Interview: Shelby Eileen

Today we’re joined by Shelby Eileen. Shelby is a phenomenal poet who has recently released a book of poetry entitled Soft in the Middle. She uses poetry to express herself and has an amazing dedication to her art. It’s clear she’s a dedicated artist with an incredibly bright future, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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Please, tell us about your art.

My art, currently, is poetry. I have one self-published poetry collection titled Soft in the Middle and almost all of my WIPs are also poetry. Writing is something I’ve always, always done and poetry has long been my preferred way to express myself in writing. I think my art has always had a lot to do with communication even if I didn’t always know it; trying to communicate better not only with others but also with myself. Picking the right words and putting them together in such a way that I feel I’ve finally made sense of something is the best thing about what I do.

What inspires you?

The thought that there is really nothing that has already been created that is exactly like what I have the potential to create. I don’t know if it’s naïve or self-centered to think, but my own individuality inspires me. Other asexual artists inspire me. Self-published poets inspire the absolute heck out of me. There’s something so pure and immeasurable about their success- they are literally the embodiment of that “she believed she could so she did” sentiment and I think that’s so badass.

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

Yep, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Even before that though, I’ve always wanted to be an editor. Reading got me into this whole world and I’ve never felt like I was meant to do anything else but work with authors and be an author myself.

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 think I do, or at least, not yet. I haven’t been at this long enough to figure that out. I would almost prefer to have readers pick up on a “unique signature” on their own, whatever that could be, without me actively trying to tie all of my works together. I find myself focusing a lot more on the differences between my projects than on the similarities anyway.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Make friends with people who are already doing what you want to do! Social media is a great way to do that.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual. Since figuring out that I’m ace I’ve grown to absolutely love that part of myself. The label brings me a lot of comfort and peace. I also identify as queer, bi, and somewhere on the aromantic spectrum.

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

Online and in the poetry/writing community, no. I have yet to see anyone criticize my work specifically for reflecting my asexuality. My family and many of my irl friends haven’t ever commented on my asexuality though, and seeing as I explicitly state that I am asexual in my work, it definitely feels like they avoid it because they’re confused or made uncomfortable by it. Silence and passivity on the matter can hurt just as much as outright objection or disapproval. That doesn’t feel nice but it’s not the absolute worst reaction I could get, I suppose. I handle it by constantly reminding myself that my work is first and foremost for me and no one else. Even if I don’t show it or admit to it often, no one is more proud of me than me for what I’ve accomplished so far- as long as I feel pride in what I do, negative reception is easier to deal with.

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

Oh god. That asexuality and the mere concepts of sex and intimacy can’t overlap at all. That asexuals are just straight people weaseling their way into the LGBTQIAP+ community. Asexuality as a sexual/mental health issue. Asexuals are broken. Asexuality isn’t real. Everyone is demisexual. Asexuals can’t have relationships. It’s disgusting how common it all is.

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

It’s REALLY okay to question stuff and be unsure or even unhappy with where you’re at in regards to your orientation. You’ve come this far on your own and that’s something to be proud of. You should never hesitate to investigate, dissect, confront, and share all of the feelings you have. I dealt with orientation struggles/ general unhappiness by seeking out a bunch of books with asexual characters. A lot of them made me feel so much better about myself- quite frankly, it made me feel like less of a freak. Getting swept up in stories with characters that you can relate to that get a happy ending is great medicine.

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

Amazon buy link for soft in the middle! http://a.co/fLDIzIw

Goodreads page! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36812982-soft-in-the-middle

My Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr are all at briseisbooks. My social medias are not exclusively for my writing, they do contain a good amount of personal content as well!

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

Interview: Alexa Baird

Today we’re joined by Alexa Baird. Alexa is a phenomenal visual artist and writer who is so ridiculously creative. They’re a fellow indie author who has self-published a number of novels and novelettes, which can be found on Amazon (look them up and supported a fellow ace). They also has a wonderful webcomic entitled Selfinsertale, which looks absolutely fascinating. Also, they’re a fellow Star Trek fan, which is awesome. Alexa is so passionate and dedicated, 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.

My main art is writing. I write and self-publish novels and novelettes about a wide cast of characters including humans, robots, and magical beings, sometimes all in the same book. I’ve even taken to illustrating some of my more recent novels though I’ve been creating visual art since childhood. I also like to create comics and started my current webcomic series in 2016.

What inspires you?

I always like to say that tea helps with my creative-tea, but a lot of my inspiration comes from conversations with my friends and the ideas we spark together about our characters, how various characters would interact, etc. A lot of my ideas come from the desire to see a specific audience reaction that I test run by sharing these ideas with my friends.

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

Starting in elementary school, my family and some of my teachers encouraged my artistic pursuits, though growing up I would jump from visual arts, to crafts, to music, to visual arts again, and also to writing. I used to hate writing as a result of the standardized tests I had to take when younger, but after being introduced to the concept of fan fiction and original characters I started to spend a lot of time in middle school creating my own stories as a coping mechanism. Over time I stuck with it and created more and more stories and characters until I got to where I am today with my novels and comics.

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?

It’s subtle and not always consistent, but in a lot of my novels or series I try to fit in the word “trek” at some point in it as a nerdy, small reference to Star Trek.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t be afraid to try new types of art and don’t be afraid to change your mind on what sort of artist you are. Maybe you start out as a writer but you want to try making crafts and find you have more fun with crafts and don’t want to write any more. That’s fine! Do what makes you happier in the end. Or maybe you’re a musician who tries painting a few times but end up not liking it. That’s fine too! You gained experience just from trying something you don’t normally do. Or maybe you try all sorts of things and have several different types of art you like and want to pursue. More power to you then, buddy. Trying new things always gives you more insight, and if you find something you prefer to do over what you had been doing before then the insight you gained is one of exploring more about yourself and your desires.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m ace and aro.

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

I’ve mainly seen prejudice remarks said to others rather than to me directly but it’s always hurtful to see. I find the best way to handle it is to support those who deal with this ignorance to let them know they aren’t alone in their identity and to understand that while those who are hateful may be the loudest, they are not the majority and there are ultimately more kind people in the world than there are bad.

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

That asexual people don’t belong in the LGBT+ community, usually due to people insisting that asexual people are actually straight. The most common misconception I see is that a lack of sexual attraction can let a person pass as straight, or that it means they actually are straight, and therefore that we aren’t queer enough to be part this community.

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

Asexuality is a normal and valid thing, and there are more people out there who are also asexual than you can count. Though the common statistic is only one percent of the world is asexual, that would still mean 76 million people in this world are also asexual, and I don’t think this takes into account those who due to societal norms don’t realize they are asexual as well. There is a large community here that can help and support you, and even if you can’t reach out to them personally they are still here if you ever need them and will be willing to help you as well.

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

You can find my books on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/author/alexabaird and my webcomic at http://selfinsertale.smackjeeves.com/ and bonus content at my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/alexabaird

My main Tumblr and my Instagram username is allislaughter. And my Twitter is allislaughterEX.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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“Chase the Ace” book

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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.