The PLC Interviews A.S. King

A.S. King’s newest YA novel, Everybody Sees the Ants (Little, Brown October 2011) is a Junior Library Guild selection, has received several starred reviews, and has been called “a subtly written, profoundly honest novel” by Booklist. Her 2010 YA novel, Please Ignore Vera Dietz was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, an Edgar Award Nominee, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book for Teens 2010, a Junior Library Guild selection and a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick. Her first YA novel, The Dust of 100 Dogs, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an Indie Next pick and a Cybil award finalist. Her short fiction for adults has been widely published and was nominated for Best New American Voices 2010. Amy now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and children and is a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut, corn on the cob, nice weather, libraries, her community swimming pool, and fleece socks.

We are thrilled to have her as our guest author today at the PLC.

PLC: First of all, congratulations on your latest book, EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS. Can you tell us about your inspiration for the book?

AMY: Thank you! I’m very proud of the book. It was inspired by two things unfolding in my head (and in a character) at the same time. First, the realities of being the family of a still-missing POW soldier from the Vietnam era. When Lucky Linderman, our main character, first spoke to me, he spoke of the hole in his family that was caused by this missing person  (his grandfather) and by the emotional absence of his father due to this situation. Then, as I started to write Lucky in his everyday life, I saw that he had been brutally bullied from the age of seven and none of the adults in his life were doing anything about it. It seemed to mirror the POW/MIA situation that I’d researched so deeply and there’s your inspiration right there.

Did writing ANTS teach you anything new about yourself as a writer, or about the writing process?

I guess every book teaches me something new. This one reaffirmed that I should follow my gut no matter how odd the path. It also reaffirmed that sometimes, for a story to be right, you have to change large things inside of it. In the first draft and many subsequent drafts, the reason for going to Arizona was different, and I am so glad my editor (and agent) made me rethink that because I love what replaced it. I think when it comes to new things, this book taught me some stuff about the business. Mainly, this: just because one person says a book isn’t worthy doesn’t mean others will think the same.

Congratulations, also, on the Printz Honor you received for PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ. How has winning this honor impacted you as an author?

Thank you! I’m still buzzing from it! I’m not sure how it’s impacted me as an author. I’m still stubbornly realistic when it comes to selling the next book. Awards are not sales numbers. <— I repeat. Awards are not sales numbers. So I still write books and cross my fingers and hope they will find homes. I do not take anything for granted. That said, some people who know what the Printz Honor is now show me a bit more respect…whereas before I was just some hack who “wrote children’s books.” Most of all, it’s affected my time. I’m now asked to endorse more books, to go more places and to participate more in the school and library arena, which is probably my favorite part of this whole journey (except the actual writing) because it means I get to impact teenagers and give them that in-person positive boost. I live for that.

You and your husband used to be farmers in Ireland. Have you found any similarities between farm work and writing work?

Well, we weren’t farmer farmers. I lived next to farmer farmers and that’s the hardest work you’ll ever do, I think. But we were self-sufficient granola freaks who lived off our own food. But yes. There are HUGE similarities between farming and writing. I wrote a blog about this called Chickens and Writing: A Love Story. One of the biggest advantages of having lived that sort of life before finally achieving my publishing goals was learning how to live on nearly nothing. As a writer, even if you’re paid enough to get you through a year, it comes in weird chunks and at odd times, so you have to know how to budget and be really smart with money. That was also true for the granola freak part of my life.

Do you ever encounter writing slumps or slow times? How do you deal with off days? Do your magic writing pants help?

My magical writing pants always help. I don’t so much have slump times, but there are times when I am so busy doing the business and promo side of this that I don’t have time for the writing side and those are the days when I am most cranky. Mr. King will tell you: if the kids are in bed and it’s just too late to write, I say things like, “Damn,  wish I would have got at least 500 words in today. It would have only taken me 15 minutes.” I don’t usually have dry times because I’m a book ahead in my brain. At the moment, I have two characters duking it out for the 2014 spot, and I’m working on the 2013 book.

What will we be seeing from you in the near future? Any announcements to share?

I have ASK THE PASSENGERS coming in Fall 2012 from Little, Brown. It’s a story about Astrid Jones, a high school senior who sends her love to the passengers flying in the airplanes overhead because she can’t seem to find a place for it on Earth. It’s a book about small town gossip, less-than-affectionate family life and Socrates. And love.

Thank you for your time, Amy. And congratulations again on your continued success!

Thank you for your support and for having me to the blog! Best of luck with everything and see you next year when I come back to Arizona for the usual festivities!