March 28th, 2009
John Green won the Michael L. Printz medal for his first novel Looking for Alaska. With his second novel, he won a Printz Honor title for An Abundance of Katherines. With his third novel, Paper Towns, he is nominated for an Edgar in the young adult category. Paper Towns is a thoughtful mystery surrounding the disappearance of Margo Roth Spiegelman, written by the young man living next door who loves her.
To young fans, John is perhaps best known for his year long video blog he and his brother Hank Green ran called Brotherhood 2.0 in 2006. They started a term called nerdfighters, for young people fighting against the nerd image.
I had the pleasure of getting to know John when he visited the Schaumburg Township District Library in October 2006, and also visited the high school where my sister teaches in the city. His generosity, humor, and respect for young people are evident in his every action and I will not forget that visit. Several nerdfighters from towns all over came to the library to see him, too, and it is clear that young people everywhere are finding a friend in John’s excellent books.
All the young adult mystery nominations are not to be missed. I asked John to answer some questions over email for this blog in particular as he lives in the Midwest. I also knew he was particularly excited about going to the Edgars…
Enjoy meeting John Green.
AA: What was different about writing a mystery than Katherines and Alaska? Was the fan reaction any different?
John Green: The writing wasn’t that different, although I did try to pay more about to plot when writing “Paper Towns.” I also wanted to play with pacing a lot more than I did in my previous novels–I wanted everything to feel fast and then infuriatingly slow and then fast again, which is how I think mysteries often play out in our lives.
The fan reaction hasn’t been that different (although Paper Towns has sold better), at least so far as I can tell, but that says more about my readers than it says about me. They’re more interested in the quality of the book than its genre, which is something I admire greatly about teenagers. (And they’ve taught me the value of reading more widely.)
AA: What mysteries do you like to read?
John Green: Too many to list. I love everything from Christie to Crumley. I read everything I can get my hands on by Henning Mankell, Michael Connolly, and Sara Paretsky. I also reread a novel called “The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon” pretty much every year.
AA: Do you have ideas for more suspense books like Paper Towns?
John Green: The book that I’m starting to work on now is kind of a thriller I guess. It’s very hard to say with YA novels what is a mystery and what isn’t (and with adult novels, too, I know, but then at least one has a section of the bookstore to do part of the work). I just want to use everything available to me as a writer to write stories that matter to the kids I’m writing them for–and I’ll use anything in the arsenal I think might accomplish that goal. (But I want to make clear that I’m not saying that I want to “transcend the genre.” I don’t think the genre needs any transcending.)
AA: I read on your blog that your mother is excited about your Edgar nomination. I think the ceremony will may be unlike librarian and publishing children and YA events. What are you looking forward to?
John Green: Well, it’s black tie, which is exciting–although it makes me wish I had bought a tuxedo for my wedding instead of renting one. Also, a lot of writers I admire will be at the ceremony–I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to talk to many of them, but that’s something I really enjoy. (Also, I dork out a little.)
And yes, Mom was very excited to hear about it. I’d never before been a finalist for an award she’d heard of, so for once she could be happy for me without my having to explain to her what she was happy about.
AA: Are you going to post anything online that fans can see from the Edgars?
John Green: For sure! Videos and blog entries and tweets. By April someone will probably have invented some new and absolutely essential new kind of Internet communication. I’ll use that, too.
Amy Alessio is the Teen Coordinator at the Schaumburg Twp. Dist. Library in IL. She reviews teen mysteries and fiction for Teenreads.com and Crimespree Magazine.