Lucky didn’t ask for his life. He didn’t ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn’t ask for a father who never got over it. He didn’t ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn’t ask to be the target of Nader McMillan’s relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.
But Lucky has a secret – one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos – the prison his grandfather couldn’t escape – where Lucky can be a real man, an adventurer, and a hero. It’s dangerous and wild, and it’s a place where his life might just be worth living. But how long can Lucky keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside?
Michael L. Printz Honor recipient A.S. King’s smart, funny, and boldly original writing shines in this powerful novel about learning to cope with the shrapnel life throws at you and taking a stand against it.
I am honored to welcome A.S. King to the blog today. I really admire her and the books she has given us. I appreciate that she doesn’t shy away from “the hard stuff” or talk down to her readers. I was able to submit some questions for Amy to answer. I loved learning a bit more about this book. Seriously. Read the interview and then go get the book!
VOYA, in their STARRED REVIEW said, “King remarkably channels fifteen-year-old Lucky, creating one of the most believable teen male characters in young adult fiction.” First… go you!!! Second… how do you do it? I mean, having no personal experience as a 15 year old boy what do you do to make him authentic?
Yay! Thank you! Oddly, I didn’t even notice that Lucky and I were different genders until last week because I am totally dumb about gender like that. But, to answer your question, I think what Lucky goes through is universal—nothing to do with gender. So, I think I wrote it from that perspective. Lucky Linderman said what he wanted to say. That’s what characters do, so if he’s realistic, I am happy that I listened to him and wrote down what he wanted to say. I did hang out with a lot of guys throughout my life and I have lived in isolated areas with the same man for 20 years, so maybe we mind-melded or something.
A large part of the story deals with POW/MIA from the Vietnam War. I also noticed that you have a link to the National League of POW/MIA Families on your blog. What drew you to include this? What kind of research did you have to do?
I’ve read books about the Vietnam War for a long time, and a few years ago I read a few about the POW/MIA movement. It’s something I was always interested in, but hadn’t really looked into. Once I started researching, I couldn’t help but feel deep respect for POW/MIA families. They’ve worked for forty years to find the truth about their loved ones and in a lot of cases, they haven’t been treated like the loved ones of soldiers should be treated. Though, the longer I know people who have served in the military, the more I’m perplexed generally about how our government treats them, but that’s another story.
My research included a lot of reading, talking to veterans, talking to any family affected by a draft number, in general. (There are A LOT of those.) I spoke to some people from the League of POW/MIA Families as well, which was a humbling and affecting experience.
I adored the love letter you included in this story. I found it really touching and it reminded me of letters my grandfather and grandmother exchanged when they we young. Did you read examples of love letters or was it just something you came up with?
I read some letters from wartime to make sure the details and content might be accurate, but I wrote it first (and others that are no longer in the book) in order to inform the relationship between Harry and Janice Linderman before he left for the war. I also have a box of love letters from the four years my husband and I were apart, so I have a personal weak spot for hand written love letters and airmail envelopes and that tissue paper that we used to write on!
Everybody Sees the Ants and Please Ignore Vera Dietz both deal with tough issues that teens face. Often times people tend to avoid addressing these. You confront them head on. I can’t imagine that is easy. Could you talk a little about this? Have you ever felt like it’s too much/too hard?
Writing, itself, can seem hard some days. I write my books blindly—without knowing where they will take me, so that can be difficult. But when it comes to subject matter, I think it makes my life easier knowing that I can help kids get through things that I know many of them will face. Sometimes a kid doesn’t have to read about the specific thing that he or she is experiencing in order to relate to it or draw something useful from it. Some subjects are universal. So writing tough topics is a relief to me in many ways because I know it helps. I have many letters that tell me so.
I also think most of the people who know me would say that my writing reflects what I talk about or think about or care about in everyday life. I don’t shy away from things and never did. So, writing about what I write about is never hard for me. It’s the way I see the world. I’m not much of a sugar coater.
When you’re working on a book what does a “typical” writing day? Is there a certain process you use or are you all over the place?
It’s a bit of both these days. I still have a 4-year-old at home during half the day, but most of the time, I work all day. (10-12 hour days on weekends.) I start with emails and anything on my to-do list that I didn’t get to the night before. Then I work on the project du jour. I usually walk the half mile driveway to get my 4th grader off the bus when school lets out on weekdays and then come home and close up shop around 6. Then, once the kids are in bed, I do promotional stuff like this interview until about midnight. Then I start all over again in the morning.
I’m always looking for new books. I like to keep my TBR pile taller than I am Have you read any YA books lately that can’t be missed?
I loved a lot of YA books this year. Brooklyn , Burning by Steve Brezenoff, You Are My Only by Beth Kephart and I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Coming soon: Boy 21by Matthew Quick and Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinatorby Josh Berk. And if you haven’t read it yet, can you please read We Were Here by Matt de la Peña? I know it’s from like 2009, but it’s still one of my favorite YA books of all time.
A huge thanks to Amy for taking the time to answer my questions. I’ve not read any of the books suggested (but I do own a few!) so I will have to get on that! For those of you who haven’t read anything by Amy check out my review ofEverybody Sees the AntshereandPlease Ignore Vera Dietz here. I enjoyed Dust of 100 Dogs as well but read it long before I started blogging so you don’t get a post Be sure to stop by the previous tour stops as well:
A.S. King has recently returned from Ireland, where she spent a decade dividing herself between self-sufficiency, teaching adult literacy, and writing novels. She has also been a rare poultry breeder, photographer, master printer, contractor, summer camp counselor, pizza delivery driver and, for a week or two, a complete loser who did nothing at all.
Amy’s newest YA novel, Everybody Sees the Ants (Little, Brown October 2011) is a Junior Library Guild selection, has received several starred reviews, and has been called “a subtly written, profoundly honest novel” by Booklist. Her 2010 YA novel, Please Ignore Vera Dietz was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, an Edgar Award Nominee, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book for Teens 2010, a Junior Library Guild selection and a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick. Her first YA novel, The Dust of 100 Dogs, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an Indie Next pick and a Cybil award finalist. Her short fiction for adults has been widely published and was nominated for Best New American Voices 2010. Amy now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and children and is a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut, corn on the cob, nice weather, libraries, her community swimming pool, and fleece socks.
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