The Superhero Who
Walks Among Us
By Carin Chea
In a universe saturated with Marvel and DC Comics superheroes, Michael Bowler is our modern-day hero in his own league.
A youth mentor and advocate, educator, and award-winning author of novels geared toward teens, Mr. Bowler has dedicated his life to uplifting the youth of today in order to create an empowered generation of tomorrow.
Within just minutes of speaking with Mr. Bowler, it is clear that his untainted passion for inspiring teenagers makes him a hero who walks among us.
Perhaps this is why he so easily writes about heroes in his books: He is already living out the life his protagonists so valiantly do in his novels.
How did your passion for empowering youth come about?
It's hard to say. It's one of those things that was just always there. I do remember, when I was a child, I always felt like adults never took me seriously when I was a kid except for my grandfather, who actually asked my opinion on things which no adult ever did. That meant a lot to me, that he asked for my opinion and didn't laugh. He took me seriously.
When I was older, as a teenager, when younger kids wanted to talk to me, I never brushed them off. I became someone who never pushed kids away if they wanted to talk.
You're also very involved in the youth community. You taught high school in Hawthorne, California, for 25 years. You volunteer as a Big Brother with Catholic Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Was it your deep involvement with the youth that funneled you into a career as an author?
I always wanted to be a writer because I loved reading when I was a kid. The kinds of stories that I write now, like the Children of the Knight books, are really based on my experiences working with youth. I had a pretty good upbringing. Everything was reasonably smooth.
When I started teaching and going to juvenile hall, I realized, "Wow, there's a lot of need out there." I even have a line in one of my books where King Arthur says, "There are so many kids with needs out there, and no one to take care of them."
I did volunteer work when I was in college, with people living with severe disabilities who weren't able to take care of themselves. Even then, I saw how poorly taken care of they were. This was in my 20s, in college. Later, I started teaching in Hawthorne and Lawndale - we had riots at the school. There was a lot of drama. It was very eye-opening.
How would you classify your writing style and genre?
The Lance Chronicles - the main protagonists are teenagers, but there are also a lot of adult characters. When I was growing up, I don't think it would have been classified as YA [Young Adult]. I think they can be enjoyed by teenagers and adults. The style changes depending on the story I'm telling.
I have a horror story out, and I also have some that aren't published yet that are mysteries. Children of the Knight are urban fantasies in that they involved a fantasy character, which is King Arthur).
What are some current projects you are working on?
I have several. One is a mystery thriller called I Know When You're Going to Die. It's about a teenager; I frequently write about teenagers because they're the next generation. They're the ones who will be making decisions for our future. Young people are malleable.
This happens to be about a 16-year-old who's the only person in his town who doesn't party. He likes to volunteer with the homeless. He's very shy, and one night this homeless man forces the boy to make eye contact with him and in doing so, passes along a power.
From this, the boy gains a power where (if he makes direct contact with someone) he sees how they're going to die. So, he sees his best friend being murdered in 2 weeks, and the story is about how they're going to solve his murder before it happens.
I have another one called Listen to the Light that is a mystery with a sci-fi element involving two brothers. The older brother is autistic and completely silent, and the younger one is embarrassed of his of older brother.
One day, younger brother gets so frustrated at him that he yells, "I hate you! You're ruining my life. I wish I would just disappear!" When the brother does disappear, the younger brother blames himself. It turns out to be more complicated than it seems.
The autistic boy is the one driving the story and he's gone for 5 years, but when he returns it's as if he was only gone for a few hours and hasn't aged at all. There are important lessons to learn from this.
A lot of times, we say strong things like, "I hate you." But what happens when they go away and we never get to apologize? The underlying theme is to not say things you don't mean.
I have a couple more projects. I have another one written in first-person narrative called Muppet Boy Saves the World. It's aimed at middle-school kids and it's an off-beat action-adventure.
I have another one in the 3rd person called Like a Hero. It's about two brothers who have lost their parents. They've decided they want to create a Batman-like character to help inspire people in the city to take a bigger personal interest in improving things. They end up biting off more they can chew because that's what happens when you go after drug dealers.
What do you hope to achieve through your writing?
I've met and been exposed with so many different kinds of people. Rich, poor, LGBTQ kids. I include all these people in my stories. I would like kids to understand other people.
For example, I have gang members in my books. Gang members are vilified so much, but a lot of readers personally do not know people like that. I'd like to introduce kids to these people that I have gotten to know personally.
Prejudice exists when we don't know these people we're prejudiced against. We have to have exposure to these people. In all my stories, the characters aren't quite "the norm", whatever that is. This is so that maybe kids who are "the norm" can understand those other types of kids.
You are an accomplished and award-winning author. What inspires you and motivates you the most as a novelist?
We live in an indecent world. There's so much instability in social media and in public. Kids just glom onto that.
I'd like to send a message that, "Yes, you can be a decent person even in world that is indecent or uncivil. If you work towards what's right and not easy, you can contribute positively to the world."
Do you see a lot of yourself in your books?
The character of Lance - a lot of my qualities are in him in particular. Even the boy who's shy in I Know When You're Going to Die represents a part of me. I was a shy kid. I had a disability when I was a kid, and I still do. I have a hearing loss, which is an invisible disability.
People would not understand me because they'd ask me a question and my answer was a complete non-sequitur, which made them wonder, "What's wrong with you?" This helped me relate to the outsider-kids, and not just the kids with disabilities, but all outsider-kids.
If someone were to write a fictional account of your life, what would your character be like and what would be his super-human ability?
In terms of a super-human ability, it would be the ability to be an empath, which is the ability to tap into what other people are feeling. I really do feel that's something I was born with. I kind of used this as a character in my book Spinner, where the main character is a boy in a wheelchair who literally can absorb the pain from other people and bring it into himself.
I'm not sure what the plot would be. I just look at my life as me trying to do what I can to make the world a better place from having my spending time in it.
I have a feeling you already have your super-human ability. And, what's exciting is that you are living out your own hero's journey.
Thank you! I feel very content with my life.
To follow Michael Bowler's hero's journey, please visit MichaeljBowler.com.
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