For our next interview, we’re joined by Lyssa Chiavari. Lyssa is an incredibly talented scifi writer who has had a few short stories published in magazines and upcoming anthologies. Her first novel comes out in September. Her personal website is http://lyssachiavari.com. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I write science fiction, mostly young adult, but I have written a few adult pieces as well. So far I’ve only published short fiction–I’m currently editing an anthology (which is open for submissions through the end of January!) that’s coming out in June–but my first novel, tentatively titled Fourth World, is due out in September.
What inspires you?
Outer space is kind of my favorite thing ever… I remember when I was little, I used to go out in the backyard at night and look at the sky and imagine I was a crewmember on the Starship Enterprise. Whenever I feel stuck on one of my stories, looking at pictures from Hubble always seems to kick-start my imagination!
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
When I was in fourth grade, I wrote what basically amounted to a fanfiction for Island of the Blue Dolphins, which I shared with my teacher. Apparently she loved it, because she approached my parents about enrolling me in an accelerated arts program that I got to go to when everyone else was doing D.O.L., haha. That program was great for me, because the teacher approached it like a professional writer’s workshop, even though we were only, like, nine. It really laid the framework for me. Over the years, I tried my hand at more “practical” professions, but I always felt a very strong call to write; and I always felt it was doable for me, thanks to those teachers.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?
I sometimes call myself the “Horrible Biromantisaurus Ace,” complete with a tacky dinosaur clipart.
The name stemmed from a thread on Autostraddle where people were talking about bi identity, and what you should label yourself, and so on. I mentioned that telling people, “I’m biromantic asexual,” is such a mouthful, and it sounds like the scientific name of a dinosaur or something. The dinosaur thing wound up sticking– one person even suggested I make a comic about it. So far, I haven’t come up with any good comic ideas, but I couldn’t resist making the mascot! 😀
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Hang in there, even if you run into obstacles, because your voice needs to be heard! I remember what a relief it was for me the first time I read a book with an asexual heroine (Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson), but books like that are so hard to come by! We really need more diverse voices, so hang in there. People want your stories.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
On the sexual spectrum, I think I’m about as “off” as one can be– no attraction and no drive. I’m actually pretty thoroughly sex-repulsed, haha. Romantically, I’m biromantic/panromantic (whichever term you prefer, it doesn’t really matter to me. I know “bi” has gender binary connotations and such, but it’s also the more widely recognized term, so I’m comfortable with either).
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Not in my field professionally, but I encountered it really bad in college. I was a biological anthropology major, and in my Human Evolutionary Biology class, I did a presentation on asexuality. No one in the class had ever heard about it before, and they were extremely intense in their curiosity. I don’t think any of them meant any harm, but their questions were so prying that it scared me. I wound up lying and telling them that I wasn’t actually asexual, and that I only knew about it because of the internet, just so they would leave me alone. I went back in the closet for about eight years after that, because that group made me feel like there was something so fundamentally wrong with me, and I couldn’t handle that. I think things have gotten better over the years–a meetup group I went to last month had a lot of college students who told me that asexuality is being taught in Human Sexuality and other classes now–so I’m hoping that things will be easier for baby aces as the years go on.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
“You just haven’t met the right person yet.” I’ve heard that from everyone I’ve come out to, apart from other aces. I actually bought into it for some years after that disastrous college presentation, when I was actively trying to convince myself that I couldn’t possibly be *gasp* asexual. The problem was that I wound up going out with some people that I really genuinely liked romantically, and I still felt the same. Not only could I not reconcile myself with the thought of having sex–even after marriage–but I could barely even handle kissing without feeling like I was going to lose my mind from boredom and annoyance. Finally, one morning I woke up with this really strong feeling of, “Why am I doing this to myself?” I decided then that I wasn’t going to look back. I know who I am. I knew it in college when I made that presentation. You can only go so long pretending to be someone else for other people. It’s tedious to have to explain it, especially when no one seems to believe me, but I feel better on the inside, and that’s what really matters.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Don’t be afraid to give yourself the time you need to figure yourself out. Remember: there seriously is nothing wrong with you. You are awesome, and embracing who you are will make you feel so much happier and healthier, I promise.
And finally, know that you’re not alone. There are a lot more of us out there than you would think. Anecdotal experience has shown me that a good portion of my friends are grays, demis, or still working their way through what I went through in college. Current statistics say we make up 1% of the population, but I genuinely believe that it’s more than that. As we become more visible and more people learn that this is a real orientation, I’m certain those numbers will go up, and you’ll find you’re not as “different” as you might think.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
My website is lyssachiavari.com. I’m also on Twitter and Tumblr, and I blog longer stuff on LiveJournal; you can find those links on my website. Please feel free to stop by and chat!
Thank you so much, Lyssa, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.