Behind SHADES: Meet the Author

“By writing herself, woman returns to the body which has been more than confiscated from her, which has been turned into the uncanny stranger on display – the ailing or dead figure, which so often turns out to be the nasty companion, the cause and location of inhibitions. Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time. Write yourself. Your body must be heard.” – Cixous, Hélène.


Hélène Cixous is a professor, French feminist writer, poet, playwright, philosopher, literary critic and rhetorician. At 82 years old, she has inspired young minds, wrote dissertations that have helped bring light to the value of the woman and her body, and she has been an integral part of the creation of my second book SHADES: A Collection of Poetry Dedicated to the Black Woman. Women like her, poets like Grace Nichols, Jennifer Sterling, R.h Sin and Nikki Giovani amongst others have inspired me to be more than just another writer, but a writer with a cause. I am so excited about this book I could cry… I do sometimes, don’t judge. I spent time combing through poems, articles, essays, interviews — I personally sat with black woman of all shades to gather stories and perspectives. Writing this piece and focusing on poetry was the most freeing thing I’ve done in awhile, and to know that I was able to end the final poem of the book just a few days ago brings me so much joy. We’re that much closer to reality.

This is a special piece of work, yes dedicated to a specific woman, but available to all women. Our struggles are similar and it is worth putting aside white privilege and stepping outside yourself, it’s worth putting yourself in another persons shoes. So, today’s post is a little different. Today I’m interviewing myself, giving readers, fellow style lovers, and Major Ki supporters the chance to truly see where I was coming from, where I’m going, and where I hope to end up. This book is for us, let’s meet the author.

Kiana St Louis, Author of SHADES: A Collection of Poetry Dedicated to the Black Woman

What drove you to write SHADES?


When I decided that I was going to write another book, I didn’t know that it would be SHADES. I didn’t automatically think of the idea or instantly decide how everything was going to come together. I was nervous at the idea of even writing at all because my first piece, 100 Days of Dating, kind of fell in my lap. I was motivated by pain, and creativity was my healing then. But now, I had created a book, did a huge release, took it on tour, started a podcast and began to build all these amazing things, so I had no idea what or how a second book would even come about. But on a vacation to Jamaica, I was inspired by a poetry book I was reading by R.h. Sin. It was small, filled with sentences so short they didn’t even feel like poems, yet every word stung and stuck with me. And just like that, I was reminded of my own love for poetry, its forms, the strength in words and how important choosing each word is and I couldn’t knock the idea. I wanted to create something small but impactful, something short that would last long. The ideas just came running but the realities of being a black person – a black woman in the 2000’s is one of the most difficult/interesting/beautiful things to be. Just like 100 Days, I felt we had stories to unpack. The black woman has stories, and I wanted to tell them – through poetry. Every time I closed my eyes, or thought to myself “whats next?” SHADES was the only thing I could see. I had to write it.


100 Days is a book that houses the stories of lovers. SHADES is a book of poems filled with the stories of black women. I am still a storyteller, I am still the messenger.


You say 100 Days of Dating fell into your lap. What was different about writing these two books?


100 Days of Dating started as blog. I was broken hearted after a failed long-term relationship and decided to pour my energy into writing. When I’d heard about the 100 Day Project a free online art project founded by designer Michael Beirut, I just wanted to be a part of it. So I picked my topic, I was interviewing people and stories came to life, people followed along, I got friends and family involved, and next thing I knew, strangers were asking me to tell their stories too. It became healing for all of us, not just me. Then one day, in a comment, someone said under one of the posts “if you ever turned this blog into a book, I’d buy it.” That changed everything for me! Turning pain into profit? Hell yeah! So boom – it was nothing to change the focus, get an editing team, and literally turn stories I had already begun writing into book format.

But this — SHADES — is nothing like 100 Days. It’s not a blog. It’s not something anyone asked for. I’m not broken hearted anymore and everything about who I am vs. who I was has changed. But my love for storytelling hadn’t. So writing SHADES granted me a different kind of control. I wrote when I felt like it and how I felt like it. I found my college laptop and reviewed poems, lessons, things I’ve learned from creative writing courses. I read essays, learned different writings styles, talked to people, found my focus, and found the book’s purpose – I did everything intentionally. I gave myself deadlines and plans, but I ultimately wrote when inclined. I remained motivated by the women around me, becoming inspired by songs, the bible, conversations, — everything about SHADES was with purpose — that’s the huge difference. I am writing with a mission, writing to inform, writing to protect. 100 Days is a book that houses the stories of lovers. SHADES is a book of poems filled with the stories of black women. I am still a storyteller, I am still the messenger, but this time the message came a little differently.

Kiana St Louis, Author Dressed in Kate Spade New York Tweed Dress and matching jacket Kate Spade New York slide loafers Kate Spade New York Cluster Pearls

What are the challenges you faced writing this? How did you overcome them?


Outside of the Covid-19 health pandemic that has swept the nation in the midst of writing, I think my biggest challenge was staying true to myself in both my choice of writing and with my time. So as I mentioned earlier, nobody asked me for this, right lol. No one said write another book, but I decided to become an author, so I tell me when I’m coming out with something. That’s a different level of trust and self motivation/dedication. I had to make time in the midst of being in quarantine, I had to stick to a schedule and force myself to write, I had to stay focused, I had to keep it all going – by myself. No one really knew what I was doing so the push to keep going, to keep creating to do this was coming from me. It’s tough sometimes, when you’re the only person you’re counting on. But I believed in this – I believe in this too much to stand in my own way. So I made writing schedules, I had my mother hold me accountable for completing a certain number of poems a day, I had people listening to notes and just really tried to lean on my resources and hold myself accountable too. In a weird way, being in quarantine in an effort to stay safe, also helped me stay the course.

Another challenge that I mentioned was staying true to my writing. When I leave my world and enter the world of Instagram, facebook, Pinterest – just social media in general – I immediately put myself at risk to compare. I compare myself to other writers, consider using new language, double back and forth on word choice given something else I had read — it was just a lot! But that’s normal, we’re human and I had to just keep reminding myself of that. During the writing process, I stopped going online, stayed under a rock and just focused on what I know I can do, what I know I was supposed to. We all have to dance to our own beat and know that everything is happening in our lives at the time that it is supposed to! We’re all in our seasons, doing what we need to for us. The moment I stopped looking at other people’s plate and watched mine, I was instantly full.


Ultimately, I hope this book is a message of love, unity and strength to the black woman. I write to us, I write for us. 


What is the meaning behind SHADES? What is the message you hope to convey?


SHADES was chosen as the title to be very literal – there are different shades to the black woman, we come in different sizes, colors, shapes, versions, but we are the same. We are one. One that shouldn’t be separated by colorism. One that shouldn’t feel less than or less loved by the black man or any man. One that is stronger together but still strong alone if that’s the choice. I want the women reading SHADES to know you are not alone. I want them to understand the importance of unity and supporting one another. I want the women to understand there are underlying issues, things we need to fight against, things we can’t be comfortable with. I want the women to know that they are loved, every inch of their chocolate skin is loved. We are chosen. We are important. We are regal. We are enough. We are limitless. We are black and should be proud. We are in an era of pride. We are in an era where black culture is so in, people who aren’t even black want in – (we actually really have to get into that, but that’s a post for another day… hell we need a book on that!) Ultimately, I hope this book is a message of love, unity and strength to the black woman. I write to us, I write for us.

Kiana St Louis, Author Dressed in Kate Spade New York Tweed Dress

Now that it’s finished, what’s next?


Now, we bring it to life! I am working on the final product and turning it from digital to print. Once that’s done, I’ll be focused on turning SHADES into an audible book. Many had told me to try this out with my first book, but I couldn’t even imagine sitting by a mic reading 300 something pages of interviews! But this, SHADES is worth being told, read, and heard. I’m excited for that too, I’ve never done audio and have no idea how to go about it – 2020 is shaping to be a year of firsts, but it should be good! I’m also thinking of the book release of SHADES and now with social distancing and just weird protocols given our new normal, I’m thinking of what that could look like. I originally wanted to a create a night of poetry, Love Jones style. Open mic, spot light, live band, open bar, round tables, smokey air, snaps, poets, singers, creatives, all here to hear the cooling sounds of SHADES come to life… but I don’t know how real that is! I’m hoping for the best, but a lot of the future is up in the air. So for now, I’m hopeful, I’m still creating and I’m just focused on bringing these words from Microsoft word to real-life pages. Whatever is next, I’ll be ready! SHADES will be available September 2020.



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2 thoughts on “Behind SHADES: Meet the Author”

  1. Sara A Rodgers says:

    I can’t wait to read it!

    1. Kiana says:

      Yay! Thank you so much for reading my love, I can’t wait to release it!

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