Blog Archive

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Don't Get Stuck in Analysis Paralysis: Author Interview with Marina J. Bowman

In reviewing your publishing history, I see you’ve published 10 books so far. What drew you to write children’s chapter books? 
When I was a child, I struggled to focus on books because I preferred to be outside, exploring magical new worlds. With help from my parents and teachers, eventually I realized that there are new worlds to explore and adventures to be had on the page as well as off the page. I was drawn to write children's chapter books because I wanted to help young readers (especially reluctant readers) fall in love with reading and become lifelong learners. And the most critical time for kids is the gap between picture books and full-length novels. 

When I’ve attended writing conferences or webinars, I’ve often heard that this level chapter books are small niches, and many publishers and agents don’t want to deal with the genre. Is it as hard as I’ve been told it is to find sales?
It's true that it's one of the most difficult genres to sell, but I'm fortunate to be able to work with Devin and Don at Code Pineapple publishing, who share my values. Plus it's incredibly rewarding to hear from parents and grandparents that their child has discovered a newfound love of reading because of my stories.

How much of the non-writing (formatting, cover design, website design, etc.) do you personally do? 
Starting out I had very little experience with marketing and publishing. But I've learned a lot along the way. Almost all of the non-writing activities are outsourced to freelancers, which Devin and Don help take care of. 

What’s the hardest part of publishing and marketing your own books?
The hardest part about it is that we aren't able to speak directly to our readers - kids ages 6-12. We market to the parents, grandparents, teachers, and librarians who care for those kids. Furthermore, I am forced to stay out of the spotlight to ensure the more unpleasant supernatural secrets I uncover don’t catch up with me. This makes it even more difficult to connect with my readers.

Marketing is a big part of increasing book sales. What venue have you found most successful in not only getting clicks but sales as well?
Currently our biggest driver for sales is Amazon Ads. We've had little luck with BookBub and Facebook ads. We also distribute off-Amazon through IngramSpark and are looking to do much more to try to reach schools, libraries, and bookstores in the coming months.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? 
One of the hardest and most important parts about writing for me is coming up with a fully fleshed out character with a core desire that drives the story. I have to be careful not to fall into the trap of letting the story world run out of control to the point that the character is passively experiencing it. Another trap that's difficult to avoid is 'telling' rather than 'showing.' 

The more obvious and easier way to include a character’s thoughts and feelings is simply by stating what they are. For example: Michael was very afraid of the dark. But showing is much more interesting. For instance: As his mother switched off the light and left the room, Michael tensed. He huddled under the covers, gripped the sheets, and held his breath as the wind brushed past the curtain.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
The best encouragement comes from reader feedback. Whether via emails or online reviews, it's the stories of how my books are positively impacting kids and families that keeps me going. Comments like "It helped me get her excited for bed for a whole week." Or "My grandson and I started reading it and he is anxious to keep reading - that's a new thing for him." And especially "I like that she faced her own fears at the end... It proves to always face your fears and overcome them... I'm trying to face my own fear of the dark and it's kind of working." 

Of course, it also helps to get positive editorial reviews! We recently received a Notable Book Starred Review from BlueInk and an Editor's Pick from BookLife, which is great validation.

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
I wish I had understood writing to market sooner. It makes it a lot easier to market and sell your book. Then again, if I had focused on writing to market for my very first book, I may have become intimidated and never gotten started. So I don't really regret the way any of this has played out. I've realized that you really just need to get started and learn as you go. Otherwise, you can end up  analysis paralysis.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
The best advice I have received and would like to pass on is this: done beats perfect. I like to say that I am a recovering perfectionist. Whether you are a pantser, plotter, or something in between - just do what you need to do to move forward. Start with whatever you know in the moment - the character, the world, the beginning, the end - and the rest will follow.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
Writers write. That's what they do. But that doesn't mean it's easy. The blank page can be scary. Debilitating even. I find that having a notepad to jot down ideas as they come to me is helpful. Flipping through a notebook of ideas is a great place to find motivation and your next story. Most writers, myself included, find that the more they write down their ideas, the more they can find ideas inspired by everyday life. 

For example, your sister eating 3 oranges because she loves them so much might not be anything special. But when your imagination takes over, you suddenly start thinking, “What if aliens wanted to come to earth to try oranges because they’ve heard good things? But they don’t know what they look like, except that they are round. So the aliens come down and start tasting everything shaped like a sphere that they can find, from taking a bite out of baseballs to licking bowling balls.” So if you're stuck, go live life and you'll find writing inspiration.

What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
The next book coming out is in a brand new series! The working title is Misfit Magic School. Here's a short blurb: 13-year-old Ember Pearson failed her mandatory magic exam, and now there is only one place she can go - the school for magical misfits. All she wants is to transfer to a school for real witches, like her celebrity parents and perfect sister. When the only teacher that believes in her vanishes, Ember and her fellow misfits must find a way to bring her home. But with a mix of chaotic powers that include spotty invisibility, baffling psychic visions, and unruly fire manipulation, it won't be easy.
Keep an eye out for it this September!

Sounds like an intriguing plot set-up. If you'd like to learn more about Marina's stories, here are some links to get you started.
Amazon Author Page:
Facebook: and


  1. Really enjoyed this interview, Chris. Marina sets the standards for chapter books pretty high. Love the covers.

  2. Great interview! And wonderful advice for writers