Today we’re joined by Sarah Viehmann. Sarah is a phenomenal author whose debut novel, Unrooted, is scheduled to be released this winter. Unrooted is a retelling of Snow White that features two protagonists on the ace spectrum. When she’s not writing novels, Sarah frequently blogs about fairy tales and sometimes about asexuality. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate writer, 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 am a novelist writing adult fantasy, a series of fairy tale retellings beginning with Unrooted, debuting Winter 2018 with REUTS Publications. The first book retells the “Snow White” fairy tale and features protagonists on the ace spectrum, along with other LGBT+ characters, disabled characters, and characters of color. Unrooted is the first in a series of five books called The Iridia Series.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the human impulse that drives us to tell stories. How do we use stories to communicate deep needs within the individual and the community? How do stories changes based on who is telling them? How have stories changed and how will they continue to change in the future? My fairy tale retellings seek to explore, if not answer, these questions.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
When it comes to fairy tales, I was introduced to them by my father reading me Three Billy Goats Gruff and similar fairy tales before bed at night. I also frequented the local library and always went directly toward the 398.2 section where fairy tales are housed. As for writing, I tend to joke that I’ve been writing since I could hold a marker, but that really isn’t too far off from the truth! I’ve always been inventive and a lover of words, so combining those two things into writing seemed to be incredibly natural for me.
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 goodness . . . I’m not sure how to best answer this. I think the themes that appear most frequently in my work include mother-daughter relationships, women who have lost and regain their voices, and attention to language. There are also many elements from my academic study of literature that appear in my work, such as structuralism and mise en abyme (the mirror in the text), and those who might be familiar with such ideas should be able to pick them out.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Do it, and do it for yourself. Disregard any thoughts of “what if no one likes it?” It’s yours to like, and what other people think only matters once the work is done and/if you decide to share it. Don’t let the input of others affect your creative process, because then the work won’t be true to you.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I identify as asexual and grey-biromantic. The latter part of that is more nebulous for me and I slide around a lot. I tend to find cis-women and nonbinary people more aesthetically attractive than cis-men, but that could be a matter of circumstance than anything else!
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Yes. I once pointed out amisia in a very popular book series that appeared in the preview a few days before the newest book release. I spent a weekend fending off aggressive anons on tumblr telling me I’d read it wrong and I shouldn’t be upset by it. It’s difficult being in the minority of writers and readers who can and do point out things like that in published writing (and that’s not the only example). I still find it very important to point these things out so readers and writers alike learn, but it’s always a little uncomfortable having to be That Person. In addition to that, I try and model positive ace and aro representation in my own writing as a model for what I as an ace and grey-ro person would like to see in writing.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Recently, I think it’s the idea that ace people don’t like sex or are disgusted by it. That’s not the experience of all ace people, and it shouldn’t be a stereotype. That said, the experience of those who are sex-repulsed should be respected.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
It’s okay to try on labels to see what fits. You’re not betraying anyone by adjusting the label over time to figure out what fits you best. I had to play around with my romantic orientation a lot before I decided on one, and I’m still not wholly committed to it. Also, seek out other ace folks, because on the whole I find we’re an incredibly kind and welcoming community willing to help you figure things out if you have questions.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
My official website is www.sarahviehmann.com, but I’m most active on Tumblr (sarahviehmann.tumblr.com) and Twitter at SarahViehmann. You can also find Unrooted on Goodreads! Please stay tuned for its release and other exciting things leading up to the release date!
Thank you, Sarah, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.