Monday, August 28, 2017

Interview with Akemi Dawn Bowman, author of STARFISH and INT giveaway of signed STARFISH

Dear all:
I'm so thrilled to get the opportunity to promote this amazing, amazing book, STARFISH that reduced me to a blubbering mess. In the best way of course :-) And to introduce the wonderful author, Akemi who brought it into this world.


Goodreads Book Blurb: 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.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.

My rating: 5 couches

My Review: STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman was sent to me by the publisher, and this fact does not influence my review.

This book stars Kiko, who has a very difficult relationship with her mother, disturbing past with her uncle, and is aspiring to be an artist. When she doesn't get into the art school of her choice, her dreams of escape are crumbling. But after remeeting a childhood friend and an important trip to California, Kiko learns what it means to break free and come into her own without leaning on anyone else.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I definitely didn’t expect to identify so personally with Kiko. Kiko and I are definitely not the same person, she is way more artistic than I will ever be and I have been blessed to not be paralyzed by social anxiety, and I am way beyond lucky to not have experienced the dreadful and horrific sexual abuse she suffered at her uncle’s hands. But that said, I feel at the heart of things Kiko and I are kindred spirits. I won't get into it, but let's just say this book triggered emotions that I haven't tapped into in a long time from my past.

Regardless of the personal connection, this book was beautifully written. The characters are deftly drawn, the plot moves at a perfect pace, and I was riveted to each page hoping and praying that Kiko would make it out in the end. Jamie was an amazing character and is my new book boyfriend. Kiko's mother was a very realistic psychological picture of a narcissistic woman, and her relationship with Kiko broke my heart. Hiroshi was unexpected and I loved how he and his family took the place of Kiko's home family and opened up Kiko's heart to learn what an accepting family that loves unconditionally is like. 

Overall, this book beyond exceeded my expectations at every turn, and I am delighted to have had the immense privilege of reading it. I will be picking up Akemi's next book for sure.

Blurb about our author: Akemi Dawn Bowman is the author of Starfish. 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. Starfish will be published later this year (9/26/17, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster), with a second YA contemporary to follow in Fall 2018. She is represented by Penny Moore of Empire Literary.

Interview with Akemi
1) I love your story about your journey to publication, and it's something I hope to do one day myself. I love that you started with fan fiction. Can you elaborate on some of your early ideas-- i.e. The Lion King fanfic?? What was that about??
Oh gosh, where to start? It was really, really bad. I was seven when The Lion King came out, and I was obsessed. I really wanted a sequel (which hadn’t even been discussed at the time), so I started writing it myself. I honestly can’t remember very much about it, except that Simba and Nala had twin cubs—both girls—and there was a lot of animal friends and hanging out around the water hole. It was not a sophisticated piece of fan fiction, by any means. But it did kick off a love for creating the stories I couldn’t find on the shelves!

2) I find it fascinating that you started with fantasy ideas involving witches and magic to this intense contemporary YA STARFISH. Can you tell me a little bit about that transition and if you had ever wanted to write a contemp YA, or if it just happened? 
It’s going to sound bizarre when I say this, because STARFISH and my upcoming 2018 release SUMMER BIRD BLUE are both contemporaries, but I never intended to write anything other than fantasy and sci-fi. The amount of contemporary I’d read prior to writing STARFISH was minimal. Not because it’s a bad genre, because it’s a wonderful genre, but because I’ve always been drawn to magical powers and fantastical worlds. But while I was on sub with the sci-fi that got me an agent, I decided to write something new to keep my mind busy. And I guess part of me wanted to write something that was miles different from what was on sub (a self-preservation move, maybe?). I always knew that if I were to ever write a contemporary, STARFISH was the story I’d want to write. So that’s what I did!

3) Tell us a little about your obsession with Pokémon.
I remember the first time I saw the Pokémon anime—it was in Japanese with English subtitles, and it was before the show or game had arrived in the US. I was home-schooled at the time too, and didn’t have any friends. When the game came out, the cartridges were color-coordinated (red or blue, depending on the version), and I had the blue version. I was only eleven, and—okay this part is kind of embarrassing—sometimes I used to hang out near the school bus stop because I was secretly hoping I’d find someone my age to hang out with. And one day this kid got off the bus and he was playing the red version. I thought he was the coolest person in the entire world, and it also turned out he lived right behind my family’s house. We ended up being really good friends for a few years. So I guess Pokémon is how I find my people!

4) Your characters felt so real to me. I know you are a Ravenclaw, but if your characters could be sorted into houses (particularly, Kiko, Jamie, Hiroshi, and Kiko's mom), which houses would they go to and why? I have my guesses!!! 
Oh, thank you! Okay, this one is easy. Kiko would be in Ravenclaw because she tends to overanalyze a lot, Jamie would be in Gryffindor because it’s in his nature to want to be a hero, Hiroshi would be in Hufflepuff because he’s a gentle soul, and Kiko’s mom would be in Slytherin because she has a combination of ego and manipulation that I just can’t picture being sorted anywhere else. I’ve previously said that Kiko’s mom would be sorted into Slytherin, but would lie to people and say she was in Gryffindor. I was promptly scolded for the Slytherin shade, so I want to clarify here and say that I don’t think all Slytherins are bad! It’s just that all bad people end up in Slytherin. (Or something like that? I should probably stop talking before I get myself into more trouble with my Slytherin friends, haha!)

5) What was the easiest and toughest part about writing STARFISH? 
I think the easiest and toughest part was the same thing—it was how natural it felt to write this story. On one hand, the words and emotions came very easily. But on the other hand, writing STARFISH was so triggering at times. I had to take a lot of deep breaths, and go through many, many bags of chocolate!

6) Tell us a little about your experiences with your two crit partners and how they've played a pivotal role in your work. 
Oh I love, love, love my critique partners. Shout out to Anisaa and Taylor! They read the very first draft of STARFISH and didn’t hate it, and I’m so grateful. It was the boost I needed to stick with the story, and to feel like I had something worth revising.

7) Art plays an important role in STARFISH. Can you tell us a little why you chose this medium and if you dabble in art (i.e. drawing or painting or something similar) yourself?
 I love art, but I’m SO bad at it. I’ve loved drawing before I realized I loved to write! And when I was in high school, all I wanted to do was take art classes. I did two years of ceramics and a year of painting, but I’m laughably bad. I chose art for Kiko because it gave me a chance to paint with words, in a sense, but also because I knew how important it was for Kiko to have a way to communicate. Art felt like the right voice for her—she needs her drawings and paintings to say the things she can’t.

8) I want to know a little more about your other book on sub, I AM THETA. Can you tell us a little about it? 
Sadly, I AM THETA is no longer on submission. It was pulled from sub when STARFISH sold, so I’m happy things turned out the way they did. But it was a YA sci-fi about a girl who hunts down Glitches (people with superpowers), all the while trying to hide her telepathic brother from the people she works for. It will always have a special place in my heart!

9) What are your all time favorite books, ones that have inspired you? 
HIS DARK MATERIALS was a big one for sure, as was the Harry Potter series. But I also loved ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS when I was a kid. It inspired me to write a very terrible short story about a girl who lived with wolves, which I often think of as the first “book” I finished writing. Of all the books I’ve read, ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS was the one that inspired me to be a writer.

10) Are you writing any other books right now? And if so, can you give us a very vague sense of it?
 I am! SUMMER BIRD BLUE is currently going through edits with my wonderful editor, Jen. It’s about a teen songwriter who loses her sister in a tragic accident, and is sent to Hawaii to live with her aunt while her mother deals with her own grief. It’s about family and loss and learning how to say goodbye to someone who is already gone. I can’t wait to share more, because this book is so very special to me!

And now, the moment you've been waiting for-- the amazing giveaway! Enter away, it's a generous INT giveaway!!!


  1. Great interview! Can't wait for Starfish to be out so I can hold it in my hands (I read the ARC and loved it). Summer Bird Blue has been on my TBR since Akemi doesn't announced it. Since I'm a SFF fan I would love to read something like I Am Theta from Akemi 😍

  2. Interesting interview, and I've read nothing but great reviews for Starfish (early ones, obviously).
    Most of the books I wish I'd read as a teen weren't written yet. But one that made a mark on me as an adult was Endless Love by Scott Spencer, so I wish I had read that one (so much depth and raw emotion than the fluffy movies portray).
    Thanks for the amazing giveaway.

  3. This is a fantastic interview! I am so excited to Starfish and I love all of the information I learned on how she wrote it! :D

  4. Oh wow, this sounds like a difficult but incredible read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. this is wonderful/ thanks for the chance

  6. I've been waiting for this book for so, so long!

  7. Wonderful interview! I'm super excited for Starfish! One book I'm so glad that I have as a teen is Want by Cindy Pon. Aside from the amazing representation, it was such a thrilling novel and really had me at the edge of my seat!

  8. I'd found this interview by accident because I wanted to know if this book was #ownvoices. But in reading both this interview and the book so far, it totally is. Akemi knows how to use her experiences and turn it into art only she can understand. It's beautiful!!