Hostile Questions: John Green
Posted by: Daniel Kraus
It’s a red-letter day: Hostile Questions’ 1st birthday and our 50th interview. And if there’s a man begging to be brought up charges of Un-Author-like Conduct over past year, it’s none other than John Green. John Green. John Green. (I keep repeating his name cuz that’s what you’re supposed to do with John Green, right? Oh, snap!!)
Your Honor, the evidence is insurmountable. Exhibit A (The Fault in Our Stars) became an instant Amazon #1 bestseller when it was merely announced. Mr. Green then compounded the problem with an insidious stunt involving signing the entire 150,000 first printing. What’s wrong, Mr. Green? Couldn’t bring yourself to sign the nearly one million copies currently in print? Guess you were too busy lining up bus tours and gigs at Carnegie Hall and sit-downs with famous celebrity interviewers. “Objection”?! But, Your Honor, I’m just getting started!
OK, fine. Maybe–just maybe–we here at Booklist kinda miss our former colleague. We knew him before he was an “Experience” and was just a guy with a really, really, really disgusting office. Perhaps we should withdraw our formal complaint. Yes, I think we should. Especially since I see an army of shiny-eyed (and probably armed) nerdfighters about to attack. Court adjourned!!! DFTBCDWA or whatever!!!
Just who do you think you are?
I’m a novelist with a day job making YouTube videos. I used to be a novelist with a day job being an editorial assistant and then a production editor at Booklist Magazine. Anyway, I don’t like to think too much about who I *think* I am, because it leads down this endless spiral of self-consciousness and doubt and self-reproach that 1. feels pretty dark and hopeless, and more importantly 2. is ultimately mere self-indulgence. Better to turn outward when possible, I think.
Where do you get off?
Usually at the corner of Hoover and 73rd, although the Indianapolis bus system is so woefully underfunded and underutilized that I often have to disembark whenever the bus just stops running or whatever and make my way home. I remember the places I’ve lived by the public transport stops, though: The Division Blue Line stop; the 86th street stop on the 1 line; the Western Brown Line stop; the Spui Square tram stop; and now, Hoover and 73rd in sunny Indianapolis.
The big idea is to pay attention. That’s the thing that humans get to do: We get to be observers of the universe, but it’s very hard to pay attention to the universe’s majesty and elegance in a sustained way, because Kim Kardashian had an amazing sandwich for lunch and you’re worried that the twinge in your knee might be a tumor, and there is a mortgage to pay, and so on. We live in a world supersaturated with distractions, and so even though there are more opportunities for paying attention, it’s still very difficult to do. This is why books are so important to me: They demand (and compel) my attention, and pull me out of myself so that I can pay attention for a little while.
What is your problem, man?
Well, hypochondria, probably, but the underlying problem with hypochondria is that it might be some actual terrible illness. I have other problems, too, though. I remember in college, my girlfriend at the time asked me, “What’s your biggest fear?” And I was like, “Probably abandonment, but I’m also really afraid that I’m just a complete imposter, and I fear that if there is no outside order to the human experiment that it’s all totally meaningless, and I fear suffering in every form. What’s your biggest fear?” And after a second, she said, “Geese.”
Haven’t you done enough?
Nah, most of the pleasure of writing for me is inside the work itself, and my favorite book of mine is always the next one. I like making stuff. It helps me to pay attention.