Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Interview with A.S. King, Author of The Dust of 100 Dogs

First off, I wanted to thank everyone who posted questions and, of course I wanted to thank A.S. King for all of her help this month. You rock, Amy! Thank you for the amazing, thought provoking answers!

Without further adieu, please welcome A.S. King!

Tami Asked:

What is your writing schedule like and what is your favorite time to write?

A.S. King:

My schedule is insane at the moment. Nothing here is sane or regular or routine and it’s driving me a little bonkers. I have two small kids, so until they’re both in school, it’s a chaos-driven writing schedule. Mostly, I write in chunks of time. But, if I get to choose? My favorite time to write is ALL DAY. ☺

What are the top 3 things you have to have on your desk each time you sit down
to write?

A.S. King:

Really, all I need is my computer and me. I have a revision pencil (refillable) that I’ve had since 8th grade that I like to have around. A cup of coffee always helps.

Joanne Levy asked:

Hi A.S.!

I LOVED The Dust of 100 Dogs and especially that it made me think of SO MANY different things. I think a lot of the book is very open to interpretation, so I'm curious as to some of the feedback you may have gotten that you weren't expecting. Care to share any enlightening/weird/unexpected comments you've received about the book?

And here's a personal question: what is your favorite dog breed?

A.S. King:

Hey Joanne! Thanks for reading D100D. So happy you dug it!
Like any book, feedback has been varied and interesting. I suppose the most surprising thing so far for me is: the book covers some very serious human subjects like genocide, domestic violence, child abuse, sexual slavery and sexual assault, but far more readers voice concern about Rusty, the Doberman who is repeatedly maltreated by his owner. Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs—anyone who knows me knows how much I love dogs and abhor violence—and I’m really glad people are hating how Fred treats Rusty, because it’s wrong. I just find it interesting that people choose to comment so urgently about violence against dogs when in the same book, so many violent crimes are committed against humans.

This has really made me think. Are we so desensitized to violence against humans that we don’t see it? Or have we come to expect it? Imagine we saw, on the TV, 150,000 instances of dog violence before we turned 18, the way we see violence against humans. Would we be as desensitized to dog violence then? Would we stop seeing that, too? Deep thoughts, I know, but you asked!

My favorite dog breed -- Chocolate Labrador. Goofy, lovable and the way they smell in the rain is just so nice.

Robin Brande asked:

Okay, here's what I want to know: How much of you is in Emer, the girl pirate? Are you like her, or do you just wish you were like her?

Also, was it hard to write the scenes where Fred is being so abusive to Rusty? Because those were really hard to read! Poor Rusty!

Loved the book. Loved it so much I would marry it.

A.S. King:

Hi Robin! You rock for wanting to marry my book. (I am actually able to arrange that, if you’re interested.)

My life has been charmed compared to Emer’s. I do deal with adversity similarly. Head up—honor in battle. But I am a strict pacifist, so fighting is out of the question. Could I do it if faced with physical harm? Probably not. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint in real life and let me tell ya, I couldn’t do much more than shake in my boots and blink. I can’t say I wish I was like Emer either. I mean, she’s got some baggage—mostly power issues—that I’m quite happy to sidestep, thanks. ☺ If I could choose, I’d be Saffron, starting right where the book ends.

You bet it was hard to write those scenes about Fred being mean to Rusty. Really hard. But those were not the parts of the book that made me cry. The Cromwellian attack scene was super hard to write. The scene with Emer & the Frenchman in the cave was also super hard. But I agree thoroughly about how hard those Fred scenes are to read—Poor Rusty!

Terri Probst asked:

Amy, first I don't think I've told you how I loved the book. My 9yr old said "Wow, YOU know someone who's written a book??" I'm going to read it to the boys 5 + 9, with a bit of editing-hope you don't mind.

My question is how do I get you to central PA for a signing? We have D. Dashem in LH and Otto's in Williamsport. I have a very comfy futon...

A.S. King:

Thanks Terri! So glad you liked it.
You’ll need some serious editing for 5 & 9 year olds! I’d love to be a fly on that wall.

I am hoping to make it up to central PA this year sometime. I haven’t seen Lock Haven for at least fifteen years! Thanks to the info contained in your question, I’ve contacted Otto’s to see if they’d be interested. I’ll be in touch!

Heather M. Riley asked:

I'm still reading right now, but the first thing I noticed was the time frame. Aside from the flashback scenes where we see Emer's childhood. I also found it interesting that you chose to have her reborn as Saffron in the 70's and therefore the story doesn't take place in our current time but in the recent past. What made you decide on this time setting?

A.S. King:

Hi Heather!
First, when I started working on the book, as early as 1999, I had no concept of 2009 in my brain, same as we’re not thinking of 2019 right now. Second, I had a vision that Saffron’s dad was going to be a Vietnam War veteran, which made sense to set her birth in the early 1970s. Third, I was born in 1970, so I could relate to Saffron’s childhood better if I set her age close to my own. And fourth—probably the most important—usually my characters & plots & settings choose themselves. I have very little to do with it.

Tracy Belsher asked:

There are many historic details in this book - the settings, time periods, treatment of women, the reoccurring slavery theme – hell, you even work in Gettysburg. How did you approach researching for D100D – was it overwhelming?

A.S. King:

Hi Tracy!
For me, it was invigorating. I was scared of history class [memorization] in school, and so, I managed to graduate without much history knowledge, and avoid landing on the yellow squares in Trivial Pursuit for many years. But something hit me when I moved to Ireland. History presented itself to me—in the landscape, in town, it was everywhere. When we moved to Tipperary, I started to read a lot about it. My reading eventually led to an interest to write about it. The smaller historical mentions, like Gettysburg or Turner’s Rebels, came from a few small books I had sitting around about American history. So, really, D100D was the result of what I was reading and learning, rather than the other way around.

Deke Snow asked:

Was there one character, or even one trait of a character that you identified with most while writing the book? Is there some of you in any of your characters?

A.S. King:

Hey Deke!
I think there’s probably a little of me in all of the characters, even if, in characters like Fred, I write representations of everything I reject or fear. But not to be obtuse, I think I could certainly relate to Saffron while she was dying to get out of high school. Aren’t we all dying to leave school and search for treasure (life)?

Also, Emer and I share the experience of holding a deep love for someone we had to live without for a period of time. My husband and I were separated by the Atlantic Ocean for about five years, and 20 blissful years later, thinking about it still hurts.

Last but not least, I asked Amy to share a little something about what she's working on now.

A.S. King:

If you can talk about your new book, what is the plot in a few quick sentences?

Explaining the plot in a few sentences, I can’t do. But here’s something I came up with while I was trying. IGNORE VERA DIETZ (Random House/Knopf 2010) is about a teenage girl, her dead (ex) best friend, and her attempt to clear his name. It’s also about destiny. And a neighborhood full of secrets. And a sarcastic pagoda. And vocabulary words.

Thanks you SO MUCH for having me!