Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #19:
John Green — Printz Winner, Nerd Fighter,
WorldSuck Decreaser.

h1 April 13th, 2007 by Eisha and Jules

We know it’s Poetry Friday, but we thought we’d shake things up with Something Unexpected for the end of this week (forgive us, National Poetry Month). It’s probably pretty obvious that we here at 7-Imp think that random author and/or illustrator interviews (as in, the interviewee may not necessarily have a new title to promote) are always interesting and fun. If you’re a fan of the person being interviewed, it’s a nice, little surprise to suddenly see them pop up when you least expect them. Like we did with M.T. Anderson — who is holding Jules’ head, you may remember (dude, I need to remember to ask for my head back) — and Jarrett J. Krosoczka. They had no new books to plug. We just like them a whole, whole lot. The fact that they’re both on Fuse #8’s list of Hot Men of Children’s Literature (#19 and #25, respectively)… coincidence.  Yup.  Sheer coincidence.

Same goes for John Green (HMOCL #6… What? What? It’s coincidence, I tell you!). We are fans of his writing, which tends toward an irresistible mash-up of buddy novel, bildungsroman and love story told through evocative imagery and dead-on dialogue. We are also fans (as is the rest of the world, it seems) of Brotherhood 2.0, the daily video blog he and his brother, Hank, have undertaken, which has graced the world with such gifts as …In Your Pants, Nerd Fighters, and the Foundation to Decrease WorldSuck.  Oh, and this riveting edge-of-your-seat adventure as John Green and M.T. Anderson bravely (and illegally) explore the legendary forbidden ruins of downtown Detroit. Ooh . . . Perhaps the most classic Brotherhood 2.0 moment of all was when John was caught on film when receiving the phone call in January of this year about the Printz Honor for 2006’s An Abundance of Katherines.

Just in case you’re new to John Green (the writer, not the prominent cryptozoologist “Bigfoot” researcher — we’re just sayin’, in case any cryptozoology buffs land here, looking for talk of footprints), here’s your John Green 101: It’s pretty simple — he’s written two novels thus far, and he’s really talented. His fans and critics will tell you that. His first novel, Looking for Alaska (Dutton Books; 2005), was the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award Winner (as well as receiving the following accolades, which are nothing to sneeze at: Finalist, 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize; 2005 Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults; 2005 Teens’ Top 10 Award; 2005 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers; A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age; and much more). And his second novel, the footnote-lovin’ An Abundance of Katherines (Dutton Books; 2006), was a 2007 Print Honor Book.* (Oh, and these honors, too: Booklist Editor’s Choice; Horn Book Fanfare; and Kirkus Reviews Best Book. Whew).

If you haven’t read Looking for Alaska yet, do so.  Alaska is everything you could possibly want in realistic teen fiction: laugh-out-loud funny, gorgeous, intelligent, spiritual, sexy, and utterly tragic – sometimes all at once. Reading it feels a lot like the first time you fell in love – completely, exhiliratingly, all-consumingly in love – and got your heart good and broken. It’s interesting to note that Green has always thought of it as “Christian fiction” — if you’re thinking, huh?, read why here.

And as for Katherines, as one of our favorite reviews (Gwenda Bond at Shaken & Stirred) put it:

“Most novels that attempt any sort of comedy in this day and age commit some sin. Three examples off the top of my head would be: cutesy, goofy, and obvious-y. But Katherines is just plain funny. There’s straightforward gags, sweet boy humor, and hilarious brainy stuff. Not to mention the timing. It’s so hard to do funny banter in prose in any kind of sustained way. Green pulls it off and then some.”

Oh, and there’s also our co-review from last year (here) in which Eisha mentions the way in which Green delves into faith in Katherines, particularly through the character of Hassan (our vote for 2006’s Best Sidekick of YA Literature).

John lives in New York and, besides being a writer, is a book reviewer. Until recently, he lived in Chicago, where he contributed regularly to Chicago’s public radio station, WBEZ, and to NPR’s All Things Considered. He even has a MySpace presence, though he makes it clear there that a) he is not interested in being friends with your band, especially sextets of 45-year-old harpsichord players and b) he does not want to befriend a “webcam hottie.” What he does want is to connect with readers; as he told Jessamyn Cuneo in an interview, “{b}eing able to see readers respond to the book, that means more than anything else.”

So, yes, John stopped by 7-Imp for a visit, and we’re really grateful. Let’s get right to the interview then. Oh, the Perfunctory Curse Word Disclaimer: Remember that we use the Pivot Questionnaire in our interviews. Remember that it includes . . . ah, skip it! If you see the disclaimer, you just know the interviewee has answered the curse-word question with a particularly juicy and enticing swear word and you know you’ll scroll right down to it. ‘Fess up. On the other hand, if you are offended by such things, aw hell just don’t look. Enough said.

* * * * * * *
7-Imp: How’s your eye?

John: It’s okay, I think. I had this infection behind my eye that resulted in me being hospitalized for a week, which sucked, but now I seem to be better. I still have to do a lot of follow-up appointments and stuff, but I don’t have a glass eye, so that’s good. I will say, though, that one of the unexpected benefits of the eye thing was learning that several people I know DO have glass eyes. I don’t know if I’m just unobservant or if glass eye technology has reached the point where they are basically indistinguishable from regular eyes, but I never knew about this before.

7-Imp: What made you decide to become a chaplain? And what made you decide to stop being a chaplain?

John: Well, at the time I thought I wanted to be an Episcopal priest, and all would-be priests spend at least 400 hours working as a student chaplain as part of the ordination process. Also, my experience with religion had always been so intellectual (my main interest in ministry in the first place was to facilitate dialogue between Christianity and Islam) and so far removed from the reality of joy and suffering. I think I wanted to be in a children’s hospital because I knew I wanted to work with (and for) kids.

I loved the work, and I doubt I’ll ever do anything that important again. But it really tore me apart. I so admire the chaplains and social workers in hospitals, but I couldn’t bear it. I didn’t have the kind of faith that could encounter the truth of suffering without breaking, I guess.

7-Imp: We loved the way a teenager’s struggle to define his own faith and personal boundaries was so sensitively and realistically depicted in An Abundance of Katherines’s Hassan (see here for our review, if you don’t believe us). Is there a particular character or scene from one of your novels that closely reflects your own spiritual struggle or beliefs?

John: Oh, what a good question. My beliefs are very different from Hassan’s, but we are both (like a lot of people who want to be religious without being nothing but religious) constantly trying to negotiate which rules apply to us and which don’t. (I think this is a very important process; I strongly disagree with the notion that religious people must follow all the rules, or even that there is such a thing as a canonical and unchangeable list of “rules.”)

In Alaska, I was like Pudge in a lot of ways — we both found world religion classes so engaging that we moved from people disinterested in religious perspectives on existential questions to people who think that religious traditions have important perspectives on those questions. Throughout Alaska, Pudge is dissatisfied with everyone’s answers for the question he keeps asking: Why is the world’s suffering distributed unequally and unfairly? That’s the question I keep trying to answer, also.

7-Imp: Does winning the Printz with your first novel (woo-hoo!) make the second novel easier or harder to write? And how does winning a Printz Honor for your second novel affect writing the third?

John: Fortunately, I had written most of Katherines before I won the Printz. I do think that winning awards does add pressure in some ways, but so what? I felt a lot of pressure when I was writing Alaska, too, because — for example — I didn’t have any money.

It meant a great deal to me to win the Printz, and maybe even more to win an Honor this year. I certainly don’t think about awards when I’m writing. That’d be crazy.

7-Imp: What is your reaction to how insanely popular Brotherhood 2.0 has been? Are you worried about being able to continue for an entire year? Or do you think you could keep going even past December 31?

John: (Brotherhood 2.0, for readers unaware of it, is a daily video blog my brother and I make.) I think I speak for Hank when I say that we are both very, very surprised that Brotherhood 2.0 has become so popular. It’s great. We love having an audience, and they have become such a vital part of the project. We didn’t even buy our cameras until about a week before the show started, and so when we decided to do this, we didn’t know how hard it was to make a hopefully funny and/or good video every other day for a year. (It turns out that it is kinda hard.)

But we are really, really enjoying it, and we have every intention of making it through the whole year. As for after December 31st? I doubt it, but who knows!

7-Imp: Are you working on any new books/projects that you can tell us about?

John: I am working on a new book. (I finished a draft in February, but I do a lot of revision, so I have many months of work left to do.) It’s about a girl named Margo and her next door neighbor, Quentin. They go on this crazy, all-night adventure through their hometown of Orlando, Florida. And then, the next morning, Margo has disappeared, and it falls to Quentin and Margo’s friends to determine what has become of her.

7-Imp: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

John: For many years, I was massively addicted to Nicorette chewing gum.

7-Imp: Apropos to nothing, what’s in heavy rotation on your stereo/iPod lately? (We love music and like hearing what our favorite authors and illustrators like). You mention on your site that you like bluegrass music. Hey, so does Jules. (Also that you like Old Crow Medicine Show. Hey, so does Eisha!). Who’s your favorite bluegrass musician?

John: I’ve been listening a lot to Old Crow Medicine Show’s new album, “Big Iron World,” which I think is excellent. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Doc Watson (who is probably my favorite bluegrass musician, if you consider him a bluegrass musician). I’ve also been listening to a lot of The Mountain Goats. And I like Jay-Z. Also, I have been inspired by Hank to listen to a lot of NOFX lately. God I have weird taste in music.

7-Imp: We like to pose to people the The Pivot Questionnaire, since who knew that asking someone, say, what their favorite sound or noise is could tell you so much about them. So here goes:

7-Imp: What is your favorite word?

John: “Sitzpinkler,” definitely. (“Sitzpinkler” means “a man who sits to pee,” and appears prominently in my second book.) It is so fun to say. It is even fun to type. Typing it takes every finger except your ring finger. It’s a workout, sitzpinkler.

7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?

John: Oh, I don’t want to hurt the feelings of any word. They all mean well. They all try hard to mean something and mean it with skill and precision. That said, I could live without the word “celebrity.”

7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

John: Emotionally: Laughing really, really hard. Creatively and Spiritually: Reading.

7-Imp: What turns you off?

John: Broadly speaking, the Republican party.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word?

John: I’m quite fond of “craptastic.” Is that a curse word? If not, then my favorite is definitely “fuck.” It is so satisfying. To say, I mean.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?

John: Sarah.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?

John: The voice of Bill O’Reilly.

7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

John: I would like to work in video games. (Seriously. The camaraderie appeals to me. Have you ever read Microserfs? It would be just like that!)

7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?

John: Most of them. The one that most comes to mind is roofing.

7-Imp: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

John: “For a guy who just died peacefully at the age of 115, you sure look good.”

* * * * * * *
* Fugging a!
* * * * * * *
For more information:

22 comments to “Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #19:
John Green — Printz Winner, Nerd Fighter,
WorldSuck Decreaser.”

  1. Wow, what a great interview! Thanks guys. Although perhaps I shouldn’t thank-you too much as I want to get some more work done today and that list of links looks very interesting…

  2. Woo hoo! All I can think to say is “You go, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast… In You Pants!”

    Totally made of awesome.

  3. Hey, everyone . . . Get me: I thought of a way to turn this interview into a Poetry Friday post. I shall take emcee Colonel’s puh-chi puh-puhpuh-chi beat that he dropped in Alaska:

    “Right here, by the river, you want me to kick it? / If your smoke was a Popsicle, I’d surely lick it / My rhymin’ is old school, sort of like the ancient Romans / The Colonel’s beats is sad like Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman / Sometimes I’m accused of being a showman / ICanRhymeFast and I can rhyme slow, man . . . Like Emily Dickinson, I ain’t afraid of slant rhyme / And that’s the end of this verse; emcee’s out on a high.”

  4. Flat out hilarious. And informative–the religion/glass eye/sitzpinkler stuff has seriously expanded my horizons. Thanks, E, J & JG.

  5. Thanks for the great interview. Green is definitely an unusual author. He goes beyond the bounds of teen lit, and that is good. I am definitely going to read Looking for Alaska now that he says it could be classified Christian fiction. That intrigues me:-)

  6. I read this yesterday, but got sidetracked before I could comment. I would have said:

    Ohmigod!!! What a great interview with such a cool guy!!!

    But today I’ll say:

    Ohmigod! What a great interview with such a cool guy! (less exclamation points, you see)

  7. MotherReader, did you see this?

    It’s one of his articles for KnotMag, about celebrity children’s books. It could be BACA’s manifesto. I think you’ll LIKE him like him even more.

    Thanks, everyone, for responding. We loved having the chance to talk to such a smart, cool, funny, insightful author, and I’m glad some of his coolness must have come through.

  8. i am so glad i stumbled upon this blog (through the longstocking site), and this amazing john green interview/article. he is clearly so unique and your questions were perfect. this is the best interview w/ him i’ve read. well done.

  9. Thanks, Heidi!

  10. You’re welcome–the pic was great too. Normally I’m not such a blog nut, but I’m waiting to hear back about my novel, which is under consideration and I’m going a bit mad not writing. Now I understand why these things are so addicting! Keep up the great work–gotcha bookmarked now!

  11. Heidi, your site is great. I am a children’s theatre nut. Read here. I’ll have to tell InterAct about your scripts/consultation service!

    Thanks for visiting.

  12. jules, i *love* this blog too. so glad i checked back in! yes, please let InterAct know about me. you can write me in the future at

  13. Thanks for this, guys. It really does look great, and I have to say that your bibliography is so much more comprehensive than my wikipedia page. Someone should edit all this stuff into my wikipedia page, actually.

    Thanks again for the great questions.


  14. Did you guys read that blurb that the V. Tech’s gunman wrote some “disturbing” creative writing and was referred to a school counselor? Poses such an interesting question. At what point does writing cross the line from art into a cry for help? If anyone’s interested, I wrote about that on today’s blog at (Yes, I took a break from writing about Grey’s Anatomy).

  15. Why, thank YOU, John. We had a lot of fun with this one.

    Nope, I hadn’t heard that before you pointed it out, Heidi. Good question, indeed. I would imagine that whatever he wrote would have to be pretty disturbing indeed to get that kind of attention – I would think most creative writing teachers are used to seeing a certain level of weirdness.

  16. thanks for the comment, i wrote you back on my blog. i guess they were plays laced w/ violence and bizarre weaponry etc.. i’m sure this won’t be the the last time the writing community at large discusses this–so sad and awful.

  17. So I’m late to the party. Great work, as usual. I think you guys might start being used as a verb: “How was the interview?” “Oh, dude, I totally imped it! It rocked!”

    I also emailed a link to my daughter, and she just “stole” Looking For Alaska from me to take back to her school. (A public boarding school…I’m hoping she’ll write her own stories about THAT some day…but not now, while I could still flip out!)

  18. Aw, Sara, what an awesome thing to say. Thanks!

    I’ve never even heard of a “public” boarding school. How does that work?

  19. Eisha,

    Several states have them. I guess you’d call them “residential high schools” that serve as magnet programs for kids gifted in the arts, or in science and math. The residential part means that they can serve kids from all over a state, instead of just one area.

    It’s a very cool opportunity, and I wish every state would offer this. The ones I know of are in Mississippi, North Carolina, Illinois, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

  20. […] of this blog. Eisha and I really enjoyed chatting with Alvina Ling (how multi-faceted is she?) and John Green (who is just so stinkin’ nice) last week, and this week we will feature interviews with […]

  21. […] Nerd Fighter and WorldSuck Decreaser (as his brother John is, whom — to be fair — we randomly interviewed in April, you may remember). Plus, he sings a lot. So, we thought, why not chat with him about his […]

  22. […] Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (7Imp) blog interview […]

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