Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I had the privilege of seeing A.S. King's keynote during Backspace last May. Her speech was inspirational, truthful, and it brought me to tears. This post from the Backspace Forum gives a sample of her sly wit and keen observations.

If you haven't read her books yet, they're amazing. Next on my TBR list is ASK THE PASSENGERS. It's about a girl who asks her most personal questions to the passengers in planes flying overhead. King also wrote EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS, a 2012 ALA Top Ten Book for Young Adults, the 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ. Her newest book, REALITY BOY, doesn't come out until October, but Little, Brown is offering an early large sample to download, available Sept 10th. 

Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.

You wrote your first book in 1994. What was the first book about, and how has your writing evolved since then?

My first book was about top secret things because I plan on stealing the main idea from it in the future some time. But for the most part, it was awful. I liked to think that my writing has evolved by becoming not-as-awful.

No doubt it has! Your website bio states that you took 15 years and seven novels to get published. What kept you motivated throughout this process?

I’m stubborn. Also, I wasn’t thinking about getting published. I was thinking of writing books and creating stuff. So, it wasn’t like the ultimate goal was really relevant. Or maybe the ultimate goal isn’t publishing. Maybe the goal is just writing a good book. I still have to motivate myself daily in order to do that. Some days I snack more than write.

An excellent point. Some aspiring writers focus so much on publishing, the writing sometimes gets lost. And snacking is definitely universal.
I love that the protagonist in REALITY BOY, Gerald Faust, is a former child “star.” What inspired this, and what kinds of strategies do you use for character development?

I am not a TV watcher, so TV things interest me in a kind of innocent way. I am ignorant, I guess. What interests me is human beings, so in the case of Gerald Faust—not a star, but a reluctant and infamous accidental reality TV celebrity at age 5—I wanted to know what it was like to be him at sixteen and how he’d adapted. What is it like for a kid who acted out on a TV show [that he never wanted to come and film him] to grow up as “that kid?” When I write, I don’t really have any strategies. I write a first draft as it comes to me never knowing where my characters will take me. Then, I revise until all of the wrong stuff is cut out and the right stuff is added in.

Sounds like a good process. You wrote a touching personal essay called "The Boy Who Won't Leave Me Alone" for the anthology DEAR BULLY. If given the chance, what would you tell girls going through what you did?

This goes for girls and boys. (I don’t think people know how often this happens to boys. It happens a lot.)

I would tell any victim of physical sexual harassment that what’s been done to them has nothing to do with sexuality, but only to do with power. I would tell them that the term “sexual harassment” isn’t something to be ashamed of or scared of, no matter how many people don’t take it seriously. When it leaves bruises on your skin or involves uninvited touching, it is abuse. Deal with it accordingly. Tell people who can help make it stop. I know this is difficult in a society where judges often punish victims of sexual harassment. I know this is difficult in a society that is happy to rattle “boys being boys.” (Why don’t they say that when guys do something awesome instead?) But if you speak, your voice will be a brave voice and it will, eventually, if you continue to speak, stop the harassment.

I will also add, for the future you: if this affects your self-esteem, self-worth or confidence, look around for places where you can help. Joining forces with V-Day really made me feel empowered and it allows me to help others and spread a message of intolerance toward sexual violence.

It's a shame our culture doesn't often support victims of sexual abuse and that it isn't always recognized in both genders. I just joined the SARV Taskforce, an organization devoted to helping prevent sexual violence, in the hope that I can help spread that same message.
Of all of your novels, which is your favorite, and why?

I never felt I was allowed to pick a favorite and I’m not sure I can. I think the stock answer is: The book I am working on is always my favorite book. I have favorite lines, though. “The world is full of assholes. What are doing to make sure you’re not one of them?” from EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS or “I'm sorry, but I don't get it. If we're supposed to ignore everything that's wrong with our lives, then I can't see how we'll ever make things right.” from PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ. REALITY BOY has a line about nature that I love, but I’ll make you find it rather than tell you. Hint: It’s during the waterfall scene.

Excellent lines, and an excellent interview! Thanks so much.

Be sure to snag A.S. King's books for yourself:

Get the free preview:
Or, pre-order the full book:
Or, choose from her other amazing titles:


Angelica R. Jackson said...

Loved The Dust of 100 Dogs--so different and lyrical. And Ask the Passengers got all kinds of buzz and love at our last regional SCBWI conference. It's on my ever-growing TBR list! Great interview, Karen and A.S.!

Karen McCoy said...

Thanks, Angelica! And you've also proved the comment function works! Hooray!