Q&A with Kia Zi Shiru: Author of Letting Go of the Past
My guest this week is Kia Zi Shiru whose powerful novella Black Sheep: Letting Go of the Past was released towards the end of 2012. This book covers some sensitive issues, including self-harming and abusive relationships, so I invited her on to talk about how she set about tackling them, as well as share some of the authors who have inspired her writing.
Welcome to the Boys on the Brink Blog, Kia. Let’s start with something fun. Can you tell us three interesting or quirky facts about yourself?
Hmm, three things. First, I used to be pretty bad at languages but right now I’m studying English in the UK in a class with British students. Second, it’s probably been over six or seven years since I last wrote a straight couple as the main love interest in a story. Third… ehhh…
And has it always been a dream of yours to be a writer?
I’ve always written from a young age, I’ve got some stories from back when I was eight or so. But for a long time my main interest was to become a vet and then a writer second. I always liked the idea of having something published but not of being a writer per-se. Right now I’m seeing how far I get with my writing. If I can be a writer full time after I finish school, that would be amazing; if not, I can write on the side.
Who are some of your favourite authors of gay young adult fiction at the moment?
I haven’t read much young adult gay fiction for a while, though I’ve had two writers who greatly influenced me to actually write gay fiction in the first place. The first is Tom Lennon and his novel When Love comes to Town, a story about a gay teen in Dublin. This book was originally published in the 90s but it seems it only recently came out in the US. The second is a Dutch writer, Edward van der Vendel, whose book The days of the bluegrass love has always been a huge inspiration for my work.
Goth culture plays an important part in Black Sheep, with both Vic and his two best friends being Goths. Is this something that has featured in your own life?
For a long time I identified with the Goth culture and with the industrial and metal sub-cultures within it. It has always amazed me how people perceive the culture from the outside, but I’ve also found the inner supportive structure in some parts of the culture very interesting. These days I no longer identify with the culture, though I still rarely wear anything other than black.
Another prominent theme is Vic’s battle with self-harming, and I have to say you do it very powerfully. How did you set about tackling such a sensitive subject?
I try to keep the shame away from it. Throughout the story, it’s obvious that Vic is very sensitive about the subject and that others don’t get why he does it. He battles with himself against the addiction, something that is explored further in the second book. As a writer, my aim is to stay objective and to show it from a few sides, without showing too much what I think.
Throughout the course of the story, we discover that Vic has previously been the victim of an abusive relationship. Do you have any advice for all the young people out there who are right now going through something similar?
The easiest advice, which they’ve probably heard a lot already, is to leave the relationship, but that’s never easy. Quite often you don’t want to be alone and a bad relationship can seem better than having no relationship at all. But leaving is always the best option. Staying in a relationship which is destructive, whether emotionally or physically, is never a good idea. No one should have to live in fear or by another’s bad rules. It’s not worth it. Abusers never change, and they will just go on hurting you.
The other side to this is to reach out, find someone to talk to, see if there is somewhere you can go, even temporarily, to escape the situation. You might not believe it now, but you will find happiness with someone who truly cares for you. No matter how damaged you feel, there is a Jack out there just for you.
Without giving too much away, what can we expect from the next book in the Black Sheep series, and when is it due for release?
The first book ends with Vic telling Jack the story of his past following a suicide attempt, and the second story continues straight on. Black Sheep: Loving in the Present is more about the past. More secrets are revealed and Jack moves in with Vic’s family.
We get a new narrator, Anne, who has a different view on things, and who now has to deal with her younger brother being in a mental hospital, while her best friend grows progressively more ill. We get scandals, family problems and some blasts from the past. It is more emotional and in some places a lot darker than Letting go of the Past, but overall it’s a lot more about friendship, love and what you do when your loved ones are hurting. The release date for Loving in the Present is February 13th. Only a couple of weeks left!
Thanks so much for giving me this interview, Kia. Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
You can visit my website where you’ll find all the info on my books, articles, stories and upcoming releases, as well as some other weird and fun stuff.
Thank you so much, Jamie, for letting me do this interview! I really enjoyed it.