Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?
Akemi Dawn Bowman: My first book was about abuse, and the second was about grief. I love those books dearly, but they took a lot out of me. When I started coming up with the idea for my third novel, I knew I wanted it to be a little lighter, and a little more indulgent. The circus is magic, and fun, and it brings me so much joy. It just seemed like the perfect backdrop, and so I decided to write about it in a way that combined things like mental health and complicated families—two topics that are really important to me.
What character do you most relate to and why?
Harley and Vas, almost equally but for very different reasons. Harley can be a little chaotic, and her emotions don’t always follow a neat path. But she tries really hard, and can be stubborn in the best and worst ways. Vas finds socializing difficult, and doesn’t always know what the right thing to say is. He also gets a bit caught up in what’s right and wrong, and forgets that the world isn’t always black and white. I feel like I’ve been both of these characters at different points in my life, and hopefully I’m growing and finding a better balance.
Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?
I think a lot of people crave connection in the form of relatability. Because finding someone who’s going through what we are makes us feel less alone. It makes us feel like we’re going to be okay, and that our experiences are valid. And that in itself can be such a powerful feeling. So I think maybe the reason these voices and characters are resonating with people so much is because they allow people to feel like someone else out there really gets them.
Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.
Harley in the Sky is about a girl who dreams of being a trapeze artist. When her parents refuse to support her and insist she attend university instead, she runs away and joins a rival travelling circus. It’s a story about the sacrifices we make in order to follow our dreams, and the relationships we forget to nurture along the way. There’s also a little bit of romance in it!
What’s next for you in the book world?
I’m currently doing second-round edits for my sci-fi debut called The Infinity Courts. It’s about a girl who dies and wakes up in the afterlife, only to discover it’s been taken over by an artificial intelligence who’s posing as a queen. It’s the sci-fi/fantasy mash-up of my heart, and I seriously can’t wait to start sharing more with readers soon. It isn’t due out until spring 2021, so there’s a bit of a wait, but I’ve heard the cover is nearly finished. I’m basically in a permanent state of excitement at this point!
Who is your favorite writer right now and why?
Leigh Bardugo and Holly Black are two of my absolute favorites. They both have this wonderful talent for crafting morally gray characters who are so layered and complex that you can’t help but root for them. And they are incredible world-builders! I also really love Margaret Rogerson’s lyrical fantasies, and Kelly Loy Gilbert, Ashley Herring Blake, and Brandy Colbert for their beautiful, thoughtful contemporaries that speak so much to family and identity. Also, I’m realizing you asked me to pick one author, and I’ve given you a list. But it was too hard to choose just one!