The Writings of Michael J. Bowler

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Interview with True Colorz

 

Q&A with Author Michael J. Bowler:

  1. Tell us about your cover design for Children of the Knight. Is there any symbolism from the story reflected in the cover?

    The graffiti-covered wall represents the gang members. The “A” symbol over their tagging is showing up all over LA, making the gangs angry enough to go after the tagger who did it. The boy is Lance, the homeless youth Arthur recruits to be his First Knight and second-in-command. Lance is a skater who becomes a knight; hence he’s clutching Excalibur close to his heart. His legs are pulled in because he’s a very tightly coiled kid who’s never felt worthy of love and has never let anyone into his heart before Arthur. He also harbors secret fears he doesn’t want the other kids to find out about.

  2. Which of your characters is most like you?

    There are parts of me in most of the main characters––Arthur, Jack, Lance, even Jenny, but mostly Lance. I was much like him as a kid, without the horrible childhood, thankfully. But I always felt on the outside looking in, always unworthy of being loved and wanted, always something of a loner, never quite fitting in with any group. That’s probably why I always gravitated to other kids like that as a teen and why, as an adult, I tended to work with the lost and disenfranchised and marginalized kids, like those with learning disabilities or those who were gay or emo or something else not quite “mainstream.” I’ve been hearing impaired my whole life and from grade school all the way through college I never met anyone even close to my age who was hard of hearing. I got made fun of and picked on by other kids as a child, and was often told by my parents that, “you can hear when you want to.” So when kids tell me their parents say they could choose not to be gay if they wanted to, I can relate to that kind of ignorant foolishness. In a sense, my so-called disability made me feel isolated, yes, but also made me more empathetic to others who society isolates for other reasons. I try to bring these feelings and emotions to life in my characters, even the gang members who often feel the same way, but are too “hard” to openly admit it.

  3. Do you need music or noise when writing or does it have to be completely quiet?

    I always use music when I write, but it’s instrumental film score music (I’m a huge collector and have been ever since I was a kid––another thing that made me “weird”.) Depending upon which scenes I’m on, I’ll pick some background music that fits the mood of the scene and it really helps me create that mood on paper. Sometimes the music generates dialogue and character interactions in my mind that I can put into the story. Some of the music I used for Children of the Knight would surprise you if I told you which films they came from because there is no obvious connection. It’s not the movie, you see, but the music that matters.

  4. Are there any LGBT charities or resources that are near and dear to you that you would like to give a shout out to?

    I think The Trevor Project is amazing and I fully support their work. We’ve lost way too many great kids due to bullying and it’s a problem that doesn’t have to be a problem, not if enough people care and pay attention to the world around them. And by people, I mean adults first and foremost because they set the example for kids.

  5. What message would you like to relay with Children of the Knight?

    I have worked with every kind of kid over the years, from the rich to the nerdy to the criminally inclined to the emotionally disturbed to the gang affiliated, with gay kids and straight kids and everything in between. The main message of Children of the Knight and its sequels is that all kids are basically the same. They’re just kids and none of them should be marginalized or discriminated against for any reason, but only encouraged and loved so they can become good adults. My books celebrate the sameness of kids, not their differences, which is why the gay boys are portrayed the same way as the straight boys. They fall in love, they’re heroic, they’re happy or sad, they fight, they make friends, they have hopes, and they have dreams. I would love for these books to reach a broad spectrum of the reading public, especially people who might not ever read anything about gay kids or who don’t personally know any gay kids and might just come to realize that these boys are the same as any other boys and not something to be feared or hated. So the message is––our differences don’t matter because at the end of the day we’re all just human.

  6. What would you like young readers to take away from your novels?

    In our society today, young people are inundated with “self-centered” media messages, and even witness in their daily lives far too many examples of adults who celebrate the “If it feels good, do it” and “It’s all about me” philosophies. In my books, especially my King Arthur series, of which Children of the Knight is the first, the message is that the way to make this world and this society better is to do what’s right, rather than what’s easy. There are a lot of other themes, as well, about the dangers of adultifying kids and how we need to spend more time really communicating with each other as human beings, rather than as computers or text messages, but that is the main one. Thus, my characters often face difficult moral challenges and have to make hard choices.

Interview with The Dark Phantom August 7th, 2013

Interview:

Would you call yourself a born writer?

I’d say so. I’ve always loved reading stories and making up stories and telling stories. As a child growing up I was hearing impaired, shy, and rather introverted and didn’t have a huge number of friends. Books gave me somewhere to go, places I knew I’d never be able to go in real life, and they sparked my already fertile imagination. Sometimes they made me laugh and sometimes cry, but well-written books always got me caught up with the characters and situations. I decided even before high school that I wanted to try my hand at moving others emotionally through storytelling the way I had so often been moved.

What was your inspiration for Children of the Knight?

I dedicated the book to all of the amazing kids I’ve worked with over the years and they are truly the inspiration for this story, especially the incarcerated kids who clued me into a world of almost impossible-to-believe degradations perpetrated against children in this society. Sadly, every terrible act committed against kids in my book is one I’ve heard from someone in real life. And yet these same abused, abandoned, neglected, tortured kids who really should have given up years before, inspired me through their ability to rise above their pasts and still possess hope for a better future. Amazing!

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I like to explore themes of honor and decency and doing what’s right, rather than following the main media mantra these days of “it’s all about me.” Sadly, in our society today, most kids growing up witness and are taught self-centered behaviors, and thus they think life should be all about them. Selfishness in the adult population is what’s bringing our society down, so I like characters facing situations wherein they must make really hard moral choices, like what’s right versus what’s easy. Teens today have precious few role models in any walk of life that exemplify this model.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

The outline for this story began a LONG time ago, but I only sat down to write it in earnest last summer. It took about a month or two for the first draft and then endless tweaking and revising for several months thereafter.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Yes. Since I no longer have a 9-5 job, my job is writing. I’m usually up early in the morning, eat breakfast, and then write for most of the day until maybe 3 or 4. Then I go to the gym where I work out with and train teenagers (see how YA is a perfect fit? HA!) and after the gym I go home and write some more. Depending upon my weekend plans, this will be my typical schedule then too. When I have a story to get out of my system, it’s easy to be disciplined because I want to finish it.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Juggling a large cast of characters and making sure to work each one in as thoroughly as possible. Some of them become more prominent in the sequels than in this one, but it’s always a challenge to have a large cast. Once in a while I’d realize I placed the same kid in two different locations at the same time, or forgot about some other kid for several chapters. Ha! There are also a large number of adult characters and they had to be given sufficient “screen time” as well.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love being an author because I love the idea of touching someone else’s heart and mind through my writing the same way my heart and mind were so often touched, and even influenced, as a kid growing up. If I can achieve that through my writing, all the sweat and drama of writing the book and getting it published will have been worth it.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

My first two books were self-published through two different companies. I enjoyed the experience, but also found it difficult because I don’t really have anyone who will read my stuff for errors or typos or just continuity problems, and thus mistakes found their way to the final product. Also, the marketing is all on me because there is no company that will benefit financially from marketing it themselves. This book, Children of the Knight, was released by a real YA publisher and it’s been an amazingly positive and joyful experience. These people have been fantastic and creative and incredibly helpful all along the way and I can’t say enough good things about the company or the people. The editing process was painstakingly thorough and hopefully no mistakes actually made it into the printed book. I don’t plan to read it to find out however. Ha! There’s probably more money to be made in self-publishing, but more expense, as well. If all publishers are as amazing as Harmony Ink I’d say go with a real company.

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