You guys! Remember such times as yesterday, when I reviewed Ask The Passengers? Well, I first discovered the awesomeness that is the writing of A. S. King three years ago, when I happened upon The Dust Of 100 Dogs. Since then, she's achieved and maintained her place as one of the most original and -- in my opinion -- important writers of our time. So I'm very excited that today we have the author herself stopping by on her blog tour to answer my questions about her writing process, philosophers, and what message she'd send to anyone questioning their sexuality.
So many YA books feature either fantastic parents, or horrible, seemingly irredeemable ones. Astrid's family is FAR from perfect, but boy do they really love her, and this seems to be a recurring theme in your stories. Can you talk about the families you write, and what inspires them?
I think it's a very rare thing to feel 100% comfortable in your family--especially in one's teen years. Nobody is perfect. Not kids, not parents, not anyone. But in teen years, adults do seem to have an upper hand and it sometimes leads to teenagers not knowing quite were they stand. I had a very turbulent late teen period which saw my mother very ill, so I remember this massive and fast change of track in my thinking. I grew up quickly. That didn't mean I didn't spend too much summer job money in my first semester of college like every other normal college freshman, but it meant that my idea of family strengthened and its importance was magnified because I felt any day could be anyone's last day on Earth. Suddenly, I realized that no matter what I felt, the truth was that my parents loved me and they were doing and saying what they thought was best for me.
Also, when I was 14 and first realized I wanted to write, I had a very specific goal. I wrote it down on a yellow legal tablet. The goal was: I wanted to write books that would help teens understand their parents better and parents better understand teens better. I don't set out to do that when I write, but I think I accidentally might achieve it when I read the final product.
Astrid's humanities class was one of my favorite parts of the book. Who is your favorite philosopher/ do you have a favorite theory?
Socrates, hands down. The more I read about philosophy, the more I found that many philosophers seemed to think they knew stuff. They weren't just arguing for argument's sake. They seemed to think they knew something. To me, that's a losing battle in philosophy, where anything is possible. So Socrates, the poor, barefoot, haggard teacher in the streets challenging passersby about what they believed? He was the shizz, man. The absolute shizz. At the time, some of his theories on women as students and slavery were really groundbreaking. Plus, his life story is pretty amazing. I like to think that Socrates drank that hemlock standing up for free speech and free thinking. I'm sure he did, to, because drinking hemlock must totally suck.
As your fourth published book, this book is as different from all of the others as they are from each other.
I am glad to hear this. It's what I aim for. If you asked me to do the same thing everyday, I couldn't do it. That's why this job suits me so well. Expect another different book in 2013. And 2014, too. Etc. Infinity.
Do you ever struggle to come up with ideas?
I don't so much struggle with new ideas as I struggle for trying to figure out what half-formed idea in my head is trying to turn into. Ideas, I have. Literary solutions to the ideas? Sometimes I struggle. As I'm sure you noticed, I get a lot of ideas at one time and they knit themselves together in my books--only sometimes, I can't quite figure out how to knit them together and which pieces fit where.
What is your writing process like?
Picture a circus.
A three ring circus.
I've been writing for the last 10 years with a kid at home--from infant to pre-school age. Twice. So, my process changes depending on what kid needs what, when and where. For example, tonight I had to bake some crazy Greek cookies. Do you know the last time I baked crazy Greek cookies? Never. It took me two hours. I had other stuff to do. But I baked the damn cookies because my kid needed them for 5th grade. (Also, it was a good way to hang out with her.) So, when it comes to timing and the whens and wheres of my writing process, my guess is as good as yours.
As for how books come out, it's usually the same process: First draft with a 80-100 page note file. Second draft where I strengthen my characters and ideas using that note file very closely. Ten trillion drafts after that to continue aforementioned strengthening. At which point, I dislike the book pretty much. Then, I send it to my agent and editor. Much revision follows. When I hate the book immensely, it is done. Realistically, that's about 60+ drafts since finishing the first draft. I only begin to like a book again nearer to release time. It sounds very dramatic, but I'm a Vulcan, so it's more of a rational hate-my-own-book thing. I'm usually working on the next book or the one after that by that time, so it's manageable.
Do you ever work on more than one book at a time?
More than one first draft at a time, no. But I am always in three different stages of three different books. Example: Right now, I am launching Ask the Passengers,which requires a certain amount of time and gusto and travel, etc. I have just finished the last edits on next year's Reality Boy, and am awaiting copyedits in another month or so. I have just finished the prospective 2014 book and sent the first chunk of it to my agent, who will send it to my editor. And technically, you can add a fourth book to that stack because I'm thinking about the 2015 book...as well as another secret project I have going on the side. So, yes and no. But probably mostly yes.
I feel like this book is you sending your love to all of us, your readers, but if you could pick any group of people gathered together (like, say, on an airplane) to send your love and change their lives, who would it be?
Haters. All haters, war mongers, rumor-spreading gossips and angry people. All negative creeps please report to gate 2B for boarding the biggest honking plane you ever freaking saw. Am I right? Shit. If we tried to actually gather all the negative people in one place, we'd need the place to be continent-sized. But yeah. If I could magically change the world by sending love, I'd send it to them. Since this is probably impossible, I'll give you my second choice: Sad and lonely people. We will call the plane Eleanor Rigby. It will also need to be very large.
I'll leave you all with Amy's next answer, because I don't think any more words should follow hers. So thank you, Amy, for taking the time to stop by our site, and for answering candidly all of my questions! We heart you SO MUCH!
Finally, if you could say anything to all of the young people (and grown people) out there who may be questioning their sexual orientation (or who know their orientation, but are struggling to come out) what would you like to say to them?
I have this thing I say to audiences. The truth can't hide. And while that's true for most of us inside our brains, plenty of people hide their love-truth because the world mightn't accept it or their family might reject them or they might get fired or they might lose their friends. (Side note: did you see the article last week about that man who pretended to be gay for a year? What an experience.) For young people still in school, this task can seem especially daunting. Look. I was bullied for being gay in school when I wasn't even gay. Happens all the time. And haters have plenty of support from friends and family now as they did then. But you know what?
I watched my sister come out and tell our family and I saw how hard that was. Just writing this makes me cry these mixed-up tears. I'm still so proud of her for doing this--over 30 years later--and yet, I am so sad for our world...that we could be so dumb about something as simple as love and attraction. Do you remember that feeling? The first time you were attracted to someone? The first time you loved? Why wouldn't we celebrate that feeling no matter what gender someone is attracted to? Life is short. Life is SO FREAKTASTICALLY SHORT. Why would anyone waste their time making up love rules? Being negative? Hating? Inspiring hate?
Now...play that game where we add the funny/poignant thing to the end of each question to make it personal. Why would anyone waste their time making up love rules for my sister? Being negative about my sister? Hating my sister? Inspiring hate against my sister?
I don't give advice. But I will say this to anyone questioning who they love and who they might love: The truth can't hide. And love is a celebration. And sometimes, it takes a while to figure this whole thing out. Don't be pushed into a box. Be yourself. Anyone who doesn't like you for being you isn't worth knowing.