Friday, February 24, 2012

A Calling as a Preacher

The path leading up to The Fault in Our Stars was long for John Green. In his early twenties, Green felt a calling as a preacher. He was pursuing his divinity degree when he decided that he should determine what the most difficult challenge would be for a man of the cloth, and see if this was the right path for him.

For five months, he served as a student chaplain in a children’s hospital, and worked with kids diagnosed with terminal illness and their families. “While I have great admiration for people who work with sick kids, I couldn’t handle it,” Green admitted. He went to work for a book review magazine instead, but he never forgot those children. Soon afterwards, he tried to write a novel about them, but it wasn’t coming together. So he wrote other books instead. That was more than 10 years ago.

In 2008, he met Esther, a 16-year-old diagnosed with cancer and a fan of his books and the Nerdfighters videos he creates with his brother, Hank. The author carefully pointed out at a gathering recently that Esther is not Hazel, his heroine, but Green’s experience of knowing Esther helped inform the dynamics of the characters in this book.

When Green first announced the title for The Fault in Our Stars on June 29, 2011, it shot to #1 on Amazon and (Barnes & Noble’s Website). The book would not be published until January 10, 2012. We’ve talked about the power of the Nerdfighters in the past. I believe they deserve credit for Green’s novel skyrocketing to the top of the Internet bestsellers' lists, sight unseen, six months prior to publication. The best part is that this book deserves that kind of acclaim. Hazel may be living with the fact that she is dying, but her sense of humor, her empathy for others—including her parents—and her boundless curiosity make us all want to live more meaningful lives.

John Green may have decided not to become a preacher with a collar, but his congregation today numbers in the near hundreds of thousands. And he’s the best kind of preacher, one who poses searching questions rather than trying to provide all the answers.


  1. I had no idea about this aspect of John Green's life. Thank you for filling in some of those small but rich details that help in building a story.

  2. Thanks for writing, Caroline -- the incubation period for this book was long but certainly paid off!