A.S. King writes all her books without any outline. (Writers call this “pantsing” a shorted form of the phrase: by the seat of my pants.) She revises probably 150 times, and uses a lot of paper because she prints and revises. Still Life is her twentieth book, though the first eight she wrote weren’t published. Most of her writing tends to reflect what’s going on in her life, though in a subconscious way. Everybody Sees the Ants, for instance is partially driven by her obsession with the Vietnam war. Learning this fact, I thought, “uh-oh,” because a recent book has to do with domestic violence.
A.S. King married at 22, and had the goal of living on a self-sufficient farm. She did so, for eight years in Ireland. She was submitting things at that time, and had to hatch a certain number of chicken in order to pay for the postage. She said her writing career–at least the publishing part–didn’t really start until she moved back to the US. Proximity matters. She is currently separated from her husband and did experience domestic violence in that relationship. She had a long explanation about how people are surprised that she, a strong woman, would put up with that. In her mind, strong women are great as DV victims, because they will do whatever they can to keep the relationship going.
A.S. King was a bit of a math savant in elementary school, but ran into a seventh grade math teacher who said on the first day that he would never call on any of the girls because they couldn’t do math, and were just going to get married and fat anyway. This was the beginning of a downward slide that had her graduating in the bottom quarter of her high school class. “Kids! Proof that you can graduate in the bottom quarter of your class and go on to do good things, not that I recommend graduating in the bottom quarter of your class.”
A.S. King has an angry face. When she gets excited about things, she looks mad. She once filmed a promo for reading or libraries when she enthusiastically exclaimed, “Reading is great!” only to see her agent encouraging her to smile. They re-filmed it, to hilarious results. “Reading is great!” Pause for odd-looking smile.
A.S. King’s first name is Amy, and she writes under the name A.S. King partially because another writer is also named Amy King, but also because she likes that her author name spells “asking”. (Cue excited gasps around the room.) Matt had pointed that out to me just in the previous week and I, too, had my mind blown.
None of the things I have written get across A.S. King’s sense of humor which is dry and matter-of-fact and relentless.
It was a very good evening with A.S. King, and I will be sure to prioritize seeing her whenever she finds herself in town.
A note on the photos. It was a small space with dim lighting, and I was very self-conscious about my picture taking. I stopped after three, and all seemed to be not great. However, looking at them after the reading, I thought they captured her personality quite well.