Friday, February 4, 2011

Dishing it up with A.S. King

Folks, I’m uber excited to have one of my Backspace idols here today. She was one of the first authors I met at the Backspace conference and she couldn’t have been more welcoming. Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Award-winning YA author A.S. King.

A.S. King is the author of cult favorite THE DUST OF 100 DOGS and the 2011 Printz Honor Book PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ, described as “deeply suspenseful and profoundly human” by Publishers Weekly, and picked as one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books for Teens 2010.

Recently returned from Ireland, where she spent over a decade living off the land, breeding rare poultry, teaching adult literacy, and writing novels, King now lives deep in the Pennsylvania woods with her husband and children. Her next YA novel, EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS, is due in Fall 2011.

JET: First of all, let me say I really enjoyed The Dust of 100 Dogs and I devoured Please Ignore Vera Dietz as soon as it arrived on my doorstep, before either of my kids had a chance to get a hold of it. Can you tell us a little about the book?

A.S. King: Thanks for the kind words about The Dust of 100 Dogs! Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a tough book to describe. I say this after a year of trying to describe it. It’s about a girl who’s trying to clear her dead (ex) best friend’s name. It’s about a boy who thinks he’s a loser and who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd. It’s about ignoring the important things that we shouldn’t ignore. It’s about pizza delivery, alcoholism and a red neon pagoda that has its own thoughts.

JET: What made you choose Young Adult as a genre?

A.S. King: Young Adult chose me, not the other way around. I’d written 7 adult novels over 13 years before one of them, a coming of age story of a reincarnated pirate, sold to a YA publisher and was shaped into a YA novel. That said, I love writing YA literature. Teenagers are often more open to quirky stories and structures than most adult readers are. Also, when I look back to my own youth, I realize that the things that shaped me most were the books I’d read. For me, it was Paul Zindel—a man who showed me that I wasn’t the only person on the planet who felt like a freak, and Kurt Vonnegut—a man who made me feel less like a freak for exploring heavy things and finding funny ways to discuss them.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

A.S. King: I think it must have been a challenge to continue to write after 12 years and over 300 rejection letters. I often look back and wonder why I didn’t give up. After much deliberation, I have decided that I must have gone bonkers at some point. Because who would do that? At the same time, I look back on those years with great joy. I had a great time. A lot of fun. I was doing what I wanted to do. And I always felt I was learning something about writing.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

A.S. King: That’s a tough question! I think I can say that January 9th, 2011 was pretty amazing. That was the day I got a call from California and someone said, “Hi, I’m [someone] from the Michael L. Printz Award committee calling from the American Library Association mid-winter conference.” She then went on to tell me Please Ignore Vera Dietz was Printz Honor book. I cried instantly. Dude. I didn’t even cry at my wedding.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

A.S. King: It started with Maurice Sendak and Where the Wild Things Are. When I was in elementary school, I was a voracious reader. I don’t remember many titles, but the ones I read over and over were: A Wrinkle in Time, Harriet the Spy, and a really cool book about a witch. Then, in junior high, thanks to my 7th grade English teacher, I found Paul Zindel. He shaped me for the next 3 years. I read all of his books about a trillion times. I could name great books that I loved all day long (Lord of the Flies, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451) but my biggest influence in high school and post high-school was Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

A.S. King: I think I really knew when I was 14. But an adult in my life told me that wanting to be a writer meant that I had to work at a newspaper. And that wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I changed my mind. Then, when I moved to Ireland at 24 and had some time on my hands for the first time since preschool, I realized that this was what I was made to do and I started to do it. I never stopped.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

A.S. King: I don’t know how crazy it is, but for book #7, which hasn’t been published but might one day find its way into the world, I learned how to play the drums. (I should add that the drum kit was already in my basement and my husband plays, so it wasn’t that big of a stretch, except that it’s really hard to play the drums.) It’s a very odd book—a mix of love letter to John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, commentary on consumerism and pornography, and a “historical” about what life in darkrooms was like before digital photography. My most interesting (and disgusting) fact is related to this same book. Did you know that child pornography was legal in most US states until the LATE 1980s? In my state, it was legal until I was a senior in high school. Ew. Also, in Sweden, they have seen a rise in animal sexual assault injuries since child pornography was made illegal in 1999. Yeah. Interesting, right?

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

A.S. King: Impossible to say. I do love Please Ignore Vera Dietz and knew it was something special when I wrote it. But I feel the same way about many of my books. My favorite story is called “The Tests I Failed” and it was published in Quality Women’s Fiction back in 2009. But again, I also love many other stories. Final answer: Impossible to say.

JET: Any advice for the novices out there?

A.S. King: Keep writing. And be nice. And write what you want to write. And don’t write to trends. But mostly: Keep writing.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with Paper or Plastic?

A.S. King: Paper!

JET: Steak or Tofu?

A.S. King: Chicken.

JET: Beach or Mountains?

A.S. King: Both, on alternate days.

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

A.S. King: Rock-n-Roll.

JET: Classics or Modern?

A.S. King: Both, on alternate days.

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

A.S. King: B Rated Horror.

JET: Zombies or Demons?

A.S. King: I say neither, but my daughter said ZOMBIES!

JET: Paper or Digital? Depends.

A.S. King: I swing both ways on this one.

JET: Salty or Sweet?

A.S. King: I just gave up sugar.  And most carbs. So, unsalted almonds, please.

JET: Coffee or Tea?

A.S. King: Coffee.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

A.S. King: I’m working on novel #4 at the moment, which is tentatively called Ask the Passengers. I can’t tell you what it’s about because that’s against my rules until the book is done. But I will tell you that book #3 is coming in fall of 2011. It’s called Everybody Sees the Ants and it’s about a bullied boy who mysteriously communicates with his long-lost POW grandfather still missing in action in Laos/Vietnam. Also, there are ants.

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about A. S. King and her work on her website.
Next week I'm dishing it up with Betty Ann Harris. 
Until then,

1 comment:

Beth S. said...

Awesome interview! I can't wait to read her upcoming book! And even though I have no idea what Ask the Passengers is about, I'm already hooked by the title. Sounds like a mystery of some sort.