It’s with great pleasure that today we are introducing you to A.S. King, author of The Dust of 100 Dogs (D100D). This newly published novel manages to offer its readers two spirited and likable protagonists and a story that spans time and place from 17th century Ireland during the Cromwell invasion to the decks of a pirate ship in hostile waters to 1980’s suburban America with ease.
From the first chapter I was completely captivated with the story, which moved along at a rewarding pace. King’s writing is full of feeling, yet clear and concise. And I found the book laugh out loud funny and slightly perverse all at once. At times, heroine Saffron’s family life reads like a female, fictional Augusten Burroughs. Things just get better with the addition of a kick ass female pirate named Emer, mystical curses and themes of reincarnation. Did I mention the poignant, dogs eye view sections sprinkled through out the novel?
The otherworldly leanings of D100D’s made it a perfect fit as a Young Adult novel, but this unique story will please many different types of readers of all ages. It’s thoughtful and complex and I can not say enough about my appreciation for the smart, motivated female teenage characters that push the story forward – finally, some girls that are not waiting around for some handsome, brooding guy to save her from it all.
We’re not the only ones who have discovered this unique tale; D100D has just gone into its second printing. Be a step ahead of the curve and suggest D100D for your next book club (here’s a great discussion guide for your meeting). Or just get your hands on it for a great read. You can get The Dust of 100 Dogs here or get out to your local independent bookstore and pick one up.
wht: Congratulations on the your first novel, The Dust of 100 Dogs! How does it feel to be a published author?
Thank you! It’s nice, after so long writing novels to finally have one between covers.
wht: You didn’t write D100D with the notion of it being a Young Adult novel. How did the idea first strike you?
When I was writing D100D, I had no knowledge of the US markets and had never heard of the YA genre. I reckoned I was writing my own brand of odd adult metafiction, because I’d given up on ever getting published and just wanted to write cool books for fun. My agent saw the YA potential, and now that I’m here, I can see his point.
wht: Lately, there’s a newfound respect for YA literature –the success of Harry Potter, Twilight, and resurgence of classics like Narnia. Why do you think this is happening now when YA has always produced great literature? Some of the most respected novels are technically YA – Catcher in the Rye, Little Women, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. What are some of your favorite books ever in the YA genre?
I loved many teen-protagonist books in the past that are not stocked on YA shelves – which is why I have a real problem with the one-size-fits-all idea of YA. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, and The Catcher in the Rye. I do have some contemporary YA favorites. I adored The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. Like – wow – adored it. I’ve also enjoyed Laurie Halse Anderson’s books (Speak, Chains, Fever 1793 ) and Lisa McMann’s books (Wake and Fade. As well as a few single titles like The Shape of Water by Anne Spollen and Or Not by Brian Mandabach. Oh! And I *loved* Exit Here by Jason Meyers.
wht: I absolutely love the cover of the book. It has fabulous graphics (love the boots and model pirate ship) and a striking black, white and red color scheme. How much input do authors get on their book covers? How did it differ from the cover you originally envisioned? Are you happy with the result?
Input on covers varies from house to house and book to book. I was no doubt insanely lucky to land this amazing cover – and maximum respect to Gavin Duffy, who was having a heck of a good day when he designed it. I hadn’t envisioned a cover for the book, so when I saw the cover, I was just gobsmacked. I mean – to have Saffron pondering a boat, sitting in the eye socket of a skull? This was just creative genius cranked to eleven. I am still just so in love with it. And to top it off? I have a long-time love for red boots. How cool of a coincidence is that? (oh, I understand a love of boots ~ tyna)
wht: D100D slides effortlessly from Ireland in the 1650’s during the Cromwell invasion to the typical American suburbs of the 1980’s to the waters of the on a pirate ship. What inspired this story and these locales?
The Irish part was set where I lived at the time, and was helped along by my diving head first into Irish history, which really made me appreciate what the Irish have gone through for 800 years. The American suburbs are where I grew up. My life was nothing like Saffron’s life, but the area was the same. After reading up on the white slavery trade between Europe and the Caribbean during the 1650s, I knew I’d be setting part of the book in the Caribbean, and a trip to Jamaica helped a lot with that. (Doesn’t a trip to Jamaica always help?)
wht: A small obsession with Tudor history has led me to read a lot of British history. It was fascinating to read about post Tudor times from the Irish perspective. Cromwell is always portrayed as a hero of England’s, so I appreciated seeing it from another side – and the realties of war. Why did you want to write about this particular place and time in history?
I stopped believing history books a long time ago, because they are always colored by the men who wrote them. I’m more interested in the truth of things. Relating to Cromwell, and his invasion of Ireland, I think there’s quite a line between simple wartime stuff and genocide and I believe Cromwell’s army crossed that line.
wht: Yet, another great feature in D100D are the Dog Fact sections. Written from a dog-eyes view, each column has some sound dog training advice and a poignant tale of a dogs life. How did you get into “character” to write these bits? Do you have a dog now?
I read a lot about dogs for those. Plus, I had dogs and my neighbors had dogs, so I observed a lot. The Dog Facts are as much about humans as they are about dogs, though. In my years of observing dogs and humans, I’ve come to this conclusion – dogs are awesome and humans are messed up.
Since we moved to the US, we haven’t found a permanent home, so getting a new dog will have to wait. Our dogs from Ireland still live together there, just down the road from where we lived, with a wonderful family who treats them well, and sends us pictures every Christmas.
wht: I’ve been stalking you on goodreads.com (such a fun site for book lovers). I see that you are a big Kurt Vonnegut fan. I’m embarrassed to admit, I never got into him. Can you recommend the best book to start (or retry as the case may be)? Since I obviously wouldn’t recognize it, are there any illusions or references to Vonnegut in D100D or your other writings?
If I were to recommend a first Vonnegut, I’d try Slaughterhouse-Five simply because it’s one of his best, and it’s his best known. The first one I read was Breakfast of Champions, which remains one of my favorite books of all time – and which I use at least once a year as brain sorbet. My all-time favorite is God Bless You Mr. Rosewater. I think some of my books have a similarity to Vonnegut’s, not so much in the writing (I wish) but in regard to the general vibe. Vonnegut was a humanist, and I am of the same mind, and so, often want to convey the same type of message.
wht: Now that D100D is officially released, how does a bright, new author promote her work? What is it like to step away from the computer and go out and speak to the public about your book and your life?
This is a new one for me. Though I’m sure it will be fun to promote the book by way of signings and readings, I am most excited about going into classrooms and talking about writing and reading with high school students.
wht: What plans do you have for the future? What are you working on now?
I just finished another YA book called Ignore Vera Dietz and am working on the next YA, which is a another mix of historical and contemporary.
wht: You can pick front-row-center seats to any concert, anywhere, at any point in time. Whom are we going to see? (Cause Stef & I get to come with you, of course)
I love this question. I’d go to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience at Monterey in June 1967. But Mr. King has to come with us as well, or else he’d never forgive me.
Potluck: from the wht vault
wht: What book do you think everyone should read?
Not Fair. This is impossible to answer! (The Great Gatsby or The Old Man and the Sea or God Bless You Mr. Rosewater or The Poisonwood Bible? Stop me now!)
wht: You can listen to one cd for the rest of your life – what do you pick?
The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland (or Axis Bold as Love – toss up!)
wht: What movie changed your life?
wht: You invited some friends over for a dinner party – what do you cook (or do you just order in?)
A big roast chicken, mashed spuds, Copes corn & gravy. All homemade, of course.
wht: What are your three make-up must haves?
I haven’t worn make-up since the 1980s. Not a speck of it. Not even for pictures. Hate the stuff.
wht: What characteristic do you admire most in a person? Which one do you despise?
I’m just too oddly wired to answer this one. Depending on who it is, I can admire in one person what I despise in another. Crazy, eh?
Thanks to A.S. King for this great interview. We’re wishing you lots more success with The Dust of 100 Dogs and can’t wait to see what you have for us next!