Do you have a specific writing style?
I’ve always loved movies and have a background in filmmaking. I visualize scenes in my head before I ever write anything down. I’ll even “see” dialogue scenes and “hear” the characters interacting in ways I’d likely not think of if I tried to just sit and write from scratch. So when I do sit down to the keyboard, I describe scenes as I saw them in my head, almost like a movie.
I imagine “camera angles” that will cover everything a reader might want to “see” in a given scene, and then try to fit every element together. I also sometimes have multiple POVs within the same scene, though I try to make these as seamless as possible. Again, that is something of a movie technique. A director will “cut” to different actors within any given scene, and I do that with my often-extensive casts of characters. I see my role as screenwriter and director when I create a novel. And like any good director, I allow my “cast” to improvise. I’ve had characters say and do things I never thought of, simply because I allowed them to play out their scenes in my head numerous times before I typed those scenes into the computer.
Do you write in different genres?
All but one of my books are for teens, but the genres are varied. Spinner is horror/mystery/teen drama; my Children of the Knight series is gritty drama, urban fantasy, LGBT, coming of age, and a number of other genres rolled into one epic series. My non-Ya book, A Matter of Time is a time travel romance with a paranormal twist. I like to mash things up. LOL
If yes which is your favorite genre to write?
I love writing YA because I’ve spent most of my adult life around teens and understand them better than most. I also feel there is too much media out there for teens that feeds into their easily accessed penchant for inappropriate behavior, and I want my books to reflect a theme they seldom see, that life only works well when we do what’s right, rather than what’s easy.
How did you come up with the title for your latest book?
Originally, the book had a different title. But as Alex began describing his unusual ability as “spinning,” the title Spinner became a no-brainer.
Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?
That depends on the book. Spinner started out with a different title, and it changed along the way. Children of the Knight had its title the moment I conceived the idea and before I’d written a word. So it varies from book to book.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I taught high school for twenty-five years, in both general ed and special ed. Where I worked my students were almost all non-Caucasian. And yet, in the books and stories we would read in class, most of the characters were Caucasian, and none of them had disabilities unless the disability existed so readers could “feel sorry” for the character. With this novel, Spinner, I chose to feature multi-racial teen heroes who have disabilities, and are just as important and brave and scared and human as the non-disabled teen heroes of most YA lit. I want readers to understand that these kids aren’t weird or stupid – they love, they laugh, they form intense friendships, they stand by their friends in times of need – and they do all these things without many of the commonplace abilities we deem of such importance, like being able to read or write well. As Alex says about one of his friends, “He’s my friend and that’s more important than being smart.” That’s my message.
What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?
I’m outlining the two sequels to Spinner that would carry the overall story arc to its conclusion, and experimenting with a standalone sequel to my Children of the Knight series.
Do you have to travel much to do research for your books?
If portions of my books are set in different parts of the country, as Once Upon A Time In America was, I travel on the Internet. LOL It’s cheaper that way.
Who designed the cover of your latest book?
Louis C. Harris. He was super easy to work with and I think the cover is stellar.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Finish a first draft. Without a first draft, you can never be a published author. I tell this to everyone. Even if you think your story is going nowhere, finish it and then go back and revise. Chances are, you have something to work with that, with polishing, revising and editing, could turn out great.
Do you have a song or playlist (book soundtrack) that you think represents this book?
I use music from movies as my backdrop for writing. Some scores that accompanied Spinner’s creation are The Omen movies – Jerry Goldsmith; the Halloween movies – John Carpenter; Dark Shadows – Robert Cobert; Children of Dune – Brian Tyler; and a really key sequence was scored with music from Cocoon, by James Horner.
Michael J. Bowler
Genre: teen horror/mystery
Publisher: YoungDudes Publishing
Date of Publication: August 5, 2015
Number of pages: 464
Word Count: 138K
Cover Artist: Louis C. Harris
Fifteen-year-old Alex is a “spinner.” His friends are “dummies.” Two clandestine groups of humans want his power. And an ancient evil is stalking him. If people weren’t being murdered, Alex might laugh at how his life turned into a horror movie overnight.
In a wheelchair since birth, his freakish ability has gotten him kicked out of ten foster homes since the age of four. Now saddled with a sadistic housemother who uses his spinning to heal the kids she physically abuses, Alex and his misfit group of learning disabled classmates are the only ones who can solve the mystery of his birth before more people meet a gruesome end.
They need to find out who murdered their beloved teacher, and why the hot young substitute acts like she’s flirting with them. Then there’s the mysterious medallion that seems to have unleashed something malevolent, and an ancient prophecy suggesting Alex has the power to destroy humanity.
The boys break into homes, dig up graves, elude kidnappers, fight for their lives against feral cats, and ultimately confront an evil as old as humankind. Friendships are tested, secrets uncovered, love spoken, and destiny revealed.
The kid who’s always been a loner will finally learn the value of friends, family, and loyalty.
If he survives…
Available at Amazon
Alex sat in his driveway staring at the house next door. Even through the streaking windshield glass, Dane saw the kid was soaked, like he’d been out there for a while. He eased the truck to a stop at the curb, killed the engine, and hopped down to the asphalt. Whipping up his hood, Dane sprinted around the front of the truck and stopped in front of Alex.
Alex didn’t even blink.
Dane waved a hand in front of his face. “Yo, Alex, you okay?”
Alex’s eyes remained riveted straight ahead, like he was seeing right through Dane. Dane turned to eye the house next door. It was dark. In fact, he realized, the whole street was dark. Power outage. Turning to Alex, he gently placed one hand on the boy’s wet shoulder. And that’s when he noticed the blood. Watered down blood was all over Alex’s pants and the sleeves of his hoodie. Rivulets of red rolled off the chair and formed tiny rivers on the cement, rolling down to vanish within the water gushing along the gutter.
Dane stiffened with dread. What the hell…? “Alex?” he said hesitantly. “Alex, man, snap out of it.”
He shook Alex by the shoulders, more roughly than he’d intended, but he was spooked.
Alex’s eyes lost that faraway look, and the wide pools of blue finally realized Dane was present. He squinted in the darkness at Dane’s face. “Roy?”
His voice sounded confused, like he was drugged. “No, man, it’s Dane.”
Alex shook his head, the drizzling rain misting off his face, and he pushed back his sopping hair to give his eyes a better view. “Dane? What’s wrong?”
Dane surveyed him uncertainly. “I came to check on you. What you doing out here in the rain, man? You got blood all over you. You hurt?”
Alex reacted with horror as he quickly scanned his soaked, bloodstained pants and saw red water trapped in the grooves of his tires. He looked past the confused Dane at Mrs. Rhodes’ dark house.
“Somethin' happened over there. Somethin' bad.” His voice sounded garbled, like he’d just awakened from a long nap.
Dane followed Alex’s gaze. The house looked quiet to him, nothing out of the ordinary. “How you know?”
Dane turned quickly. Alex’s tone of voice sounded so sure, and so afraid at the same time. He offered a steady look and tried to keep his own voice from shaking. “Let's check it out.”
He went behind Alex’s chair and started pushing, sensing the kid was dazed and confused. But not from smoking weed like he’d done in high school. This shit was even worse. They made their way around the hedge and up the walkway. Rainwater sluiced off the old roof and down through the exit spout near the corner, rolling like a river past his feet as Dane pushed Alex to the porch.
Alex just stared at the closed front door, so Dane stepped around him and ascended the steps. Using the flap of his hoodie, he tried turning the doorknob. It didn’t budge.
He turned to Alex and shook his head. Stepping down off the porch, Dane started along the front garden to a side path leading into the back yard. Alex trailed behind.
Dane didn’t believe in God or ghosts or any of that shit. But there was something here. Or had been. Something bad, like Alex said. It crept under his skin and chilled his soul.
Alex rolled past the kitchen window. Dane stopped and craned his neck to see inside for any sign of movement. But the interior was dark and silent. No power meant no appliances working, either, and that absence of sound unnerved him even more. When he pulled his head back, he found Alex patiently awaiting him at the rear door. The door stood slightly ajar. Suddenly, Dane wished he hadn’t volunteered to come.
“You sure you wanna go in, Alex? Looks like everybody’s sleepin’. Probably just left the door unlocked and the wind blew it open.”
“She’s not sleeping.” Alex’s voice cracked, and he looked away quickly.
Dane stepped around Alex, careful to wipe his muddy shoes on the doormat as he used one elbow to push open the door. It creaked inward.
He stepped inside the kitchen, glancing right and left for the light switch. Spotting it on the right, he used the hem of his hoodie to flip it up and down. Nothing. Just as he’d suspected. Everything was out. He turned and pulled Alex’s chair up the couple of steps and into the dark kitchen.
No moonlight filtered in through the window, and Dane could make out nothing at first. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the dark interior. Alex rolled forward slowly, and his wheels hit something, sending it rolling across the floor to bang into the refrigerator.
“What was that?” he hissed, his head tilted down at the shadowy floor.
Dane stepped past him and bent down by the fridge, grabbing the object and holding it out so they could both see. A flashlight.
Alex released the breath he’d been holding and turned toward the door to the hallway. He’d just started forward when Dane activated the flashlight, and then he shrieked in horror. Dane flung out a hand and clamped it over Alex’s mouth as both stared in revulsion at what hung from the doorjamb – a dog.
Throat slashed, the dead poodle dangled from the telephone cord running along the top of the door, his eyes glassy and wide open, his mouth skewed crookedly to reveal teeth frozen in a growl of agony. Blood dripped from the slashed and mutilated throat, pooling on the floor of the kitchen like some nasty spilled soda pop.
Dane felt his heart pound with dread, and Alex trembled beneath his hand. Slowly, he lowered it and squatted down in front of him. Alex looked guiltier and more unhinged than he had outside.
“Let’s get outta here, Alex. This is some crazy shit!” He hoped his voice didn’t betray his unease.
Alex shook his head, and started forward, wheeling around Dane toward the pool of blood and the dangling dog.
Dane watched him roll through the puddle and duck his head to avoid drops of the animal’s blood hitting him. However, several red spots appeared in Alex’s wet hair, giving him a ghastly look.
Body coiled for flight, Dane followed, turning sideways to slide past the dog, avoiding those huge glassy eyes that practically accused him of having done the deed.
Alex wheeled forward into the carpeted hallway, his chair leaving twin trails of dog blood embedded in the fibers. Dane stepped around in front with the flashlight, shifting its beam about the entry hall. The front door was closed, and locked. The beam halted on the stairs, and Alex gasped. The lower stairs glistened red, and a trail of blood led through the entry hall into the living room.
Dane aimed the flashlight at the carpet in front of Alex. The beam followed parallel tracks that crossed the entry hall and disappeared into the living room. Parallel wheelchair tracks. Except Alex hadn’t been in the living room yet.
About the Author:
Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of eight novels––A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), and The Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), Running Through A Dark Place, There Is No Fear, And The Children Shall Lead, Once Upon A Time In America, and Spinner.
His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.
He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.
He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II,” the reviews of which are much more fun than the actual movies.
He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.
He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.
He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.
He is currently working on a sequel to Spinner.
His goal as a YA author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world.