After graduating from Harvard Law School, Michael Bowen worked as a trial lawyer for thirty-nine years until his retirement in 2015. His legal career focused on franchise and distribution disputes, but he found time to participate in representation of the Milwaukee Brewers in complex litigation over building a maximum security prison across the street from County Stadium. He also represented numerous pro bono defendants, including one sentenced to death. His career in fiction began in 1987 with Can’t Miss, a “gently feminist” (St. Louis Post Dispatch) novel about the first woman to play major league baseball. It has continued through nineteen mysteries and one political satire, culminating (so far) in False Flag in Autumn, which will be published this year as a follow-up to 2016’s Damage Control ( . . . consistently delightful. . . . Bowen’s ebullient antidote to electionKirkus Reviews) He has also published numerous articles on legal and political matters, and is co-author of the Wisconsin State Bar treatise on the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law (paperback and movie rights still available). He lives in Fox Point, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, with his wife, Sara, who is also a Harvard Law School graduate and a published lecturer on Jane Austen and Angela Thirkel. Visit his website at www.michaelbowenmysteries.com.
Tell us about your book! What is it about, and what inspired you to write it?
False Flag in Autumn is about influencing elections with “October surprises” – the one that did not take place before the 2018 midterm elections, and the one that might (or might not) take place before the 2020 presidential election. I was inspired to write it by a lifetime as a political junkie, and by a weird feeling early in the current administration, when I began to read about a slow-motion “crisis” on our southern border, that I had seen this movie before.
Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?
I did my level best to go with a traditional publisher. I sold the story to a major mystery publisher, which paid me for it and then got cold feet after I had written the first version. I shopped it around to other publishers. After the third or fourth told my agent what a great story it was but, unfortunately, they didn’t know how to “place” political stories these days, I got the message. I self-published through Farragut Square Publications, and that process was extremely challenging. Except for the chance to work with a great independent editor, it was marked by frustration, endless loops, and dead ends. The one great thing about it was that I knew that I really believed in the story, because otherwise I wouldn’t have kept going through the nightmare that the process represented.
How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing it, or did it come later?
Even before Josie Kendall said in the story’s first paragraph, “I have no objection to the truth, but I don’t let it push me around”, I knew that the story would revolve around a “false flag” attack – that is, an attack by one party that is designed to look like it was made by another party. For a long time my working title was False Flag at Half-Staff. With the delay caused by my first publisher’s cold feet, however, I realized that the story would have to have at least two parts. For a while I used False Flag at Half-Staff as the title for one of the parts, and came up with False Flag in Autumn as the title for the book. The last step was to drop the idea of having two separate sub-part titles, because it struck me as too mechanical.
Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?
I had the basic concept – a true flag and a false flag, with the White House in the background – in mind from the start. It evolved a bit as the story developed in my own mind, but the essential elements were there from the beginning.
Who is the cover designer and how did you find him/her?
Andy Brown in Atlanta, Georgia. My agent did some shopping around and recommended him. It was an inspired suggestion.
How was your experience working with the designer?
Outstanding. We seemed to click with each other from the start.
What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
The jury will be out on that until we go live on October 22nd, but those who have seen it think that it’s quite striking and does a good job of suggesting what the story is about.
What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
(1) Go with a pro – someone who has a track record and whom other authors are happy with; (2) Remember that, in all probability, you’re verbal and he or she is visual. That means that if you and the designer are at odds over a particular element, the designer is probably right; and (3) Remember that, at the end of the day, it’s your story, not the designer’s. If you’re uncomfortable with having a lewd or suggestive image – or, for that matter, someone smoking a cigarette or sipping a cocktail – on the cover, then don’t go along with having that image just because you don’t want to be hard to get along with.
Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
The subject of False Flag in Autumn is dark, but the themes are redemption and hope and the approach is light-hearted. Josie Kendall may be a manipulative apparatchik, but she’s a lot of fun to be around. As Voltaire (I think) said, “Life may be a shipwreck, but we mustn’t forget to sing in the lifeboats.”
Title: False Flag
Genre: Political Thriller
Author: Michael Bowen
Publisher: Farragut Square Publications
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