Today we’re joined by Alena Matuch. Alena is a phenomenal writer and visual artist who enjoys writing fantasy, often taking inspiration from mythology. Aside from writing fiction, Alena also writes fanfiction and personal essays. She’s also an incredibly talented visual artist and considers illustration to be part of her writing process. She very obviously has a great amount of passion, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m both a writer and an artist. I’m hugely interested in Fantasy and Mythology and how those forces are woven into how we see the world. Most of my work is fantastic or has some bizarre element that doesn’t fit in with how the world typically works. You can see some of my stuff on Tumblr and I also love to play around in fanfiction. I’m currently working on a novel about Norse Mythology from the point of view of a canonically genderfluid god.
As for my art, I work primarily in watercolors and ink. Arthur Rackham, Edward Gorey and Chris Riddell are huge influences on my illustrative style. I see my drawings as an extension of my writing. There’s something so special about seeing your characters standing before you with your own eyes, seeing how exactly it is that they move about their respective stories. Painting them helps me to see them more clearly as people and (hopefully) write them into better stories.
What inspires you?
Small things that very few people notice. A misplaced line of text, never explained, but important. I like the stories of people that were written out of history, whom the Arbiters of Good Taste decided were not worth the ink or time. I look for places, feelings, states of being that are largely unexplored and considered terrifying, until you know the lay of the land.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Most definitely! I was writing stories about my classmates in grade school and had a multi-chapter saga about an alien invasion from Mars by fifth grade. In kindergarten I convinced a friend that I had 100 kittens living in my home. He was extremely disappointed when he came over for my birthday party and could only find one.
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?
I used to do a small doodle of the Cauldron of Inspiration next to my signature on works of art. It’s a common motif in Germanic and Celtic mythology representing fertility, birth and raw creative power. Maybe I should bring it back.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Listen to what your body is telling you. For the love of God, get up and take a walk once in a while. Don’t punish yourself for taking breaks. You need time to be a human being as well as an artist, to let your mind drift into things that aren’t related to what you’re working on. It is okay. And you’ll come back to work so much stronger than you were before.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I am a demi lesbian. I also identify as Butch.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
No. Of course, I’m not out about it at all.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
The biggest misconception I’ve ever run into was for the longest time my own. For almost my entire life I had no idea that there was a spectrum at all, that there was any such thing as demisexuality. I knew that I could and was getting along just fine without a partner. My sex drive was never something that had any bearing on my life. And yet, every once in a long while, I did feel something for someone else. So I couldn’t actually be ace, right? I stumbled over the definition of demisexuality by sheer accident in an offhand comment on the YouTube channel of my favorite sex educator and learned something about myself that day.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
The single thing that helped me the absolute most in coming to grips with my orientation was this little comic that drifted across my feed one day. I have no idea who drew it or where it came from. I didn’t think to save it at the time, but the idea of it stuck in my mind, giving me peace and hope as I struggled to figure out who exactly I was.
In it, the protagonist is deeply questioning their orientation and visits an “Orientation Shelter” to figure it out. The proprietor kindly shows them around, gently easing their confusion. She unlocks the first door.
“Maybe you like men?” she asks, gesturing inside.
The room is filled with men of all shapes and sizes, kissing, embracing, gazing lovingly into each others’ eyes. The protagonist shakes their head, getting more irked by the minute by a question which they thought should have an easy answer.
The proprietor pats them on the back and says it’s okay. She unlocks the second door.
A room full of beautiful women. Romantic picnics, holding hands, lips locking.
The protagonist turns away in despair. They think there’s something wrong with them, that they’ll never find what they’re looking for. But there is one more door left to try.
The key turns in the lock and they step through the portal into a vast, open field, the sun gleaming on the swaying blades of grass. The land is filled with all kinds of people – artists, dreamers, athletes kicking a ball across the green, an astronomer gazing through a telescope. In that room there is represented every faucet of creativity that can be imagined, every color of sheer joy that has ever been painted.
I keep that image in my head when the thoughts that I am lacking in something come back to haunt me. I hold it in my heart and remember that this is who I am, that these are the things I love.
I am lacking in nothing and the entire world waits for me to bend it to my will.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Check me out on Tumblr at Neriad13.Tumblr.com. The “My Art and “My Writing” tags are a very good place to start.
I also post fanfiction on Ao3 (http://archiveofourown.org/users/Neriad13/pseuds/Neriad13) and Fanfiction.net (https://www.fanfiction.net/u/4296233/Neriad13) under the same handle.
I post art on Deviantart (http://neriad13.deviantart.com/), though I am falling a bit behind on that one.
Thank you, Alena, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.