"Children of the Knight by Michael J Bowler is a book that will leave quite an impact on you, no matter whether you are a young adult or a pensioner."
- Readers' Favorite
"Michael Bowler stuns with his depiction of modern disenfranchised youth, disillusioned and jaded adults, political greed and corruption, and the purity of hope...[Children of the Knight is] about finding out who you are and your place in the world. It's both frightening and inspiring. It's simply a must read, regardless of your age. Highly recommended."
- The Kimi-chan Experience
"Memorable, heartbreaking, endearing - the cast of characters in this modern day retelling of the King Arthur legend brings a twenty-first century consciousness to a classic stalwart of the Western literary canon...Author Michael J. Bowler has an extensive background in reaching out to troubled youth, both inside and outside of prison. His personal experiences no doubt enrich his storytelling abilities...His talent for making the reader care about children that are marginalized and forgotten is to be commended."
- The Character Connection
From the Author
Over time, I began to wonder what might happen if an adult, a strong leader, came along and united these marginalized kids and turned all their collected might toward positive endeavors. As young people who'd been rejected and unloved, these kids had engaged in nothing but antisocial, destructive, and criminal behaviors. That's where all of their negative energy and feelings were being directed. After all, since society had rejected them and who they were as human beings, they rejected society and all its conventions and phony platitudes about doing what's right. Society had wronged them so they felt they had the right to wrong society. But if that negative energy and "might" could be collected, harvested almost, by someone who made these kids feel loved and important and who convinced them that working together made them much more formidable than working alone, they could effect real change in society for the good, not the bad, and the adult world would have to pay attention.
It seemed to me that the time of King Arthur with all the warring, feuding groups and clans of ancient Britain seemed very much like the gangs, tagging crews, and other posses of rejected kids we have roaming our streets today, especially here in LA. It wasn't a big leap from that thinking to the idea of King Arthur, himself, with his philosophy of "might for right," bringing together these lost kids and sparking a revolution.
Another reason I wrote this book was so these disenfranchised kids could have some heroes of their own to root for. Gay boys (more than girls) are mocked and bullied and made fun of to the point that a huge number, relative to the overall teen population, commit suicide or attempt it. There are also an inordinate number of gay kids in detention, roughly fifteen percent, and I've personally known a large number whose rejection by society and their own families led them to drugs or other negative choices. As a consequence of those choices, they ended up in juvenile hall. Teen gang members are vilified and excoriated in the media or made into mere thugs by Hollywood. Abused kids often suffer in silence because they are too afraid or embarrassed to tell anyone what happened to them. These kids need more stories about them, with characters like them, in settings they know - like the inner city, lousy public schools, run-down housing projects, or even street corners that become home when they've been kicked out of the house by cruel, unfeeling parents.
The teen characters in my book have all been screwed over by their parents and/or society for most of their lives, even rich girl Reyna, and yet they rise to the level of heroic when given the opportunity. They overcome their past abuse, neglect, and rejection to become young people of great significance, achieving results adults could only dream of. Lance, the main character, is a particularly strong role model - a kid rife with fears and insecurities and deep-seeded pain who overcomes these traumas to inspire the city and the world. All these ostracized kids, more than most, need positive images of themselves, and my book, in its own small way, seeks to provide those images.
I also hope to mainstream for general readership these kids that society disdains. As much as I want gay kids, the abused, and the gang-affiliated or former gang-affiliated kids to read this book and its sequels, I really want so-called "regular" teens and adults to read it, too. Many teenagers honestly don't know anyone who's gay or in a gang or even who was abused. I've met plenty of adults, and too many kids, who want nothing to do with, as Reyna puts it in my book, "Those people." On TV and in movies gay boys are usually portrayed as stereotypically effeminate, and so non-gay kids laugh at that and think all gay boys fit the same mold. The gay boys in my book are not the least bit feminine but are, in fact, quite badass, brave, and rather epic. I want readers to know that gay boys, like non-gay boys, come in all shapes and sizes and talents and are, in fact, just like every other boy.
Same goes for the teen gang members. According to the news and the media, they are nothing more than monsters. But in reality, for anyone willing to take the time to know them, they're no different than anyone else's kids, except they grew up with a lethal absence of hope in circumstances most of us wouldn't wish on our enemies. Most gang members I've gotten to know would love to have never gotten caught up in the lifestyle. They have dreams and aspirations and want a good life, just like non-gang-affiliated kids.
Sadly, there are even a lot of people who don't take abuse seriously as the reason behind some teens committing criminal acts. Trust me, physical and sexual abuse of kids is rampant in this country and most of it goes untreated. Especially with boys, that internalized pain and humiliation will rise to the surface eventually and the result won't be pretty. So yes, I'd like "mainstream" readers to walk in the shoes of these kids so they can maybe understand them a bit and therefore not be so quick to judge them.
This book is the first of five. It's one long book, actually, as each succeeding tale begins where the previous installment ended. The total story spans four years in the lives of these kids, so it's a genuine coming-of-age story. I want the readers to live with my kids and bear witness to their growth and maturity and accomplishments. In their fight for children's rights, they go from the barrios of L.A. to the White House, a joint session of the U.S. Congress, and beyond, and I think readers will be happy, and feel inspired, if they stick around for the entire journey.
So there you have it, my thinking that went into the planning and writing of Children of the Knight. It's a story close to my heart because the kids are all based on real people I've known, and their rejection by society still sticks in my soul like a knife. Hopefully, this book will get into the hands of teens and adults everywhere, and hopefully those readers will come to love "my kids" as I do.