Anonymous said: I am not a very good critical reader, I feel I can enjoy books but I don't really take something anyways, any advice?

Here’s how J. D. Salinger dedicated one of his books: “If there is an amateur reader still left in the world—or anybody who just reads and runs—I ask him or her, with untellable affection and gratitude, to split the dedication of this book four ways with my wife and children.” 

It’s okay to be a reader who reads and runs, to enjoy a book without trying to consciously read it critically. I think there are also many joys to critical reading, but I don’t think reading should be a metaphor hunt. Metaphor and figurative language are so deeply ingrainted into how we imagine ourselves and our world that you don’t need to look for them in a text to be affected by them.

So if you like to read and run, that’s okay. Read and run. If you like to read and ponder, I think thats okay, too. There are many right ways to read a novel!

ifyourenotlost said: Why the switch from past to present tense around Alaska's death? (and how come you haven't used this in any book since, as far as I'm aware?)

I used it again in Paper Towns. I ALMOST used it in TFIOS, but Julie encouraged me to cut it. (Originally, TFIOS moved between past and present tense almost every paragraph.)

So when I am telling a story, I switch a lot between past and present tense. I might be like, “So I was driving down the street and then BOOM a deer jumps out of the woods and almost hits my car, and I almost peed my pants.” That’s a grammatically disastrous sentence, but the reason I switch tenses there is because when describing the moment of crisis—the deer jumping onto the street—I feel as if it is still happening, and I want to express to you that it was so intense that it is on some level not over.

We like to be very rigid in the way we imagine tense—some things are happening, other things have happened, etc. But one of the reason we’ve created SO MANY tenses in English is that really, the way we experience time is extremely complicated. When Pudge is talking about Alaska’s death, he is telling you a story that for him is still happening, a story that he hasn’t processed and put behind him. For me at least, that’s how trauma works. As Faulkner famously put it, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”

Anonymous said: Why is it that on blog brothers you were very cautious to reveal if you are religious or not but here you don't hesitate?

I’m not cautious. Hank and I have both talked about that stuff before. I just don’t find it very INTERESTING. I think this bright line between theism and atheism and all the assumptions that go along with it (that theistic worldviews are anti-science, that atheistic worldviews have no room for wonder, etc.) are false dichotomies and as I have said in the past I find all those discussions very boring. 

I’m much more interested in what we’re going to do, here, in the world, about the problems and opportunities we face. Who/what is calling different individuals to pay attention to those problems and opportunities just isn’t that important to me. (I realize this is not contemporary Christian orthodoxy. I’m not claiming to be a model religious person or anything.)

Anonymous said: After reading four of your books I am curious to know what your opinion of God is?

I think God is such a good idea that if God didn’t exist, we’d have to invent God.

(I am Episcopalian. My church was started because a King wanted to divorce his wife and annex a bunch of land in England. My opinion of God is complicated.)

douchebagmcpickle said: Okay are there legit plans for Looking for Alaska to be made into a movie? Because I heard plans and if they're true, my life will be complete.

Soon after celebrating the 10th anniversary of Looking for Alaska's publication, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Paramount owning the movie rights to Looking for Alaska. Over the years, several attempts have been made to develop the film, but so far it hasn’t happened.

That has been frustrating at times, but there’s also something lovely about a book that is only a book. I will never again read Harry Potter without imagining Daniel Radcliffe, but Alaska and Pudge and friends are imagined entirely anew by each reader, and that’s pretty great.

Anonymous said: What questions do you feel were answered for yourself through the experience of writing Looking For Alaska?

There were many times writing this book that I felt it was my only hope. I would often say to my family or friends this like, “This novel is my only chance.” I couldn’t articulate it further than that—my only chance to what? my only hope of what? I didn’t know, and still don’t really. I just needed the story. I needed it to work. That made me patient: I kept writing, kept revising. The thing had to be pried out of my hands, basically.

Looking back, I was really struggling in the years after college. I felt lost and intensely alone. And for me Alaska was a way to write about the feelings of abandonment and the challenges of living with ambiguity and regret. It was a very personal novel, written not only toward the me I was in high school but also the me who was writing it.

Anonymous said: Should Miles and Chip feel guilty about Alaska's death ?

Yeah.

But it is possible to feel guilty and also to feel other things, and for me anyway there is a lot of hope in that: I still feel sad about sad things that have happened to me. I still feel guilty about things I have done and things I have left undone. But I also feel other things—joy and silliness and love and so on—that I only get to feel because I kept going.

songbird04 said: The novel begins "one hundred thirty-six days before" and ends "one hundred thirty-six days after." Is there any significance to this number?

Well, only that the school year is usually around 273 days, and I wanted Alaska’s death to occur in the exact temporal center of the book.

relmagine said: Who are Tori and Ani?

Oh God I am so old and that book is so old.

(Tori Amos and Ani Difranco.)

Anonymous said: Does it matter how Alaska died?

So there are going to be questions in your life—big questions—that need to be answered and deserved to be answered but nonetheless go unanswered.

There will be questions around deaths and friendships and romances and religion and mysteries of every variety that never get solved to your satisfaction. The interesting question to me is: Can you go on in the face of that uncertainty? Can you live with integrity and hope even even with these unanswered questions?

Finding a way to live with that ambiguity matters.

It certainly matters to Pudge and the Colonel and Takumi and Lara what happened, and one assumes it will never stop mattering to them. But the real question is whether they will be consumed by that question or whether they will be able to live with it and keep going.