Please welcome Akemi Dawn Bowman, author of Starfish to the blog! I am incredibly excited to have interviewed the author of one of my favourite 2017 releases.
Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.
But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.
1. Was it difficult writing Kiko’s anxiety?
It was difficult in the sense that being inside Kiko’s head and feeling her anxiety triggered my anxiety too, but it was also very easy to write about because it’s very familiar to me. I think that helped make Kiko feel authentic. It’s been really touching to hear there are so many readers who feel like the anxiety rep matched their experiences so closely, because I know how important it is to be able to see yourself reflected in books.
2. Did you do any research whilst writing Starfish?
STARFISH is own voices in a handful of different ways, so a lot of it pulled inspiration from my own lived experiences. That being said, I did spend a lot of time looking at modern artwork to get an idea of what I wanted Hiroshi’s painting style to be like. That was probably the easiest (and most distracting) part of the entire writing process!
3. Why did you decide to make mental health such an important part of your novel?
Because I think there are so many voices that don’t get to be heard, and stories that don’t get to be told. And I think there are people out there—teens especially—who really need these books. I wanted to write a story about hope and healing, to help teenagers who are going through similar experiences to Kiko.
4. At the end of each chapter you describe a painting or drawing that Kiko is working on, where did you get the inspiration for the art?
The ideas for the artwork sort of created themselves, in a way. I didn’t think much about them. I thought about what Kiko was feeling at the end of each chapter, and then I just wrote a sentence or two—almost like a stream of consciousness. Her emotional setbacks and growth are very much the driving force behind her art.
5. What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished wrapping up the big edits on SUMMER BIRD BLUE, which is my second contemporary and it’s due out in Fall 2018. It’s about grief, sisters, and music, and it takes place in Hawaii. I’m also currently working on a super secret fantasy project, and another contemporary that is so much in the early stages that I don’t even have names picked out for the MCs. But hopefully I’ll get to share more soon!
Akemi Dawn Bowman is the author of Starfish (Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster) and Summer Bird Blue (Fall 2018). She’s a proud Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast, who served in the US Navy for five years and has a BA in social sciences from UNLV. Originally from Las Vegas, she currently lives in England with her husband, two children, and their Pekingese mix. She is represented by Penny Moore of Empire Literary.