What kind of question would you like answered?

Q: Should I be reading Peter Van Houten in an American or Dutch accent?

He is American, of Dutch descent, living in exile in the Netherlands, so I would assume that he has an American accent.

Q: Why does Peter Van Houten imagine a future for Sisyphus the Hamster and only then announce that he can’t imagine futures for his characters?

Well, mostly I just wanted him to give it a try and then give up because the whole affair seemed silly to him.

But there was also a little joke in it that I liked: Sisyphus has to roll a rock up a hill, watch it roll down, and then roll it up again for all of eternity, and when you give characters in a book a life outside of the book, you are kind of doing the same thing to them: You are forcing them to go on, even after they’ve done their jobs, and do them again.

Q: What did you mean by having Peter Van Houten bring up the Philippa Foot Trolley Problem in his last conversation with Hazel?

Well, Van Houten is always trying to dodge direct emotional engagement with the world by creating this intellectual distance, so I think he’s using the Trolley Problem as a way to deflect talk about the real, gut-wrenching, totally unintellectual pain that Hazel is trying to make him acknowledge.

But why the Trolley Problem in particular? It’s a good example of how inaction is a kind of action, something that is very much on Hazel’s mind as she thinks about what constitutes a heroic or well-lived life.

(For those who don’t know, the trolley problem can be expressed like this: A madman has tied five people to train tracks. If you flip a switch, you can send the train onto another path, where two people are tied to the tracks. Doing this will result in the death of three fewer people but make you an active participant in the process. What do you do?)

Q: Is Van Houten based off you in any way other than he too is a writer?

Sure, yeah. I mean:

1. Happily, I am not an alcoholic.

2. At the time of writing, I did not have an assistant.

3. I am not particularly reclusive.

4. I hope that I do not use pomposity and pretension to shield myself from trauma.

5. Most of the bad things that have happened to Peter Van Houten have not happened to me.

6. I am somewhat younger than he is.


1. I also like Swedish hip hop.

2. I share PvH’s belief that books belong to their readers, and that authors are not qualified to comment on what happens after their books have ended. Like PvH, I am often asked about what happens in my books after they ended, and like him, I have no answer.

3. Like PvH, I am I guess somewhat depressive and very introverted and therefore can get overwhelmed by readers’ expectations of both me and my work.

4. I know what it’s like to feel that I’ll never be able to write anything worth publishing ever again.

5. I think sometimes I probably do intellectualize emotionally painful experiences so that I don’t have to confront/process them emotionally.

6. I also understand set theory better than Hazel Grace Lancaster does. :)

Q: What made you pick Swedish hip hop?

I like Swedish hip hop. I tried listening to Croatian and Hungarian and Dutch and French and German hip hop, and I just like Swedish hip hop much more.