Out of the characters you have created for this book, which one is your favorite? Are there qualities of yourself or someone you know that you put into them?
I definitely favor Zayne and Arriana (Josh’s sister). I find a lot of myself in them. I feel I resonate with Arriana in the way she always tries to stand by those she loves regardless of what people think of her and how she always just wants to see everyone smiling and being themselves; everyone needs an Arriana in their life. Zayne I feel is, sadly, a very relatable character. He struggles with his mental health and self-esteem and struggles to ask for help and I myself have gone through some of the things he has. I hope seeing a character like him, seeing his story unfold with Josh, will help others feel less alone.
What do you want readers to get out of your novel?
Love and acceptance is key. You don’t have to agree with how someone lives their life, but you do have to respect them and treat them with kindness. You never know what they’re going through or how your words can affect them. Choose kindness and acceptance and love yourself. Be unapologetically you, be kind and true.
Why do you write for young adults?
I try to write for young adults because they still have so much to learn. Arguably, each generation faces new struggles and this generation of young adults is facing so much. Human rights, police brutality, the exchange of power in the government, increasing mental health struggles—it all falls on them and they have to learn from it and grow with it. I write to show them it’s okay, and they can tackle anything that can come and they are stronger than they know. They can change the world, they can overcome anything, they can create an escape and fight for a better world and a better life for themselves and others.
What role does LGBTQ+ literature play in today’s arts? Do you think significant representation has increased over the years or is there still room for improvement?
I definitely think representation for all minorities has improved, but we can always be better. Everyone should be able to pick up a book and see themselves in it. That’s why we read, right? To escape the world and put ourselves in an adventure. LGBTQ+ literature has definitely been on the rise and is becoming more popular and it’s incredible because that means we’re making progress; people aren’t as scared to talk about it anymore. With any hope, someday there will be LGBTQ+ books in English classes along with other minorities as we keep raising these voices higher and helping these voices be heard. By making these books popular, we validate and raise up hundreds of thousands of people who identify with these groups, pulling them out of the shadows that keep them trapped and scared.
Are you working on any other projects? What plans do you have for the future?
I’m currently working on quite a bit. I’m in the middle of making my website to sell signed copies and merch (all made with the wonderful help of small businesses) and hosting a giveaway and a charity event (every June, all Free Me profits go to the Trevor Project to help at risk LGBTQ+ youth). I’m already editing my next book to be published; I’m working on two new books. I’m hoping in the next three years I will have released a second book, donated at least $200 to the Trevor Project, and have an audiobook of Free Me available so everyone can enjoy it.
What is your advice for young writers? LGBTQ+ writers?
Don’t be afraid. Write what you want, write what you would want to read. There is an audience for everything and there will always be someone to support you. Do not hold back, do not hide yourself. Embrace who you are and own it, flaunt it to the world and show them just what you are made of. Never let anyone tell you what to write or who to be.
Readers can keep up with Winters and updates about Free Me via Instagram (@kittkat4818) and Twitter (@KatWinters18 and @FreeMeBook2021). Her other books can be found on WattPad, Inkitt, GoodNovel, and other publishing sites under the username Kitty4818. Her official website will be launched by February 18th (KatWintersBooks.com).