Interview: Nathaniel Hicklin

Today we’re joined by Nathaniel Hicklin. Nathaniel is a wonderful writer who specializes in pulp adventure novels. He publishes with Sic Semper Serpent Books. His current project features a globe-trotting archeologist’s adventures and it sounds like there’s a few fantasy elements thrown in there as well. It’s clear that Nathaniel is a passionate writer with an amazing imagination, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I write novels, mostly in the pulp adventure genre. My current series is The Adventures of Dr. Israel St. James, a globe-trotting adventurer archaeologist who tracks down magical relics to contain them so they can’t wreak havoc and chaos on the world. The first book takes place in the mid- to late 19th century, and the upcoming second book covers the entire 20th century. The character doesn’t age, and a lot of the drama comes from him trying to deal with his condition and place in the world while he’s saving the world from tyrannical fairies, evil Nazis, and crazed Pinkerton agents.

What inspires you?

I drew my initial inspiration from shows like Doctor Who and Warehouse 13, things that intersect the mundane world with fantastic elements. These days, I get a little inspiration anytime I see something that mixes magical things in with the real world, making the real world seem that little bit more magical as a result. Superhero stories like The Avengers and stories about the little-known margins of history like Monuments Men always get me going, too.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I definitely didn’t always want to be an artist. I read almost exclusively non-fiction throughout my childhood. The only author I reliably read as a kid was Michael Crichton (I read all of Jurassic Park on a family road trip when I was about 9 or so). I got into Tom Clancy in high school, and I transitioned into Terry Pratchett in college.

For most of my college, I wanted to be an engineer. I mostly focused on math and science classwork, but I tried my hand at some story writing on the side, just to see what it might be like. (This was when the early comic book movies like Maguire Spider-Man and Blade were coming out, so I tried to see what kind of superhero story I could write.) I switched from engineering to theater because I discovered that I liked writing a lot more than calculus, but at first I doubted that I could actually make a living with writing. Then I looked over at my bookshelf full of novels, and I thought to myself, “Well, those people made it work. Why the hell can’t I give it a shot?” That was really what got me interested in the field of writing: the realization that it was actually possible to just write for a living, and have that be a real job.

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 don’t have a particular signature element I like to use in my writing. I usually write about characters who are smart and try to solve problems without a lot of violence, but that’s mostly just the kind of character I like to read about. (That’s a good rule of thumb for aspiring writers: write the story you’d like to read.) I try to do something a little bit new with each story, just to keep stretching my boundaries and broadening my horizons.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

If you want to try doing art, just do some art. If doing the art was fun, do more art. If the art is bad, figure out which parts are bad and make them better next time. If the art is good, figure out which parts are best and make everything that good. Don’t worry about getting people to like your art. If Rule 34 has taught us anything, it’s that absolutely anything can find its audience.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am ace, cis-male, heteroromantic, and as far as I can tell, sex-repulsed. I might be willing to try sex for someone I really, really liked, but I have limited experimental data on the matter. I also have Asperger’s, so that puts some limits on dating.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

The only way that being ace has directly impacted my work is that I tend not to include sex in stories. I like to have a good romance in there, but there is never anything physical directly featured in the text. The focus is always on the emotional intimacy, which I’ve always felt is the more important part anyway.

It was a bit of an impediment at first, because I used to leave out romance altogether. I didn’t really have any experience to draw from, and the stories never felt to me like they were missing anything. The story flowed logically and the plot made sense, so as far as I was concerned, everything was fine. Other people would say that they thought there should be a sex scene, and that never made sense, because the story would have to stop for the sex and continue where it left off afterward. I had to make a deliberate effort to write stories that had romance in them, but with some practice, I learned how to write stories that the straight folks could wrap their heads around.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

The most common wrong idea I’ve heard about asexuality is that the first sexual experience will cure it. Like, the only reason I’m ace is that I’ve never had sex. I’ve actually dreamt about having sex before, and I don’t recall feeling particularly excited afterward. My favorite dreams were always the ones where I had conversations where everything I said was just the right thing to say at the time, and I came across as the slickest dude on the planet. If the conversation was with a woman, all the better. I always liked to dream about perfect chemistry, not perfect sex.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Probably the best way to feel comfortable with my orientation was to build up self-confidence, and the best way for me to do that was to become an artist and be constantly working to get better at my art. If anyone tries to slight me for my orientation or accuse me of being dishonest with myself or whatever, I always just say to myself, “Screw you. I write awesome adventure books. I don’t care what you say. Write a novel or two and then come back at me about being ace.” Frankly, that’s a good self-help line if people slack off my writing, too. Anyone who wants to tear me down for fun is welcome to try doing what I do. This crap is hard.

That probably sounded a little aggressive, but that’s kind of what self-promotion does to a person. Meekly polite writers don’t get a lot of publicity.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Anyone interesting in learning more about my stories can visit SicSemperSerpent.com, the digital home of my publisher, Sic Semper Serpent. We can also be seen in person at fine literary conventions in and around the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.

Thank you, Nathaniel, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Jenn Basel

Today we’re joined by Jenn Basel. Jenn is a phenomenal asexual writer and performer who writes both original work and fanfiction. They write mostly gunpowder fantasy, which is similar to steampunk. For fanfiction, they write a number of stories set in the Elder Scrolls universe. They also blog about writing and publishing. When they’re not writing, Jenn is a performance artist who works with a  theater trope that primarily does living chess shows at Renaissance Faires. Jenn’s a stunt fighter trained both with a sword and in unarmed combat. It’s very clear they’re incredibly passionate about what they do, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a writer. I do a bit of blogging and I’ve got a pet Skyrim fanfic I update every couple of weeks, but the bulk of my work is original fantasy. I tend to write for adult audiences, and some of my favorite projects to work on are political stories filled with court intrigue and subterfuge. I primarily write gunpowder fantasy, which is sometimes called steampunk’s younger cousin–basically, gunpowder fantasy is fantasy set in fictional worlds with a level of technology equivalent to the real-world 17th to 19th centuries.

It’s very important to me to write about the characters I needed when I was younger, so my work tends to be very focused on the stories of queer and disabled people.

I’m also a performer. I have some experience acting in more traditional stage shows, but my real passion lies in improv theatre and performing as a living chess piece at my city’s annual Renaissance faire. Our shows are based around choreographed fights with a variety of weapons. I’m currently trained in unarmed combat and swordfighting.

What inspires you?

At the end of the day, I think what really keeps me going is the knowledge that I can be the person I needed when I was younger. I can write and perform queer, disabled characters being awesome. It makes me feel good to know that there are people out there who have told me how happy my work has made them, and how good it felt to see something of themselves.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I started telling stories when I was pretty young. I was an only child for twelve years and we lived out in the country, so I spent a lot of time by myself. I liked playing dress-up and acting out stories based on books and movies I loved. It wasn’t much of a leap to inventing stories of my own, and it didn’t take me long after that to start writing them down.

I don’t think it occurred to me that I could write down my stories to share with other people until a little later, but once that idea got lodged in my head, I took to it with gusto. My first attempts at novels were in middle school. I still have a lot of fondness for those stories.

The acting came pretty naturally out of my games as a kid, too. I wanted to be a stage actor for a long time after taking drama classes in middle school, but only recently did I finally get the opportunity. I’m very glad to have stumbled across my current acting troupe.

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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’m not sure if I’ve developed a signature in my writing yet, but in my acting and stage combat I’ve really gravitated toward sarcastic, sardonic characters and quick, witty performances. I like campy humor and characters with a sharp tongue. My fighting style is settling into a fast-paced whirlwind interspersed with one-liners, which I hope is just as fun to watch as it is to perform.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Make goals and stick to them as best you can, but also know your limits. I’ve hurt myself in the past by pushing myself too hard when what I really needed was to take a step back, rest, and take some time for other interests. It’s easy to fall into the trap of, “oh, if I don’t create something every day, I’m not a Real Artist,” but that’s not true at all. Follow your passion and your goals, but take care of yourself while you do it! It’s not a race, and you’re not in competition with your fellow creators. You can take your time, pace yourself, and take breaks when you need them.

This goes double if your art is in any way physical, like performing!

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identified as demisexual for a while before learning about grey-asexuality. There are times I feel what I think is sexual attraction, but I have to have a very strong emotional connection first, and even then it’s pretty unpredictable and fairly rare.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I’m fortunate to be in very supportive communities surrounding my fields, so fortunately I haven’t really encountered it there. But I have experienced prejudice and ignorance in other areas of my life, and it can be hard. In online spaces, where I’ve experienced the most backlash, I make liberal use of the block button, and I make it very clear when I’m done talking about a subject. When I find myself getting particularly overwhelmed, I get off the computer and go hang out with friends or play my go-to comfort game, the Sims.

Fortunately I haven’t experienced a lot of ignorance offline. The few times I’ve had to deal with ignorance, it’s been from people who were willing to listen to and carefully consider what I had to say.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

The most common misconception is probably that sexuality is all-or-nothing, and asexuals can only ever be “nothing.” In addition to identifying as grey-ace, I’m also grey-romantic, bi, and polyamorous. Sometimes I feel sexual and romantic attraction, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I experience one but not the other.

There are times I have sex with my partners, but that doesn’t make me any less asexual. And even if I never felt sexual attraction at all, attraction and action are different things. Plenty of asexuals enjoy sexual activity. Plenty don’t. But you can’t tell that just from somebody’s orientation.

The other misconception I think I run into the most is that if you’re ace, you’re automatically also aro. I happen to be both, but not everyone is. Asexuality and aromanticism are their own distinct identities, and even if they sometimes overlap, it’s inappropriate to lump them together as one.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

I felt deeply broken for a long time. There was a point I heavily considered going to the doctor, because I thought I was sick. It took me a good while to accept that there wasn’t anything wrong with me.

What I think helped me the most was finding a community. That is admittedly easier said than done, but I think it’s really important. I started following as many discourse-free positivity blogs as I could find, and I relied (and still rely) on the support of my partners when things are really rough. I found people who validated me and had similar lived experience, so I stopped feeling so alone. Again, it really is easier said than done, but it’s so much easier to push through the bad days if you can find people who have done it before and are doing it alongside you.

I highly recommend fuckyeahasexual on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. They share a lot of great content from a lot of great people, and they’ve done a lot to help me feel a little more connected. Another thing that’s helped is finding positive representation of asexuals in fiction

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

As for my writing, I can be found on Tumblr as at jennbasel. That Tumblr has links to my other social media, including Twitter. My main blog can be found at jennbasel.blogspot.com. I post fanfiction on AO3 as JennBasel, and my original fiction can be found on Medium at https://medium.com/@JennBasel. I also have a Patreon at patreon.com/jennbasel.

My theatre troupe, the Thieves Guilde, can be found at thievesguilde.org. We perform at events throughout Florida, most notably the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire.

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Thank you, Jenn, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: R

Today we’re joined by R. R is a phenomenal makeup artist who does a lot of character makeup. They’re also starting to do Harry Potter roleplay as well and dabble in photography. They’re very passionate about makeup, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I currently do character makeup/cosplay, but I am starting to do Harry Potter roleplay on my Tumblr blog. Most of my makeup is also Harry Potter, but I have tried Supernatural stuff as well. I enjoy photography, and I am currently in the process of improving my makeup application skills. This is a fairly new hobby, so I have a lot of room to improve my work.

What inspires you?

I’ve always enjoyed using makeup to create different characters, and I also enjoy acting, which is why I have started RP. My main inspiration is the HP RP community on Tumblr, as I follow many of their blogs and I really like their work. Makeup gives me the confidence to do things I wouldn’t normally do, and using it to portray characters is really exciting for me, because it allows me to express my support for my fandoms.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I haven’t always wanted to do this. It is a fairly new thing I’m doing, but I am enjoying it immensely. I have done character makeup in the past, for Halloween and fancy dress events, but I haven’t shared it on social media or made it a regular thing.

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 don’t, actually, unless you consider my face to be a special feature in my work? I do use my face a lot for my art.

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What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Just do what you love. Seriously, even if you don’t get any followers or any likes, do it anyway. If you truly enjoy it, then make the most of it, because it’s really, really fun. Even if you aren’t any good at first, keep trying because you will get better and better. It’s about the effort and time you put into things. People will see the passion in what you do, and they will ignore the little flaws.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual and aromantic.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I haven’t experienced anything like that (yet) but there is a lack of ace representation in this field (from what I’ve experienced at least).

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That we’re heterosexual. I know some people want to call themselves heterosexual when they are asexual, but to me this isn’t who I am.

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What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Um, I don’t really know. Being ace is always something I’ve been proud of, so I don’t know if I can give anyone any advice. What I will say is that you are all super valid and good people and you are wonderful. Be proud to be you, even if you don’t want to label yourself. Also, please don’t force yourselves into situations that make you uncomfortable, because that’s not good for anyone, especially you.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I have Tumblr, which is where I post my RPs and makeup pictures: amateurcharactermakeup42.

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Thank you, R, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Rebecca Wittenburg

Today we’re joined by Rebecca Wittenburg. Rebecca is a wonderful playwright who writes a lot of scripts for local community theaters. She’s currently working on a project that might be a book or a webseries. When she’s not writing plays, Rebecca also writes fanfiction. It’s very obvious that she’s an incredibly passionate writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a semi-professional script writer – which basically means that I write plays for theatre communities, but I don’t make enough money to live off it.

My co-writer and I have just finished writing our fourth play together, and we’re working on our next project, which will either become a book or a web-series (depends on whether we can get someone to invest in a web-series).

I’m also currently working on a novel based on the legend of King Arthur, except everyone is explicitly queer.

What inspires you?

Honestly everything can inspire me, but often it’s things like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones – I am very into the whole medieval thing. Most of my work is either original fantasy work or based on the Icelandic sagas about Viking heroes, so I do draw a lot of inspiration from that as well.

I’m also very interested in depicting sibling relationships, as I’m very close with my two brothers, and I like exploring the relationship between parents and their children when they disagree violently on something, or something tears them apart.

The latest play I’ve written is a fictional re-telling of the story of Harold Bluetooth and Sven Forkbeard (two of Denmark’s first kings, who were father and son), and the civil war they fought against each other because Harold became a Christian while Sven still believed in the Norse gods. What was important in that story, was to keep the focus on Sven and Harold, and make it very clear that neither of them is ‘the bad guy’ – they’re both humans in a very brutal, violent time, and they’re both absolutely sure that they’re right, and above all, they’re family and they love each other.

So, to sum it up, I draw inspiration from ancient legends and myths, from pop culture today, and from my own relationships with the people around me.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I grew up in a theatre-family and was six years old the first time I had a speaking role in a play. I’ve dreamt about writing plays since I was about seven years old, and my dad wrote his first play.

So basically, my dad got me into theatre and writing, and it turned out I was good at it.

I always knew I didn’t want to have a ‘traditional 9-to-5’ job, and I’ve always had a ton of stories in my head that I needed to tell. So I don’t think I ever had any other choice, to be honest.

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 always include at least one, obscure quote from some of Tolkien’s work; the play I wrote last year had a character quoting Gimli from Peter Jackson’s film version (“I have the eyes of a hawk and the ears of a fox.”), and there’s always at least one queer character, even if it’s not explicitly stated in the text.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Keep working. Draw and re-draw. Write and re-write. Sing and re-sing. Ok, the last one didn’t make sense, but I hope you know what I mean.

Keep working, keep fighting, keep telling your stories. They’re important.

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“The Quest for the Holy Grail”

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Biromantic grey-asexual.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

The closest to discrimination I’ve faced in my field is probably when I had people tell me that to keep their theatre ‘family-friendly’ I wasn’t allowed to write about explicitly queer characters, which I did anyway, because fuck that honestly.

That’s about the extent of it, thankfully, but that will probably change in the future.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That it means I can’t ever fall in love. Which is complete bullshit, obviously.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

To not listen to what anyone else has to say about it. I know that’s hard and all – I still struggle with it every day. But trust me, your opinion of yourself is the only one that really matters, and when you realise that (proper realise it, I mean, not just nod along to my opinion), that’s when you’ll be able to accept yourself, and live your best life.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I, unfortunately, don’t have a website yet, but you can check out the pictures and resumes of my last three plays at vikingespil.dk (the website is in Danish, but there should be an English version as well). My fanfiction can be found on archiveofourown.org (at ingoldamn).

And you are very welcome to contact me directly on Tumblr (at ingoldamn) or to shoot me an e-mail (becsen95@gmail.com).

Thank you, Rebecca, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Fishtanks

Today we’re joined by Fishtanks. Fishtanks is a wonderful visual artist who also does some writing. They mostly do fanart, but also do original work. When they’re not drawing, Fishtanks is working on a webcomic and also does zines. They’re very enthusiastic, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am mostly a fan artist of a company called Rooster Teeth, but I also do Original pieces, Zines, animatics, and you heard it here first, I’m working on creating a webcomic right now!

What inspires you?

My inspiration for a majority of what I do is a mix of determination and stubbornness. If I want to do something someone tells me I can’t I work ten times as hard to do it! I have people watching me every day, and I want everyone who does watch me to know they can do whatever their heart desires.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I actually never thought that I would be an artist in any capacity as a child. I was interested in engineering and medicine! What got me interested was in my sophomore year of high school, I started talking to my now best friend. He was always by himself drawing, so to get closer to him, I started drawing! Once I started, and my best friend encouraged me, I was hooked!

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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 sign all my works of course, but nothing particularly special!

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

If someone says you can’t do something, do it anyway. Prove them wrong. Work harder to get there. Know you can do anything you want when you work harder and look at things from a new perspective.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Regular ol’ asexual

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I have had a few times I have had to stop talking to people I enjoyed messaging because they either said aces aren’t real, or they don’t belong in the LGBT+ community, as well as left group chats.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Me complimenting a person or saying “She’s cute” and someone responding “But you’re ace.” Ace people can think someone is cute or attractive

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

It’s totally okay to be confused and questioning, and I even encourage it! Do not worry about saying you are something and then change it if you think it is wrong. Also, it is okay to not have a label for who you are, you are you, not a sum of labels!

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I post most on my Tumblr: http://emptyfishtanks.tumblr.com/
And YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClB2m2taU60U_br8hQ7P4og
But I also have Twitter: https://twitter.com/emptyfishtanks
And Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fishtanksart/

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Thank you, Fishtanks, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

New Site Rule

Hi everybody!

I’m just going to get right into it: I need to make a new site rule. It hasn’t often popped up, but with the rise of own voices in the ace community, I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with the erasure of ace POC and their voices. And I’m seeing a lot of white aces refusing to check their privilege and completely ignoring intersectionality (especially when it comes to ace activism). That has got to stop: acephobia is not the ultimate oppression and it’s experienced differently by different aces, depending on a number of factors. By white aces refusing to check their privilege, they are causing so much harm to ace POC.

And look, I know I’m just a little site about art, but I’m also an intersectional feminist. I can’t do much to change the dialogue in activist circles, but I can try to make this site as equal as it can be. That’s why I have an open door policy for interviews (mostly): if you create, than you’re an artist and I want to interview you.

Anyhow, the new site rule: Asexual Artists will not recommend or signal boost any list of “own voices” that does not include ace POC. Any list of “great ace and aro representation” that does not include ace authors/creators of color, will be edited out of interviews and not posted on this site. And it can’t be one fleeting mention of one POC author or creator among a sea of white authors or creators. They have to be at least in equal numbers and with equal coverage/mention.

I try to make this site as safe as it can be for everyone and I probably should have declared this rule much earlier. However, there it is and it will be enforced.

Thanks everyone!

Interview: Elliott Dunstan

Today we’re joined by Elliott Dunstan. Elliott is an awesome grey-ace trans writer who works in a couple different styles. He’s currently working on an online webnovel (found at Ghosts in Quicksilver), which features an ace main character. When he’s not working on his webnovel, Elliott also writes quite a lot of poetry and he has also published two zines. It’s very obvious that he’s incredibly passionate, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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Deep in the Bone

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a writer of poetry, mythic fiction and queer literature, and I’m happiest when I find those three things intermingling with each other. My primary project right now is Ghosts in Quicksilver, a web-novel about a 17-year-old wannabe private investigator who can speak to the dead. The book features characters from all over the queer spectrum, and the main character is an ace butch lesbian.

I’m also the author of two self-published zines, Deep in the Bone and Home Is Where The Ghosts Are, available in both print and digital formats on my Etsy store. They’re collections of poetry and a short story each, the first centered around mythology and the second telling the story of my semi-haunted apartment.

What inspires you?

Anything and everything. Music is a big one – certain songs inspire visuals which in turn become stories. I’m also inspired by the reflection of mythology onto modern day issues and vice versa; the story of Icarus projected onto somebody’s manic phase, the tale of the Golem in a world where AI is becoming a certainty, or the story of the forbidden love of Eros and Psyche recontextualized as a queer love story.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Always, always, always. I can’t remember a time I didn’t want to be a writer; I learned to read when I was two and how to write a few years later, and even from very early on I was scrawling poetry in margins. Not very good poetry, but poetry nonetheless.

As far as my genres and medium of choice, I prefer to have a certain amount of control over my work, and the business practices of Cory Doctorow is probably what inspired me the most directly to do a webnovel. It’s also a testament to old Dickens novels and Stephen King’s slightly more recent The Green Mile; serial novels have always been around in one form or another. My poetry zines are a little bit more directly inspired by ‘zine culture’ in indie writer/musician circles.  

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’m not really sure! I suppose there is symbolism I return to, but in general I think my ‘trademark’ would be the clash between darkness and humour. I have a very morbid sense of humour, so I manage to find something funny in almost everything I write. A girl seeing the ghost of her dead sister is scary. A girl arguing with her dead sister and hoping nobody else catches on is hilarious. Dionysus going to the Underworld is a myth. Dionysus catching a cab and striking up a casual conversation with the cabbie while terrorizing them into driving to the Styx is bizarrely entertaining.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

A couple things, I suppose. One, that the whole ‘keep writing no matter what’ phrase is true. It really is. But having a few bad days isn’t going to ruin everything. Two, your writing is never going to be perfect. But you have the right to talk it up like it is, to have pride in your own work, and to have the courage to open up to criticism and filter out the good from the bad. There’s a lot of culture around how you’re ‘supposed’ to talk about something you’re proud of, and I hate it. Be proud of what you’ve made, even if you know you’ll do better next time.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Oof. Uh, all over the place? Somewhere between gray-ace and demisexual, or both at once. Or maybe completely asexual – I haven’t been able to divide up how I feel about things accurately enough to really know. But I know I’m definitely somewhere in there. The actual label I think is less important than being in the right general area.

I’m also somewhere on the aromantic spectrum, although that one’s even harder to pin down. I just know I have a very different way and intensity of feeling those emotions, so

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I actually haven’t dealt with any direct ace prejudice in my artistic field, but I do see it a lot on the platforms where I try to market with social media. I generally deal with it by blocking and moving on – sometimes it means I’m cutting myself out of a potential audience but I consider it worth it.

Offline, it’s mostly the pressure to put romance in my books and stories even when it doesn’t fit, or sexual commentary on my characters when it really, really isn’t appropriate. I have no interest in explaining to people whether my asexual character is a ‘top’ or a ‘bottom’. I count that as ignorance because it’s the running assumption that I’m writing a YA book, it must have something to do with sex. Otherwise teenagers won’t pay attention. Whereas what I’ve discovered is that teenagers and young adults are actually thirsting for a book that doesn’t treat these topics as the be-all, end-all of human existence.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

You can’t be asexual and attractive. You can’t be asexual and still have sex. You can’t be asexual and gay. You can’t be ace from trauma. You can only be ace from trauma. If you’re aromantic, you don’t have a heart. You can’t be aro and ace, that’s just boring.

Basically, there’s too many to count. Asexuality is critically, functionally misunderstood in both mainstream straight communities and queer/LGBT+ circles. I think if I had to pick one, though, it’s the idea that asexuality is just ‘straight lite’ or ‘gay lite’. Being on the ace spectrum doesn’t make my attraction to men or women any less potent – it’s just a different way of feeling and expressing that attraction. And the ‘gay lite’ in particular upsets me because, if two guys are walking down the street holding hands, no homophobe is going to stop and ask if they’re having sex.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

That it’s okay to identify as ace and/or aro. Whether it ends up being temporary, whether it’s a reaction to trauma, whether it’s something you’ve known for years, whether it poked up its head yesterday – it’s okay to identify this way. A lot of people are going to try tell you that it’s not, or that it’s a phase (and what’s so wrong with phases?) and honestly? Ignore them. Your identity is yours to negotiate, nobody else’s.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

You can find me at moonlitwaterwriting.tumblr.com or at elliottmoonlit on Twitter. My Etsy is AnachronistPanic and linked on my Tumblr page, and if you want to read Ghosts in Quicksilver, it’s up to read for free at ghosts-in-quicksilver.tumblr.com.

Thank you, Elliott, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.