Like many teenagers, Amandla Stenberg spent the past year juggling classes and “trying” to get her driver’s license. But on top of all that, the Hunger Games star also found time to write a new comic book about a badass young female black warrior – who may or may not share some similarities with the author.
Niobe: She Is Life, the first issue of which debuted on Wednesday, follows Niobe, who is half human and half elf, as she journeys to save the world.
“I think it’s the first comic book that has a black female writer and a black female illustrator and a black female lead, so it’s really exciting,” Stenberg tells PEOPLE.
The teen was approached by Sebastian A. Jones, the CEO of Stranger Comics and author of The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer, to create a new story featuring Niobe (a character first introduced in The Untamed) as the lead.
“Sebastian asked me if I wanted to develop the story further. He felt like he really wanted the perspective of a black girl to tell the story of a black girl,” Stenberg explains.
Initially, Jones hoped Stenberg would work with him to create a novel – a project she wasn’t quite ready to take on. “I needed to finish the 11th grade before I had time to write a novel,” she says.
After settling on a comic and securing artist Ashley A. Woods to illustrate the story, Stenberg says the trio got to work on conceptualizing the book’s “vibe” and “naturalistic aesthetic.”
“I had this dream about [Niobe] running through the forest away from someone, and running into a lake and falling into a cavern where she discovers a monastery and that was the jumping off point,” Stenberg reveals. “And after that we developed it further and we connected it to plot lines from The Untamed.
Niobe, who – much like Stenberg – is a biracial teen searching for her destiny and handling crushes on boys, is a “nuanced” character, which the actress believes makes her stand out.
“What we really want to do with Niobe is, you know, have a powerful black female character but also have a black female character that’s complicated and has problems, and has things to overcome, and things to face,” she says. “That is really strong but also emotional and weak at the same time.”
The newly 17-year-old says she feels that people of color are often represented in media as undeveloped, “token characters” – which she says is not the case with Niobe.
While Stenberg didn’t draw any of the artwork for the book she says she “can’t stop” doodling pictures of the character – even during classes. But that doesn’t mean she’s not paying attention – the teen has her eyes on the prize.
“I want to be a director, so I’m writing a lot right now. I’m writing scripts that hopefully in the future I can turn into something more,” she says. “I want go to Tisch at NYU to study film.”
The Hunger Games star – who still keeps in touch with her former cast mates – says she hopes her new title as one of TIME‘s 30 Most Influential Teens of 2015 will help her continue to spread her message.
“I’ve ended up being someone who’s biracial talking about issues of race and offering up my perspective,” she says, later adding, “I think what has made me an influential teen has just been being myself and using my voice and my platform to communicate my ideas … and not being afraid to be myself despite the challenges and limitations that black girls face.”
Niobe: She Is Life is available for order online or through your local comic book store.