Monday, April 7, 2014

John Green Answers Fan Questions with Real Simple Magazine

John answers fan questions about The Fault in Our Stars with Real Simple Magazine's No Obligation Book Club. 

Here are the highlights:

On relating to Hazel, both as a female and a young adult character: 
Well, it’s hard to relate to anyone other than yourself, and so writing fiction is always an attempt at radical empathy, to try to live outside of yourself for a while. I wanted Hazel to be young because it was important to me to make the argument that a short life can also be a good and rich and worthy life. And I wanted her to be female because usually in these stories, it’s a man writing about a tragic woman. The woman suffers nobly and in doing so transforms the life of the man, who is then grateful for all the many lessons he learned from his now-gone great love. This construction reduces the meaning of a person’s life to “allowing other people to learn lessons,” and really I think meaning in life is a lot more complicated than that. It was important to me to invert the gender expectations and also to remove healthy people from the center of the story, so we can hopefully see that Hazel’s life has meaning in and of itself.

On that darn Sisyphus the hamster:
Well, that was the joke. I was fond of the idea that only Sisyphus would be able to get off the hamster wheel of ambiguity. (Also, I’ve just always thought it would be great to have a hamster named Sisyphus, because hamsters really do the same thing all day every day for what must to them feel like eternity.)

On the TFIOS movie:
First, I love the movie. I think it’s the most faithful adaptation I could ever have wished for, and the performances are extraordinary and I’m so proud of everyone involved. I was definitely more included in the entire process—from script to casting to filming—than most authors, and I’m very grateful for that. I was on set for most of the filming of the movie and became good friends with many people in the cast and crew, and I hope that I was able to be helpful on occasion. That said, it’s not my movie. (I don’t know how to make movies.) So all the credit goes to the screenwriters, producers, director, cast, and crew.

On the language of TFIOS:
Well, I think teenagers are really intellectually sophisticated. Like, the characters in 
TFIOS can’t be that far removed from the teen intellectual/emotional experience, since a lot of teens like the book. Certainly, actual people don’t actually speak that actual way, but I’m mostly interested in trying to reflect the way we experience conversation and emotion. (I don’t find so-called realism compelling in fiction, because it privileges—wrongly, I think—an abstract idea of objective reality over experienced reality, which is in my opinion the only verifiable/interesting/important reality.)

Also, I wanted to be super-conscious with TFIOS of the star-crossed-romantic-tragedy genre, and one of the defining features of the genre is the heightened, romanticized language, especially in dialogue. Like, the most famous example of this is in Romeo and Juliet: The first 14 lines that Romeo and Juliet speak to each other form a perfect sonnet. Now, obviously people don’t speak to each other in iambic pentameter, but it still works for me.

For more great questions about Van Houten, religious views, the ending of TFIOS, and more, check out the rest of the interview here at the source. 

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