A. S. King is the author of the upcoming (February 2009) Dust of 100 Dogs, a book about piracy, reincarnation, true love and dog psychology. Over the past month, we've corresponded so much that if she ever comes up to Maine and doesn't stop by, I'll probably cry myself to sleep. Due to our conversation, I've been thinking Deep Thoughts about YA, how I see the world and how I react to literature. Also, I now know her astrological sign and her college nickname. I also know that her book is pretty darn super and that you'd probably like for me to just get on with the actual interview.
Not only does the main character in your upcoming book spend 100 lives (and 300 years) as a dog, but the story is interspersed with Dog Fact chapters that deal with canine behavior and psychology. Does your dog knowledge come from having dogs, watching lots of The Dog Whisperer, reading up on them or from your own prodigious imagination?
My dog knowledge comes from having dogs and from reading up on them. It started with a fascinating article I read in National Geographic in early 2002, when I began writing the book. But the Dog Facts cover a little human psychology too, about which I know squat, except for what I see with my own eyes. Short version: Humans are pretty messed up. Dogs are totally awesome.
In response to my review of Dust of 100 Dogs, you said that YA is a "genre that's getting harder and harder to box". Care to elaborate a bit?
I know YA has to be boxed, because it has to be shelved. But in the case of YA novels - does the age range of intended audience really make an entire genre? Imagine I said to you that I wanted to discuss YA art. What would that mean? Certain colors or styles? Nothing too challenging or suggestive? No nudes? Thumbs up for the wacky Cubism, thumbs down for those depressing German Expressionists? With art, as long as we stay within reasonable boundaries, the notion of an age-defined audience past adolescence is absurd. (Where is the elderly fiction section? Excuse me, can you point me to the mid-life crisis fiction?)
So let us consider audience for a minute. Certainly there are people of all ages who like to read about coming of age, because it is an exciting and gut wrenching time in life. And just as there are people of all ages who prefer to read cleaner fiction - less swearing or violence or little sex, there are also people of all ages who like dark fiction. Of course there are fantasy fans or horror fiends, or those people who love a good mystery or romance. Some readers want an easy read, some want a challenge. YA has all of these things. So, the only similarity, then, is the age of the protagonist and the types of stories and situations coming of age can explore. But of course, not all young adults go through the same things. And not all books with young adult or child protagonists are shelved in YA. What is To Kill a Mockingbird? Something Wicked this Way Comes? Deadeye Dick? What is The Catcher in the Rye? Which brings me back to the notion of a shelf - a device that is a logical necessity, and yet, impossible to perfect. Bookstores and libraries have many many books that are enjoyable for young adults. Not all of them are on the YA shelf. That is what I meant by hard to box.
What were the books that made a huge impression on you as a teen?
As a younger teen, all of Paul Zindel's books, especially The Pigman, Pardon Me, You're Stepping on My Eyeball and Confessions of a Teenage Baboon. Golding's Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. As an older teen, and in my very early twenties, I fell in love with the novels of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Tom Robbins.
And now for the standard prompts:
Books Currently Reading: Rabbit Redux, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, The Patron Saint of Butterflies, Chains, and a bunch of non fiction war books.
Music Currently in Rotation: In car: Burnin' by The Wailers, The Pretenders, and Fishbone's Truth and Soul. In the office: OK Go's Oh No and lots of Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath. Always in both car and office: Axis Bold as Love & Electric Ladyland, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Last Movie Viewed: The Big Lebowski
Literary Crush: It's a toss up between Hank Rearden from Atlas Shrugged and Elliot Rosewater from God Bless You Mr. Rosewater. (I have weird taste in fictional men.)
Pet Peeve: Misplaced apostrophes.
Current Obsession: My work-in-progress is always my current obsession.
Guilty Pleasures: Utz cheeseballs. They are so wrong. Also, long, super-hot baths, which I miss, now that I am in the land of very short bathtubs.
Irrational Fear: Bottled propane could explode and kill us all! Something's on fire! Explosions! Fire!
Favorite Piece of Trivia: If you breed two Blue Orpington chickens, you will get an even mix of black, white, white speckled and black speckled Orpington chicks. But to get more Blue Orpington chicks, you have to breed one of the white speckled hens with a blue rooster. (Runner up - humans lose 50,000 tiny flakes of skin every minute. That's three million an hour.) [BoD: EWWWWW!!]
Other Friday WBBT interviews at/with:
Mayra Lazara Dole at Chasing Ray
Francis O'Roark Dowell at Fuse Number 8
J Patrick Lewis at Writing and Ruminating
Wendy Mass at Hip Writer Mama
Lisa Ann Sandell at Bildungsroman
Caroline Hickey/Sara Lewis Holmes at Mother Reader
Emily Wing Smith at Interactive Reader