Sunday Mail (UK)
Too polite to turn down US navy.. but it helped me launch a fantastic new chapter in my life
Author on how she took up writing at desert base
When Akemi Dawn Bowman was asked to join the US navy, she was too polite to say no.
Three years later, she found herself work ing in survei l lance whi le stationed at a busy military base in the dusty deserts of Qatar.
As both US and UK military planes left the base on dangerous missions, she needed a mental escape from the hazardous career she had fallen into – so she took up writing.
Eleven years on, she lives in the small seaside village of Hopeman, near Elgin, Moray, with a British former airman and is celebrating the publication of her third novel.
She owes much of her success to her unexpected military career.
Akemi, 32, who grew up in Las Vegas, said: “Growing up, I had so many ideas about what I hoped to be, including an archaeologist working in Egypt or maybe an artist.
“I was applying to go to college and I can only guess that, when you filled out all the different careers forms at that time, your details were passed on to military recruiters too.
“A recruiter from the navy called my house and asked if I’d like to find out more about joining the military and go and talk to him.
“At the time, I had pretty bad social anxiety and just didn’t know how to say no.
“Because of the anxiety, I went to see him and ended up joining the US navy, which it had never been a wish of mine to do.
“Straight away, it gave me a bit of financial independence and it meant I got free health care, which in America is a big thing.
“Long-term, it led to me meeting the man who is now my husband. It was also while stationed abroad – and very much in need of a mental distraction – that I started to write.”
On joining the navy, Akemi was sent to Oak Harbor Naval Base, on a small island off Washington State. She was trained to work as part of the navy’s IT team and spent time working in Japan.
In 2008, she was deployed with a squadron being sent to Qatar. While she can’t give details of the specific work she was involved in, she does admit that her squadron was involved in surveillance operations. She said: “There was a lot going on in that part of the world.
“Our hangar was a shared hangar, made up of both US and UK military, and in the middle of the desert. “The planes wou ld go off wherever they were going and I would remain in what was an air-conditioned computer suite.”
As a young child, Akemi had always enjoyed making up stories but had stopped writing as a result of suffering from depression and anxiety. She said: “I fell back in love with it while stationed in Qatar.
“Wr iting became my coping mechanism and I found it therapeutic. It kept the black clouds away.
“I started working on my first novel – a fantasy book about magic and fairies and enchanted dolls, where I could express mysel f through its characters and find the strength to say how I felt.”
As Akemi was reaching the end of her deployment in Qatar, she met her now husband Ross, a mechanic with the RAF.
When Akemi left the US navy two years later, she moved straight to Scotland to be close to Ross, who by this time was stationed at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray.
The couple married in 2012, Ross left the RAF and they now have two children – daughter Shaine, five, and son Oliver, three.
Akemi now works full-time as an author, specialising in young adult fiction.
Her first novel , Starf ish, was shortlisted for the William C Morris
Debut Award, whi le her second book, Summer Blue Bird, was one of Buzzfeed’s “Top Queer” YA books of 2018.
Her third book, Harley in the Sky, has just been published by Ink Road, part of Black and White Publishing. It explores themes of identity, mental health and family.
The book tells the story of a girl whose family run a famous circus in Las Vegas. After a huge fight with her parents, she leaves home, betrays her family and joins a rival travelling circus.
Akemi ’s own family left China several generations ago and moved to Hawaii to escape communism.
She said: “I’m proud of my AsianAmerican background.
“I grew up in Las Vegas, which couldn’t be more different to the former fishing village where I live now.
“Everything here isn’t open 24 hours a day. In fact, most places are closed by 5pm. There are no huge casinos or strip clubs but I don’t miss the bright lights.
“I’m very happy living where I now live and doing what I do.”
I found writing so therapeutic. It kept the black clouds away