We’re very pleased to welcome A.S. King to the ball. The Dust of 100 Dogs is her first young adult novel, and is about a notorious 17th century pirate reincarnated as a girl genius determined to reclaim her buried treasure, having lived the last three hundred years as an assortment of dogs.
I’ve worked some weird jobs in my life. My worst jobs were probably the ones I never showed up for, or walked out on. (That would be IHOP (twice) and going door-to-door trying to get people to sign a petition in favor of clean water in their own community, which was much harder than it should have been.) I think my worst working experiences were more due to clueless bosses than the actual work. The worst was the boss who decided to “ventilate” a photo-processing machine, filled with warm sulfuric acid, into my darkroom, which caused my then-perfect teeth (not one cavity) to weaken and even break. Fourteen fillings, a root canal and a few useless calls to OSHA later, I finally quit. I needed money, and loved darkroom work, but I liked having teeth more.
My first job was bussing tables at the local diner. I was 14, and I had to wear black pants and a white blouse and I made something like $3.40 per hour (around minimum wage for 1984) and worked through the Sunday brunch church crowds. I don’t remember much – burned hands from stacking the hot washed plates and occasionally running into my 9th grade biology teacher as I wheeled my tubs of dirty dishes around the dining room. I remember moving into the hostess position for a while at the end, where I was required to wear a brown polyester wrap around apron/dress with a white blouse, white stockings and white shoes. The dress only overlapped about 10” in the back, so bending over was tricky, and I always reached my hand around to make sure it didn’t open up if I had to pick something up off the floor.
I used that polyester wrap-around apron/dress in my last YA book, Ignore Vera Dietz. Though the situation was nothing the same, the dress came in handy, as have many memories from my years working interesting minimum wage jobs. My vast pizza delivery experience worked for Ignore Vera Dietz as well, and I used a vague amalgam of my darkroom and dental experiences for one of my adult books, Why People Take Pictures. In The Dust of 100 Dogs (Flux 2/2009), Saffron gets a job at the local McDonalds, whereas I spent my high school fast food hours at Arby’s. But the job was essentially the same, and the most important parts were the smells I remembered, or the shift hours and uniforms.
All those years, working all those lame jobs, I wondered if I’d ever have a real career – you know – one thing I was passionate about, where I might have a chance at being successful. Little did I know that I’d be a writer, and it would come in handy to know how to run an industrial dishwasher, fold pizza boxes, clean a shake machine, wire a socket, devein shrimp, neutralize sulfuric acid, and use an air compressor with a broken pressure gauge. It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it?