Today we’re joined by Nessie. Nessie is a phenomenal playwright from Scotland who is also working on the first draft of her first novel. When she’s not writing, Nessie also acts and directs. Nessie also participates in a medieval re-enactment society as well. It’s very clear that she has an incredible amount of passion and dedication, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I am a playwright, a writer more generally, an actor, and a director. I also LARP, and I am part of a mediaeval re-enactment society. I have written eight plays so far, three of which have been performed – one of them twice, the second time under a new title, Shakespeare Syndrome, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2016 – and one of which had extracts read from it by professional actors at the Traverse Theatre, as part of my MSc Playwriting programme. I will graduate in November this year and recently received my degree award; I will be graduating ‘With Merit’!
My plays so far have most been quite dark, and often historically inspired. My two most recent scripts were inspired by the lives of mediaeval queens (Margaret of Anjou and Mary of Guelders, the wife of James II of Scotland), while my first ever script, This Breathing World, was heavily influences by Shakespeare’s Richard III and was set in space; I actually have a short lived Tumblr blog about my experience directing the show if you’re interested (http://thisbreathingworld-play.tumblr.com). Funnily enough, my play that has been performed twice, and at the Fringe no less, was my first foray into comedy; Antic Disposition, later retitled Shakespeare Syndrome, is a play in which several of Shakespeare’s characters visit a psychiatrist, and things go about as well as one might expect.
What inspires you?
Shakespeare’s History plays, actual history, books I read, people and events in my life and, more recently, situations and characters from the shared universe my friends and I have in LARP. My first book, which I plan to start working on as part of NaNoWriMo, is inspired by one of my characters and his family, but this character was in turn inspired by a number of different historical figures and events, from Pope Alexander VI to the Spanish Inquisition. He’s… he’s a bit of a mess. Although he is asexual, so he has that going for him, haha!
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I have always wanted to be a writer, since I was seven years old and ‘wrote’ my first ‘book’; basically I copied out Rapunzel and drew illustrations for it, and I specifically remember her having a triangular orange dress! I briefly swapped from wanting to be a writer to wanting to be an actor when I was in high school, but I’ve always been a writer, really; whether through writing reviews for an online publication (Broadway Baby), doing one of my degrees in English and the other in Playwriting, or making up stories with my friends when I was younger (and I still do that, to be honest)! I wrote fanfiction for a while in high school – for CATS: The Musical and Dickens books mostly, because I was, and am, a person of very niche interests. For a long time my magnum opus was a fifty-three chapter fanfic called Bill Sykes detailing the backstory of the violent thug from Oliver Twist! I started writing plays during my second year of undergrad and playwriting has been my jam ever since.
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?
Honestly, my characters die a lot, but I wouldn’t say that’s a signature, more a worryingly frequent feature! A lot of them also tend to be quite wordy, and that’s a problem I have as a self proclaimed ‘word nerd’, having done two degrees with creative and analytical slants; my characters and I tend to use several words were only a few would do. One of the exceptions to this rule is Frank Lovell, my version of Shakespeare’s Francis Lovell, who was himself a historical figure; he tends to say very little and, when he does speak, it’s monosyllabic.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
I know it’s a cliché but I would say never give up on your art, you will only get better with practice. I look back on my older scripts now and I realise how far I’ve come, especially since I was lucky enough to be able to pursue a degree in Playwriting to better understand how scripts are written and how they work. I would also say be ruthless when it comes to editing, if you’re a writer; I had a first draft of a play once that was around eighty pages long, and it was only meant to be around an hour long in performance. If it had stayed eighty pages it would have taken around two hours! I would also say, again for writers, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite; your first draft is not perfect – and don’t worry, it’s not meant to be! It doesn’t have to be, it just has to exist. As my playwriting tutor used to say, a first draft is a pile of shit with occasional nuggets of gold. She was a very unusual woman.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I identify as a biromantic asexual. It took me a long time to get to this point, from questioning my sexuality, to thinking I was bisexual; I didn’t even know what asexuality was until very recently! I am now pretty comfortable calling myself asexual, and my friend recently bought me a shirt for my birthday that says ‘Asexual pirate isn’t interested in your booty’ (Look Human is an incredible website and has a huge range of ace themed shirts, accessories and so on. They’re not paying me to say that, I just adore this website!), which I hope to debut in public sometime soon, as it’s my first piece of clothing/accessory or anything that displays pride colours.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I’ve honestly been very quiet about my sexuality in public, as I feel it’s on a need to know basis, though a lot of my friends know. My family sort of knows (long story) and my Dad will sometimes make jokes about me needing to find the right person, but I know he’s joking so it’s OK. I have encountered a lot of ignorance online though, but as I haven’t encountered it personally, the ignorance being directly at the orientation and not me specifically, I can’t really say how I have handled it. I am more open about my sexuality online, and feel I’m able to be more proud of it there, as I have encountered a very loving and supportive community; in the real world, I’m not sure, and in fact I know, not everyone I know would be so understanding, sadly including some members of my immediate family.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Oh gosh, in my quest for discovering who I was/what asexuality was I encountered so many misconceptions; humans aren’t plants, that’s not a real orientation, you’re an emotionless robot, how can you not be interested in sex?, what’s wrong with you?, who hurt you? etc. No one hurt me, nothing’s wrong with me, I’m ace and that’s a-OK!
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
I would say that it’s perfectly valid to struggle with your orientation, especially when sex and sexual attraction seem to be regarded as the key to all happiness these days! No matter where you are on the spectrum and no matter your struggle, you are valid and you are loved. You don’t have to have it all figured out, now or in the future, and there is nothing wrong with you! You are not broken, or weird, or going through a phase. You are who you are and you should be proud of yourself. ❤
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
I am in the process of trying to put together a website but it’s very slow going. Occasionally – very occasionally – I will say something about my work on Tumblr, so that’d be the best place to hear about my work for now. For more about some of my plays, if you Google ‘Shakespeare Syndrome Edinburgh Fringe’ you may be able to find some reviews of the last play I had performed, and I think if you search ‘This Breathing World play review’, you may come across some reviews for my first ever play, from 2014!
Thank you, Nessie, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.