Recently, I got the chance to interview Akemi Dawn Bowman, the author of Stafish. The amazing Kimi at Waterstones Deansgate gave me this opportunity and I am so grateful. This is the second of a few question times that will be coming soon! My first was with Alice Oseman that you can find here. I had a nightmare when it came to getting this post out. When I came to transcribe the audio file for the blog post I couldn’t find it on my phone. My new phone managed to get rid of the file! Akemi came to the rescue and very kindly answered the questions again.
Let’s get on with the questions!
L = Lois
A = Akemi
L: How would you describe Starfish in 5 words? It doesn’t have to be a sentence
A: Anxiety. Messy family dynamics.
L: What inspired you to write Starfish?
A: STARFISH is the book I wish I had as a teen. It deals with these intersections of mental health and being biracial and living in an abusive home—it’s heavy for sure, but I think also really necessary for people who haven’t had a chance to see themselves represented in a book before.
L: We follow Kiko in Starfish across the country both literally and figuratively, what inspired you to write about her character and share her store?
A: I really believe stories like hers are necessary, to be both told and heard. Because sometimes the hardest part about navigating a relationship with a toxic parent is how lonely it feels. Sometimes children and teens end up wanting to protect the parents who abuse them because they’ve been told speaking up about their pain is “hurting” the abuser. It makes them feel like they can’t tell their story, or that nobody would listen even if they did. I wanted this book to exist for those who need to know they aren’t alone, and that there’s hope, and that everything is going to be okay.
L: Where do you like to write?
A: In my office, though I’m in the middle of a house move at the moment and I’ve kind of lost control of my space. (The boxes seem to multiply overnight!)
L: What was it like to have Starfish published and how was your publishing journey? Did it take you a while to get Starfish published?
A: Oh, it was amazing. It still is! It’s an absolute dream come true to see my book on shelves, and to know people out in the world are reading it. My publishing journey involved a lot of trying, failing, and trying again. It took me four manuscripts before I finally landed an agent, but it was my fifth book, STARFISH, that ended up being the first to sell to Simon Pulse. And I think the whole process from first book to STARFISH’s publication spanned about six years.
L: Are you working on anything currently?
A: I just finished drafting my YA circus book that’s set to be published in Fall 2019, which is about a girl named Harley who dreams of being a trapez
e artist and runs away to join a travelling circus. I’m also working on a super secret sci-fi book, which I’m mega excited about!
L: Can you tell us a little about Summer Bird Blue and what to expect? When it is going to be released in the US and when in the UK, if you know?
A: SUMMER BIRD BLUE is about a girl named Rumi who loses her sister in a tragic accident, and is sent to Hawaii to live with her aunt while her mother grieves alone. It deals with grief, abandonment, and learning how to forgive yourself. I don’t want to give too much away, but I love this book to pieces and can’t wait to share it with readers. It releases on September 11th, 2018 in the US. I’m not officially allowed to talk about a UK release just yet, but there might be news on that front very soon!
L: What is your writing process like, are you a planner or someone who just dives into a story?
A: I know the beginning and the ending, but apart from that I do like to kind of see where the story goes. I’ve tried planning, sometimes in great detail, but it just doesn’t really work for me. I think I tend to get burned out if I know too much!
L: Do you write listening to music or in silence? If you listen to music what do you listen to? If not, why don’t you listen to music whilst writing?
A: Silence! I can’t concentrate with background noise.
L: What is/are your favourite book/books you have read in 2018?
A: CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi is INCREDIBLE. And I’m only halfway through!
L: What other authors inspire you?
A: Leigh Bardugo is a master world-builder. I also hugely look up to authors like Cindy Pon and Dhonielle Clayton, who write brilliant books and are such wonderful champions of diversity.
L: What other books would you recommend to fans of Starfish?
A: I just finished A QUIET KIND OF THUNDER by Sara Barnard, which also features a main character with social anxiety. I loved Steffi’s story so much, and definit
ely recommend it.
L: Was Starfish the first story you wrote or have you written anything else previously that wasn’t published?
A: STARFISH was my fifth completed manuscript, but the first one to be published.
L: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers who are struggling to come up with idea, or who are trying to get their first break in the publishing world?
A: Keep writing, and remember that most writers don’t find success overnight. It often takes a lot of time and a lot of shelved manuscripts before you find “the one” that lands you an agent or book deal. So don’t be disheartened by how long it takes, and remember that everyone has a different writing journey. Someone once said, “Keep your eyes on your own page,” and I think that’s some of the best advice I’ve ever heard. We all go at our own pace, and that’s okay!
L: Hardbacks, paperbacks or e-books?
A: Hardbacks, though I can’t read with the jacket on. I get too worried I’ll bend it!
L: Drink of choice whilst reading or writing?
A: Vanilla chai lattes.
L: Hogwarts house?
L: Favourite superhero?
A: Rogue from X-Men.
L: Morning or night?
L: Cats or dogs?
A: Dogs, but only because I’m very allergic to cats.
L: What is your “dessert island” book?
A: SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo.
L: Thank you!
Look out for the other interviews coming on my blog soon!
Be sure to check out Book Depository using my link here: Loisreadsbooks
Until next time,