In the late 17th century, famed pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of 100 dogs, dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body — with her memories intact. Now she's a contemporary American teenager, and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.
The Dust of 100 Dogs was born on a skinny Irish road, while I was walking my two dogs, an hour after I'd made a trip to my local village. For the first time (even though I'd lived in the area for over five years) I saw the plaque attached to a house on the way out of town that paid tribute to a woman (a captain's wife, I believe) who'd fought off Cromwell's soldiers in February of 1650.
I'd read about Cromwell, and was slowly learning about the many invasions the Irish had endured throughout their history. Over time, I came to understand that the press we'd received in the US was very one-sided about modern politics, and the history we read about Ireland overlooked many important details. As I realized this, I began to appreciate the full weight behind modern complications. It was this weighing of modern times and history that first formed the metaphor of the dust of 100 dogs — a curse that must be endured for an unknown amount of time. What does this type of future do to those cursed? What is its cure?
I rarely talk about the deeper meanings in this book, but I feel it's important to recognize them from time to time. Sure, in promotion we highlight the exciting characters and the high-concept story. We try to hook readers with snazzy loglines and beautiful cover art. But deep down, this book is about very serious things — greed and the curse of wanting, violence and the curse of the self-absorption, racism & misogyny and the curse of closed-mindedness. What has time done to these curses? While humans were evolving, what, exactly did we evolve into?
And how did these ideas sell, nearly ten years later, as a young adult novel about a slave turned ruthless pirate and a pensive high school senior in small town Pennsylvania?
When I was writing the book, I wasn't aware of the American YA (young adult) genre, but I was very aware that I was writing about teenagers — Emer Morrisey, the sold daughter of a family slain by Cromwell's Roundheads, and Saffron Adams, the youngest daughter to two messed up parents in the American 1980s. Again, I was weighing history and modern life, and exploring the differences between them, but I wasn't aiming for a specific [teen] audience. That said, I'm absolutely thrilled to have landed in the YA genre, where I get to share my work with teenagers (14+) as well as adults. Though recent underlying industry feelings about YA seem to sell it short, I think many people have realized that YA books can be very serious literature, indeed.
So far, the feedback and fan mail I've received has been very encouraging. Readers from all intended age groups are enjoying the book, and many are grasping the deeper meanings, which for me, is a real boost. The book has been described as a genre-bender and that makes me proud, because I wrote a lot of novels along my sixteen-year-long road to publication, in search of an original voice and style. I've never been the kind of person who sees things just one way, and I'm glad that comes through in my fiction.The Dust of 100 Dogs, go to: www.thedustof100dogs.com.