Jul 1, 2018

Julian Winters talks Running With Lions, queer rep and diversity in sports || Interview + Giveaway

Running With Lions was a book I was sleeping on until Book Expo week. I still wonder how the book managed to completely fly under my radar until then, but a few recommendations, and that wonderful cover and blurb was enough for me to get sold on, and I went for it. And man was I glad for that decision. Running With Lions is an adorable, soulful and warm book about a group of such endearing characters who are inclusive, authentic and crafted with so much heart. The book is an instant rec, and today we have the author Julian Winters over at the blog for an interview! I got to meet Julian at Bookcon, and he was delightful, and I hope you guys enjoy the interview. And don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end!!!

Title : Running With Lions
Author : Julian Winters
Publisher : Duet Books
Release Date : June 7th 2018
Synopsis :

Bloomington High School Lions' star goalie, Sebastian   Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: 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.

1. Describe your book in 5 words.

Fun. Inclusive. Queer. Diverse. Soft.

2. What was your inspiration behind Running With Lions?

My inspiration came from several places. One was to write a book I didn’t have growing up—where the main character is LGBTQIA+ and not relegated to a tragic story or death or being the token sidekick. I wanted a book where queer young adults could see themselves in any of the characters. Where they could find hope and know they can be the all-star athlete, the best teammate, the hero of their own stories. They can also be clueless about their futures, struggling with personal issues, and survive.

I also wanted a book that emphasized the fact that queer athletes have a place in the sports world. While we’re not where we need to be with LGBTQIA+ athletes and the respect they deserve, we’re improving. That inspiration came from reading about young, queer athletes telling their stories and how their coaches, their teammates, their community supported them after coming out. How their athletic abilities were what mattered most, not who they loved off the field.

3.The book features a large group of characters, yet each one of them are well developed, and special in their own way. How did you manage to make each character stand out, even when there's so many of them?

A lot of crying and screaming at my laptop?

I was fortunate that, while writing Sebastian’s story, each of these characters came to life in my head. They all had a story to tell. I didn’t want any character to just be “the best friend” or “the rival” or “the funny person.” As a reader, I know what it’s like to not see myself on page. I didn’t want readers to just connect with Sebastian. I wanted readers from any background to find Emir or Hunter or Grey or Willie and see themselves. I took those stories the characters were telling me and expanded them to ensure every reader felt a connection.

4. I like to describe the whole book as Hufflepuff – cover and all –  but where would you sort each character into?

Oh, crap. Put me on the spot! I won’t do all the team—just the characters on the cover.

Sebastian: Hufflepuff, no doubt. Sebastian’s loyalty is his best trait.
Emir: Ravenclaw… like me!
Willie: I’m told he’s the ultimate Hufflepuff. I agree.
Grey: Gryffindor… with a hint of Slytherin. Grey is so resourceful and she’s a little cunning, too.
Mason: Slytherin. Mason is ambitious and not afraid to do what ne needs to do to secure a win.
Hunter: GryffinClaw. I love how Hunter uses his intelligence constantly, but he’s witty and super brave.
Gio: Slytherdor. He could have a little Puff in him too.

5. Sports remain to be a sensitive and complicated space when it comes to people of colour and those who are from the LGBTQIA+ community. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think coaches like the ones in the book would make a difference?

We’re making progress in sports, but we still have a long way to go. We no longer live in a world where queer athletes come out of the closet after they retire or after death. There are more LGBTQIA+ members of the sports community living openly, but it’s not yet normalized. Obviously, we’ve made more progress on people of color being represented in a positive light across most sports, but it doesn’t come without the same stigma that has existed for centuries. The true light and inspiration exists is in collegiate and high school sports, where more and more athletes come out to their teammates or peers and receive an abundant amount of support. Their communities rally around these athletes, stand up for them against the organizations still determined to shame the queer community.

I would love to see more coaches like the ones in the book. Ones that create that safe space for athletes where race, sexuality, identity, background—none of these things are a negative. Where the sport and success of an athlete is determined by their contribution. I want more coaches to remind athletes the endgame isn’t the championship—it’s discovering yourself in the fight for a victory that matters.

6. What was your biggest challenge throughout the entire process?

Trusting my talent. This is a problem that exists with most creative minds—we create, we live and breathe it, and then we fear no one will like it. Learning to believe in myself was a real struggle through every part of this, but I’m growing.

Also, stay away from reviews. All of them. They’re not for you. Your growth isn’t determined by how someone else sees your vision.

7. This must be a hard question, but I have to ask: who’s your favourite from the crew?

Nope! I can’t do this. Not because I don’t want to single any one character out. It’s because it changes day-to-day. Obviously, I love Sebastian—his personality represents so much of me—but there are days where I love Emir like a child. Some days I’m Team Willie; some days it’s Team Hunter. I adore Grey and, though he’s flawed, I love Mason’s sarcasm. Gio is a character I wish I could’ve wrote more of; Carl, too.

These days, a sequel has been swirling around in my brain and I always stop myself because I can’t decide who the main character would be!

8. Can you tell us what you’re working on next?

I can tell you it’s still in the early draft phase and I never know what may or may not change. It’s Young Adult, very Own Voices, and, Queer AF. It’s about a gay, black, adopted boy questioning who he is and where his popularity stems from. A lot of self-exploration, a look at how labels “define” our status, and the effects of heartbreak—both romantic and familial.

Did I mention he’s terrible at flirting and determined to stay single, but the dorky, socially-awkward friend of a friend kind of catches his eye? Because, yeah, that’s happening too!


Thank you for Interlude Press ( and Candysse! ) for sponsoring this giveaway! 3 of you can win an ebook of Running With Lions. The giveaway is open internationally.

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