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John Green's New Novel Helped Him Figure Out His Own Mental Illness

In a visit to AM to DM, Green talked about pulling from his early struggles with OCD to write the main character of Turtles All The Way Down.

Posted on October 10, 2017, at 4:07 p.m. ET

In a chat on AM to DM's The Sit Down on Tuesday morning, best-selling author John Green talked about the ways in which his own experiences with OCD helped him write his new novel, Turtles All The Way Down.

Penguin Random House

The book follows 16-year-old Aza Holmes — who, like Green, has OCD and anxiety — as she tries to solve the mystery of a missing local billionaire. Green said he wanted to write a detective story in which the detective's obsessiveness is "distinctly unhelpful" in trying to solve the case.

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"A lot of times, detectives are portrayed as obsessive, and that's somehow linked to their observational genius," Green said. "But that's completely opposite to my experience having OCD, which is that when I'm really sick I can't notice anything outside of the world of myself."

Green also spoke about the importance of finding ways to describe mental illness, so that those who live with it (and those close to someone who does) can better understand what they're going through. He said he wrote the book "in the wake of an extended period of unwellness" and that doing so helped him make sense of what he's been dealing with since he was a teen.

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"One of the terrifying things about psychic pain is that it's so abstract," he said. "You can't talk about it the way you talk about a table. That makes it all the more isolating, for me at least, and also scary."

And yes, if you're wondering, it is a coincidence — "amazingly enough," according to Green — that this book is coming out on World Mental Health Day.

@knittytwoshoes / Via Twitter: @knittytwoshoes

You can read the first two chapters of Turtles All the Way Down here, and find out more about the book here. Watch the full clip from John Green's interview with Isaac Fitzgerald here.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.