Today marks the beginning of Kia Zi Shiru’s blog tour for the release of her third novel in her Black Sheep Trilogy. I’m honored to present Shiru and her third YA novel: “Black Sheep: Fighting for a Future.” Below, Shiru speaks about Black Sheep and it’s reach across the typical LGBT genre fiction. She also talks about a serious subject that her books deal with: self harming and its effects.
“Today I’ll be talking about something that Rene and also other reviewers brought to my attention, Black Sheep as a story not just for teens but also other people.
“I wrote the Black Sheep Trilogy with teenagers in mind. I started the story, now about 6 years ago, when I myself was the same age as Vic, 18. Back then I didn’t think about much apart from wanting to write this story about these great characters that had so much pain and love in them. Jack and Vic are teens and Anne and Adam are 20/21, just slightly older than teenagers.
“I never thought anyone but teens might be interested in the story and that has been my focus until the end. Sure, I had a couple of mature readers but for me they felt more exception than the rule. I then published the first book of the trilogy back in December.
“What happened after that I couldn’t have imagined. Sure, I’m not selling as well as I would like, but honestly, in a niche genre of a niche genre as Black Sheep is that doesn’t surprise me.
“What did surprise me were replies to some of the guest posts I wrote and the reviews of both Rene and some others. There was a group of people out there that I had never intended to write for, I had never thought about them, but they seemed interested in the story anyway.
“They were adults, and not just adults, adults who know teens, adults who work with teens, adults who are parents to teens.
“Black Sheep seemed to fill a void I didn’t know actually existed. Black Sheep was no longer about a gay guy with a dark past. Black Sheep became a story about struggle, about teenagers, about growing up while at the same time being held back by awful things of the past.
“The first time I heard that it might appeal to a different group from the two that I had been dealing with in the past (teens and people who love dark gay fiction) I smiled in disbelieve and shook my head. But it didn’t stop there. It happened a couple of more times and I realised I had been looking at Black Sheep with a very limited view.
“I hadn’t realised that because most of the things that happen to Vic, Jack and others are taken from real life situations it would appeal to those same people. I realised I had always seen Black Sheep as being about a gay teen with a dark past, which seemed to appeal a lot to teens. What I forgot in all this was that the reason it appealed to them wasn’t because they were gay, maybe it would for the first book, with some of the kissing and groping scenes but the later books weren’t about that any more. They were about struggle, pain and depression.
“I had taken the story out of the original context and pulled it into a realm where gender and sexuality no longer mattered, they became characters in their own right.
“They suddenly were identifiable with not just for teens who liked gay stories but with a broader audience that was looking for something else. Something darker and that didn’t judge. Something that could bring up memories of times that we thought we outgrew but that influence us still in daily life.
“And looking at the story it doesn’t just stop there, it can also give handles to people who are dealing with teens who struggle. Not because Black Sheep gives a guide on how to do that but by giving a voice to people who might not be able to explain themselves.
“One of the big subjects in Black Sheep is the struggle of stopping self harming. Most places can tell you that people need love, they need understanding, they need you not to put too much negative pressure on the person. What it fails to explain is the addictive nature of it, the struggle to stay clean when it seems harming is the last thing they feel. Those people don’t need just love and a shoulder to cry on. They need to also understand that it isn’t easy, that there is no quick way and that they will struggle for a long time after they’re clean. And it doesn’t stop with them, those around them, those dealing with them on a daily base? They need to understand that too.
“Sure, there are a lot of other themes in Black Sheep that I’ve tried to deal with the same way. I didn’t try to fix them, I didn’t try to explain. I tried to explore the emotions of both sufferers and loved ones.
“I think the strength of Black Sheep lies in that and that that is why at first I didn’t think it would interest other people. I never thought about whether other people then those struggling with the same things as Vic, Jack, Adam, Anne and all the other cast would be interested in the story. Not because I didn’t care for them but because they weren’t people I had dealt with in the past. I never thought that my experiencing and emotional way of writing would not just be a comfort for people who struggled but might also give insights to other people into the mind of struggling people.
“This was probably one of the biggest things I hadn’t thought about before I published the trilogy.”
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 than not all at the same time).
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