It took A.S. King (the A.S. stands for Amy Sarig) 15 years and more than seven novels to finally get published. Now, the YA writer can’t seem to get enough praise for her work—Everybody Sees the Ants, about what it means to want to take one’s life, but rising above it so that living becomes the better option, has received six starred reviews, was a 2012 American Library Association Top 10 Book for Young Adults, and an Andre Norton Award nominee. King also wrote the Edgar Award nominated, 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and ALA Best Books for Young Adults and Cybils Award finalist, The Dust of 100 Dogs.
King is just one of the 21 blockbuster authors scheduled to speak at SLJ‘s August 9 online event, SummerTeen: A Celebration of Young Adult Books. If you’ve signed up for SummerTeen, make sure to gather your students to hear King speak on the “Rockin’ Women of YA” panel from 3:45 p.m.-4:45 p.m. Betsy Bird, a youth materials specialist for the New York Public Library system and an SLJ blogger, will moderate the session.
We spoke to King about why librarians are her heroes, what it’s like writing for teens, and what she’s working on now.
What do you like best about writing for a YA audience?
King: While I’m writing, I don’t think about the age of my audience. That said, I really enjoy visiting readers in their schools, libraries, and communities and talking very frankly about issues that are facing them in everyday life. I especially love widening this conversation to all age groups, especially adults, because so often they are left out of the conversation and end up somewhat out of touch with teenagers.
How did you end up writing for your genre?
King: I have absolutely no idea. My books have been nominated for awards in many categories: mystery, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary/literary. I guess I don’t really have a specific genre.
What’s one of the most moving things someone has said to you after reading one of your books?
King: In the months that have passed since releasing Everybody Sees the Ants, I have heard more than once from both librarians and teens that the book “changed their life.” That’s pretty awesome.
I [recently went on] Twitter and found this comment: “A book that changed me forever, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King.” That is worth more than heavy chain store backing and all the money in the world.
How valuable are librarians at getting the word out about your work?
King: Librarians are pretty much my heroes in this respect. I am not a commercial author-meaning my books do not get top billing at chain stores and on the big online sites. I seem to fit more into libraries and schools and because of this, librarians and teachers are my closest career allies.
Do you ever worry about your books being censored or challenged?
King: I do not worry about this. It doesn’t affect how I write at all. As a library trustee who has had to field one very small challenge at our branch, I feel very strongly about a board who would limit the reading material of all their patrons based on the complaints of few. So, my only ‘worry’ in the case of a book of mine being challenged would be for the patrons or students in a library where the professional/s entrusted with the job of collection management could be overruled by people who did not have library science experience.
What are you working on now?
King: I am editing my 2013 book, Reality Boy, and I am writing the first draft of my potential 2014 book, co-authoring an adult book, and getting ready to write the first draft of the potential 2015 book by the end of the year.
Other SLJ SummerTeen Interviews: