Today we’re joined by Jessica. Jessica is a wonderful fanartist and does quite a bit of performance art as well. She writes mostly fanfiction. When she has the chance, Jessica also enjoys participating in musical theater. It’s very apparent that she 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’m a writer! Primarily fanfiction, though I give original fiction an attempt every once in a while (I don’t seem to have any original ideas, sadly, or maybe it’s just that I genuinely like fanfiction better). I’ve also been performing for most of my life: singing in a trio with my mother and sister, choir when possible, and performing in various musical theater productions. Sadly, I don’t get to perform as much as I’d like to nowadays. Writing you can do anywhere and anywhen, but full-scale theatrical productions are a lot harder to fit into a busy schedule.
What inspires you?
Where writing is concerned, it’s the sheer complexity within every human being. Every character is a world unto themselves, a host of motivations and drives that makes for so much dynamism. Real people are fascinatingly full of conflict, and therein lies the potential for any given scenario to believably go a hundred different ways. How could I restrain myself from exploring all those possibilities, every choice A and choice B? Honestly, I think that’s why fanfiction appeals to me more than original works. Fanfiction provides a space for individual characters to…spread out. It gives thousands of people with differing perspectives the chance to offer up their interpretations and let them intersect, providing a fantastically intricate portrayal of a character who would otherwise only be a fraction as evolved. And once I get to know a set of characters so deeply, I find it very difficult to return to published works where I only get 300 pages and barely scratch the surface! I want to know people (re: characters), and if the author doesn’t provide me with enough depth, then I’m compelled to explore them myself, drop them in new and different scenarios and feel my way through their reactions until I’m content with what I’ve found.
With performing, it’s all in the music. There’s something transcendental in harmony, I think, when a well-tuned chord can make your soul shiver. There’s nothing more satisfying than being a part of good music.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I was always an avid reader. In fact, I completely disregarded regular forms of human interaction as a child in favor of reading Harry Potter as often as possible. Then I was introduced to fanfiction by a friend in maybe sixth grade and I was sold. I started writing it at about the same time (mostly terrible attempts at smut, just mirroring the equally terrible smut my friend gave me to start with, lol) because how could I not? I never really stopped writing, one thing or another, and now I have a degree in Creative Writing and a to-be-written list a mile long! Whether I ever get the inspiration to write an original work or not, I’ll never stop writing something.
As for the performing? Well, that wasn’t even a choice! My mother always says it was cheaper for her and dad to breed a band than to hire one, so my sister and I were raised to it. So there’s the family band with all four of us, but also the girls’ trio. My mother had a trio with two friends of hers, and they almost made it big! Made it to NYC and got onto a talk show and everything before they broke up for families instead, and me and my sister grew up listening to their CDs, so it was only natural for us each to pick a part and follow in their footsteps. Tight a cappella harmonies like the Andrew Sisters and the perfect blend of voices that comes with family. And finally, my mother worked as a music teacher at a children’s theater, so we got funneled right into that. I spent 16 years at that theater, from toddler-hood until I graduated high school (and back for another show as an alumnus), and I performed in probably 21 mainstage productions over my tenure there. Now I fit in community theater productions whenever I have the opportunity (fingers crossed for more of those).
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 wish I did, haha. I’m sure I have linguistic markers, but I’m not self-aware enough to know what they are.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Ask questions. Especially in your writing. Just ask questions upon questions and never be satisfied with your answers because there’s always something else to explore. For one, it’ll help you flush out your stories. Get stuck? Write a list of questions you as a reader would have, and then pick a handful to answer and follow the path those lead you down. Lather, rinse, repeat. And with your characters, every answer you come up with will show you another facet of them, another angle to work, another layer of their personality and experiences that should affect the way they act and react within your story.
For performance, just work hard, honestly. I know from experience that hard work and dedication are worth so much more than natural talent. All the most successful professional performers I’ve ever seen have been middle-of-the-pack, talent-wise, but they worked their asses off, practiced intensively, and were proactive in everything they did. That’s worth more than anything else.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I usually just say aromantic asexual and leave it at that because most people I talk to don’t know the more specific terminology, but really I would say I’m (het) lithromantic autochorrisexual. I’d also say I’m slightly romance-repulsed and definitely sex-repulsed.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I’ve been lucky enough to avoid most of that in real life, besides a well-meaning but vaguely invalidating comment or two from a friend when I was first thinking of it as a possibility. The only real instance of acephobia I’ve encountered was on an anonymous peer-therapy-type website where I went to get advice about my ambivalent feelings toward my then-boyfriend, when the person I was talking to told me I should break up with him and marry a table instead because I was probably boring. So. That was fun.
The good thing about writing, especially with fanfiction and pseudonyms and such, is that no one needs to know anything about the author. So I haven’t encountered any badness there. And the theater community oftentimes overlaps so much with the queer community that the people involved are wonderfully diverse and accepting. My orientation hasn’t come up much in that context so far, but I have doubt I would face any discrimination from my peers there.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Probably that all asexuals are sex-repulsed. I am sex-repulsed, but it offends me on principle when people assume that all of us are.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Don’t let a label take anything away from you. Don’t feel like you have to shave off corners of yourself to fit into a box, especially when the Asexual Box doesn’t even really qualify as such. Asexuality is a spectrum for a reason. Every line is made up of infinite points, every point is distinct, and not all points have a name. If you don’t fit any individual term perfectly, that doesn’t mean you’re wrong in what you feel or experience. The label is meant to fit you, not the other way around, and there is no higher authority telling you what asexuality should be or mean to you. I know that for a lot of people (myself included), there is something extremely comforting in finding a label, a definitive answer for who you are that you hadn’t had before, but don’t ever try to force yourself to change just for the sake of that. Don’t feel like you’re not ace enough to be ace, and don’t let anyone convince you that’s the case.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
My fanfictions are http://archiveofourown.org/users/clotpolesonly/works and https://www.fanfiction.net/u/1234540/. Unfortunately, I don’t really have my performances posted anywhere, but occasionally something of that sort may turn up on my Tumblr, here http://www.clotpolesonly.tumblr.com/.
Thank you, Jessica, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.