Human of the Week is an initiative by KosmicKult, featuring queer individuals who are killin’ it in their fields. Every week, we celebrate an individual (preferably human) by showcasing their work and talent. Through this, we aim to create a platform for representation of queer folk.
Liyah Leoni (Pronouns: She/Her) is an LGBTQ+ author based in the United Kingdom. In 2019, she released a book titled ‘Sincerely Yours’, which story centers around a lesbian protagonist. Having always been an expressive and creative soul, she took the leap into self-publishing with a firm belief in herself and what she represents. Her writing, she hopes, reflects her raw, unedited and unfiltered self. As a strong advocate for authenticity, Liyah has also created a showcase platform for LGBTQ+ literature-based creatives called The Wave.
In this week’s Human of the Week feature, we spoke with Liyah to understand more about her experiences as a LGBTQ+ author.
1. What inspired you to write ‘Sincerely Yours’?
My inspiration for writing ‘Sincerely Yours’ came from life in general. The idea of fiction is to offer you an escape from everyday life, drawing you into a fantasy away from the chaos of reality. However, I wanted to write you a story that showed you, you can still be your imperfect self and offer yourself the escape within your lessons of life. That as you read along, the chaos of the character becomes increasingly relatable.
2. Did you create the character Aaliyah based on your own experiences?
Aaliyah’s character is based on aspects of everyone’s experiences. Some of them, not telling you which ones, include some of my own. She’s based on the untold story of the everyday that we often forget.
3. Has it always been a dream of yours to write and publish a book? Could you share with us some of the difficulties you faced in this journey?
It’s always been a dream of mine to publish books and have screen plays produced on the screen. There’s a taboo surrounding self- published authors; everyone has access to online publications. However, this has always been my goal. It gives me a great sense of pride to know that I have given the world my rawest creative authenticity that has not been edited by a legal document belonging to someone else. I don’t have a team behind me to confirm what I will or will not say next and within our ‘cancel culture’ is a big risk some are not willing to take which I believe has caused difficulties for my novel receiving higher exposure.
4. ‘Sincerely Yours’ touches on many aspects of lesbianism, is there a message you hope to spread through this book?
Although told through a lesbianism narrative; we all, regardless of our sexuality or gender, have fallen off the path of who we are and become ‘influenced’ in a different direction. Placing focus on who we ‘want’ to be, overlooking who we currently are. The message I hope to spread is to enjoy getting to know yourself at every stage of your life but do not forget to love yourself in the present. Whether it’s within your experiences, creativity, success and most importantly your downfalls, because that’s when you truly meet yourself.
5. Do you think there is sufficient LGBTQ+ representation in the creative writing industry? What do you hope to see in the future?
There are so many amazingly talented LGBTQ+ literature-based creatives out there. I have networked with a number of them, but there is not enough spotlight and appreciation for creative writing as a whole. People tend to gravitate to images, video and audio more.
6. Are you planning on writing another book or would you venture out into other creative platforms?
Absolutely! Of course, I will be writing more books, I’m just getting started. Being a fictional author, I get to create a world with words. Allowing the reader to see my vision, I would love to see my creations on screen in hopes that our visions collide.
7. Are there any authors that you look up to or have inspired you?
I always loved writing stories growing up. One of my biggest inspirations was Sistah Soulja’s ‘The Coldest Winter Ever’. I read this at 14, as soon as I finished this book, which was way out of my age range- I knew I found my passion. I knew I was going to become an author.
8. Any words of encouragement for the LGBTQ+ community or your supporters?
Find that thing you are most passionate about and go for it! Exist loudly in your truest form and don’t let the world discourage you in any way. Flow freely.
8. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
It truly is ‘word of mouth’ that gets books purchased through recommendations.
It means so much to me when I am sent screenshots of purchases or feedback messages- it makes my day to see my creativity spreading in conversations, so thank you for supporting me.
You may find Liyah Leoni on Instagram at @Liyah_Leoni