scarabbi said: Since the point of the formula is whether it curves up like a smile or down like a frown, isn't the question whether it is concave or convex? Wouldn't that question then be best answered by the second derivative? This makes for far messier math, but is presumably how Colin would think about it. Did you just not want to make the math any scarier by including calculus?

That would be a question for Daniel Biss. ;)

ailamooo said: I'm not sure if I should ask this but were you, in any way, influenced by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time when you wrote this? The stories are very different but Collin and Christopher have a lot in common. And also, the writing technique. I loved how we were all whiny Collins, btw. And uh... you're a fugging genius. (did I get it right? XD) Thank you for this book.

I’m not positive, but I think I read CURIOUS INCIDENT after I wrote KATHERINES. But yeah, they’re very similar in some ways, although Haddon chooses to tell the story from Christopher’s point of view, which is an audacious choice (and one that he pulled off brilliantly, I think). Also, Colin is not obviously autistic, at least not to the degree that Christopher is, although you could certainly argue that Colin would these days be diagnosed with Asperger’s.

whap123 said: Could you possibly expand on this quote: “You don't remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened,” because I found it super interesting and confusing.

Well, it’s true. Memory shapes history. We like to think that we can observe or remember something “objectively,” but there’s no such thing as objectivity. Human memory is a flawed and eccentric mechanism; it’s not like a hard drive.

When I was writing KATHERINES, I was obsessed with how memories get formed. And what interested me most is that humans can’t distinguish between accurate and inaccurate memories. They all feel the same degree of true. So in the absence of confirming data like news reports or photographs or friends’ accounts or whatever, we have absolutely no reliable way of knowing which (if any) of our memories are actually accurate.

Anonymous said: Was Colin supposed to be a well liked character? I didn't really like him while reading the book.

No. The great challenge of writing Katherines¬†to me was how to write a likable comic novel about someone who isn’t likable or particularly funny—at least not in straightforward ways.

It’s really easy not to like people, but a lot of the time we don’t like people because they lack interpersonal skills (like the ability to empathize) that make them challenging to be around. But I’ve been that annoying guy who’s difficult to like, and I wanted to write about him in a way that was honest but hopefully a little sympathetic, too.¬†

So it’s my hope that while Colin is not a likable guy, the book itself can still be enjoyable enough that you get to the end—and by the end, you hopefully see that Colin (while he’s still socially challenged) is much more generous and empathetic than he is at the start of the story.

Anonymous said: as seen here in katherines and paper towns, you are very opinionated on subdivisions. what are your feelings about them and why?

I really hated subdivisions as a teenager because to me they represented sameness and the bloated, intellectually disengaged, wretchedly average 21st century America.

I felt like all these identical houses were architectural crimes committed against the land, and like we would pay for our crimes with these stretched out, sprawling cities that human beings of the future would see as proof of the insanity that accompanied our national prosperity.

Now I live in that very suburbia. So….yeah.

Anonymous said: I don't know if you're aware, but the band Franz Ferdinand have a song called Lindsey Wells, which came out in or a little before 2006. Is there any connection to Lindsey Wells and Franz Ferdinand's grave in Katherines?

No it’s just a completely crazy coincidence. (She was called that long before the song existed.)

baginns said: Hi John! Was Gutshot named after how Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in the stomach, thereby referencing to Colin's feeling of a missing piece from his middle? Also, have you ever tried anagramming "An Abundance of Katherines"? I am not particularly good at it, but I was able to come up with "The Banana Ink Dances of Rue".

I was conscious of all the people who are or feel gutshot when writing Katherines, yes. (I think a lot of us, when we are heartbroken or stricken with grief feel pain in our guts. That pain is as real as any other pain, as the narrator takes pain to point out.) 

I never tried to anagram the title. There are a lot of little anagram easter eggs in the book, but I never thought of doing that with the title, because this book—unlike all my others—had a title from the moment I began writing it.

engineerssolveproblems-deactiva said: My problem with the relationship formula is that I don't think the variables can be decided by either member of the potential relationship. You're going to overestimate the popularity and attractiveness of the person you're crushing on. Wouldn't you think so? The variables would have to be decided by an objective third party.

Yeah, no, the formula is crazy. It’s the work of a deluded madman desperate to find some intellectual path out of a mostly non-intellectual problem.

flacciddickpics said: There's apparently a pretty common idea that Lindsay's cave is a metaphor for her lady bits. You know, the secret nature, her only showing it to the Colin she feels strongest about, it being a Sapphic image, etc. What do you think of this theory? Do you remember thinking at any time "boy this cave is kinda like a vagina"?

That’s such a good observation.

Was I conscious of this? I don’t think so (although I might’ve been; it was written a long time ago).

But of course intent is mostly irrelevant. It’s a good metaphor, and a useful one: It helps us to understand the importance of the cave to Lindsay (and to Colin!) and it also works well with the (very phallic) obelisk monument of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

In a sense, their romantic journey is a journey away from the (phallic) obelisk and toward the (sapphic) cave, and in the end only in the place associated with femininity is Colin able to become authentically himself with someone else. (That’s who you really like: the people you can think out loud in front of, etc.)

I don’t think that was intentional (although again, it might’ve been), but it’s very interesting regardless. Does it reveal something about Colin, or about the author, and if so is that something misogynistic or feminist? I don’t know. I will have to think more about it. But it is really fugging interesting.

Anonymous said: In the cave, why did you decide have only have dialogue? Was there any meaning behind it?

Yeah, the idea was to reflect the darkness by removing all description. So you’re seeing what the characters are seeing: nothing.


In which John Green answers reader questions about his novel An Abundance of Katherines. Before submitting your questions, please check the FAQ, because I may have already answered it (or explained why I won't answer it). Submit your question below, and thanks for reading An Abundance of Katherines!

1. How did you decide the right amount of Katherines?
2. Why did you choose tampon strings?
3. Why does Katherines seem to get the least attention of your books?
4. Why the name 'Katherine'?
5. Did you try out the formula on the relationships in your life?
6. Did you try writing Katherines in first person?
7. Why did you decide to use footnotes?
8. Can you explain why Colin reads Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger?
9. Is Gutshot completely fictional?
10. Why Archduke Franz Ferdinand?
11. Is there any particular reason you chose to include a Muslim character?
12. Do you have any advice for people who feel like they're constantly chameleoning?
13. Did you intent to make Colin in any way autistic?
14. How did Daniel Biss' mathematical help factor into the writing process?
15. Why did you decide to write a character like Colin?
16. What do you think about the response to 'what's the point in being alive if you don't at least try to do something remarkable'?
17. What's the point in having Hassan drink and kiss a girl?
18. Was there any reason why you chose the name Colin?
19. Can you talk about Colin's feeling of a hole in his stomach?
20. How did you come up with the format for AoK?

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