communicated solely by daily videoblogs. This experiment, called Brotherhood 2.0, was covered extensively by the media — from the Wall Street Journal to BBC 4 — and became hugely popular around the world, spawning a community of proud supporters who call themselves nerdfighters. John and Hank continue to make videos back and forth to each other, and they are available to watch on YouTube.
In his spare time, John is a huge fan of English Premier League football, but he won’t tell you which club he supports because he does not wish to alienate any potential readers. He does admit, however, to getting chills whenever he hears “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
John Green currently lives in Indianapolis with his wife, Sarah.
JOHN GREEN Q&A
1. What are your 5 favourite books, and why?
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
2. Who are your 5 favourite authors/illustrators, and why?
For this one, let’s stick to the world of young adult books:
Markus Zusak, because while he is aggravatingly handsome, he writes books that have tremendous integrity.
M. T. Anderson
3. What was your favourite book when you were a child?
I was really fond of The Babysitters’ Club. Did you guys have those books? It was a series about a bunch of girls who started a babysitting business. And they were always getting into trouble and talking about boys and Learning Important Lessons. These books were strictly for girls—pink covers, etc.—but I loved them.
4. Who is your favourite hero in a book?
I’m awfully fond of Huck Finn, the American teenager who refuses to be civilized by the demented world in which he finds himself.
5. Who is your favourite villain in a book?
Satan in Paradise Lost. It’s no contest, really.
6. If you could be a character from a book who would you be?
I would be Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books. It’s a good life for a crazy beautiful veteran of Dumbledore’s Army.
7. If you could recommend just one book for everyone to read what would it be?
I think pretty much every human being can benefit from reading The Golden Compass [Northern Lights - UK title].
8. What book do you wish you had written?
Well, I wish I’d written them all. I mean, if I had written every book ever published, I would be so rich.
9. Who or what was your biggest influence in deciding to become a writer?
To be perfectly honest, a lot of my initial motivations were entirely despicable. Like, when I started writing Looking for Alaska, one of my central goals was to make my ex-girlfriends regret dumping me. Resentment is a good motivator, but it doesn’t last.
These days I write for the same reason I read: I still believe that stories can help save us, and that books give us an opportunity to talk about stuff that matters.
10. What's the best thing you've ever written?
Oh, I don’t think any of it is particularly good, to be honest. The question of quality is not one for me to answer; my books belong to their readers, not to me.
11. When did you start writing?
I started writing stories when I was eight years old, but they were terrible. I don’t mean that they were bad in the way that all stories by eight-year-olds were bad; I mean that they were unusually bad. I don’t think I wrote a good sentence until college—and even then they were anomalous, like the proverbial monkeys at the proverbial typewriters who eventually write Hamlet.
I could always tell stories; I just needed to figure out how to write them down, and that happened slowly in the years after school as I read more and more books.
12. If someone wanted to be a writer what would be your number one tip for them?
Read. Reading is the only apprenticeship we have.
13. Is there any particular routine involved in your writing process?
I am a little superstitious about keyboards. Like, if I am struggling with a story, sometimes I will start to blame the keyboard. And then I will go out and buy a new one. This has resulted in an extensive collection of keyboards. Fortunately, they are cheap.
14. Do you have any abandoned stories in your ‘bottom drawer’ that you would like to revisit?
Yes. But then I will open up that bottom drawer and begin reading, and I will realize that the bottom drawer exists for a reason.
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