Free Me Summary:
Being a high school senior can be tough. Having to constantly face stress, anxiety, bullying, and peer pressure. To add to these challenges that teenagers face, Josh Notes has to face his sexuality and the internal struggles that come with it.
Josh knows living in Waco, Texas, being gay can be dangerous. Knowing this, he opts to keep his sexuality a secret to protect himself and his family. He thinks this is his life, permanently hiding who he is and isolating himself, and he’s come to terms with this. However, things change when Zayne Daveen, the only openly gay person at their school, comes into his life. A relationship forms that neither expect, and together they find safety at each other’s side. Zayne, who faces abuse daily for his sexuality, is thankful for Josh, and Josh is thankfully that he has someone he doesn’t have to hide from. The question is, is it worth it, or are they fighting a hopeless battle?
While the boys now have each other, will it be enough to survive the school year? What will they do when the world tries to change them? What will they do when they’re forced to ask themselves, how much are they willing to sacrifice for the ones they love?
Disclaimer: This story contains graphic and triggering content such as: eating disorders, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, hate crimes, self-harm, suicide, homophobia, conversion therapy, and hate speech. If you cannot handle one or more of these topics, please do not read. No story is worth harming your mental health.
A little something about Kat Winters:
Born and raised in California, Kat Winters now lives in Missouri! Always looking for a way to reach people, she writes to give people an escape and help them feel seen. She hopes to change the world with her writing and eventually become a foster parent and teacher so she can help even more people, all while finding beauty in life through other hobbies like baking, photography, and reading.
Questions and Answers:
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I've always had a love for books, but I guess I'd never realized how much of an escape writing could provide. I started writing in the fifth grade and by the start of middle school I knew I was meant to write.
2. How long does it take you to write a book?
It really depends on a lot of things. I've written books in less than a month, some in a couple of months, some take a couple of years. It really comes down to the book and topics it covers, what's going on, and just my general state of mind.
3. What is your work schedule like when you're writing? I don't believe in schedules for creative efforts. I let my work tell me what wants attention. I write what feels right when it feels right, which usually leads me to jumping from story to story.
4. What would you say is your unique writing quirk?
I cannot write in quiet or darkness. I have to have noise and light and movement to keep my brain moving and to avoid panic attacks. My family knows I'm writing when the TV is on but I'm not actually watching.
5. Whether it be traditional, self, or story book apps. How d you find the publishing process?
Publishing in any sense is daunting. I've been on story apps for 3 years now and it'll never be less scary putting your work out there, but the community and friends you make help make it easier. Self publishing is very different and a lot harder than I expected but I'm grateful my community encouraged and supported me.
6. How much of your writing process involves research in your subject matter or plot?
Usually I do general research, grade level classes, town names, travel times and such, but if my books deal with heavier topics such as addiction or mental health issues I do more in depth research on top of using my own experience. I want to best represent when I can, so I do try to do thorough research where I can.
7. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I started writing my first book when I was in elementary school, but I never finished it. I didn't write and finish a book until I was about 17.
8. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I can't imagine a life where I'm not creating or using my imagination. If I'm not writing I'm reading, if I'm not reading I'm baking, if I'm not baking I'm taking photos, or any other creative hobby I've picked up that week.
9. What does your family think of your writing?
Well, my family is sort of mixed. They love I have talent and passion, but they've never been fans of using it as a means of income or a living. I've won awards and had works published before but they still don't think it's meant to be anything more than a past time. I'm hoping to help show them that it's a very valid means of work.
10.What was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books (characters, location, plot)?
I think I learned a lot about me as a person. I always pride myself in not needing anyone, I don't need help because for a long time I never was offered it. When I write I tend to write characters who are in some way like me (a toxic parent, needing an escape, etc) but they get the help they need. I didn't notice it for a long time but I was writing what I never had and what I never realized I wanted.
11.What is it you particularly like about the genre you write?
I like that I don't stick to one genre. I usually write contemporary and I love how real it can feel, like you are living another life, but I enjoy bouncing from one genre to another and testing the waters. It never gets boring trying new things and my readers seem to love it.
12.Do you have any suggestions to help others become writers? If so, what are they?
Write what you want to write and write it for you. Writing should be fun, and if you only do it to make money and only write what's popular you are going to hate it and you are going to get bored so fast and it will show in your writing.
13.Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I hear from them often, I value reader feedback so much! As someone who uses story apps and social media for promotion, I get lots of messages and comments about my work, and its almost always positive.
14.Do you like to create books for your target audience?
Usually yes, I write for a younger audience. Usually my books fall into YA, or on the rare occasion NA. I like creating books for that age because I like creating books to help young people during really pivotal years, and usually I cover heavy topics to help readers feel validated and show they aren't alone.
15.What do you think makes a good story?
I think a good story comes from something you can't see. I think its important to have a compelling plot and intriguing characters but I think the true mark of a good story is what you put into it. If you put your heart and soul into what you write and write what you love, you have a good story.
16.How do you handle writers block and what do you tell other aspiring authors who may be fighting or fearful about hitting that wall?
I fully believe in writers block, I just don't think its something you can fix. Unfortunately it's like burnout, you have to give yourself that break and let your brain refuel. When I get writers block, and I get frustrated I ask myself "would you rather not write for a bit, and then write your best, or force yourself to write and write something you aren't proud of?". Writers block happens to all of us, its normal, and it's not bad, it just means you need a break. The sooner you accept that you need the break and take it, the sooner you can get back to writing.
Yet another author I found to be every ounce as brave as I wish I was at their age. Kat is a prophetic author with a voice and she uses it to make a point. No matter how hard or personal the subject matter, I found her story dealing with the self discovery trope written beautifully and with care and grace. When it is released, it's a must read.