John Green

April 1, 2013

IAm John Green, author the #1 New York Times bestseller THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, and I'm doing this AMA entirely so that I can get some hats.

I wrote the novels Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars, which has spent more than a consecutive year on the NYT bestseller list.

I also co-created the popular YouTube video channels vlogbrothers, crashcourse, and mental_floss with my brother Hank.

I am not here to promote my new project or anything. I am doing this AMA solely in the hopes of acquiring hats. I hear they last forever. EDIT: It turns out that they do not last forever, and now half of this AMA makes no sense. Sorry about that. RIP Reddit Hats. 4/1/2013 - later in the day 4/1/2013.

I am happy to answer your questions about writing, YouTube, publishing, or whatever else. PROOF.

You're the best, Reddit.


How is your soccer team doing?

If by my soccer team you mean the Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers, we are back in League 1 after regenerating into FIFA 13. But we have several gingers on our club, which is encouraging.

If by my soccer team you mean Liverpool Football Club, we are seventh. If the season were 60 games long, I think we could finish in fourth. Sadly, it is not. #nextyear

I meant both, but especially Swindon Town.

Wish I could convert you to Chelsea, dude! ;) Thanks.

Shit club no history. :)

As a Liverpool fan you must be used to saying next year by now.

It's my favorite year!

Because I'm first, can I just get a response? Just want an acknowledgement from your awesomeness!


I was first, dammit


(I'm holding back from writing in all caps but I am honestly screaming right now.) So, hi, I am a big fan, and I just wanted to know what you did for April Fools' Day :D

I told everyone I had been cast to play the role of the 17-year-old her of my book.

And then an astonishing number of people believed me and I had to post an apology because they were threatening to kill me for not casting (Some Young Hollywood Type). All of this is based on the false assumption that I am personally casting the film adaptation of my book, when in fact I have just slightly more say in casting than you do.

How much money have you made from TFiOS? (approximately)

I think I will be violating a contract if I speak to that very directly so I'll speak to it very indirectly but still be as honest as I can:

I'd say that on average authors make about $2.25 for a hardcover sale and between 60 and 80 cents on a paperback sale (I'm assuming a trade paperback). ebooks vary a lot, but let's say it's a $2.25 average*. The Fault in Our Stars has a LOT of books in print (like a million?), but I have not actually sold nearly that many because a lot (more than half?) of those copies are sitting in warehouses or at Target or at your local independent bookstore where you can pick up a copy today!

But the overarching answer to your question is "a lot." More than I ever expected to make from writing, certainly, and much more than all my previous books made combined.

But I'm conscious of the fact that writing is a very inconsistent and unpredictable business: People who had Oprah books and made millions of dollars then went on to sell only a few thousand copies of their follow ups. So I've always had other ways to buy diapers for my kid, and I intend to keep those other jobs, both because I enjoy them and because there's a financial consistency to them that's very important to me. I've never wanted to be just a writer; it seems very stressful to me.

Has your sudden (and I assume unexpected) increase in profits changed your life at all? Is it all being packed away into a college fund for Henry, or do you find yourself more willing to spend money on things just for fun?

I bought a Chevy Volt, which I've wanted since 2007. That's it. Everything else is more about saving money for the kids' college and for our retirement.

The Volt was a total indulgence, though, and I got the EXACT one I wanted, which was really exciting. I spent all this time designing it online and bragging about it to my friends and making them drive it and discussing all of the excellent features, and then finally one day my friend Chris said, "Dude, this is a $33,000 car. Don't get me wrong. It's a nice car. But you need to stop freaking out about it. It's not a Ferrari."


Ever since Brotherhood 2.0 and becoming a NYT Bestseller author, I am sure you have become a lot more famous/recognizable. Has this changed how you do things in your everyday life? Do you ever feel like society is constantly watching you and judging your actions?

Yeah, back then I was like snorting cocaine off the thighs of strippers.

No, I don't think things have changed much for me. In real life, I'm a very introverted person, and I have anxiety problems, so sometimes I have panic attacks in big public settings like signings or Vidcon (a YouTube convention organized by my brother).

But my everyday life hasn't changed at all (my wife and son and best friends couldn't care less about any of this stuff) and when I get recognized in public, it's almost always very nice. People are super respectful and I am always happy to meet them, even though it's usually at my least flattering moments (reaching for a frozen pizza at Costco, standing in line in sweatshorts at Baskin Robbins, etc.)

Yes I have sweatshorts. Shut up.

Just seeing the Vlogbrothers videos (all of them) my initial instinct would be to say that you were extroverted. Is it strange being so introverted but talking to huge audiences at least once a week and seeming outgoing as you do it? Have you ever had an anxiety attack while filming a video?

No, I film and edit my videos by myself; it's a very introverted activity because it generally involves me being completely alone for at least six hours. I'm aware of the audience only in a very abstract way. It's the same with writing, which is also a very energy-giving activity for me.

[No question]


Talk about your he pretty cool and handsome and talented or what?

(This is my brother. Hank, I don't want to brag, but I have a lot more hats than you.)

Check your hat privilege.

Edit: I love you <3

What is this, tumblr?!

It's fucking hats, all the way down!

I can't see, because my reddit is too broken. I'm having to answer questions from my unread messages page. Can someone screencap it for me?!

How is Henry doing?

(Henry is my 3-year-old son.)

He's good. He's 3, so he's discovering language and personhood and it's all really fascinating. Spending time with Henry and Sarah (my wife) is the great joy of my life, but it's hard to answer questions about it, because it's a very private kind of joy and difficult to talk about effectively.

But other parents will know what I mean when I say that I find parenting to be an incredibly challenging job but by far my most rewarding one.

So what other ideas do you have for Crash Course subjects? I'd love to see Crash Course Anthropology.

Well, we have to see whether funding for Crash Course comes through and where it comes from in order to answer that question. I'm very interested in economics and personal finance (I sometimes post at r/personalfinance) and literature and philosophy and anthropology and the list goes on and on...

I think a Crash Course Personal Finance would be great. People always talk about how high school didn't teach them financial life skills. Or, at least that's what people talk about high school didn't teach them on tumblr.

I think it would be great, too. Khan Academy has a good personal finance section, although obviously they teach stuff very differently from how we go about it. (I'm a huge fan of Khan Academy, for the record.)

The problem is finding the godawful amount of money it takes to make crashcourse (because you have to hire experts and people who know how to write and animators and Stan to produce and edit the thing and make it look good).

I like, "You have to hire [job], [job], [job], and Stan."

I wanna be Stan when I grow up.

Stan is kind of irreplaceable. But I guess at some point he'll die, and then maybe you can be the next Stan.

I'll tell you this right now: Stan does not bake cupcakes, so....

Are you currently writing anything at the moment? And what is your advice for following through with an idea and getting it noticed?

  1. I'm trying to write but it's difficult. In wonderful ways but also claustrophobic ones, The Fault in Our Stars has really taken over my life, and even though I've finally stopped traveling a lot in support of the book, it's hard to forget about it enough to write other stuff. Usually you publish a book and a few weeks later, the work (and pleasure) of publishing is mostly gone and you can go back to writing. This has been very different, which I'm grateful for, but yeah, it's going to be a while before I finish another book. (I was slow even before this, to be fair.)

  2. Following through: A lot of this is a question of not giving up and giving a story the months or years (almost always years) it takes. As for getting noticed, the publishing business has changed so much since I sold my first novel in 2003 that I don't even know anymore. The main thing to me is to focus on the quality of the story first and finding an audience later. You have to find pleasure and reward in the work itself, because nothing is guaranteed to you except the opportunity to do the work. But that, it turns out (at least for me) is the most fulfilling part of the whole process.

Like, we have no problem spending an hour on an exceptionally difficult level of Angry Birds, and the longer it takes, the more fulfilling it is when you finally break through and kill all the .... pigs? I think? It's been a while since I played Angry Birds. But anyway yeah writing for me is like that when it's working: It's hard, but it's tremendously gratifying when I feel facets of the story clicking together.

how can a lowly film student and fan of your books PA on tfios movie?

I wish I could tell you, but I truly know nothing about the movie business, even when it comes to the movies of my own books. I might be able to get MYSELF onto the set as a PA, but that's about it.

One day I will tell my children how I fought a hard battle next to John Green. I will tell them how we bonded in the trenches and how you exploited your fame for flare.

You have to love something in the world, ChopStyx.

For me, it's flare.

Your hats' hats have hats. Incredible.


What made you choose Liverpool as your football team?

The probable honest answer is, "They were good when I was a kid," but I don't really remember CHOOSING them. I just remember liking them.

But also: Best supporters. Best songs. 5 European championships. Stevie G. 18 league titles. Who else are you gonna like?

The Liverpool 'glory days'

Hmmm. As a moderator of /r/reddevils, I can't really agree with you on the last part...19 league titles!!

Let's just admit it: 20.

You know I always wondered if you were disappointed I (a nerdfighter you turned onto football) choose to support Everton.(well to be honest Montreal is my heart and joy but in EPL Everton all the way.)

Nah, Everton are a great club and they're very likable. I'm very grateful to Evertonians for the way they've responded to Hillsborough and stood by Liverpool supporters, and they've got great supporters. For me it will always be a very friendly rivalry.

I hope we beat the shit out of you later in the season.

have you ever regretted starting making YouTube videos? (and everything that came after)

That's a good question, but no.

Well, the answer to whether I've EVER regretted it is yes, but I don't usually regret it. Making videos has allowed me to become very close to my brother, which has been amazing. It's also allowed me a platform to talk about stuff I care about with people I care about. And it's given my books a much broader audience than they otherwise would've had.

At times, it has been difficult to keep everything together and still be a good dad and husband and friend and son, and I wish I could manage that stuff better, but I really love nerdfighteria, and I wouldn't want to count any other place as my hometown.

How often do people recognize you in public? Have you gotten used to it or is it still a surprise?

Also, at least it looks like spring here in Indy now!

I'm used to it. It happens a lot (at least once or twice a week), but people are almost never really intrusive. It's nice when people come and say hi. The only thing that freaks me out is when people figure out where we live and come to our house or leave stuff in the mailbox or whatever.

Have you considered naming your future daughter Penny?

hahahahahahahaha no

John my sister nannies for Michelle Prim, a teacher at Indian Springs, and it was more than a shock to find out who her new employer was and where she would get to go everyday. Such a small world! Much love from each of us! Thanks for making her new job worth while!

Indian Springs School is such a great school and there's simply no way that I would've become a writer or even a functioning adult if I hadn't gone to school there. (Plus, I met my wife there.)

It's the most important place to me in the world, I think. I love it so much.

Might I ask about your videos? Such as: how do you shoot/edit them, how long does that take, how do you get ideas? I ask because I feel like making a vlog would be an interesting thing to do. Thanks a ton!

  1. I've made at least one video a week for six and a half years now, but I still find myself getting a lot of new ideas. The great thing about the nerdfighter community is that they are always generating topics, whether in the forums or in comments or on tumblr or at r/nerdfighters.

  2. I shoot them with a (not very good) Canon camcorder and edit in Final Cut Express. (I am the last person on Earth using FCE.)

  3. It takes about six to eight hours from when I start filming to when the video is uploaded, but of course I spend a lot of time before all that thinking about what I want to talk about and writing and stuff. (I don't work off scripts usually, but I do write a lot of notes.)

  4. My advice to new video makers: If you can't travel in a time machine back to 2007, you have to work a lot harder. Your videos have to be well-lit, and the sound has to be good, and you have to edit tightly. But you learn how to do these things by doing them. So make videos, and be patient with yourself. Hank and I got our 200th YouTube subscriber after we uploaded our 100th video.

How are you preparing for your upcoming role as Augustus Waters in the TFiOS movie?

I've been going to a personal trainer, but I'm not sure he can make me look 17.

I do, however, know a lot about what it's like to be 17 and a virgin, so I think I'm ALREADY prepared.

Well if you happen to need anymore advice on being 17 and a virgin you've certainly come to the right place.

You get gold.

John, thank you for helping me become closer to my best friend, the girl that converted me to Nerdfighteria. DFTBA <3

I'm always really happy when nerdfighteria can deepen friendships, so thank you!

Do you think you'll ever write anything besides fiction?

Telling the truth seems an awful bore to me.

I dunno, non fiction essays can be great. David Foster Wallace's collections of essays are particularly awesome.

Sure, I love READING nonfiction. But writing it seems really boring to me.

(For the record, DFW made up a lot of stuff in his nonfiction, which is part of why it is so good.)

Really? Interesting... do you have an example of some stuff he made up in his non fiction? I almost feel bamboozled!

Franzen (and others) have said that DFW fudged quite a bit in his nonfiction. (I don't personally think this matters at all.) There are parts of the Illinois State Fair piece that to me border on magical realism. Vulture piece on it

Is Miles Halter at all a reflection of your own potentially gawky teen years?

There are certainly ways in which I was like Miles, but there were also a lot of ways in which I was like Alaska: depressive, angry, volatile, poor impulse control. All of that stuff is still a part of my life, too, but of course when you're choosing what to share with the Internet, you don't (or at least I don't) choose to put yourself forward that way.

As I've become older, I think I'm less like a grown-up Alaska would be and more like a grown-up Miles would be, but they're both still part of me.

How awesome was Stevie G's goal line clearance yesterday!?

Saving a goal is as good as scoring one. 90% of Premier League players don't make the clearance there.

As an avid Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers supporter, how surprised are you at the success of the Miracle of Swindon Town/Swoodilypoopers Strike Back series?

Very surprised, yeah. When I try to explain it to people, they're always like, "So people watch video game. On the Internet?" And I'm like, "Yeah." And they're like, "So you play them on the Internet?" And I'm like, "No, I play with a fictional soccer team and then I upload it to the Internet and people watch it," and they're like, "But why?" And I'm like, "Well, we're pretty good. We might win the Premier League this year." And they're like, "But not the real premier league," and I'm like, "Well, what is real, after all?"

I was wondering what your planning/researching process was like for a novel before you start on a first draft?

Good luck on your quest for hats sir.

I don't separate research from starting. I research as I write and research a lot between drafts and keep researching in revisions. For me, researching is a kind of writing; it's all writing. It's all a way of trying to get the ideas in your head into text in such a way that they will resonate with someone who does not share your brain.

I just want to tell you that your Crash Course on Gatsby got me through my English exam. Ok, I want to tell you that AND ask you a question. What do you think is Nerdfighteria's greatest achievement?

Glad the Gatsby stuff was helpful to you.

Nerdfighteria's greatest achievement is probably the Project for Awesome, although loaning more than $2,000,000 through ain't half bad.

What is your favorite Vlogbrothers video?

I'm still partial to Hank's 2007 Helen Hunt song, because before he made that video, I literally didn't know he could play the guitar. That was the video that launched him playing music on the channel, which led to the song "Accio Deathly Hallows," when our audience went from like 400 to 10,000 basically overnight.

Are you doing any books signings or tours in the near future?


I toured a lot for TFiOS (I was gone more than 100 days this year), and I've missed almost a third of my young son's life traveling for work in various capacities, and it's just become too much.

I'll still go to Vidcon and I'm sure in the future I'll travel a bit more, but I've had to shut it down for my sanity and because I don't want to miss my kid growing up.

John Green! I love you! I sent you an email back when I was a young teenager after I finished reading two of your books and you actually responded to me! No question, but thank you for being conscientious of your audience!

Now I feel bad that I don't respond more often :)

Thanks for reading my books.

John, what is the most beautiful sight you have ever seen?

Tough question!

Seeing my kid for the first time. His eyes responding to the newness of light. There's a great mountain goats line about that: "I saw his little face contract as his eyes met light / Tried to imagine anything so bright."

How involved have you been with the production of the TFIOS movie?

I've read every draft of the script; they've run casting ideas and auditions past me; I've talked extensively to Josh Boone (the director) about the book and the characters and what mattered to me about the story.

But I'm not making the movie, and I don't want to. I think Josh is a brilliant guy; I want him to bring his talents to this and create a movie that is good and interesting and beautiful. I don't want to get in the way of that. So I do try to keep my distance and let them do their jobs. I really believe it's going to be great, though.

What are your thoughts on jetpacks becoming a cheap commodity in the near future?

Look, I'm afraid to stand on tables. The thought of living on a planet with widespread jetpacks does not appeal to me.

I'm a senior in high school and a longtime inspiring (edit: ASPIRING) writer. I'm worried though, that I won't make it as a writer because it doesn't flow out of me like tapwater; it takes a while. I'm a good writer but is it possible to be a writer like that? Sorry this is a mess. I am a huge fan; thank you for everything you do!

I mean, I write a book ever three or four years. That ain't tap water.

There are a lot of ways to be a writer. And if you write, you're already a writer. Nothing aspiring about it.

Hello! Two questions. 1. Have you decided between Eleanor or Alice? And 2. Have you recovered from the fact that Obama is a nerdfighter? DFTBA!

(The President said a nerdfighter slogan when I spoke to him during a google hangout. Also, I asked him what we should name or kid if it's a girl. He gave a non-committed response.)

  1. No. (There are other names in the running as well.)

  2. I suspect someone told the President to say that, and that he does not have time to be deeply engaged in the nerdfighter community. But I was absolutely thrilled that he said it.

Hi John! Big fan. Just finished TFiOS and loved it, do you have any other book recommendations for me?

Sure, lots. First, you should read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, though. Just do that right now.

Will you ever post your zombie novella online? And are you at all interested in film making based on your success with YouTube?

It is online. I released it under a creative commons license so lots of people made it available in lots of formats.

Making a YouTube video is very different from making a film, at least when you make the kind of videos I do. I'm not really interested in filmmaking, but I love online video and want to continue working with people whose talents make it possible to make better video. Basically, I don't want to make, like, Iron Man 4, but I do want to make high-quality educational video like Crash Course (but hopefully improving all the time).

In light of the holiday, what's the best prank that either you've pulled or had pulled on you?

It's really good, but I have to call my wife and find out if I can tell you about it.

EDIT: I cannot. But man was it a great prank.

John, did you celebrate Tabletop Day this weekend??

I did! We played Ticket to Ride Europe.

What are your favorite sports besides soccer, and what do you like about them?

What I like about all sports is that they are deeply and fundamentally different from actual real life. Actual real life is messy and fraught with ambiguity and totally unfair, whereas in sports there is an order to the universe (rules) and a purpose (win the trophy) and you are part of a huge family and you can (usually) have rivalries without people who are part of the other large families killing you.

In short, I like the purity of sport; it feels to me somehow exempt from all the pain and madness of regular life. It's the same reason that my wife likes Top Chef, I think?

Good morning John. What books are you reading currently?

I just finished the brilliant HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA and now I'm reading BRINGING UP THE BODIES.

  1. What did you think of Swindon when you came to the UK, considering the fact most of the people who live there think it's a bit of a dump?

  2. Are your books written as part of a nefarious scheme to combat water shortages by getting the population to cry buckets on command?

  1. I really liked Swindon. My main goal as a writer at the moment is to make enough money that I can buy Swindon Town Football Club. (I am like 2% of the way there, but life is hopefully long.)

  2. I don't think of my books as being particularly sad, except I guess Paper Towns, but I am a bit weird on that front. I did cry a lot when writing TFiOS, but a lot of that book was written in a furious burst of grief after the death of my friend Esther.

John, why did you start smoking and why did you stop?

Also, is it true that you liked Nicorette better than actual tobacco?

I started smoking when I was fourteen, in 1992. Smoking was very different culturally at the time; it was fairly widespread among teenagers and very inexpensive (a pack of cigarettes cost about $1.25, as I recall). It was a socially acceptable way of hurting myself, and I also thought it looked cool, and it gave me an excuse to go tramping through the woods of my school with my friends.

I quit smoking because it is idiotic. It's expensive and dangerous and hurts not only yourself but also those around you.

I did like Nicorette more than actual tobacco. Nicorette is amazing. I don't know why anyone on the planet Earth still smokes when Nicorette is available. (I did eventually quit Nicorette, but it was very difficult.)

  1. What is your favorite species of hominid?
  2. Do you prefer hardcover or paperback?
  3. I find it kind of weird that one of your books seems to be named after your brother's wife. Why did you name your book "An abundance of Katherines"?

Edit: I don't think this AMA is in any way serious. Also, I think everyone's getting downvoted by other colors and I don't even understand this game.

  1. Us. (There's really no competition here.)

  2. Hardcovers. (Because I make more much from them and I am greedy.)

  3. At the time, Katherine was not my brother's wife. I chose the name Katherine not because of Hank's wife but because it is an excellent name for anagramming, since it contains both the word "heart" and the word "tear." I'm not actually very good at anagramming, so I had to cheat a lot to pretend to be Colin Singleton.

Any fishing boat proceeds this year? It is tax season, after all.

I'm still waiting to turn my tumblr into money...

Are you nervous about TFIOS becoming a movie? If you could make any of your other books into a movie which one would you like it to be?

I am nervous, yes, of course. But I also know that the people making the movie--from the producers to the director to the casting director to the screenwriters--really do genuinely care about the book and feel a responsibility to it.

But of course I'm nervous.

As for other books: I'm not in a hurry to see Hollywood make any of them, to be honest, but I've always thought KATHERINES could make a fun movie.

Why did you totally fuck up Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

You have to be a lot more specific than that for me to know how to respond to the question. (I assume you're referring to Hazel's read on Maslow's Hierarchy, not mine, but I'm not sure.)

I absolutely love your Crash Course History programs, but what I would love to see on Crash Course next would be an Economics series.

I would also like to make a crash course series about economics. Hopefully we'll be able to. Crash Course is VERY expensive (it costs about $5,000 an episode), but hopefully we'll find funding.

How scary was it to film the Thoughts From Places inside the abandoned hospital in LA?

Not really that scary because we had permission to be there. MOVIE MAGIC.

I just want to say thank you to you and your brother for the Crash Course Youtube videos. We are a homeschooling family and have found the videos especially helpful! As soon as we start a new history or science section our children immediately ask if there is a Crash Course video to go along with it (for the most part there are). Thank you for making learning fun!

Thanks, but I'm hopeful that crashcourse is just getting started. The real work doesn't come with the kind of overviews we've done but getting into detail and nuance, which we've tried to do some but will need many more years of crashcourse to really make it like we want it. So hopefully there will be much, much more to come.

how does it feel to write a novel that affected so many people and to be the "celebrity" life of an author bc other celebrities are famous for no reason while you are famous for accomplishing something i just want understand what it feels like to be in your shoes.

  1. I do not feel like a celebrity.

  2. To be completely honest with you, I cannot really process or internalize the kind things readers say about their experiences with my books. I mean "cannot" in the sense that my mind just can't grasp it, but I also mean that I cannot do it for the sake of my own mental health. Like, I need to get up in the morning and insofar as possible think of my job as a job. It's a job I really love and feel grateful to do, but like anyone with a job, my REAL life is with my family. I'm not one of those writers who'll give everything to the craft, just as I don't particularly admire carpenters who devote their entire lives to carpentry.

I hope I can make good books, and I hope they will mean something to you, but if I think about it too much it honestly just makes me want to crawl into a hole and stop working completely, because I get totally freaked out by the pressure of thinking, "Will this book really change someone's life? And if so, will it really be for the better? And how can I/they be so sure? And is this really the best use of my time or should I move to Zambia and work on building infrastructure or move to Swindon and buy a stake in Swindon Town Football Club or quit working and raise my kids full time?" And that kind of thinking ends up leading to total paralysis.

I don't know if that makes any sense, but that's the only honest answer I have.

In "The Fault in Our Stars", it struck me that Hazel and Augustus seemed remarkably too similar. What do you think are the main differences in their characters?

They might be similar in their heightened diction and that kind of thing (Romeo and Juliet are similar in those respects), but their actual worldviews are basically opposites: Hazel believes that a good human life is one that is minimally intrusive; Augustus believes that humans should try to leave a mark upon history, and that heroism is bound up in being remembered.

Those world views really shape everything they do: It's the reason that Augustus is so performative and Hazel so relatively quiet; the reason Augustus is not troubled by the eating of meat and Hazel is; the reason Hazel is content to write Peter Van Houten letters he'll never answer and Augustus feels compelled to take it a step (or several steps) forward.

Neither reconciles to the other's opinion, but they both continue to like and respect each other. That's love as I understand it.

What made you want to write books from the point of view of people so much younger(tried to make it sound not offensive) than you?

Well when I started they weren't that much younger than I am. I started Looking for Alaska (and in some ways also The Fault in Our Stars) when I was 22.

But I like writing about adolescents because they are doing so many important things for the first time, which gives their experiences an unrivaled intensity. They're also grappling with big questions in a totally unironic way, which really appeals to me.

Well I havent ever read any of your books and I am just replying and upvoting for support of my orangered brethren.

I appreciate it. The best way to express your loyalty to the orangered army, of course, is to purchase all of my books in hardcover. But upvotes are also appreciated.

My history class watches Crash Course videos daily, and I was curious, how much of those videos do you ad lib?

Quite a bit. We usually spend two or three hours recording each episode so we have plenty of time for ad libbing and coming up with jokes on the spot.

Just wondering, why are you Christian?

Well, a lot of Christians would not consider me Christians, and a lot of atheists would consider me atheists, so...yeah. I identify with Christianity because I find it an interesting lens through which to think about suffering and empathy and our responsibilities to each other, but I stand with Tillich in thinking of God more as the "ground of being" than as some physical--or even metaphysical--active force in the universe. That part of theology doesn't really interest me much. Ethical theology interests me a lot, but so do secular approaches to ethical questions.

Also I like going to church. I just find it helpful.

What is the most trying part of the writing process for you? Is it coming up with concepts, fleshing them out/outlining, drafting, revising, editing, or giving up at the end and letting things be done?

Happy Cake Day.

I don't really outline, but for me the hardest part is definitely writing a first draft I like. (My first drafts are like very long, extended outlines.) I really enjoy everything else but getting to the end of a first draft I can work with is tough.

Like, I always delete at least half my first drafts (and often closer to 80%) but just getting to a place where I can delete 80% of something is the hardest part.

Hi John! What was the hardest part to write in The Fault in Our Stars? That book is extremely well written and means a lot to me. DFTBA! Thanks!

The end was hard. There were a lot of terrible endings before I finally got to the one that we eventually settled upon.

(Whenever I'm talking about writing and I talk about "we," I am referring not to the royal we but to my publisher and editor Julie Strauss-Gabel.)

I haven't read any of your books but I've heard from many people that you're the greatest author of this time. I need to money to buy your books as reading them online would be a disgrace to you. If only upvotes could be transferred as money.

If you live in the US we have awesome libraries where you can get my books for free!

Are you writing another book?

Yes, I am contractually obligated in fact to write four more.

I've never heard of you before. What are your books and general philosophy all about? And why should I care?

My books are generally about smart people with problems.

My general philosophy is mostly about trying to pay attention and be empathetic.

What made the Yeti decide that we could finally see her on the Google Hangout with the president?

Well, Sarah (my wife) has always had a public life (she is a curator of contemporary art and very successful in her field); she's just never been in a vlogbrothers video.

And while she did say hi to the President, she's STILL never been in a vlogbrothers video. (She is known as the yeti because sightings are extremely rare.) But as Sarah has progressed in her work, she's been in a lot of YouTube videos and has written and edited her own books associated with shows she has curated, "keeping her a secret" became totally impossible.

To answer the question: Yes, she's a redditor; no, you can't know her username.

You are absolutely one of my favorite people ever. Thank you for your books, especially TFIOS. I read it constantly and cry like a baby every time.

Question for you, did you ever expect your books to become as well liked and popular as they are now?

Thank you for your AMA (:

No, of course not. For about five years before my first book came out, I worked at Booklist Magazine, which is this amazing magazine that reviews 300-400 books EVERY TWO WEEKS. And when you see thousands and thousands of book reviews come back every year, you realize that many great books come and go and that almost none find long-term readerships.

So I could never have expected this, particularly with the kind of books I write (no vampires, no explosions, etc). I've been very, very fortunate, and can only try to pay back the generosity of my readers by giving them good books.

If you were granted a brief position of absolute and unlimited authority over the United States, what kind of changes would you make? What would you keep the same?

Would you ever consider running for president?

The problem is that if I were given a brief position of absolute authority of the United States, we'd lose my favorite thing about the United States, which is the orderly and consistent transfer of power that has kept us so stable over the last 200 years. (Except for that whole Civil War bit.)

But I would eliminate all the Bush tax cuts (including those for the middle class), change the way we index inflation to cut the growth of social security and medicare payments over the next twenty years, create medicare death panels, make handguns very difficult to get (including extensive background checks and like a $1,000 tax on every handgun sold), create a public option for health insurance, and close Guantanamo. Oh, and get rid of the penny and the nickel.

I think that would make everyone sufficiently unhappy with me.

I would not consider running for President. That job seems terrible, and also you have to ask rich people for money all the time, which is one of my least favorite activities.

I agree with all of those policies except the death panels idea which seems extraordinarily cruel. Then again I'm a bleeding heart liberal Canadian, which is roughly the equivalent of a communist by American standards.

You guys have death panels (at least as we refer to them in the US). A doctor, social worker, and chaplain if requested who meet with patients and families to discuss end-of-life issues and what kind of end-of-life care the patient wants to receive. I worked in a hospital, and not having these kinds of conversations led to so much unnecessary suffering in people who were dying. It was barbaric.

You have so many hats...


Hey John! How's it going?

Where is your favourite place to visit in the world and have any of these places inspired the settings in your books?

My favorite place to visit is Amsterdam, and I did set parts of TFiOS there. I think what appeals to me so much about Amsterdam is that it's an ancient city that has always been drowning: Amsterdam is in a perpetual state of peril (like the rest of us) but goes on partying and working and building and living. I find that very inspirational.

I have been preparing for job interviews lately, so I'll use one of my least favorites on YOU:

What are your greatest faults?

Quick to anger, easily frustrated, too often settle for cheap sentiment instead of thinking hard, too often controlled by anxiety, gluttony, pride, morning lethargy.

You're not acing this job interview.

Also I'm really bad at having a job and working for someone else. I always feel unmotivated and I want to take a nap every afternoon. And I generally suck at finishing thi

why do you always write books that make people cry? why

Well I wrote a comic novel called AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES that never made anyone cry.

And then no one read it.

So I went back to writing sad books. But hopefully even the sad ones are pretty funny. I prefer funny books, all things being equal.

Will you give me a hat John? I have like two of my books signed by you, so I'm like almost your biggest fan. I'll give my next hat.

Edit, just gave you my abrahat lincoln!

Don't try to trick me periwinkle!

What is the meaning behind your username?

It's a reference to a William Faulkner book, which is itself a reference to Macbeth.

John, I think Crash Course is one of the best things currently on the web. What kind of feedback (positive and negative) have you received from educators and policy makers?

The feedback is mostly very positive, although there's a lot of "You talk too fast," and "You do not talk enough about women." (...which is true.)

Crash Course is taught in a lot of schools, but because we are not interested in selling it, we haven't found a sustainable way to fund it yet. (It's very expensive. It's by far the most expensive thing we do.) So that's the thing we're working on now: How are we going to make this sustainable? And how can we delve deeper while still being reasonably fun to watch?


Yeah, I liked it a lot, which is probably part of the reason I didn't make a TfP video there. I really wanted to BE there without having to think about filming and narration and all that stuff. (I gave all my footage to Hank, and he used a lot of it.)

Anyway, as a huge fan of ULYSSES, it was of course thrilling to be in Dublin. It's cliche, but it was very enjoyable. Plus, you know, beer.

I don't want to give away any spoilers.... but in Looking For Alaska, did she... how did... WAS IT AN ACCIDENT OR WASN'T IT?!

I don't know. I knew from the time I started the book that I would never know.

One of the shittier things about human life is that in the course of your time here there will be questions that hang over you that NEED answering, questions that MUST be resolved in order for you to go on living...and these questions will never get answered. You will be forced to live with ambiguity in your life, and it will be very difficult, but the challenge we all face is to go on living hopefully in the face of this unjust answerlessness.

So that's what I wanted to write about.

Are you fully aware of how much tumblr idolizes you?

Yeah, I mean I do have an idea of it. It's weird to think of tumblr as a monolith when of course it's just a massive collection of blogs.

But I really like tumblr as a platform and as a way of making/reinventing/mashing up things, and the tumblr community has been very generous to me and my work. (That said, there are elements of tumblr that really, really dislike me, and that's okay, too. I like it when people take the piss out idols--even if it's me.)


This is going to be hilarious tomorrow when none of these comments make sense.

Orangered 4 Life.


I can confirm it is your cake day. Repeat: IT IS YOUR CAKE DAY.

How do you feel about extreme couponing?

In almost all cases, it seems to me a failure to comprehend the economic concept of opportunity cost.

I know you have said you don't have a lot of say in the actors in the TFIOS movie, but if you did, who are some actors you would cast?

Well, I'm an old man, so I don't know any contemporary actors or actresses. I know Shailene Woodley (who is playing Hazel) from The Descendants, and I thought she was brilliant in it, but I don't know a lot of male actors under the age of 35, so when I think of teen heartthrob types for Augustus, I think of, like, Robert Downey, Jr.

Did you know that the old Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers manager was just appointed Sunderland manager? Also you might want to check out /r/nerdfighters for lots of things which will probably cause you mild embarrassment.


I'm a mod at r/nerdfighters (albeit a very inactive one). I don't like to interfere there too much because you guys are doing good work without me inserting myself into the conversation.

Can we bring back nerdfighter notes? I would love to see them again.

Yeah with the explosion of TFiOS they have sort of fallen by the wayside. I'd like to see them come back, too.

My girlfriend and I were in one of your videos a while back, Tales of Nerd Love, I was the boy who asked my girlfriend to homecoming with an Air Force bear. We also were at your atlanta stop of your book tour and spoke to you for like 5 seconds, I was the one holding a teddy bear in an Air force uniform. The bear was part of the reason why we were in your video of nerd love, but I don't think you made the connection when you saw me holding the bear. I think you were tired and just got confused by a 6' 3" teenager holding a teddy bear. So I just wanted to thank you and tell you that we are still together and that I am not just a weirdo with a teddy bear. Us outside the atlanta venue: [IMG][/IMG]

Now it all makes sense! (Great to hear y'all are still together.)

I'm so excited right now!! I just want to you to know you're my favorite author. I fell in love with The Fault in Our Stars as soon as I read it and immediately bought all your other books. (Currently reading Paper Towns) I have your quote "That's the thing about pain, it demands to be felt." tattooed on my back. Your books really had an impact on me. Again I just wanted to say thank you and I guess my question is, what got you started I writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? Thank you so much!!

One of your biggest fans.

Edit: proof!

Wow that's amazing. It's so strange to have something I wrote live on your back. I hope you still like me in 20 years!

I always wanted to be a writer, but it seemed like an unrealistic goal--like being an astronaut or something. I've always been a pretty practical person, so I figured I would write but also do other things. Even as my writing career has grown, I've continued to do other things, because I still can't really think of myself as a full-time writer.

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with John Green conducted on Reddit on 2013-04-01. The Reddit AMA can be found here.