Q: In Alaska and Paper Towns you use a lot of nicknames. What’s the reasoning behind that?
It’s a way of writing about the relationship between the identities we’re given (our names) and the ones we choose or adopt as we come of age (nicknames). Most of the nicknames in my books are nicknames that are given to, and accepted by, a character in his or her adolescence. Taking a nickname is a way of establishing identity and claiming some sovereignty over one’s self. So Miles will not only be Miles, the person named by his parents. He will also be Pudge, the person named by his peers.
The relationship between these identities—and the shifting between them—is really interesting to me, because it’s a way of thinking about how in adolescence you go back and forth between identifying as part of your biological family and identifying as part of the social network you’re building separate from that family.