What kind of question would you like answered?

Q: Why was the Looking for Alaska movie shelved?

Maybe they will make it someday, but I don’t mind if it never becomes a movie. There’s something wonderful and magical about that book belonging to US, you know? Alaska is still Alaska and Pudge is still Pudge. I’m so grateful that the book continues to find readers even without the big marketing push of a movie adaptation.

 

Q: Was your intention to make Alaska fall in love with Miles?

My intention was for it to be a complicated mess that was totally impossible to parse, just like real romantic interactions between teenagers in high school. (And also adults after high school.)

I don’t think we feel only one thing in our lives. I don’t think it’s as simple as either A. being in love or B. not being in love. I think our feelings for each other are really complicated and motivated by an endless interconnected web of desires and fears. I wanted to reflect that as best I could.

 

Q: Alaska is described as beautiful, but is this only because Pudge was the one describing her and he was in love with her?

That’s a really important question. 

One of the challenges of reading a novel that’s written in the first person is that you have to decide how much to trust the narrator. In Catcher in the Rye, for instance, Holden Caulfield shows you over and over again that he is an inveterate liar, but for some reason you still kind of suspect that he is telling you the truth. In other novels (American Psycho comes to mind), the narrator is clearly unreliable.

In Alaska, I think Pudge is trying his best to be accurate to his experience and memory, but it’s also clear he is writing all this down at some point in the future. From the structure of the novel and from a few moments of foreshadowing, I think it’s pretty clear by the end of the book that he knew about Alaska’s death before he started telling the story. And when you look back at the dead, I think they are inevitably more beautiful. Plus, you’re absolutely right that when you’re romantically enthralled with someone, you see that person as more beautiful than other people might. So I think Pudge’s descriptions of her beauty are probably shaped by his memory and his experience. (And while some other people—Takumi and Jake for instance—also find her physically attractive, the Weekday Warriors never express much physical attraction to her.)

Q: Since Pudge misimagined Alaska, do you believe that people who ship them are misimagining her as well?

Not necessarily. Stories belong to their readers, and if I did my job, there are a bunch of different good readings of the book. But I think there’s a strong case to be made from the story that Pudge and Alaska really loved each other and were in many ways suited to each other. Obviously, one wishes that Pudge could’ve understood the seriousness of Alaska’s pain earlier, and that Alaska could’ve done a better job of reaching out to him. But when I think about those two characters, I never think of them as merely manipulative or merely misimagining. To me, they’re people. Young people, no less.
It’s very hard to love someone well, especially when you are doing it for the first time.