An author from Haywards Heath who suffered anti-gay bullying as a teenager has collaborated on a new fairytale book about two male characters who fall in love.
Chaz Harris, 33, was born in Cuckfield and lived in Haywards Heath until he was 22 – before moving to New Zealand, where he now works as a filmmaker and author.
After suffering from bullying at school, this led him and co-author and friend, Adam Reynolds, to create the fairytale book – Promised Land, with illustrators Christine Luiten and Bo Moore.
Chaz said: “Having both grown up with bullying at school, we wanted to create the kind of story we needed when we were kids, one where the sexuality of the main characters was not the focus or an issue or a problem to be solved.
“By simply making an inclusive story like this, young people growing up and struggling with their sexuality can see themselves represented as equals to characters in the fairytale.
“We also wanted to help contribute to early acceptance ahead of the time when young people may encounter with their classmates, friends or relatives later on in their lives.
“We believe the lack of visibility in media creates the perception of ‘otherness’ and plants the seeds for the bullying, homophobia and violence many of us experience.”
Chaz and Adam said the definition of Promised Land is ‘a place or situation in which someone expects to find great happiness’.
Adam added: “We wanted to portray a world in which a prince and a farm boy could meet and fall in love and nobody takes issue with the fact they are of the same sex.”
The book’s first edition sold out within three weeks of its release on February 14 following a successful campaign and has received coverage from the likes of BuzzFeed and Teen Vogue.
Chaz said he had been inspired to move to New Zealand after watching behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the Lord of the Rings films. He had been working on films in the UK, and he found people in New Zealand were passionate about filmmaking.
He said: “I felt I had been lost in the UK. On some of the sets I worked on, it was just another job and there wasn’t always the sense of team spirit and collaboration I wanted to see.”
Promised Land can be bought via www.promisedlandstore.com.
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