Anonymous asked: Have you read David Malouf's novel 'Ransom'? I ask because, despite the stories being totally different, while reading Katherines I kept being reminded of Malouf's ideas about the role of storytelling and narratives. ...just curious :)

Those are indeed VERY different books (for one thing, Ransom is better), but yes, I’ve read it. It’s great, and yes, as you say, both novels are concerned with how and why we tell stories.

Anonymous asked: Was there any special reason why did you choose the name Colin'

He’s constantly callin’ his ex-girlfriend. That’s about it.

(The word singleton means a person who is not a conjoined twin. So you and I and almost very human alive on the planet are singletons. And obviously the idea that Colin cannot be as physically/emotionally connected to other people as he wants is important to the book.)

dickmagicians asked: When I read Abundance of Katherines and Colin mentioned the hole he felt in his stomach, I just sat there in shock for about ten minutes. I've had the feeling for a little over a year now, and I still don't know why, and it hurts so much sometimes, but the book made me feel better. It taught me I wasn't alone and that was really comforting to learn. Thank you so much for that. But I was wondering, did you get the idea because you had felt it before? Or did it come from somewhere else?

I wrote all these stories in high school and college in which I called that gnawing stomach pain “the night feeling,” because for most of my life I experienced it primarily at night.

(The feeling, insofar as I can tell, is some variant of worry/fear/sadness/insecurity/etc. I still get it, although now I often feel the physical pain of sadness or anxiety in different places, especially the center of my chest, which is why you will sometimes notice me pressing my ribcage when I’m on stage or in public or talking to someone.)

So that particular observation came from my own past. But more generally when writing Katherines I was interested in how false the distinctions are between mind, spirit, and body. Constructing the mind as separate from the body can be useful at times, but it can also be really destructive, as it is for Colin. 

peachplumspear asked: Out of all your books - or out of ANY BOOK AT ALL really - Katherines is the book that I have been recommended to read the most (starting in my 6th grade English class. I'm eighteen now), and usually by teachers or librarians. As the book that often garners the least attention out of your work as a whole, as it were, why do you think it, erm, I guess "appeals" so much more to an older audience? (Appeals is not the right word, but there is a reason I'm not a writer.)

To be frank with you, I think it appeals to teachers and librarians because it is the way to teach and share my work that involves the least sex.

browneyednerd asked: Towards the end of the book, Colin thinks about how he wants "to be as special as everyone had always told him he was." That line reminded me of being in 7th grade and discovering that I was not in fact the smartest person in the world, despite years of relatives and family friends telling me how smart I was. Did you ever have a similar experience?

I think most people have had that experience, whether it’s about academic performance or baseball or writing or cheerleading or whatever.

I think in some ways that’s what adolescence is—the emerging knowledge that you are not alone, both in exciting and in disappointing ways.

At some point in adolescence, you realize that you are not the center of the universe, which is a bummer of a thing to discover. But it’s only through this discovery that you can build the kind of deep and lasting and sustaining relationships with peers that are so central to adulthood.

That’s what I wanted to write about. 

Anonymous asked: You've said that you can't recall whether this or that fact was in the novel. Does that mean you rarely or never re-read your books?

I never re-read my books. (I re-read both Katherines and Paper Towns years ago for movie things, but I would never re-read them for fun.) There are several reasons for this:

1. The world contains a lot of books—far more than I can ever read—and to read my own books seems weird and narcissistic.

2. It’s not a pleasant experience for me, because I’m always thinking of all the things I could’ve done differently and better, and wanting to go back and change things.

3. When a book comes out, I really truly feel done with it. Like, I’m very happy to talk about it with people, and I’m definitely interested in people’s reactions to it, and I want to do everything I can to help the book find its widest possible audience. But by that point, I’ve read the thing hundreds of times. That’s enough. :)

Anonymous asked: You've undoubtedly already received this question, but how did you come up with the unique format in which you wrote AoK? I found it really interesting.

The structure of the book was all about trying to deconstruct what makes a story work, what organizational tactics help a narrative make sense in the mind of one’s audience.

This is something Colin struggles with very openly, but in a way all the characters in the novel are dealing with the problem of story—or at least the problem of collecting and sharing their stories in a way that will make people listen and pay attention. 

So the novel has 19 chapters for obvious reasons, but it’s interspersed with these jumbled flashbacks through which Colin is trying to organize his thoughts and feelings.

This was meant to reflect the relationship we have between chronological narrative and emotional narrative.

above-afar asked: Hi, I had asked this on your main blog but now I see that there is a separate one made for questions solely regarding Katherines. I was wondering about the parts written in the cave, and why you chose to write them as solely dialogue with no description. Did it just come across you while writing it, or did you try a lot of different ways before you found one that worked?

I’ve read a lot of stories that used similar constructions to get across an idea of physical remove or sensory deprivation (see Kiss of the Spider Woman, for instance), and I think it’s a nice way of capturing that feeling.

To be honest, I wrote those scenes in a cave with absolutely no light because I knew it would be truly impossible to film in a Hollywood kind of way.

I liked the idea that even in this world supersaturated with images, where readers have a huge catalog of images* in their memories, there could still be things that cannot be properly pictured except via written description.

* Like, I realize this is on some level obvious, but until about 150 years ago, if you said “The Great Pyramids in Egypt,” the image of the Great Pyramids in Egypt did not pop into most people’s minds, because most people had never seen an image of any such pyramid. So writing had a completely different set of responsibilities from the responsibilities it has now, which is one of the reasons that when we read books from before, say, 1850, we often proclaim them boring.

tatianathevampireslayer asked: When you were writing it, did you come up with personalities for all or some of the different Katherines that Colin dated, or were they just numbers?

Not really. Very early on in the process of writing the book, I wrote a draft of the long list that Colin finally shares with Lindsey when he’s learned some things about how to organize facts into narratives.

Obviously, I had to rewrite the list a lot as I discovered things about the plot and the Katherines, but the important thing to me was that Colin really doesn’t distinguish among them (except for K-19), because to Colin this whole process is identical, and he’s so focused on HIS role in it (as dumpee) that everyone else is dehumanized/diminished.

cornerofkelsey asked: Why did you decide to call Chase, Fulton, and Colin by JATT, SOCT, and TOC? Was it to emphasize how Colin and Hassan see them as different?

Maybe. I never thought of it in precisely that way, but that makes a lot of sense. One usually doesn’t associate acronyms and initialisms with other humans, so it is a way of expressing the distance Hassan and Colin feel from those guys. 

But yeah, that’s basically what I was trying to do, although I don’t know that I would’ve characterized it that way before you explained it to me.


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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