Hello, dear readers! Today I’m happy to introduce you to Julian Winters, author of Running With Lions, which debuts on June 7 through Duet Books! It’s a queer YA sports story the likes that the YA community has never seen before. I’m looking forward to reading Running With Lions.
Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year in Running With Lions: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them. (via Goodreads)
When were you first inspired to start Running With Lions?
I was first inspired to write this book toward the end of 2015. I’d been writing a lot of stuff for fun, mainly in various fandoms. An author/friend suggested I take this idea and make it a strong, positive book for young adults. A lot of the inspiration for the novel comes from my love of team sports, but I could never find one that fit me. There were none solely focused on LGBTQ+ athletes and the positives that happen in a healthy team environment. Why can’t LGBTQ+ sports books be funny, cute, and happy?
Which character was the hardest for you to write in Running with Lions? Why?
Each character had their moments of “difficulty” to write but the hardest was Sebastian. A lot of who Sebastian is, as a person, is me. The issues he struggles with, his unconscious desire to always be the “best friend,” the way he takes on leadership roles even when he doesn’t want to be considered “the leader”—all of those characteristics are me. The process of exposing myself and being vulnerable enough to write about it was difficult. I’m glad I did it, but it was definitely hard.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
“Take a break.” Often, as writers, we have one goal: finish the story. Sometimes, that comes at the cost of mental, physical, and emotional health. In no way does forcing yourself to finish anything better the story. It’s okay to walk away from a project for a day or a week, just to recharge. Find a book to read, take a walk, do anything but focus on the story. Breaks have this ability of reigniting your passion for projects.
What was your last five star read? What made it a five star read?
The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. I wasn’t expecting to be moved the way I was by this book. The trio of main characters (and the supporting cast) pulled me into emotional and mental places that I hadn’t found in other books. Sáenz has this way of building and building upon characters with this unexplainable subtlety. As a reader, I appreciate authors that draw you so far into a character, you feel as though each of their emotions are your emotions.
If you had a burger named after you, what kind of burger would it be, and what would you want to be on it?
It would probably be an angus burger with mayo, lettuce, bacon, a pineapple slice, and a special sauce that I use on my own burgers. However, I cannot reveal the ingredients to the special sauce for copyright purposes.
Where is the best place to contact you?
Twitter. I try to get on Instagram and Tumblr as much as possible, but I miss notifications. Twitter is always a great place to tag me and I’ll get back to you!
What life experiences went into writing RUNNING WITH LIONS? What things, particular to your life, have impacted the story?
Crushing on best friends; body issues; being loved and accepted despite your background, religion, or sexual identity; the psychological effects of being bullied; indecisions about the future; being everyone’s “go-to” person. All of these things are life issues or experiences I’ve dealt with and am still dealing with.
What’s one thing that would surprise people to know about you?
I’m pretty hardcore in the kitchen. I love creating new recipes or spicing up old ones.
If you could tell the whole world one thing about you, what would that be?
I live by one rule: “Do for others what you wish they would do for you.” I never want anyone to feel as though someone isn’t in their corner, that someone is too good to smile at them and wish nothing but the best for them. This world is too big and this life is too short for us not to support one another.