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The Globe and Mail

John Green on writing, and on building an online community

Young-adult author John Green is making his first professional trip to Canada on Tuesday. The 34-year-old from Indianapolis, Ind., will be promoting his latest novel, The Fault in Our Stars, about a teenage girl dealing with cancer and falling in love, at an event at the Frederic Wood Theatre in Vancouver.

As co-founder of and an avid user of social media, Green has built himself a large and avid fan base.

He spoke to The Globe about his new book, connecting with readers online and just what it means to be a Nerdfighter.

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What was it about the story of The Fault in Our Stars that you were drawn to?

I started trying to write this story almost 12 years ago when I worked at the student chapel at a children's hospital. I wanted to write an honest, funny story about people who are living with illness.

In 2007, you and your brother decided that you would stop all textual communication in favour of only speaking to one another via video blogs for the entire year. Why did you want to do that?

We'd been watching a bunch of Internet projects that were using the Internet to create online communities that were astonishingly creative and productive and used their cognitive surplus to make the world a more interesting place to live, and we thought it would be fun to try and build something like that. We really wanted to be part of that movement toward using the Internet to build communities that can work together to do interesting stuff.

And that's how was born, correct?

Yeah, the people who started watching us eventually started calling themselves Nerdfighers, because they fight for nerd culture and intellectualism.

How would you define a Nerdfighter?

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We always say that Nerdfighters are people who are committed to decreasing the overall worldwide level of suck while increasing the overall worldwide level of awesome.

Some authors have really embraced connecting with their readers through social media while others still shy away from it. You seem very interested in using social media. Do you think it's necessary for today's authors?

Different authors write different ways, have different relationships with their audiences, and those are all legitimate. But for me, the real privilege is having a seat at the table in the lives of people when they're figuring out what matters to them. The truth is, part of that is books, but a lot of it extends outside the world of books.

But you seem like you enjoy it. It's not just an obligation.

It's a blast. I love making YouTube videos. I love Tumblr, I love Twitter. I love talking with people I find interesting about stuff I find interesting, and the Internet is a great way to do that.

You've now written six novels. When you look at your work, do you see any recurring themes that define your interests as an author?

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I enjoy writing about people falling in love, probably because I think the first time you fall in love is the first time that you have to figure out how you're going to orient your life. What are you going to value? What's going to be most important to you? And I think that's really interesting to write about.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

John Green talks about The Fault in Our Stars at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Vancouver's Frederic Wood Theatre ( ).

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