Monday, March 2, 2009

Author Interview: A.S. King

Poised at the Edge Author Interview

A.S. King

THE DUST OF 100 DOGS is not your typical YA novel. With its mysticism and history, as well as unique and complex characters, it comes off as totally original and fresh. What inspired you to write this complex one of a kind novel?

I first got the idea while I was walking my dogs along a centuries-old road. I’d be lying if I said I aimed to be complex or original. I don’t really plan my books, and so, I work for a few months or years, and they come out looking like this. J But to answer your deeper question, these things inspired me: history, women in history, and dogs.

For the benefit of those who are yet to read THE DUST OF 100 DOGS will you please tell us a little about both Emer and Saffron, who they are, what motivates them, and what is their relationship with each other?

Emer Morrisey is a six year old Irish girl in 1650, when Oliver Cromwell’s army attacks her village and kills her family. She is brought up by her uncle and aunt who sell her to a man in Paris when she is fourteen. When she escapes him, and then escapes Paris , she ships herself to the Caribbean and eventually becomes a ruthless pirate.

Saffron Adams is a very clever teenager in the 1980s, trying to please everyone until she can finally escape her loser family and get to Jamaica , where she knows there is treasure buried, because she buried it 326 years before, when she was Emer Morrisey.

Location clearly is a key defining element of THE DUST OF 100 DOGS. From the green hills of Ireland , to the drizzly streets of Paris , to the balmy beaches Jamaica , the setting of the story has almost as much character as the characters themselves. Why did you choose the particular locations, and what did they have to do with the evolution of the story?

Because the story started with the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland , in a fictional location based on where I lived at the time, the backdrop of Ireland was a definite. I started writing that, and the American parts of the story, and wondered how the two would meet. A trip to Jamaica and a few pirate video games helped it land in the Caribbean . I love traveling, and I guess it shows in my work.

What kind of research did you do for the historical parts of your novel? What was it that drew you to Cromwell’s invasion? Would you say that the attack on Emer’s little village was a fairly realistic and accurate account of the invasion?

A small plaque in the nearby village (about a woman who defended her house against Cromwell’s army in February 1650) drew me to want to learn more about the Cromwellian invasion. Realizing that Cromwell’s army might have marched down the road I lived on (and learning about other injustices, in later years, on our own property) made me feel very close to it. The attack on Emer’s village is a fictional amalgam of many documented invasions, but not an actual historical event.

You’ve referred to your story as magical realism. Will you please explain the difference between magical realism and fantasy?

Fantasy is usually complete world building and involves fantastic characters and storylines. Magic realism is when magical or illogical events happen in a normal or everyday setting, to totally normal characters.

Why pirates, curses, and dogs?

The pirates and curses got the job done. The dogs helped along the way. Really, what can I say? I start writing a book, and it drags me where it wants to go, usually not the other way around. At the time, I was interacting with more dogs than humans, so that’s probably a factor.

Did you write from a carefully plotted outline? Did you know what was going to happen, and how the story would end? Were the characters carefully planned or did they evolve along with the story?

I didn’t write with an outline, though I did write a lot of notes, which I do for every book. Pages and pages of them—a kind of thinking out loud for me, where I bounce things around to see how they sound. I make a list of these ideas. I then try to use them to roll the snowball of a story into a bigger story. Some ideas die along the way because they don’t quite fit and get scratched out with black Sharpie marker. Some spring up right at the end and slot into place as if they grew there. But on a whole, my stories and characters evolve over time.

It is my understanding that you stumbled into YA literature unintentionally. Will you continue to write for the teen market in the future? Also, do you read any YA yourself? If so what are some books you enjoy?

It’s true. When I wrote this book, I was living in another country and had no idea about the US YA market for books. But I’ve always written teen-protagonist books, so landing here wasn’t so far off the mark. I do read a lot of great YA books. In the last year, I enjoyed WAKE and FADE by Lisa McMann, THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING by MT Anderson, CHAINS by Laurie Halse Anderson, EXIT HERE by Jason Meyers, GIRL, HERO by Carrie Jones and THE SHAPE OF WATER by Anne Spollen.

Thanks so much for having me over, Melissa!