John Green is out there. There aren’t many public figures as public as Green, who has been posting a video blog on YouTube for seven years. And his fame is about to get bigger. The movie adaptation of his bestselling novel The Fault in our Stars opens on June 6. The movie and its two young stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort are getting a huge amount of buzz in advance of the premiere.
Green talked about the making of the movie, his hesitancy to sell the film rights and the effect a hit movie might have on the nerd fighter community that has grown up around him in The Hollywood Reporter‘s profile in the May 9th issue.
Still, there was lots to learn about Green. Here’s twenty-four fun things about Green and Fault–from the original ending, to the celebrity fan few know about to the Twitter meme that has sprung up about the photo of him in THR.
1. Heidi Klum is a fan.
Green told THR “she said lovely things about [Fault].”
2. Ditto Shailene.
Green revealed that he “got a wonderful letter from Shailene Woodley long before she ended up being cast as Hazel.”
3. The original ending to Fault was very, very, very different than the final one.
It was epic, though some wondered if that was epically bad. Said his longtime editor Julie Strauss-Gabel, “Y’mean the whole Mexican warlords and the drug running and that stuff? All books reach a point, especially at the latter stages, where authors don’t want to walk away. There was a moment where he had particularly colorful ideas on how to end the story.” Adds Green: “Oh god, the ending was um, the ending of the first draft was this epically terrible case where Peter went out and went on a road trip to Mexico. I don’t even want to talk about it. When Julie read the whole draft she said, ‘This is by far your most interesting and ambitious novel, but I can’t tell if the last 50 pages is a joke.’!”
4. He loves to secretly sign books.
For THR‘s photoshoot, we went to the Los Angeles Public Library’s main branch downtown, which is a beautiful old building full of great architectural details and murals. As we were finishing up, Green noticed we were near the YA room. He made a beeline for the “G” section to surreptitiously sign his book only to find that every copy was checked out, leaving him simultaneously disappointed and pleased.
5. No, really. He loves it.
When the Fault movie was filming in Amsterdam, Green took director Josh Boone to his favorite bookstore in the city. While there, Green secretly signed every copy of his books and put them back on the shelves as a surprise for the purchaser.
6. Green loves to sign books so much so that he signed all 150,000 copies of the first printing of Fault.
He told THR that he became passionate about signing as many copies as he could when he went on eBay one day and discovered how much his signature was fetching. He said it was unfair that fans in places like Omaha or Wichita couldn’t get signed books like fans in New York or Los Angeles.
7. He had to get a physical therapist to help him through all those signatures.
When Green first agreed to sign the copies of Fault, his first printings were in the 20,000 range, which he thought he could handle. But he (rightly) found the idea of signing 150,000 books daunting. Halfway through, his publisher, Penguin, had to get him a physical therapist. She taught him that if he eliminated one flourish in his signature and loosened his grip, he could sign for hours without any pain.
8. Paper Towns was inspired by ’80s movies.
“Yeah I wanted that to be like a movie, like one of those one-night movies, like Can’t Hardly Wait, or, I don’t know, a bunch of them in the ’80s — Adventures in Babysitting — one of those movies where it’s just, like, crazy-wonderful things happening and this person who has no reason to be interested in you is interested in you and it’s so magical. And then I wanted to have the book, you know the book that talks about, that dissects it and deconstructs it a little bit.”
9. Here’s what he thinks of Looking for Alaska, his first book, now:
“I look back at my first book with a tiny bit of envy and a lot of embarrassment. Envy because I think I wrote quite fearlessly and without consideration for audience, which I didn’t understand, and embarrassment because I think that book was quite straightforward in a way that lots of people have responded to and I’m very grateful for, but, yeah, I would write a different book now I’m sure. But that’s one of the pleasures of writing, at least for me. When a book is out, a book is done, it doesn’t belong to me anymore, [but] it feels like it captured me in a moment. It feels like a memory.”
10. We might someday see a novel set on a college campus.
Says Green, “I loved my time at Kenyon [his alma mater], and I might someday write a college novel, but I’m quite happy writing about high school students for the moment.”
11. One of his fears about greenlighting a movie version of Fault stemmed from the visual power of movies.
“I think one of the legitimate concerns that authors have is that the visual medium is so powerful that none of us will ever read Harry Potter and not see Daniel Radcliffe. And so it does matter in that sense; it does shape a future reader’s relationship with the book. So I do understand that concern that you’re reading a book and you’re picturing these people as you’re reading it, and then when the book deviates from the movie — at least in the mind of many contemporary readers who read the book after [seeing] movie — they say, ‘Well, that’s quite weird.’ I think the book has to stand on its own, and even though we are a visual species and the images are very powerful to us, you know the book is the book. You have to let it have its life. And the time you make that choice is when you decide whether to sell [the theatrical rights], and then if you decide [to sell] you lose the moral high ground to be like, ‘Oh don’t do that to my story.’ ”
12. The inevitability of death is a theme in many of his books.
Green: “Well, I mean, it’s coming for us. Not just as individuals but as a species. And I think teenagers are grappling with that fact in a sovereign way for the first time, which is a big and important thing for them. But I’m also still grappling with it, so it’s important for me.”
13. His parents are his role models.
“My biggest professional role models are my parents. They do interesting work — my mom makes goat soap, my dad works with land trusts — and work hard while also trying to honor their values.” Yes, you read that correctly: John’s mom makes soap from goat’s milk, and he says its awesome.
14. Green also draws inspiration from some of his favorite bands.
“I look to bands like The Mountain Goats and They Might Be Giants, who do lots of different kinds of work but always honor their core audience.”
15. He and his brother and collaborator Hank have turned down many TV opportunities.
“I’ve had a bunch of meetings with very nice TV people, very smart people and was very impressed with them. It’s just a very different kind of thing. There have been a couple of fairly attractive offers. Partly because of the money, partly because of the opportunity to have some real creative control over whatever series we would make, but ultimately I think we are niche content creators and if we tried to pull the numbers that you need to pull to do a cable TV program it would be stressful and probably not as good as the things we can make online kind of for free and in our basements. … I’m not Louis C.K. I can’t see myself doing [what he’s done], but maybe I will someday.” Hank is even less interested in TV, says John: “Hank’s never going to push for TV. Hank doesn’t even own a TV.”
16. A funny thing happened at his recent book signing in Los Angeles.
Green was in town to accept an award from the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and give a talk. Afterwards, he signed books for about 3,000 fans. About halfway through, Green took a quick break to rehydrate. The next person waiting was a girl of about 12. To pass the time, he said to her, “Tell me about yourself.” To which she replied [in perfect deadpan], “That would be creepy.” Green exploded in joyful laughter.
17. Fault director Josh Boone told THR that the montage at the beginning of Jerry Maguire inspired him as a way to get into Hazel’s world at the beginning of the movie.
18. On a more serious note, Boone said he read the book long before getting the job to direct.
He had a friend who passed away from cancer and Fault helped him process the emotions and grief of his friend’s death.
19. Boone calls the tone of the book “beautiful” and marvels at how natural the rhythm of Green’s printed dialogue (much of the movie dialogue is taken straight from the book) sounds onscreen.
20. The photo of Green that opens THR‘s profile has become a twitter meme with fans striking the pose and posting on Twitter with the hashtag #johning.