Including John Green in our New Hollywood issue was a no-brainer. Although a movie adaptation of his first novel Looking For Alaska never got off the ground, the upcoming big-screen version of his latest best-seller The Fault in Our Stars, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, has millions of Green’s fans in anticipation. Green talked to EW about his hopes for the film and his life sinces the publication of TFIOS.
You’ve had a tough road with your books being turned into movies. Are you more optimistic about The Fault in Our Stars?
Well, I’m still really hesitant to believe that it’s really going to happen, even though at this point it’s definitely going to happen. It’s still really hard to believe. I’m totally, unambiguously excited about The Fault in Our Stars being a movie. It’s not something I could have ever said before, about my other books, and the reason I’m so excited is that Shailene and Ansel are so great and Josh Bloom is such a great director. They’ve included me in every facet of the process, and I’m just so excited. So in the past where I felt nervous and I felt like Hollywood would sort of twist or lessen my books, now I’m just really, really excited.
Is it being handled better because the filmmakers realize how much people love this book?
Yeah, that’s a big difference. The people who are making the movie are aware of how passionately the readers of the book feel, and they respect that, and they want to honor that. Like me, they are terrified of failing to live up to readers’ expectations, and I think that’s really healthy. That is something I never expected to happen in my life because I don’t write the kinds of books that make big Hollywood movies, but I’m so so grateful and excited.
Not to toot my own horn, but I predicted Shailene Woodley as Hazel back in early 2012. I like to give myself credit for making it happen.
Yes! Like, seven people had read the book at that point. You were like, “Shailene Woodley, Hazel Grace Lancaster, watch for it.” And I was like, “Oh Stephan, you’re ridiculous,” but you were totally right. You can put that in your story. “Nailed it!”
You had a strong following before The Fault in Our Stars, but how has it changed since?
It’s just vastly different. Everything is different. So many more people have read the book and read all of my other books up until now and I get stopped every day, every time I go to Target. You know, it’s surreal. It’s impossible to get my head around, impossible to understand what that means. I can’t think of what a million people looks like, you know? So I kind of just try to keep my head down and keep working and making stuff and not thinking too much about it.
Why do you think The Fault in Our Stars has been so much more successful?
One of the main reasons that I think it’s been so much more successful is that people like it a lot more. That sounds really obvious, but in the world of publishing, I think sometimes people forget that we’re trying to make books for people who love them and not just trying to target this demo or that demo. But I also think that it was a bit of a unique moment. I had amazing people working on the book and committed to selling the book and I’ve had relationships almost all of them for more than 10 years because it had been a long time since my first book came out and they saw great potential in the book, and they felt it had a much broader audience than I thought it had, and they wanted to make sure that it got to all those people. And I don’t think it hurt that I signed 150,000 copies.
Tell me about talking to President Obama.
I was so nervous in the days leading up to talking to the president. I knew I was only going to ask him a couple of questions. I knew it wasn’t going to be a big deal in his day, but you know, I also knew it was a great privilege to be able to ask the questions of your choosing to the leader of the free world. My wife, who usually does not appear in front of a camera, was also extremely nervous. So we basically stayed up all night the night before being really nervous, talking to each other about how nervous we were. But the actual conversation itself, it was really natural and really fun. Of course I don’t think you get to be president unless you’re quite charismatic and you’re good at making people feel at ease, which he certainly was, and so we got to ask him what we should name our daughter and he refused to answer. But in the end we chose the name that meant the most to us.
What’s going on with your next novel?
It’s a funny thing the way that a book can take over your life. They usually go away a week after they come out. That’s sad, profoundly sad, to a writer, and I’ve experienced that sadness a few times, but Fault in Our Stars is very, very different and it’s very much still in my life and it’s hard to write the next one with the previous one still in your life. But I am starting to write, although, as is usually the case with me, I’ll probably abandon six or seven novels before the next one.
Have you ever tried adapting one of your novels yourself?
I tried to write a script for Paper Towns and it wasn’t very good. I don’t think that I’m a good screenwriter. It’s very different because you’re not writing for a general audience, you’re writing for an audience of one. You’re trying to write a blueprint for a director and for actors and I really love making stuff directly for the people who are going to read it.
For more about Green and the rest of the New Hollywood class—pick up the New Hollywood Issue, on stands Friday