Thursday, November 3, 2011

John Green: novelist, vlogger, literary star

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 4:00 PM

John Green
  • John Green
The auditorium of Clowes Memorial Hall isn't often aside for a writer from Butler University’s Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series. Fewer times still have more than 1,000 people showed up to hear one of the authors speak. Even more rarely do audience members attend wearing shirts with the author’s face on them.

Of course, not many authors have John Green's near-cult following, amassed on the strength of his New York Times bestselling young adult novels and a YouTube channel — Vlogbrothers, an ongoing video conversation between Green and his brother — that's earned over 18 million views.

When Green took the stage on Tuesday night, he was greeted not only by his pack of followers — who refer to themselves as Nerdfighters — but plenty of other stragglers who were curious to see what event was drawing such a large crowd on a Tuesday.

During the 43 minutes on stage, Green captured the attention of audience members, non-Nerdfighters and Nerdfighters alike, with his self-deprecating humor, readings and life-lessons.

Green, an Indianapolis native, talked about his life as a Vlogger, an author and his latest book, The Fault in Our Stars, which is due to come out in January. Still months away from release date, the book has already been No. 1 on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com’s best seller list.

After Green announced the book’s title in June, thousands of people logged on to pre-order the work. When Green upped the ante by promising to sign every single first-copy of the release — all 250,000 of them — sales went through the roof.

“It’s the first-est of first world problems to have, but I felt completely overwhelmed by the number of books I had to sign,” Green, who has all but about 3,600 left to sign, said during his appearance. “I’ve completely killed the market for my autograph.”

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Green focused on his latest work during his presentation, reading excerpts and giving the audience insight into how the book differs from his prior two novels. Stars is the story of a socially-stunted teenage girl, Hazel Grace Lancaster, dealing with terminal cancer.

“Human oblivion is really at the center of the story,” Green said. “We’re all suffering from a terminal illness, in a way. We do ourselves a disservice when we don’t realize that.”

The story largely draws on Green’s experiences studying to be a chaplain at Kenyon College, a university with fewer than 2,000 students in Gambier, Ohio. He spent a lot of time working with children with terminal illnesses at a nearby hospital as part of his studies.

“I wasn’t cut out for it. I couldn’t walk away like I needed to,” Green said.

He decided to give writing a shot.

“I wanted to capture the things I had experienced and the stories I had witnessed, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it,” Green said. “Every attempt was too self-indulgent, and I wasn’t comfortable with that.”

Still determined to one day come back to the idea of writing about a children’s hospital, Green put the stories in the back of his mind. Years later, Stars became a vehicle for those ideas and stories.

The novel is set in “the 137th nicest city in America”—Indianapolis.

Green said that when his wife, Sarah, was offered a job as a curator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, he was reluctant to make the move back to his city of birth. His opinion of the city has since changed.

“I see Indianapolis as my home more than any other place I’ve lived,” he said.

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