Today we’re joined by Elizabeth Wambheim. Elizabeth is a phenomenal author who writes novels, novellas, and short stories. All her work features ace protagonists (how awesome is that!?) and it mostly falls in the fantasy genre. She has already written an ace retelling of Beauty and the Beast. She has also written a novel about the relationship between a male shepherd and a Viking woman. It’s clear she’s an incredibly passionate and creative individual who loves what she does, 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 the author of a small (so far!) body of published works that feature asexual protagonists and asexual relationships. My biggest work so far has been a novel titled More Than Enough which is a gay/ace retelling of Beauty and the Beast. My first piece was a novella titled Wolves in the Fold about a male shepherd and a female Viking navigating a relationship as well as language barriers. I love writing fantasy; reworking fairy tales; and establishing soft, supportive relationships between characters.
What inspires you?
Just about everything! Books, movies, television shows, video games, and even music can be a source of inspiration. If something catches at my attention, I file it away for use somewhere. My first story in high school had an ensemble casts because I loved the friendship/team dynamics between the four to eight main characters in the Tales series of video games.
Real-world relationships are also inspiring; if I notice an interesting dynamic between two people (be they friends, family, or coworkers), I’ll make a mental note of it and it might wind up as the building block of a fictional relationship. I also make use of personal experiences: I like to be able to step inside my characters and describe the way their emotions affect them physically. The easiest way for me to do that is to write from a place of understanding—where do my experiences overlap with this character’s? If I haven’t gone through exactly what they have, what comes close? What did it feel like to be there? After really good days and really bad days, I take a lot of notes about what happened and how I felt.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve been writing since elementary school, but it was mostly something I did for fun. I took Creative Writing classes all through high school and majored in English in college. After I graduated, I realized there weren’t many fictional partnerships that reflected my preferences or my experiences. I found the undercurrent of sexual tension between would-be romantic partners to be alienating and sometimes uncomfortable. So I started writing the stories I wanted to read.
While my writing is not what I want to depend on for a living, it is a vital part of my life. I love the puzzle of crafting a story from scraps of lived experience and fictional inspirations. Writing also helps me validate who I am and how I feel; it’s a privilege to know that my stories help other people, too.
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 love mythological and literary symbolism, so there are almost always elements of that in my stories, such as a scar used as a symbol of a character’s triumph over adversity or an oblique reference to the “eating of the pomegranate seeds” in the Hades/Persephone myth.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
You’re the only person in the world uniquely positioned to produce the work that 100% appeals to you in form and content. Work on what makes you happy.
Conversely, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing or you find that you’re bored with the piece, then take a break and don’t feel bad about taking a break. You’re a human being, not a machine! Treat yourself kindly and you’ll come back to the work when you’re ready.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Asexual and sex-repulsed as hell. I’ll say that I’m biromantic, but my take on romantic love is best described by that Pepe Silvia screenshot from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I’ve worked in public libraries for the last three years, and I haven’t experienced any prejudice from any of my coworkers, thankfully! But I’m also not really open at work (either about being ace or about being bi), so that might be part of it.
The only issue I’ve had has been that I have a really hard time shelving titles in the romance section. The covers make me kind of queasy (no one on them is wearing nearly enough clothes), so I just avoid working in that section as much as possible.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
On a general level: it’s a phase and something we’ll grow out of, or that there’s something inherently childish about it as an orientation.
On a personal level: being asexual means that I’m inherently not interested in (or incapable of having) a committed partnership with another person.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Where you are and how you’re feeling is okay! Give yourself space to figure out how who you are and how you feel. Don’t let anyone convince you that your truth isn’t a valid truth.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
https://ewambheim.wordpress.com/ is the hub for my published work. I have one short story there that you can read for free as a PDF, and it also includes links to the Amazon pages for Wolves in the Fold and More Than Enough.
https://ajumbleofpages.tumblr.com/ is the Tumblr I use for sharing writing updates.
Please also check out the Goodreads page for More Than Enough: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36327532-more-than-enough
Folx have left some very kind and heartfelt reviews there and on its Amazon page!
Thank you, Elizabeth, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.