As a teacher, coach, youth leader, mentor, and volunteer, I’ve spent all of my life around kids and youth, so writing books for teens seemed a natural progression. Within the teen lit genre, I tell stories that mash up other genres – the connective threads are thematic and the main characters are teens, but the stories don’t fit into neat little boxes. I don’t write just urban fantasy or horror or contemporary, but mix them up to create something different. I feel that too much media today sends the wrong messages to kids, teaches them to self-obsess and feel entitled to everything in life without having to make real choices, choices that involve right and wrong. In the world of modern media there is no right or wrong – if something benefits “me” in some way, kids are told to go for it and never consider anyone or anything else in the decision-making process. I like to tell stories that challenge readers to look beyond themselves and their wants and see that life is bigger than them. I want them to see that we all have a responsibility to make this world a little better for our having lived in it.
What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you deal with it?
I tend to have numerous characters and plot threads in my books and I was never good at juggling. LOL So the challenge is to keep these various “balls” in the air until the precise moment each needs to drop, and then resolve every plot and character thread by the end of the book so readers feel satisfied.
When and where do you do your writing?
I usually do my writing in my upstairs office at home. I use my desktop computer, but if I have to travel, or even if I’m at the car dealership having my car serviced, I’ll bring my laptop and write wherever I happen to be. At home, I try to write most of the day unless I have other commitments.
What have you learned about promoting your books?
I’ve learned I’m not good at it. LOL I wish I had some brilliant pearl of wisdom about promotion that I could share with your readers, but I don’t. I would have to say that social media – which I use a lot – has proved to be an ineffective tool for me. I’ve gained lots of followers on Facebook and Twitter, but these people have no interest in reading my books, let alone buying them. I think, too, that teen lit is the toughest genre to promote because teens aren’t on social media to find books. For a teen lit author, gaining access to School Library Journal, Library Journal, and major publications seems to be essential. Thus far, I have failed to interest any major journal in reading/reviewing my books. It appears they only review books released by the “Big” publishers and aren’t interested in “indies.” I suspect they are obligated to read the new releases from big publishers and simply don’t have enough readers/reviewers on staff to also cover indie publications. That’s sad because there are some great books being released by indies these days.
What are you most proud of as a writer?
I made a choice to populate my books with characters not usually seen in mainstream lit – gay kids, gang members, kids of color, kids with physical and mental disabilities, abused kids, marginalized kids, incarcerated kids. My characters are not your standard-issue teen heroes because there is no such thing. Hollywood, and media in general, would have us believe that only white, suburban, smart, straight, drop-dead gorgeous kids can be heroes, and that’s simply not true. I want readers to know the kinds of kids I’ve spent my life with - kids who are extraordinary in their own way and deserve to be in the spotlight. So my books are very much outside the box, and that difference likely diminishes their sales potential. So be it. People who’ve read my books have come to love my different, outside the mainstream, flawed characters and embrace their stories. My philosophy is this: no matter what we look like or how much money we have or how smart we are, no matter our race, ethnicity, gender, or orientation, no matter our abilities or disabilities – at the end of every day we’re all the same. We’re all human. We’re human first, and everything else second. I want my teen readers to embrace their humanity, or rediscover that humanity if it has been lost along the way.
If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?
I’d love to dine with Mary Shelley, the eighteen-year-old who wrote Frankenstein, and discuss how she conceived such an insightful look into the very heart of human nature for a piece of literature as relevant today as it was in 1818.
Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of eight novels––A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), and The Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), Running Through A Dark Place, There Is No Fear, And The Children Shall Lead, Once Upon A Time In America, and Spinner.
He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.
He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.
He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.
He is currently working on a sequel to Spinner.His goal as a YA author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world.
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