I could not be more honored to be part of the blog tour for Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman!
I love Starfish, y’all. Here’s my review if you haven’t read it, where I say things like:
There are hardly words to describe how much it means to me.
I could write an entire essay just on how much I love Kiko, our narrator.
I love contemporary that keeps you going as easily as a suspense does. The tension is so palpable, and I had to know what would happen to Kiko. I had to keep reading..
So, needless to say, I’m THRILLED to have a Q&A with Akemi on Off-Color Literature today!
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.
So without further adieu, here’s my Q&A with Akemi!
I was so, immediately enamored of your book. What inspired you to write Starfish? Which part of the story came to you first?
Thank you so much! STARFISH is very much the book I needed as a teen. I wanted this story to exist in the world because I felt like it was something that was missing on the shelves—and I hope the readers who need it most will find it and feel like they finally have a mirror. The part of the story that came to me first was actually the first chapter—a girl at an art show with a mother who is completely uninterested in her. It’s a scene that really shows Kiko’s insecurities of not being “enough,” but also her immense strength in recognizing how much she needs to escape her home life. And from there, the story grew!
Writing always has its difficulties, of course, but do you think it’s harder to write difficult/dark subject matter?
Oh, absolutely! Particularly when it’s difficult subject matter that pulls from lived experiences. There were a handful of moments in STARFISH that hit so close to home, and at times I found them triggering to write about. In a lot of ways, telling this story was like sharing pieces of my heart I hadn’t realized needed to be shared. But ultimately, I wanted this book to exist for people who will recognize what Kiko goes through, and who will follow her journey and feel like they’ve finally been seen. Hearing that readers connect and relate to Kiko so much makes me feel a little less lonely somehow—I hope readers will feel this way too!
I cried reading your book, which is one of the best compliments I could give. Did you cry while writing it?
Ahh my heart! That means so much to hear, thank you! I had a lot of anxiety while writing it, but I hadn’t cried over it until the day it sold to my amazing editor, Jennifer Ung, at Simon Pulse. And now every single time I hear from a reader who loved the book, I turn into a waterfall of emotions. Honestly, crying is my default setting at the moment.
There are so many great books that sadly don’t get the attention they deserve. Do you have a favorite lesser-known or under-appreciated novel?
I’m probably going to be terrible at this question for two reasons: 1) My TBR pile is an actual mountain, and there are so many books that would probably be great for this answer but I haven’t actually read them yet! And 2) Unless it makes the NYT Bestseller list, I’m really terrible at knowing what’s already well-known and what isn’t. So I’ll cheat a little here and just list books Ithink are under-appreciated, mostly in the sense that I wish everyone in the universe was talking about them. In no particular order, THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO by F.C. Yee, SERPENTINE by Cindy Pon, NOTEWORTHY by Riley Redgate, THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig, and DESCENDER, which is a graphic novel by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen and I have no idea if the world already knows about this one but I AM OBSESSED.
Starfish (rightfully) has AMAZING reviews already! Do you read reviews? How well do you deal with any negative feedback?
When STARFISH found a home with a publisher, I told myself I wasn’t going to look at a single review. I know how I am, and I take things to heart really easily. I feel like I have quite thick skin when it comes to feedback from my agent, editor, or a critique partner, but not so much when it comes to strangers. My anxiety goes all over the place! And I didn’t want that to get in the way of my writing when I knew I had other projects to work on. But being a debut author can be a bit of a whirlwind, and there’s a ton of self-promo involved. So I’ve had to look at reviews from time to time to kind of stay in the loop of what’s going on promotion-wise. Once STARFISH is released, I want to avoid Goodreads at all costs, and only read the reviews people tag me in on Twitter. So far those ones have all been really nice, so I think people are being gentle with me haha!
Akemi Dawn Bowman is 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.