Today I am very pleased to be a stop on The Black Sheep Loving In The Present Blog Tour for author, Kia Zi Shiru. So, without further ado, over to Kia!
Thank you so much for having me on your blog today Sophie. Today I’ll be talking a bit about my own experiences of writing LGBT young adult fiction.
I often get the question if it is any different from writing hetero stories and I would probably be pretty quickly in answering that it isn’t. Not on a basic level anyway. A story doesn’t change whether we write gay, lesbian, trans or hetero couples or characters, at least, it shouldn’t. I would like to think that it often doesn’t matter what type of relationship or characters are at the heart of the story (unless of course their gender or sexuality are the main subject of the story, then all the bets are off).
The reality is different. Vic, my main character in Black Sheep, is seen differently because he is a guy who likes other guys and there are a lot of gay stereotypes that can totally destroy a story. Most of the time this meant that I had to think about what I made my characters do so they didn’t seem too stereotypical in their way of interacting with each other and even the way other people perceived them. This for me in the beginning was quite hard. I had some experience with writing gay characters in my past work, but that was stuff I never showed to other people, that was just my own stuff.
I’m always very aware of how my characters are perceived. I’ve had replies in the past hating on gays which used to really upset me at first, but these days, not as much. Mostly because I started to realise that the people making those comments did it for just that purpose, upsetting the writer and the audience. They wouldn’t read something, they’d just reply to hate on my gay characters (and once even on my vampires, not sure where that came from, this was pre-twillight).
For this same reason each time I get a good review from someone about the characterisation of my characters I get really happy. I like that people seem to be able to connect with my characters, no matter if they’re male or female. One of my big goals while writing Black Sheep was that I wanted to write something people could connect to. Not per se because of their gender or sexuality but because of shared experiences.
I think LGBT fiction has a huge spot in young adult fiction, especially because it is young adult fiction. They are the age where people start to realise their feelings and at which point experiences with the outside or inner world can create ideas and images that might haunt you for the rest of your lives. Black Sheep is very clean when it comes to things like sex and making out. If I remember correctly there are only one or two scenes where there is skin on skin contact between characters that isn’t on their hands or face. In that way it is very clean. I didn’t plan this from the beginning, though for these characters it makes total sense.
Stating someone’s sexuality doesn’t automatically mean that the characters in the book will have sex. I think it is one of the problems some people run into when they ask why LGBT fiction would be appropriate for teens. Not all the hetero books are about sex, why should LGBT books be? Sure it can be about their gender or their sexuality without getting undressed and doing dirty stuff with others.
Black Sheep’s tag line without any gender identifications would simply come down to this: Black Sheep is about a person and their friends and family as they try to overcome their past with an abusive partner and the following depression as they are at the same time trying to form a new relationship and getting on with their life.
There are quite a few YA books with the same premise. I know, I’ve read some of them.
People can say a lot of things about LGBT fiction and I’ve probably heard most nasty things that are said about LGBT youth or fiction, it doesn’t change that every teen needs someone who understands them. Sometimes this is in fiction. When we have fiction about people with every colour skin in the world, with every thinkable disability, with every type of problem. Why can’t LGBT youth have that same right? Why does the fact that they might have a different sexuality or gender identity suddenly make books about them to be something only adults should read?
Okay, okay, enough of a rant. What it comes down to is this:
I’m very aware of my personification of my characters because of two reasons. On the one hand I don’t want to alienate readers that actually deal with the subjects that are talked about in the story. On the other hand, I also want to show people who don’t know anything about LGBT people or people who have had to deal with abuse or depression what is really going on in a person’s head, I want them to be able to relate. This makes me very aware of my writing and makes me sometimes wonder if I’m doing anything right at all.
I don’t want to write things just to appeal to one audience and that has been evident in my writing from the start. Sure, my characters are gay, that doesn’t mean they aren’t relatable to hetero or asexual people, their sexuality doesn’t define them. And I’d be so happy if one day I wouldn’t have to specify my books as gay but can just have them accepted as YA fiction. As being about relationships, love and ultimately life.
Hear, hear, Kia! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.
So, if you're interested in checking out Kia and her work, here are the links to let you do that. :)
About Kia Zi Shiru
Kia Zi Shiru is a Dutch girl studying English and Creative Writing in the UK. Amongst her interests she finds writing, reading, doing research and learning different languages (including but not limited to: English, Dutch, French, German, HTML, Java, PHP and Assembly). Her writing and reading habits include books with Young Adults, gay themes, strong female or minority characters and fantasy elements (more often then not all at the same time).
Where You can find Kia:
Black Sheep Trilogy #2: Loving In The Present
Vic has taken a turn for the worse and is back in the psychiatric hospital. Jack gets kicked out of his house when his parents find out that he is gay. The reason Adam is not getting better is revealed. And that is just the beginning.
Everybody is lost and trying to not let it spiral out of control. Jack moves in with Vic’s family, making it his temporary home until he can move in with his brother and sister. Vic’s health doesn’t improve until he hears about Adam, at which point he put his mind to getting better. Adam on the other hand is fighting his own feelings about Vic’s illness and questions their friendship.
When Vic and Jack visit Adam and Tom for Tom's birthday, it seems like a great way to let loose, but Vic is hiding more secrets than anyone knew and when they are exposed the situation explodes. Vic storms off in anger and seeks solace in dangerous places and, unknowingly, putting not just himself, but Jack too at risk.
“So, here we are again.” Dr West sits down next to the bed. “Not talking again, I’ve been told.”
I stare away from him, silently confirming his statement. Memories of the last time I was here have started haunting me and even though I have only been here for a week it seems like the time between then and now has never happened, or at best has been a dream.
“They called me as soon as my holiday ended. They figured I knew how to deal with you. But I’m not so sure about it, Victor. You need to start talking. Everybody is getting really worried. Don’t start hiding inside your head again.”
I know he is staring at me, he is good at that, sitting still as a rock and just analysing my every move. My every blink and breath will be studied and he will write about it and talk to me about it and he will analyse my reaction to his first conclusions and everything will start over again. Until I start talking of course.
“Victor. Victor, look at me. Come on.” Dr West moves his chair so he is sitting at the foot of the bed.
I shake my head, trying to hide my face in my hair, but without my hands there is not much I can do when it comes to hiding. I sigh and close my eyes, not looking at him, not working with him. It’s not like it worked that well last time, I’m back for the same damn reason, aren’t I?
“Your sis told me that your boyfriend moved into your house. How is that, living with him?”
I still. What? When did that happen? How come Jack moved? Is it because of me?
“You didn’t know?”
See, there, he did it. Reading my moves, analysing what I do. Being all psych with me even if I don’t talk. But this time he won’t be able to get me to break. They won’t keep me here forever, they have to let me go at some point.