This past weekend I attended a talk STILL LIVES: A.S. King as part of the Auckland Writers Festival.
I have read five of Amy Sarig King’s novels: Please Ignore Vera Dietz (2010), Ask the Passengers (2012), Reality Boy (2013), Glory O’Brien’s History of Future (2014) and I Crawl Through It (2015). You can read my review of Ask the Passengers here – this month’s book pick.
The Saturday afternoon talk was led by New Zealand author Kate De Goldi in the Heartland Festival Room in Aotea Square.
Audiences may better know the Heartland Festival Room as the Pacific Crystal Palace, a lavish festival pop-up venue designed in the style of European ‘mirror tents’ of the past with a red tent top roof, stained-glass windows, wood panelling, ornate lighting and mirrors.
During their one hour talk King and De Goldi had to compete against outside forces, as the rain hammered down on tent and a Palestine protest took place outside.
On discussing her beginnings as a writer King said when she was fourteen she wrote that she wanted to be a writer, so she could help teenagers understand adults, and adults understand teenagers.
But she never thought that she was writing young adult fiction. She was not really aware of YA literature. When living in Ireland she said there wasn’t a young adult shelf – there was a Harry Potter shelf, shelves with picture books and adult works.
Her first book was published when a publisher rang her agent and asked ‘have you got anything weird?’
King challenged the notion that teenagers only want to read books about teenagers. She argued that adults completely control teenagers lives, ‘so why aren’t we putting them in their books?’ King said that when publishing Please Ignore Vera Dietz she had several interested publishers want her to remove the father’s narrative (the novel has four perspectives) because supposedly teenagers only want to read about teenagers.
King’s books often feature elements of surrealism. She joked that she prefers the term surrealism to magical realism as that term is for ‘post colonial writers, and I’m pretty white.’ I Crawled Through It is probably her most surreal piece of work, one that she is most proud of. She had decided to give up writing and was planning to get her library degree, but only lasted two days. And as a response wrote I Crawled Through It.
The idea of Reality Boy came to King while she was in the shower. She thought about society’s high child abuse rate and asked could this be happening on reality television for our entertainment.
In discussing the recent Santa Fe shooting that happened while King was here in New Zealand she talked about a phone conversation with her fifteen-year-old daughter who said in relation to it happening at her school ‘it’s not if, but when’.
On America’s current political climate King said that she would ‘take George W. Bush in a heartbeat, and I never thought I would hear those words come out of my mouth.’
This is only a snapshot of some of things that King and De Goldi discussed during the hour. De Goldi had carefully, thought out questions, and King delivered insightful responses.