John Green always loved books and telling stories.
“But, I never thought of it as a viable career,” he said of writing. “In some ways, I still don’t think of myself as a full-time writer.”
The author talked about writing during a telephone interview Friday, Aug. 20, from his home in Indianapolis.
Green is among the authors who will be attending the Waupaca Book Festival, slated for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 1-2.
His novel, Paper Towns, has been selected as the community reads book in anticipation of the event. Copies of the book are available at the Waupaca Area Public Library, and book discussions are being held at various locations leading up to the book festival.
Melissa Carollo is the reference and teen librarian at the Waupaca Area Public Library. She said the library’s teen group had much to do with why Green was invited to the book festival and why one of his books was chosen for the community reads book.
Paper Towns was chosen, she said, because at the time the Student Library Advisory Group learned Green would be visiting, it was his most recent book.
“They are all big fans of his work – even those who are not big readers,” she said.
Carollo said Green’s sense of humor appeals to teens, and they find the characters in his books to be realistic.
Green began writing his first novel, Looking for Alaska, when he was working for a book review journal in Chicago. The book was published in 2005.
When asked why he writes young adult novels, he said, “I like teenagers. I think they’re really interesting as readers and as characters in novels. There’s an intensity about their lives and passion. I think it’s sort of a privilege to have a seat at their table.”
Green describes his own teen years as troubled.
“I went to public school through ninth grade and then decided I wanted to go to a boarding school,” he said.
The boarding school, outside of Birmingham, Ala., was the same boarding school that previous generations of his family had attended.
“I had sort of romanticized it in my mind,” Green said. “It was a great school. I was very blessed to go there.”
He described the school as having a high level of academic rigor and of saving his life.
“I was trouble. I made it hard on my teachers and my parents,” Green said. “When you are a teenager, you are figuring out for the first time that people are human. That’s difficult to come to terms with.”
The 33-year-old writer graduated from Kenyon College in 2000 with a double major in English and religious studies.
“I’ve always been interested in religion,” he said. “I thought about being an Episcopalian minister.”
His first job out of college was working at a children’s hospital in Ohio in a chaplain-type program. That was followed by his job at a book review journal, where he worked for six years.
He wants the characters in his books to celebrate intelligence. He believes there are many smart and engaged students in school today.
Readers may not always like the characters in his books, but he hopes that does not stop readers from liking the books.
“I try to tell and figure out what’s the honest story. I think that is the responsibility of the author,” Green said. “Obviously, many of my characters make decisions that are not good.”
Green works from the home that he shares with his wife, Sarah, and their 7-month-old son, Henry.
When asked if he has an interest in writing children’s books now that he has a son, he said, “I was kind of hoping there would be – that I would get all these ideas for picture books. I think that is such a specific skill – for writing picture books.”
Carollo said it would not have been possible to invite Green to Waupaca without the help of Ellen Davis, owner of Waupaca’s independent bookstore Dragonwings. Davis provided Carollo with the contact information for Green’s publisher.
Green said he is “thrilled” that Paper Towns was chosen as the community reads book, and says he loves writing and hopes to continue writing for as long as there are people to read his books.
“It’s such a blessing to have the readers I have. They read so thoughtfully and with such depth,” he said. “It always pushes me toward more ambitious work.”