What kind of question would you like answered?

Q: Why is “Looking for Alaska” not capitalized on the cover? What about the before and after divisions?

I didn’t make those capitalization decisions; they were made by the book’s designer, so you’d have to ask her.

Q: Did the candle wax volcano inspire the cover?

The cover had a candle on it because the original cover featured only the smoke, but then certain bookstore chains that are no longer in business said they wouldn’t carry the cover face-out unless a candle was added because the smoke “looked like cigarette smoke.” (Of course, it is cigarette smoke.) So the candle is unrelated to Alaska’s volcano.

Q: My friends and I went to America and bought Strawberry Hill wine. We also made up ambrosia. Both tasted piss.

Yes, well, welcome to America!

Q: What would you say to my friend who believes that it’s you perving on girls, not Pudge?

Look, both the reader and the writer have a job when it comes to books. The writer’s job is to give the reader some words to work with. The reader’s job is to make the best book they possibly can using those words. Not to put too fine a point on it, but: If your friend cannot separate fiction from its author, then they aren't doing her job as a reader. This whole idea that authors who write about teenagers have some kind of romantic fixation on teenagers is really weird to me. So, yeah, let me just say this: Nothing personal, but I find high school students—all of them—completely and overwhelmingly unhot.

 

Q: Why have your books gotten “cleaner” over time?

I think The Fault in Our Stars is (for lack of a better word) dirtier than Katherines or Paper Towns. It certainly contains more sex and f-bombs. But Alaska is my dirtiest book so far, I suppose, except maybe WGWG. Why? I wanted to write about sexuality and substance abuse because it felt true to the characters, who are in many ways more screwed up and self-destructive than the characters in my other books.

When you’re a teenager, you’re doing all kinds of important things for the first time, and in writing Alaska I wanted to deromanticize some of those firsts.

 

Q: Did you know an Alaska?

 That is the rare question that is too personal.

 

Q: Do you plan on writing a sequel to Looking for Alaska?

I don’t plan on writing a sequel to any of my books at the moment. I feel like I left Pudge and the Colonel and Lara and Takumi where I wanted them to be. My grandmother taught me to never say never, but certainly there will not be a sequel in the foreseeable future.

 

Q: Do you have any teaching suggestions for Looking for Alaska?

If I were to teach Alaska, I would ask: What is the point of death? and What is the point of literature? and In an essentially and irreperably broken world, is there cause for hope? That is not really much of a lesson plan, though.