Stepping out of the shadows


Youngstown State University student Lauren Blake is preparing for the release of her first published novel, “The Shadow Shifter.” It will be available at Barnes & Noble and on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Lauren Blake.

Many young girls dream that their hobbies will one day thrust them into the limelight. For one Youngstown State University student, the dream of seeing her stories on the shelves of bookstores across the nation just may be coming true.

Lauren Blake’s supernatural teen novel, “The Shadow Shifter,” is being published by Hound Comics, Inc. and is set for release on Wednesday. The book is the first in a series of three that will focus around a young boy in an alternate version of our reality, where beings called “shifters” manipulate the world we live in.

James Patrick Hain, an adjunct English instructor, said Blake is an imaginative writer and that her book has the potential to take off. It’s a “page-turner,” he said.

“The interesting thing about her work is she creates these worlds that feel organic, and she has these relatable characters with interesting power,” Hain said.

Last summer, while on a fate-filled trip to Steel City Comic Con, Blake met representatives from Hound Comics. She was later hired for an internship with the company. After some time under their employment, Hound Comics was interested in seeing Blake’s work.

After two years, and hundreds of editing phases, Blake’s book will be hitting shelves at Barnes & Noble this spring. The book will also be available electronically on eBooks and

“When I found out, I cried,” Blake said. “It’s been quite a journey.”

Blake said the series is in the same vein as the “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” series. She said “The Shadow Shifter” is an easy read and anticipates reader reaction.

“If I saw this book in stores, I would want to read it,” said Kristen Sirakis, Blake’s cousin.

Sirakis said she has read the first chapter and can’t wait to continue reading.

Blake put the final touches on the book over winter break. She has dedicated the novel to Sirakis, who had even accompanied her on the Steel City Comic Con trip.

“We’re really close. I’ve been there since the beginning, and she has been writing since middle school,” Sirakis said. “She was really excited. She kept saying, ‘I’m an author!’”

As Sirakis and Blake looked through the first finished copy of the book, Sirakis said she had to do a double take when she came across her name on the dedication page.

“It’s surreal to think my name is going to be one of the first things readers see,” she said.

Blake said she’s gotten discouraged along the way and that the story itself has taken many twists and turns. She also says that sticking with it proved worthwhile.

“I’m not going to say it was easy. It was really hard. But, if you want to get published, you can’t get discouraged,” she said.

Hain said her persistence worked in her favor.

“I’ve noticed that she is extremely driven. She worked hard to get this far,” Hain said. “Lauren is a living example of persistence. Take rejection as a learning experience.”

Blake plans to celebrate the book release with her close friends and family. She encourages others to pursue their writing dreams.

“I truly think that anyone can write. There is no such thing as ‘bad writing,’” Blake said.