By Judith Kahn
Jeff R. McGowan has taught social studies in high schools in Northern California for the past 18 years. Presently, he teaches at Baden High School, located in South San Francisco. But he has also come out with his first published novel, titled “Confessions of a Cloaked Artist,” which explores “every man’s quest for meaning and self-knowledge through the transformative power of traveling.”
The main character in the novel, Jim Murphy, explores his life’s adventures and mishaps while in Bali to discover where things went wrong in his life. He examines whether his core principles have helped or hurt his life’s failed relationships and his pursuit of enlightenment.
McGowan’s goal with “Confessions” was to write a book “that is fun to read, but also has depth, complexity and perspective.” He wanted to capture the spontaneity and wonderof learning while on the road, both about the world around him as well as looking inward at himself.
His core audience, or market, is travelers and spiritual seekers. Jim Dekker, author of “Not Without Scars, the Story of Shirley La Marr,” said McGowan’s novel is sophisticated in style and form.
“‘Confessions’ stands at the beginning of what should be a brilliant career for its author,”Dekker said.
McGowan has actually written three novels, but “Confessions” is the first to be published. His last novel, “Sarajevo Dreams,” was inspired by traveling through the Balkans after it was involved in a regional conflict. The book is about a person who smuggles himself into Sarajevo at the height of the siege to find his estranged mother.
His current project is called “Quest for a Black Hole Badge,” which is about a person serving life in prison for killing his father with a chain saw. However, he is an inspiration, learner and dreamer who brings light into a dark place.
McGowan says writing is like teaching, whereas it is a context to learn and be creative.
“I have a goal to write a great, even beautiful book by the end of my life. Fortun ately, we’re all living longer than ever,” he joked.
McGowan has many favorite books, including “The English Patient,” by Michael Ondaatje. He says the story is written with beautiful prose. “Heart of Darkness” is another book that is flowing with rich prose, yet contains historical references and a complex story line, and he mentioned “Moby Dick,” by Herman Melville, because it is the type of book, “I can really dig my teeth into and where I’m often blown away by its beautiful prose.”
He also enjoys reading books by Cormac McCarthy and Vladimir Nabokov because of their storytelling skills and psychological depth.
Like writing, McGowan loves teaching and finds the process dynamic and creative. Every kid is different, he said. His goal in teaching is to show students the world at this place and time, and to give them perspective.
“It is an incredibly complex and confusing time right now, but it is also a remarkable and fascinating time, perhaps the most dramatic technological and informational revolution in all of our history,” McGowan said.
He wants his students to have fun, and to work together on staying positive and being good people and good citizens. He understands many people feel lost in all the chaos and changes in the world, and reminds students that there is a history to each event; there is always cause and effect.
“The more the people see of it, the more grounded they can be,” he said.
His vision is that the more people learn about other cultures and peoples, the more they can learn to see two or more sides to everything, “and the more functional and prosperous society will be.”
“Ignorance, both of self and others, is truly our worst enemy,” McGowan said.
McGowan grew up in Seattle and Southern California. He attended UCLA and received a bachelor ’s degree in history. Because his family loved books, he was always writing and reading as a child.
His mother was a fifth-grade teacher and his father, Ross McGowan, was a Bay Area television personality for two shows, “People are Talking,” on the air from 1979-1992, and “Mornings on Two,” which was televised from 1992-2010.
McGowan feels very fortunate to have been able to travel so widely around the globe,gathering experiences valuable for a writer. Being a teacher gives him summers off for traveling.
“Knowing that I had a great adventure ahead and much to learn made every year more exciting,” he said of his life on the road.
“Confessions of a Cloaked Artist” is available in print and eBook formats. For more information, e-mail Jeff McGowan at firstname.lastname@example.org.