Today we’re joined by James Loke. James is a phenomenal writer who has written in a variety of genres. Aside from being a novelist, they’re also a journalist. It’s very obvious that James is incredibly passionate about art, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m an author! My first published novel was Dead Ringer, an m/m romance about Brandon, a down-on-his-luck guy who looks exactly like his grandfather, who was a Marlon Brando, James Dean-esque actor in the 1950s. Brandon parlays his genetic luck into working as a look-alike escort, and meets a young film enthusiast shut-in with juvenile arthritis.
My upcoming book Kill Switch is completely different, hahaha — it’s cyberpunk, about a girl obsessed with XXX-rated horror fetish video games. She’s hired by a shady game developer to test their brand-new virtual reality horror games, only to realize there’s something not quite right about the company’s programs.
And for yet another completely different twist: after Kill Switch, I’m planning to turn my attention to writing speculative and contemporary YA.
What inspires you?
Other people’s art, mostly! My office walls are plastered with pieces of art, from paintings to short comics to newspaper clippings to screenshots from films and TV shows. I’m a super visual writer—I cast actors for all my characters and often keep folders of scenery inspiration like shots of cityscapes, streets, parks, the insides of shops, etc. When I’m writing, I’m watching the scene in my head.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, yes. The first thing I ever wrote was fanfic for the middle-grade series Animal Ark. I think I was eight or nine. And I sort of just…never stopped writing after that. In like sixth grade or so, I distinctly remember turning in an enormous tome of a horror story for a creative writing assignment and horrifying my teacher. Coming up with stories was one of the very few things I was effortlessly good at.
For, a long time, I never thought of myself as A Real Writer, though, and I never thought I could make a future out of writing. All through high school, I swore up and down I was going to go to college to be a forensic psychologist, because I was always told writing couldn’t be a career. But hey, I ended up going to journalism school, and now writing is my entire job, even if not all of it’s fiction. 🙂
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
Oh, I don’t include anything on purpose. Except queer characters! All my books have queer main characters and I doubt that’ll ever change.
But I guess storytelling-wise, my books tend to have a trust theme. I like enemies-to-lovers stories, I like tenuous situations where people have to trust one another against their wishes in order to succeed, and I like writing about people fighting to learn to trust, or fighting to gain someone else’s trust. Trust is a hard thing for me to give, so I guess writing about people who freely give or receive it gives me the warm ’n’ fuzzies.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
A lesson from my mistakes: Don’t be too eager to “get up there.” Don’t get it in your head that you have to be published at 17 or a star at 21 or have your life together by 25, or 28, or 30. Or 40, or ever, really. Don’t look at the hard numbers of ages and compare your success to others’ based on how low that number is. Being published when you’re young and not yet ready is way worse than not being published till your forties or fifties.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I haven’t encountered it from any of my coworkers or fellow authors. I’m lucky enough to have LOTS of colleagues who are also asexual, and the queer romance sphere—where I’ve spent all my professional publishing time so far—tends to be a super supportive environment for people of all orientations and genders.
However, I have noticed pushback from readers when it comes to books with asexual main characters, especially m/m books with asexual characters, so that’s disheartening. I’ve seen readers go so far as to question why anyone would even want to write books about people who don’t want sex.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
There are two: (1) that we don’t have any sexual anything at all (2) that we can’t tell if someone’s attractive and/or can’t be attracted to people. With (1), there’s a huge misconception that we don’t masturbate or get aroused, and that’s waaaaay off base. In my experience, sex with yourself is a very different thing than sex with someone else, and ace people have all kinds of different levels of sex drive, just like allosexual folks.
And with (2), if I never have to see another “joke” where someone gasps dramatically because an ace person said Jason Momoa looks great soaking wet, it’ll be too soon.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Find someone asexual to talk to. Hell, talk to me. Through all my comings-out, being able to talk to other people who ID the way I ID has been invaluable. Obviously you can Google and learn everything you ever want to, but talking to a real live person who maybe shares your fears and doubts and questions of legitimacy is incredibly affirming.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
My website: http://www.jamesloke.com
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/jameslokewrites
Thank you, James, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.