A Look at A. S. King: Background information when reading Ask the Passengers

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Ask the Passengers

by A. S. King

Ask the Passengers by A. S. King
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2012, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2013, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
A Look at A. S. King

Print Review

A.S. King Amy Sarig King was born in Reading, PA in 1970. No, I won't go into lots of detail about her younger years, suffice it to say she is a Pisces and, as she says, she "believes in that stuff." I will say that as a child she spent a good deal of time in her "office" (aka her closet) staying up late and reading books.

King did not go to school for writing but, instead, got a degree in traditional photography from The Art Institute of Philadelphia. After she finished school and did some work as a photographer, she moved to Ireland. She lived in Dublin first and then, Tipperary, where she worked on a farm. (Or as King better describes it: "You could say I worked on my own self-sufficient farm while my husband and I restored it. I owned it. It fed me. You get the picture.") Later she moved back to Pennsylvania where she lives now with her husband and children.

She began writing after she spent six straight months reading a book a day. She says that Salmon Rushdie's The Satanic Verses was the one book, during all of those book-a-days that got her to finally sit down at a typewriter and try her hand at writing her own. Kurt Vonnegut is her favorite writer, though, and his God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is her favorite book. Fifteen years and seven novels after she sat down at that typewriter, she got her first book published.

King often writes – blogs, tweets – about equality and sexual violence and gender issues, all of which weave through her books in very organic, passionate, and well-written ways. And like all good writers, she draws from her life experiences in her writing. She believes very strongly in truly living life, in doing things that are not about writing, in order to be a better writer. And, as is true with many writers, her jobs have been varied and many. She can boast that she has been a photographer, a master printer, a pizza delivery driver, and an electrician. Her favorite job, she says, has been as a literacy teacher. She spent some time as a rare chicken breeder (of the Blue Orpington variety to be exact) and she has this to say about the parallels between raising chickens and writing a book:

"I used to make [chicken] poop tea. Ew! Not to drink! To water my crops with, of course. And those crops fed me. See? Good things can come from poop. In fact, as fertilizer goes, you can't do much better than chicken poop. It's so hardcore you have to dilute it.

When I'm writing a book, the poop also comes from day one. Characters go flat. Premise might go off track. Plot can go in the wrong direction. Best to look at these things as learning experiences. Make some book-poop tea. Turn the flattest character ever into someone readers will never forget. Make a bore into an adventure. Same goes with publishing-world poop. When a door closes, a window opens, even if you can't see it yet. Keep writing, keep working, keep improving. Whatever you do, do not leave the poop in the coop. Ignoring poop never leads anywhere good.

Surely some of you are totally grossed out by this whole thing already. Ew. Poop? Poop tea? I'm aware this isn't a common way of thinking. I'm aware that poop tea is weird. I'm aware that I am weird and I am okay with that."

A winner of The Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature, A. S. King has three other published books: The Dust of 100 Dogs, Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and Everybody Sees The Ants. And I hope there are many more to come.

Author picture credit: Krista Schumow Photography

Article by Tamara Smith

This article was originally published in November 2012, and has been updated for the September 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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