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Uploaded:2009-03-18
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John Green, author of "Looking for Alaska" and "Paper Towns," talks about his life and work with "Interview Show" host Mark Bazer. Next Interview Show is April 3 at 6:30 p.m. at The Hideout, in Chicago. www.markbazer.com for more info.
Mark: Now, one of the themes that runs through it because he doesn't know what happened to Margo is mortality.

John: Yeah.

Mark: And I was wondering, I mean, mortality is obviously something that everybody at some point deals with, but why do you think it's something that resonates with young adults, with teenagers?

John: Well, usually, teenagers are experiencing death as something that happens to--as something that will happen to you for the first time.  There's all kinds of firsts that are associated with adolescence, but that to me is the big one, is becoming aware of the fact that, like, that dying is not something abstract, um, like winning an Olympic gold medal, but it's something that you're almost guaranteed to do.  And when you realize that it's not like winning an Olympic gold medal, that it's not--that it probably will happen to you, it's sort of devastating.

Mark: Right.

John: And I think that it does sort of realign the way that people think about being a person.

Mark: But you stop thinking about it at a certain point, like, I'm 35, and--

John: Do you?!

Mark: Well, I haven't thought of death in probably a week and a half.  

John: Really?

Mark: You still think about it constantly?

John: Pretty much.

Mark: Really?

John: I mean, it could come for me at any moment, and wouldn't that suck?  This is so nice.

Mark: Especially if it happened right now.

John: This is so nice that we get to do this, you know, and then like, and then there will come this time when we don't get to do this anymore.

Mark: I don't want to be too heavy-handed, but maybe if you have a child, maybe you think less about your own, maybe you're just very selfish right now. Let's get back to the pixie manic dream girl.

John: But like, I mean, I would argue--the manic pixie dream girl, yeah.  

Mark: She shows up in all your books.

John: Yeah.  Well, and in some ways, in some ways, my first novel, Looking for Alaska, the lie of the manic pixie dream girl is never really exposed, because of the arc of the plot of that book, if I can say that without spoilers.

Mark: Don't spoil it.

John: But, I was troubled by that, and it's not just my first novel, it's a lot of novels.  It's a lot of--and that's what Nathan (?~1:55) so brilliantly pointed out, that this is an archetype in our stories, all of these stories, written by men about women, and that imagine women as these creatures that come into our lives and change us for the better and then gracefully exit the stage in whatever way, and I'm really--I became more and more troubled by that.

Mark: Don't you think some women, girls see themselves as that, too?

John: Oh, absolutely, and they construct themselves that way, but like, the fact that boys may construct themselves as--

Mark: Don't you think it's ultimately their fault?

John: I think it's ultimately shared blame, like, boys construct themselves like, there's these--there are these popular vampire books named Twilight and boys now construct themselves as Edward Cullen, but that doesn't mean that like, the lie of Edward Cullen is any less insidious.  

Mark: You're talking a language I don't know.  What's Twilight?  I don't understand.

John: Yeah, yeah.  It's just a way to get amazingly rich.

Mark: Your first book was Looking for Alaska--well, Stephen King, did you see what he said?

John: Oh, boy, I--that was the first day I was glad I wasn't her.  

Mark: Looking for Alaska was--it ha--it was funny, but it was, I would say mostly a serious book.  

John: Yeah.

Mark: Your next book was, I would say mostly a comic book.

John: Yeah, totally a comic novel, An Abundance of Katherines.

Mark: This last one, I felt really, really combined both.

John: I mean, do I have to have this show for myself here?  It's a talk show.

Mark: Yeah, I'm asking the--

John: It's why I come on the talk show.

Mark: Can I finish my question?

John: You hold the--yeah.  

Mark: Yeah.  Do you like the new mugs?

John: I like the mugs.  I like the mugs.  

Mark: What was I asking?

John: My last book--

Mark: The last book was really great.  What do you think about that?

John: No, but you were gonna say there somewhere in the middle, maybe?

Mark: It was som--well, not somewhere in the middle, it seems like you went kind of full on funny, full on serious.  

John: I wanted to see if there was a way to write a book that was--that never stopped being funny and never stopped being serious in the same way that like, for instance, Juno is a movie that never stops being funny and never stops being serious, because I think that that's what we're going through, at least for people who try to view the world funny, is we're going through something that never stops being funny and never stops being serious, and so now, like, I'm imagining Paper Towns in a very different way, because I'm writing a screenplay of it, but I'm trying to think of it that same way, like, the only thing I wanna keep is that sense that we are going to--we are going to be very funny and we are going to be very serious on every page.

Mark: Well, tell me the challenge of that.  That seems to me to be a much harder task.

John: Yeah, I mean, I'm not very good at it is the problem, like, I, you know, I read, I probably read 3,000 novels before I ever tried to write one and I probably read like, six screenplays, so I'm at a distinct disadvantage just numerically.  I don't know, I mean, I'm gonna do my best.  I'm a big believer that movies should be--movies that are adapted from books should be radically different from the books, because they should try to--they should try to maintain the integrity of the ideas and try to--instead of trying to maintain the integrity of the plot, so when--if and when they make the Paper Towns movie, everyone who likes the book is gonna hate me.  

Mark: Well, I should like the movie then.

John: But at least they--(laughs)  But at least, like, they'll be able to hate me instead of hating some vague corporate entity, you know?

Mark: Well, what are you doing that's so, I mean, is it now a--

John: I can't even tell you.

Mark: --buddy cop movie, I mean...

John: It's mostly a buddy cop movie, yeah.  You know?  I felt like there weren't enough cop jokes.  

Mark: Well, what about Looking for Alaska, that--is that coming out in 2010?

John: Ah, probably not, I don't know, I mean, I don't know anything about the way Hollywood works, like, until Paper Towns--

Mark: The OC guy bought the rights to it.

John: No, Paramount bought the rights to it, but the OC guy who, by the way, is now known as the Gossip Girl guy, he's--

Mark: Isn't there another show that he does, too?

John: Previously the OC guy.  He also does Chuck.

Mark: Chuck.  He's the Chuck guy.  

John: Um, yeah.  I mean, this is gonna be on YouTube, so I gotta measure my words--

Mark: I can cut out any part.

John: I don't think it's a disaster if they don't make that movie.  

Mark: Why?  Quinten, Q, as the narrator says, "The thing is that I do believe in college and jobs and maybe even babies one day.  I believe in the future, maybe it's a character flaw, but for me, it's congenital." Are you with him on that?

John: Yeah, I mean, you're picking out all my favorite lines from the book, which I appreciate.  Um, yeah, I--well, I--we read all of these novels and we see all these stories in film and on television and in books, where people don't choose the world, where people choose this ethereal promise of some kind of unquietly, undesperate life, and I think there's something to be said for the world.  I think that the world is kind of underrated, and I--the one thing I really like about Q is that he is willing to acknowledge that about himself, that he doesn't have to be Huck Finn lighting out for the territories, that he's okay with the idea of going to college and having a real life that the kind of people that he sees in his world in Orlando live.  

Mark: Well, he's a geeky guy, but he's a confident guy.  

John: Yeah, yeah!  I mean, he's--well, he's certainly more confident than us.  You know?  I mean, well, he has--

Mark: It's much easier to write confidence than be confident.

John: Oh, God!  Yeah, no, I mean, we both know that.  

Mark: So what's next.  Forget the movies, what's--are you okay?

John: Yeah.  Sorry, I had to recover because we're just so hilariously not confident.  Both of us as people.  The next thing is I've got in March of 2010, my next book comes out, it's co-written with my friend David Levithan who wrote half of the book, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist that they made into a movie, and then in 2011, hopefully, my next novel comes out.

Mark: Which is what?

John: It's called The Sequel, I think, and it's a sequel to a fictional novel, like a non-existent novel.  

Mark: Cool.  Well, thanks for coming by.  John Green, everyone.