John Green is the author of last year's Printz winner, Looking For Alaska, which is about Miles "Pudge" Halter's year at boarding school, the fascinating and sexy Alaska, and how our choices impact others in big and little ways; and this year's An Abundance of Katherines, about a former child prodigy who has always dated girls named Katherine and is looking for meaning in his post high school life.
John is also part of that new breed of YA authors: cool, funny, and cute. And I'm not just saying that because he has been incredibly patient despite the delays in our interview and it getting posted here. And, I almost met him in person at ALA, except he was sick (yet still gave a great speech at the Printz Awards) and I didn't want to be a total fangirl groupie.
Why is John Green so cool? Well, read this interview and find out!
Liz B: I always love to hear the background of how a story got written. Are you a plunger (just sitting down and plunging ahead with the writing) or a plotter (with a color coded outline?)
John: I am a plunger, and then later I am a plotter. I think a lot about a book before I actually start writing it, but I don't think about plot so much. I think mostly about the people in the book, and what they should be like, and how they should relate to each other, and for me the plot arises out of that. And then I write a first draft without any kind of outline, but because I revise so much (I spent more than a year revising both "Katherines" and "Alaska"), that first draft becomes a kind of outline for me. Generally, little or nothing survives from the first draft, but it does serve as a skeleton. A nd in revisions, I certainly focus a lot more on plotting a story than I do in the first draft, when I'm mostly thinking about people and their interactions.
Liz B: Colin in An Abundance of Katherines is a former child prodigy who doesn't have much smarts about social situations, especially when he was younger. While I was reading, it sounded almost as if Colin has Aspergers -- do I win the prize for overreading?
John: No, you don't win the prize for overreading. I think it is actually a very good observation. These days when people talk about autism they talk about "the autistic spectrum." There are all kinds of people who are now considered to have mild forms of Asperger's than 10 years ago just would have been considered awkward. (I have close friends who might have been said to be very mildly autistic, for instance.) I wanted Colin to be the kind of person who doesn't excel at social interactions but who does care deeply about people. That may put him on "the autistic spectrum," but the overriding point of the book is that he, like a lot of very smart people who have social difficulties, is actually pretty normal.
Liz B: An Abundance of Katherines was just published this fall and you've been busy promoting it (both online and in the real world.) Have you started on a new book? Can you tell us anything about it?
John: I have been pretty busy with traveling and stuff, but I started my new book several months before "Katherines" came out, so I have at least gotten a start. I find it really difficult to talk about books I haven't finished yet, because I always sound like an idiot. When I used to tell people about "Alaska" before it was done, I would say, "It's about a girl, and a boy, and a boarding school." And people would say, "Oh, that's great," and then turn on their heels and find someone else to talk to. So I guess the new book (which is untitled; feel free to email me title suggestions) is about a boy, and a girl, and then after a crazy all-night adventure, the girl disappears.
Liz B: I'll be cross posting this at Pop Goes the Library, which is about pop culture and libraries. What is your pop culture area of expertise?
John: Are conjoined twins part of pop culture? If so, definitely conjoined twins. Also: I know a lot about CSI: Miami, because one time my wife and I watched about 20 CSI: Miami episodes back-to-back. (In our defense, we both had the flu.)
Liz B: Thank you, John! In honor of you:
Cross posed at Pop Goes the Library.