Interview: Montiese McKenzie

Today we’re joined by Montiese McKenzie. Montiese is a phenomenal author who recently published her first novel entitled Blood of my Blood (congratulations!). It’s a supernatural thriller with a fascinating plot involving a mysterious disappearance and a hidden world deep in the nation’s capital. Montiese’s 2nd novel will be released in January.  It’s clear she’s an incredibly talented author with a great voice and I can’t wait to read what she has in store next. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

me at comic con

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a writer. I write fiction and just self-published my first book, Blood of my Blood. I’ve been writing since I was eight years old, spent my teen years writing stories instead of paying attention in school. In 2005, in my late twenties, I discovered fanfiction and began to write for a few different fandoms over the years. I still dabble in fanfic, it’s always been a great way to hone your skills. My goal has always been get your stories out to as many readers as you can, it didn’t matter if it was original stories or fanfiction.

What inspires you?

People. One of my biggest goals in writing is to get to the center of people. Human beings are so complicated, with more dimensions and facets than you can count. My inspiration from them is limitless really. Especially when you add in people interacting with other people, which is what storytelling is all about. Also, I grew up on soap operas so multilayered stories with large ensemble casts are my weakness.

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

I started writing at 8, which is pretty young. It was an assignment in my 4th grade class to write a story. We actually made our own books, stories, covers, bindings, everything. The only thing I ever truly wanted to be before that was a nature photojournalist for National Geographic, which is a pretty creative job. Both of my parents are artists, my mother wrote stories and my dad is a graphic artist and musician so I guess I came by it 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?

Even though I was born at the end of the 70s, I grew up on things from the 70s and before so there are lots of references to those things in my stories. Television, books, and movies. Most of the characters I write are older than me so it fits in with who they are as people. But there are times when I get emails or messages from younger readers who may not understand a reference. I love teaching people about the stuff I love so it’s cool. Golden age of Hollywood and 70s television pop culture references are really my favorite thing.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Hone your skills with lots of practice and school if that’s possible for you. Don’t let the bad voices shout you down, they will always be there, but also get used to constructive criticism early. That took me forever and I still struggle with it because I spent so long not sharing my work, when I finally did some reactions to it were difficult for me. If you’re a writer, read as much as you can. There is no lesson more fulfilling than a good book. Find a creative tribe and help each other grow, learn, and take the knocks life as a creative can dole out. Never, ever give up on your art if you love it.

me blackout 10

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Grey ace. I’m somewhere in the middle, which is kind of the story of my life. I identify as a biromantic gray asexual. I love and appreciate romance but rarely, if ever, feel sexual attraction. For a long time I didn’t know what that meant, I think sexual attraction is a hard thing to measure when you start talking about romantic attraction, physical attraction, aesthetic attraction; it took me a long time to divide and define those things and I actually still work on it.

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

Some people have asked me how I can write sex and romance if I’m asexual. I get that more than I ever expected and it boggles my mind. I’m a writer, I just make it up though I do try to keep the core of my characters steeped in the reality of how most humans are. Also being creative allows me to tap into what a fictional person is feeling or experiencing completely separate from myself. I’m not writing my life, I’m writing someone else’s.

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

That something is wrong with us. For so long we’ve been taught that sexual intercourse is a basic need, like food, water, and sleep. So when people encounter someone who doesn’t feel or experience sexual attraction, they wonder (sometimes aloud) if it is a mental or medical condition. They wonder “who hurt you?” They should be more concerned with why the patriarchy insists sex is a basic need.

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

Get to know yourself and don’t let anyone label you. I didn’t come out as bisexual until 2009 and asexual in about 2015. It took a long time to put words to what I experienced and felt (or didn’t feel). I would tell them to live, experiment, have many different kinds of friends, and do what makes your body and spirit happy. Don’t be in a rush to declare that you are anything, for so many sexuality is fluid over a lifetime.

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

I have a blog, montiesethewriter.com, which I promise I’ll be doing more blog entries on in 2018. My first novel, Blood of my Blood, was self-published through Amazon in September 2017. It’s currently available in both eBook and paperback. My second novel, The Providence of Human Affairs will be released in January 2018. This is the link to my first book: http://a.co/6uhzMn9.

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

Interview: Casey Ashwood

Today we’re joined by Casey Ashwood. Casey is a wonderful author who recently just published his first ace book. While he mostly writes M/M gay romances, Casey is hoping to bring more ace characters into the romance genre. It’s a great and important goal. Casey is an incredibly dedicated and passionate artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

chasetheaceebook
“Chase the Ace” book

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m an indie gay (M/M) romance author. I focus a lot on the relationship between characters and how they experience intimacy. My stories tend to have contemporary settings and are on more of the light and fluffy side. My work does contain adult content because most romance readers very much expect to see sexy times in their stories.

Although my catalogue currently mostly contains books featuring gay cis men as main characters, I want to branch out and write more genders and sexualities. It’s tricky to market anything that isn’t gay cis men romance, but I’m hoping the audience will one day be more open to other representations of the LGBTQIA+ community.

I recently published my first ace novel, which I’d love to get more attention for! It’s called Chase the Ace and can be found here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078BQ14Y5 I really enjoyed writing it and have gotten positive feedback from it so far. If I can get the novel enough attention, I’d love to turn it into a series. We definitely need more ace representation.

What inspires you?

The main drive behind writing what I do is the hope that I can put out some positive representations of the community, especially as someone that is LGBTQIA+ myself. I also want to challenge how a lot of mainstream LGBT romance stories are written. For example, a lot of books really hone in on homophobic themes. While I also have to include such themes sometimes just to sell my books, I try not to make it my main focus. Many of us face that kind of stuff in real life on a daily basis—the last thing we want is to read it in our books.

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

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and have written stories since I was a very young child. I always have words in my head and stories in my heart, as corny as that sounds. Although I’ve bounced around awhile to make ends meet, I’ve finally been able to focus on being an author as my career. I hope to be able to keep it that way!

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?

For my latest story, Chase the Ace, for those of us that are ace, the title is pretty self-explanatory. However, the phrase is also the name of a card game. I have a Newfoundland background, and the game is particularly popular as a lottery of sorts. The jackpots can become very high!

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I don’t think I can offer anything that hasn’t already been said before. All I can say is just work at your craft and give it your all. Some days will always be more productive than others, so make sure you take care of yourself (both mentally and physically). On the days that you’re not feeling so productive, try not to beat yourself up over it. There’s always tomorrow.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as ace, and have for a good few years now. I can’t 100% say that I’m not demisexual, but I feel much more contented to simply use asexual as it is.

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

I haven’t come across any outright ace prejudice or ignorance in my field yet because I tend to just chug along and do my own thing. However, it’s very annoying to feel as though I have to write steamy scenes in my stories just to ensure it sells. I’d love to be able to showcase more that you can have a deeply loving, meaningful, and committed relationship without sex.

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

The most common misconception I’ve come across is the usual “you just haven’t found the right one” sort of thing. I’m in my thirties now, though, so I don’t hear variations of it quite as often anymore.

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

You don’t have to choose one label and stick with it your entire lives. Be fluid. Experiment. If something doesn’t sit well with you, try something else. Changing labels doesn’t make you a fraud. You’re just human, and we’re all wondrously intricate.

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

People can learn more about my work through:

My Amazon product page: https://www.amazon.com/Casey-Ashwood/e/B01B4V13HW
My email newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bMA8ir
My email address: caseyashwood@gmail.com
My Tumblr: https://caseyashwood.tumblr.com
My Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/caseyashwood

Thank you very much for your time!

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