Photo credit © Peter Jolly
Akemi Dawn Bowman is a critically-acclaimed author who writes across genres. Her novels have received multiple accolades and award nominations, and her debut novel, Starfish, was a William C. Morris Award Finalist. She has a BA in social sciences from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She overthinks everything, including this bio. You can find Akemi on Instagram @AkemiDawnBowman.
Akemi Dawn Bowman was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but moved to Las Vegas as a toddler. When she was five years old, she threw a penny in a fountain and wished that she could be a kindergarten teacher when she grew up. A month later, when she was writing a book about a family of cats, she realized she’d made a terrible mistake. She spent many late nights hoping the universe wouldn’t hold her to the wish, because she wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. This incident led to many years of self-doubt, second-guessing, and overthinking. (Okay, it probably wasn’t just this incident, but for the purpose of the story, we’ll just say it was.)
Despite Akemi’s big dreams of becoming a writer, her parents had other ideas for her future. They saw music as her ticket to a full-ride scholarship one day, so they set her up with flute lessons at age six and piano lessons at age seven. Akemi begrudgingly went along with it, because she wasn’t very good at expressing her frustrations, but continued to write stories. Some of her lesser-known work includes a story about a girl running away to live with wolves, a group of kids who find a magical sword and a baby dragon, and a genre-defying tale about a girl whose horse is stolen by an ice-cream truck driver. (They are lesser-known for a good reason.)
Akemi attended public school up until fourth grade, when she was homeschooled for several years, during which time she continued writing stories, pretended to practice flute, and played an exorbitant amount of video games, which she credits as a major factor in furthering her love of storytelling. She went back to school in eighth grade, spent a summer attending the Mid-Pacific Institute in Hawaii, and was later accepted into the Las Vegas Academy—a performing and visual arts school where she enrolled as a band major.
After three years at the Academy, Akemi transferred to Coronado High School for her senior year in order to juggle school with a part-time job at Target. She spent nearly a year as both a cashier and store operator. She loved that job, and as a former employee, still hopes that someday Target will decide to stock her books on their shelves. (For the record, she always asked people if they wanted to “sign up for a Target Visa and save 10% off,” even when she found it awkward and embarrassing.)
During her senior year, Akemi finally found the courage to insist to her parents that she was quitting music once and for all, and changed her schedule so she could leave band. Also on her list of accomplishments that year was winning an "Honorable Mention" Award for a dragon-shaped cookie jar she made in ceramics class.
Akemi eventually graduated with an advanced diploma from Coronado, though she still feels like the Las Vegas Academy was her true high school. Around that same time, a US Navy recruiter called Akemi and asked her to come down to their office for a chat. Having been living with social anxiety for some time, Akemi didn’t know how to say no, and thus began the snowball effect of “How Akemi ended up in the US Navy for five years.”
Akemi was stationed at NAS Whidbey Island in Oak Harbor, Washington, where she worked as an IT with VP-46. She spent seven months in Misawa, Japan, which was hands down the best part of her time in the military. They had noodle restaurants, vending machines with Royal Milk Tea, and a grocery store full of all her favorite childhood snacks. (Akemi is food motivated.) She spent the next several years struggling with her mental health, ultimately discovering therapy as a tool for coping. It provided language for what she was going through, and eventually led to an interest in psychology, which would later play out in Akemi’s studies and writing.
After being too depressed to write for multiple years, Akemi finally found her voice again during a deployment to Qatar, and started her first young adult fantasy novel. She also found out that the people sharing the same hangar bay were in the Royal Air Force (aka, they were British). Since Akemi always imagined someday marrying someone with an accent, she decided to talk to one of them. (Spoiler alert: They really did get married.)
When she returned from deployment, she started querying her first finished manuscript to agents. It ultimately didn’t find a home, so she decided to write a new story. When that one didn’t sell, she wrote the next story. And then the next.
By this time, Akemi had left the US Navy and moved to Scotland to be closer to her partner. She earned her degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas by doing mostly online classes. She still thinks the mandatory math class was over-the-top difficult, but she managed to graduate cum laude with a BA in Social Sciences, with a focus on psychology, sociology, and anthropology. She also got married, had her first child, and was accepted into a Master’s program at the University of Chester for psychology.
But as much as Akemi liked the idea of becoming a criminal psychologist, she couldn’t shake the feeling that it would mean pushing her dream to the side. And because she was busy with a new baby, she decided to defer school by a year, and give the writing thing one last push. That year, she found her agent, Penny Moore, and decided not to pursue her master’s degree after all.
While on submission with a YA sci-fi, Akemi wrote her first contemporary, which would later become one of the books she is most well-known for—STARFISH. It was sold to Simon & Schuster, and edited by the wonderful Jennifer Ung. It was released in September 2017, and after garnering multiple starred reviews, STARFISH was announced as a William C. Morris Award Finalist. It was also a 2019 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award Nominee, the 2020 Winner of the MéMO Award for Best Teen Novel, and a Scottish Teenage Book Prize Finalist, among other accolades.
After that, Akemi had one more human baby, and several more book babies, including SUMMER BIRD BLUE (shortlisted for the Falkirk Red Book Award), HARLEY IN THE SKY, THE INFINITY COURTS series, and GENERATION MISFITS. Her titles collectively received seven more starred reviews, and various honors that include Junior Library Guild Selections, New York Public Library “Best Book” picks, and the Big Picture book selection for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Akemi has also written short fiction for an upcoming anthology as well as an unannounced project that will become public in January, 2022. (Watch this space.)
Akemi is Asian-American, with a Japanese/Chinese father whose family have lived in Hawaii for several generations, and a (mostly) Italian/Irish mother. Outside of writing, Akemi’s interests include video games, drawing, reading, and collecting sea glass and unusual rocks. She occasionally plays the flute and piano, but rarely in front of anyone.
She currently lives along the Moray coast in Scotland, with her husband, two children, and Cavachon. She is still trying to figure out how Wikipedia works.
How did you get published?
I’ve written a blog post all about my journey to publication here.
I just finished your book and want to tell you how much I loved it! What’s the best way to reach you?
There's a form on my contact page that you're welcome to use. Please understand that while I do read and appreciate every single message I receive (I truly have some of the best readers in the world!), I am not always able to respond due to time constraints.
I can’t wait to read STARFISH/SUMMER BIRD BLUE/INSERT FUTURE BOOK HERE! Where can I get review copies/ARCs?
Thanks so much for the interest! For review copies or any publicity related questions, you can reach the publicity team via the email addresses on my contact page (there's one for my YA novels, and another one for my middle-grade). You can also request e-ARCs through Edelweiss and Netgalley in the months leading up to publication. I will also sometimes share news about ARC giveaways on social media (keep an eye on my Instagram for more information).
I’d like to get in touch about an interview/podcast/event. What’s the best way to organize this?
So excited to hear this! Please reach out to my publicist or use the form on my contact page.
Do you have a media kit?
Yes, I do! You can find it here.
I’m a vegetarian, but I don’t like mushrooms.
If you talk to me about Star Wars, Animal Crossing, or Pokémon, I will probably assume we are best friends.
I love animals, but am allergic to most of them. (Otters are my favorite.)
Basically a part-time architect/interior designer via The Sims.
Favorite snacks include dried mango, chai lattes, and sea-salt dark chocolate. (Bonus points if there’s caramel in it.)