Today’s guest blogger is Suki Fleet, here to talk a little about the inspiration for her new YA novel from Harmony Ink Press, This Is Not a Love Story. Be sure to check out the giveaway information at the bottom of the post!
Thanks for having me on your blog, Shae. 🙂
Since it’s a major theme in my story, I’m going to talk a little about teen homelessness and what inspired me to write about it.
A few years ago now, I saw a kid sitting in a dark narrow alley way in the town where I live. There was a dirty sleeping bag tucked around him, and he was crying. The alley was a thoroughfare from one street to another and, although it wasn’t busy, there were people walking up and down and stepping around him as if he wasn’t there. I saw no one stop to ask if he was okay. On the corner of the street there was a sandwich shop and I went to get him a sandwich and a hot drink, but when I came out he was gone.
I’ve thought a lot about that kid over the years. I’ve wondered what happened to him and if he’s okay. I’ve wondered why he was sitting there that day, so upset and I’ve wished I just went over to talk to him rather than buying that sandwich. But I didn’t, and I can only hope he got to someplace better.
I didn’t think about writing this story then, but that was the beginning, that was the instance that made me stop and wish I could somehow give some homeless kid a happy ending to their story, because so often there is no happy ending for them, there is no way out of the situation they are in.
Teen homelessness is a huge problem. These kids are vulnerable, and many are on the street because of abuse, neglect and because they’ve been rejected because of their sexual orientation. There are organisations, like Centrepoint in London, that do a lot for homeless teens but it’s not enough, more needs to be done, by everyone.
This is Not a Love Story is the story of two boys’ journey, their struggle to get off the streets. It’s about growing up and it’s about hope. And most of all it’s about love.
When fifteen-year-old Romeo’s mother leaves one day and doesn’t return, he finds himself homeless and trying to survive on the streets. Mute and terrified, his silence makes him vulnerable, and one night he is beaten by a gang of other kids, only to be rescued by a boy who pledges to take care of him.
Julian is barely two years older than Romeo. A runaway from an abusive home, he has had to make some difficult choices and sells himself on the street to survive. Taking care of Romeo changes him, gives him a purpose in life, gives him hope, and he tries to be strong and keep his troubles with drugs behind him. But living as they do is slowly destroying him, and he begins to doubt he can be strong enough.
This is the story of their struggle to find a way off the streets and stay together at all costs. But when events threaten to tear them apart, it is Romeo who must find the strength within himself to help Julian (and not let their love story turn into a Shakespearean tragedy).
There’s this boy (isn’t there always?), this beautiful, glowing creature who makes me feel alive. Even here, living on the street with all the shit that happens—the cold, the hunger, the terror of spending one more day like this, one more night like this—somehow he makes me want to survive it, despite everything, just to spend another fucking minute in his starry-bright glow.
Even now, especially now, as we stand on the embankment next to the busy main road. This is the red-light district for boys like us. This is where we sell ourselves, one piece of our souls at a time.
Four coins rest in the palm of his hand, the rest hidden in the strap beneath his threadbare sleeve.
He holds them out to me, and I am entranced by the warm gold skin of his wrist—people pay a fortune to get a glow like that, for something he just has naturally.
“For you,” he mouths, fixing his light brown eyes on mine.
Yeah, for me to go and get warm in Joe Brown’s stinking cafe while he gets fucked under the railway arches by some dirty creep who doesn’t give a shit if he hurts him. I wish Julian didn’t act like my big brother. I wish just once he’d trust me to look out for him. I’m not as fragile as he thinks.
But I take the coins, when really what I want to do is throw them into the road and beg him not to go.
He knows, and our gazes lock, the both of us trying to communicate something the other doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to.
It’s like this every time he gets picked up.
As if on cue, the guy in the car blasts the horn. We both jump.
“Hurry the fuck up,” the creep hisses.
Through the steamed-up car window I can’t see the face attached to the voice, but the rest of him looks old and thin—hands gnarled as the roots of the trees that line this part of the embankment grip the steering wheel. And though I know that his age doesn’t mean he’s harmless, I can pretend, I can hope.
Julian tries to smile, his eyes telling me it will be okay. But how will this ever be okay? I can’t bear it.
But we have nothing.
We are nothing.
His warm fingers brush my cold ones, and I long to grab his hands and pull him away with me. I want to run along the embankment with him until my lungs burst. Maybe I will anyway.
“Twenty minutes,” he mouths.
I nod robotically. He gets in the car and watches me from the window as he’s driven away. I make a note of the color, model, and registration number. Knowing this makes me feel safer: if anything were to happen, I would have a tether, a proof that this car exists and Julian exists within it.
Nothing is going to happen. I bite back a sob. And run.
Suki has an awesome Kindle Paperwhite sleeve (see picture for samples) and an ebook copy of This Is Not a Love Story to give away! Go HERE to enter.