Anonymous said: Do you like Alaska as a person ?

I love her as a person.

As for liking her: I’ve always sort of preferred people who are not entirely likable.  

Anonymous said: If you had a Venn diagram with one side labeled as "girls who do not know how to perform a blowjob" and the other as "girls who would offer to perform a blowjob without provocation," the middle would be labeled "Lara." Jus' sayin'.

Yeah, I mean, this really isn’t my area of expertise.

As previously noted, I was mostly just in it for the symbolism.

Anonymous said: Hi, I feel pretty stupid for having to ask this, but can you explain Alaska's knock-knock joke? I've read the book over and over and over again and I still don't get it.

Yeah, don’t feel stupid. No one gets the knock-knock joke. It was a bad joke, and Julie told me to cut, and I should’ve listened. If they ever give me a chance to release like a “revised and updated” version of the novel, it will be the exact same book only without the goddamned knock-knock joke.

So the joke is: You say, “It’s a knock-knock joke. You start,” and then the person says “Knock Knock,” and then you say, “Who’s there?” and then the person realizes that they’ve been had, that one cannot start a knock-knock joke without knowing the end of the knock-knock joke. So when you say “Who’s there?” the other person has a slight little self-deprecating chuckle over not having realized from the beginning that s/he was going to end up in this pickle.

I had all kinds of super symbolic reasons for this knock-knock joke about Alaska asking Pudge, “who’s there?” and Pudge not being able to answer, about his failure to really know Alaska, about how her air of mystery was mostly about his just not being very perceptive, etc. etc., all of which was stupid and irrelevant because no one gets the joke.

more-light-than-heat said: i just finished "the virgin suicides" by jeffrey eugenides (thank you for turning me on to him, by the way) and i saw a lot of parallels between TVS and LFA: trying to solve the mystery surrounding the death of the lisbon girls/alaska, the way the boys in both books can never truly understand the girls in both books, and the conclusion that they will never know why alaska/the lisbon girls did what they did. was this intentional?

I wasn’t conscious of that, but The Virgin Suicides was a huge influence on me when I was a teenager, so it’s not terribly surprising.

Anonymous said: This might be me reading too far into LFA, but I noticed a lot of similarities between the swan and Alaska. The Eagle uses both the swan and Alaska (admittedly in different ways) to try to keep the rules preserved&I found a link between the white of the swan and the white flowers that Alaska cherishes. The major similarity I see is the beauty of both the swan and Alaska, their troubled pasts, and their ability to hurt Pudge. I guess I'm asking if you were aware of the comparison while writing.

That is really compelling. I don’t think I was conscious of it, but it holds together better than a lot of metaphors I did intend.

The more I think about it, the more interesting it becomes. Swans are animals that we romanticize—endowing with nobility and beauty—but if you’ve ever actually encountered a swan, they’re a hell of a lot more complicated than that. The complex (and flawed) ideas associating whiteness and purity resonate for both swans and Alaska, too.

Most importantly, swans are traditionally associated with a passive beauty: They are things to be looked at. But in fact swans are capable of agency and power and biting people on the butt. 

I like it!

Anonymous said: Did you ever consider ending Alaska with a certain reason for her death? Like, in earlier drafts, was it easier for you to see Alaska committing suicide or something? Or was the book always going to end with Miles not knowing?

No, from the moment of its inception in my mind, the story was about whether (and how) one can live a thoughtful, hopeful life in the face of unresolvable ambiguity.

sgt-jerry-wooters said: When it came to writing the first draft of the book, which scene/s were you most excited about writing? And which did you write first?

I wrote this book over so many years, and there were so many dozens of drafts between when it was a single-spaced 40-paged blob to when it was a novel, and so it’s hard to remember the process.

I wrote the scene in the gym where they find out very early on, probably in 2001. I wrote a couple of the later scenes where the Colonel and Pudge are playing video games early on, and the scene where the Colonel and Pudge meet survived in more or less its original form. 

Also Barn Night. And Lara/Pudge’s watching of the Brady Bunch. I think those were the first scenes.

It was a lot of fun to write Barn Night. That was probably the most fun—Best Day/Worst Day, the rapping, the Strawberry Hill, all that stuff. 

Anonymous said: What would you say, today, to a girl like Alaska?

You are helpful, and you are loved, and you are forgiven, and you are not alone. 

Anonymous said: I feel like I don't read your books properly. I don't focus on the metaphors or the symbols, I focus and enjoy the names and the story lines and the beauty of the language you use. Does this bother you? I mean you putting years and years of work writing and including metaphors and foreshadowing and me then ignoring them?

No, it does not bother me. There is no one right way to read a book.

(There are wrong ways, certainly: If you read Huck FInn and think it is a great defense of slavery, you are doing it wrong. But there are many right ways.)

These Q&As exist to answer specific questions from people who are usually reading the book very closely and have intertextual questions about them. I answer those questions because A. it’s interesting and useful for me as a writer to think about this stuff, and B. I hope it might be interesting and useful to some minority of readers, and C. I like to get insight into other writers’ processes and so feel like mine should be fair game.

The truth is, if the foreshadowing and the metaphors and everything else work, you don’t need to be conscious of it—and you certainly don’t need to be hunting for it. The foreshadowing will unsettle you whether you’re aware of it or not, and when the twist comes, it won’t feel like as much of a twist as it otherwise would’ve.

And metaphor (which to me is not really distinct from “the beauty of the language” that you refer to above) is just another way to build the story and its inhabitants so that it will be real and alive to you as you read it.

You don’t need to think “smoking cigarettes is a symbol for adolescents’ self-destructive impulses” to know that smoking is bad for you, and these kids are aware that it’s bad for you. 

Your job as a reader is to read the book you want to read. You shouldn’t worry too much about which book want you to read, but rest assured: I am very, very happy when people like my books and find them helpful or interesting or fun or anything other than dreadfully boring.

trebleisbrewing said: How do you properly pronounce "bufriedos"?