September 25, 2018

Hank Green

On introspection, compassion and internet outrage
Interview by

If you’re into YouTube, Hank Green is already a familiar name. He’s co-CEO of Complexly, the video production company behind more than a dozen popular YouTube shows, including Crash Course. He’s co-founder of VidCon, the online video conference that drew 40,000 attendees in 2017. He’s one half of the VlogBrothers, whose YouTube channel has more than 3 million subscribers.

He shares those titles with his older brother, John. If you’re not into YouTube, you’re likely familiar with Hank’s big brother’s bestselling young adult novels, including The Fault in Our Stars. Hank Green’s background has ensured his debut novel is eagerly anticipated, and An Absolutely Remarkable Things delivers on its promise.

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If you’re into YouTube, Hank Green is already a familiar name. He’s co-CEO of Complexly, the video production company behind more than a dozen popular YouTube shows, including Crash Course. He’s co-founder of VidCon, the online video conference that drew 40,000 attendees in 2017. He’s one half of the VlogBrothers, whose YouTube channel has more than 3 million subscribers.

He shares those titles with his older brother, John. If you’re not into YouTube, you’re likely familiar with Hank’s big brother’s bestselling young adult novels, including The Fault in Our Stars. Hank Green’s background has ensured his debut novel is eagerly anticipated, and An Absolutely Remarkable Things delivers on its promise.

You’re well-established in the world of online creativity. Why did you choose to move to the written word, and why now?
There are some ideas that don’t fit into a four-minute video or a tweet or a blog post, and I had a story to tell that couldn’t fit into any of the other media I was working in.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing explores many complex issues, including how the internet and fame can affect our sense of identity. How have you grappled with that over the years?
Well, one big way was writing a whole book about it. I worked through a lot of issues while writing this, and the fact that I was able to spend so much time focused on that problem was really helpful for me. But yes, I have been grappling with fame and power and identity for a long time. The worst part is when you don’t realize your influence, and you end up making a situation worse or hurting people’s feelings. For me, the process has been about a lot of introspection and compassion and talking with people who care about me.

You live in the rather remote state of Montana. Does life in a small city help you balance your internet visibility?
It’s not really about visibility—there are plenty of people who recognize me in Missoula, maybe more than the average place because it’s a college town. I don’t live in Montana for any particular reason, it’s just home. All of my friends are here!

Your work combines creativity and education, but that’s not overt in your novel. How did your process differ here?
Interesting question! For me, this is all about trying to convey complicated ideas efficiently. That might be a character’s emotional state during a fight with a friend; it might be photosynthesis. It’s all about getting into the head of the person who is reading (or watching) the book (or video). People are complicated, and the predicaments these characters are in are complicated. In many ways, telling this story was a more difficult puzzle than teaching someone physiology.

The world looks to April May for guidance during a confusing time. Did you internalize any lessons from your main character?
Oh yes. April and I struggle with a lot of the same things, including our need for attention and approval as well as our addiction to internet outrage. I don’t think we’re alone there. But the moments in which April makes better decisions, or even simply recognizes that she has a problem, were very helpful for me.

Did you fully immerse yourself in writing the book, or did you have to work it around your other obligations? What was that balance like?
This book took me around four years to write, and it was never the only thing on my plate. I’m very good at focusing for one- to two-hour periods, but after that I have to shift my attention. Luckily, I have lots to do!

Do you have another book in the works?
I sure do. I hope a lot of people will want more from this story, but I already know my wife does, so a sequel is in the works!

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.

Author photo credit Ashe Walker

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