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No Gods, No Kings, Only Pizzamas: https://store.dftba.com/collections/pizzamas

In which John discusses the writing and promotion of his first novel Looking for Alaska, his feelings about the TV series adapted from the book, and his little brother Hank's forthcoming second novel. Sarah said I should try using tags, so I guess this is about #reading and #writing.



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Listen to Dear Hank and John at http://www.dearhankandjohn.org
Good morning Hank it’s Friday, 

I really loved your video about writing yesterday and for some reason it brought me back to my first ever book signing on March 5th 2005 at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois just a couple days after Looking For Alaska was first published.Coincidentally, a video sharing website called YouTube had launched a couple weeks earlier but I had not yet heard of it.

Right, so I’d done promotion the best way I knew how: I sent out an email to the few subscribers of my mailing list, I’d told everyone I knew that I was gonna be doing this event and I remember as we were driving to Naperville, Sarah and I discussed what would be a successfully event and we decided 12 people- if 12 people came to this thing and bought books it would be a success.

In the end, 3 people showed up, one of whom was my boss at Booklist magazine who very generously pretended to be a stranger. The bookstore had set up like 40 chairs and a podium so I ended up reading to this tiny crowd and I chose a passage from Looking For Alaska that included the sentence ‘The only thing worse than having a party nobody attends is having a party attended only by two vastly, deeply uninteresting people.’ So basically, I managed to insult the few people who did attend the event.

Afterwards, we were driving back to Chicago and Sarah turned to me and said “I’m not gonna lie, that was bad”. And for the first 3 years of my writing careear it was almost always bad; like, I stopped reading that passage of Looking For Alaska obviously but I continued to have signings attended by between 0 and five people even after Looking For Alaska won the Printz Award.

It wasn’t until 2008 that the crowd started to get double digit-y and by then I had learned that books don’t exist to make authors famous or successful, books exist for the people who read them and my only real job after finishing writing a book was to be grateful to anyone who read one of my stories generously enough to find it meaningful. So I’ve been thinking about this for two reasons:

[1]First, because the TV show adaptation for Looking For Alaska just came out and it is really wonderful and in fact, at least according to rotten tomatoes,it is the ‘Freshest adaptation of my work’.

And watching it sent me back into several versions of my past simultaneously including the past in which I was writing the first draft of Looking For Alaska while recovering from what, I guess now, would be considered a mental health crisis. I was living alone in a small furnished apartment in Chicago and trying to find out how you can live with guilt that can’t be excused and how catastrophic it can be when you romanticise or essentialise the people you claim to love. And to me those were not like rhetorical questions but matters of life and death because I needed to find a way to what theologians call Radical Hope- the idea that hope is available to all people at all times including even the dead.
I’m still quite dependent on Radical Hope actually.

[2]But then the other reason that I’ve been thinking about this past, Hank, is because you have just finished your sequel to your brilliant first novel An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited to read a boom: I think it was Deathly Hallows. Because Hank, you write the kind of stories I love to read, stories that are about human individuals but also about the big ideas those individuals must live with and wrestle with to make it through this veil of tears.

And, while you were of course very lucky to have a built-in audience for your writing at the start, that also meant you didn’t have years of practicing talking about your writing before people started listening. You’ve handled that pressure amazingly and you haven’t let it stop you from writing  another book which, I can report from experience, is a hell of an accomplishment.

So congratulations, I’m accustomed to looking up to you as a philanthropist and as a YouTuber and as my boss at Complexly but it is a real joy now to be able to look up to you as a novelist as well.

Hank, I’ll see you on Monday.

By the way, here in Indianapolis the weather is just frightful. Thank goodness I have this wonderful Pizzamas sweatshirt and this Pizzamas scarf to keep me warm in those cold Atumn days.All this is available only during Pizzamas. Encourage customers to act now by pretending that supplies are limited even though they aren’t- is something I wrote in my notes.

Bye.