Interview: Anne Hawley

Today we’re joined by Anne Hawley. Anne is a phenomenal novelist and editor who writes queer-themed historical fiction. She has a novel entitled Restraint, which features an ace secondary character. Anne is currently working on a new historical novel that features an ace protagonist, which is exciting (we need more historical fiction featuring aces). It’s clear she’s a talented and passionate writer who loves what she does, 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.

I write novels featuring queer characters in historical settings, exploring issues of identity and acceptance. I’m also a Story Grid Certified fiction editor, helping other writers shape their novels and screenplays.

What inspires you?

People’s individual search for wholeness and self-acceptance. The search for meaning. My stories revolve around people on spiritual journeys, and my editing work is focused on helping writers find and tell the story that’s in their heart to tell.

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

I’ve been writing since I could read. I started my first novel when I was nine. I was inspired by fantasy novels and wanted to create my own worlds.

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 name something after a notable feature in my hometown of Portland, Oregon USA

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

If you’ll permit me to change the question, I’d like to say something to aspiring artists who may not have started young, or aren’t young anymore. Ageism is real and insidious in our culture, and it has a huge silencing power. Just as the dominant culture would still prefer it if you were allosexual and cisgendered (though thank goodness that’s changing), it would like you to be silent and invisible if you’re not young. If you have a story to tell, tell it.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Aromantic asexual. I think “autochor” is probably a term that applies to me.

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

There’s not much ace representation yet in fiction, and as a person who came to the identity late in life, I’m still working to change my own ingrained belief that “nobody” wants to read stories without sexual tension, or about individuals who are fulfilled without romance.

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

That asexual people don’t really exist, and that people in my age group who claim that sexual identity are simply resigned to being “too old” for love or sex–or that we’re some sort of holdover from an earlier and more prudish, sex-negative era. We aren’t.

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

Many, many people in older age groups like mine have never even heard of asexuality. If you’re like me, hearing about it at a late age might create a real internal struggle, especially if you’ve given a lot of energy over the years trying to conform to old cultural standards of “normal” sexuality.

It helps to read as much as you can about all the nuances in the spectrum of asexuality, and realize that it’s okay to try on different names and labels. It might take a while to feel at home with one or another of them. But you might also find, as I did, that little by little embracing asexuality solves so many mysteries of your life.

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

https://annehawley.net

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

Interview: Sean Shannon

Today we’re joined by Sean Shannon. Sean is a phenomenal artist whose a bit of an artist-of-all-trades. She has two main focuses at the moment: writing and creating webseries. She has written a novel entitled The Prostitutes of Lake Wiishkoban that was up for an international award. Sean has also written two ebooks of classroom exercises for humanities instructors, several poems, some short stories, and a seventeen-year-old blog. As if that’s not impressive enough, Sean has also created a couple webseries. It’s clear she’s a dedicated artist who loves what she does, 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.

I am the author of the novel The Prostitutes of Lake Wiishkoban, which was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize and a quarterfinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. In addition, I’m the creator and host of the teaching webseries Socratic Sense, which explores current issues in teaching, and the intersection of education with politics and popular culture, as well as a personal webseries called Musecast. Those are my (current) major efforts, but I call myself an “artist-of-many-trades” because I work in all kinds of mediums, from writing to the visual arts.

What inspires you?

I could name specific artists whose influences I can see in my work, but what inspires me more than anything is the desire to leave the world a better place than I found it. That’s a drive that influences all my work, across all mediums.

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

My parents were both artists, so I kind of come by it naturally. I also had a very difficult childhood, and while I’ve never had formal sessions in art therapy, my art has always been a refuge for me, and a place for me to work out the problems I’m having (then and now). I’ve always wanted to be an artist on some level, but I’ve always wanted to be everything. I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up.

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?

Whenever I’ve tried to include something like that in my work, it always feels forced to me. Other artists don’t seem to have that problem, so I guess I’m just not very good at that sort of thing.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Absorb everything you can. Consume art far and wide, even if it’s not in a medium or genre you want to work with. Everything you experience will fill your artistic well, and could inspire your art five minutes or fifty years in the future.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am a panromantic asexual.

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

The biggest problem I’ve come across is people who assume that I can’t write a novel about sex work, or a novel with sex scenes, because I’m asexual. (Never mind that I fit some people’s definition of the term “sex worker” because I’ve taught safer sex practices before.)

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

That asexuality is synonymous with celibacy, and that asexuals can’t have (or enjoy) sex.

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

Above all, you are not alone. I don’t believe in making promises like “it gets better,” because I’m not in a position to be able to keep that promise to anyone else (or even myself), but know that some of us out here are at least trying to make things better for asexuals. We would very much like your help if you can provide it, but it’s okay if you need to stay private about your asexuality for now, regardless of the reason.

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

My blog, seanshannon.org, has links to my books and videos, examples of my photography, and short written pieces about everything on my mind these last couple of decades, ranging from political essays to narrative non-fiction.

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

Interview: Sarah Viehmann

Today we’re joined by Sarah Viehmann. Sarah is a phenomenal author whose debut novel, Unrooted, is scheduled to be released this winter. Unrooted is a retelling of Snow White that features two protagonists on the ace spectrum. When she’s not writing novels, Sarah frequently blogs about fairy tales and sometimes about asexuality. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate writer, 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.

I am a novelist writing adult fantasy, a series of fairy tale retellings beginning with Unrooted, debuting Winter 2018 with REUTS Publications. The first book retells the “Snow White” fairy tale and features protagonists on the ace spectrum, along with other LGBT+ characters, disabled characters, and characters of color. Unrooted is the first in a series of five books called The Iridia Series.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the human impulse that drives us to tell stories. How do we use stories to communicate deep needs within the individual and the community? How do stories changes based on who is telling them? How have stories changed and how will they continue to change in the future? My fairy tale retellings seek to explore, if not answer, these questions.

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

When it comes to fairy tales, I was introduced to them by my father reading me Three Billy Goats Gruff and similar fairy tales before bed at night. I also frequented the local library and always went directly toward the 398.2 section where fairy tales are housed. As for writing, I tend to joke that I’ve been writing since I could hold a marker, but that really isn’t too far off from the truth! I’ve always been inventive and a lover of words, so combining those two things into writing seemed to be incredibly natural for me.

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?

Oh goodness . . . I’m not sure how to best answer this. I think the themes that appear most frequently in my work include mother-daughter relationships, women who have lost and regain their voices, and attention to language. There are also many elements from my academic study of literature that appear in my work, such as structuralism and mise en abyme (the mirror in the text), and those who might be familiar with such ideas should be able to pick them out.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Do it, and do it for yourself. Disregard any thoughts of “what if no one likes it?” It’s yours to like, and what other people think only matters once the work is done and/if you decide to share it. Don’t let the input of others affect your creative process, because then the work won’t be true to you.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual and grey-biromantic. The latter part of that is more nebulous for me and I slide around a lot. I tend to find cis-women and nonbinary people more aesthetically attractive than cis-men, but that could be a matter of circumstance than anything else!

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

Yes. I once pointed out amisia in a very popular book series that appeared in the preview a few days before the newest book release. I spent a weekend fending off aggressive anons on tumblr telling me I’d read it wrong and I shouldn’t be upset by it. It’s difficult being in the minority of writers and readers who can and do point out things like that in published writing (and that’s not the only example). I still find it very important to point these things out so readers and writers alike learn, but it’s always a little uncomfortable having to be That Person. In addition to that, I try and model positive ace and aro representation in my own writing as a model for what I as an ace and grey-ro person would like to see in writing.

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

Recently, I think it’s the idea that ace people don’t like sex or are disgusted by it. That’s not the experience of all ace people, and it shouldn’t be a stereotype. That said, the experience of those who are sex-repulsed should be respected.

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

It’s okay to try on labels to see what fits. You’re not betraying anyone by adjusting the label over time to figure out what fits you best. I had to play around with my romantic orientation a lot before I decided on one, and I’m still not wholly committed to it. Also, seek out other ace folks, because on the whole I find we’re an incredibly kind and welcoming community willing to help you figure things out if you have questions.

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

My official website is www.sarahviehmann.com, but I’m most active on Tumblr (sarahviehmann.tumblr.com) and Twitter at SarahViehmann. You can also find Unrooted on Goodreads! Please stay tuned for its release and other exciting things leading up to the release date!

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

Interview: Nora Rose

Today we’re joined by Nora Rose. Nora is a phenomenal artist who does a bit of everything. She’s a passionate writer who does everything from novels to fanfiction. When she’s not writing, Nora is also an avid cook, an actor, and an audiobook narrator (I think that’s a first for Asexual Artists). Whatever art she’s working on, Nora throws herself fully into it. She’s an incredibly enthusiastic and dedicated artist, 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.

I have my fingers in a lot of pies. I’m a fanfiction writer, an unpublished novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, an amateur actor, an audiobook narrator, and aspiring cook.

Writing has been a passion since I was in second grade, and I’ve been pursuing it as a habit and career since I was eleven. My senior project for my undergrad degree was a play in one act that I wrote. I’ve been writing fanfiction for almost as long.

I studied theater at college. I fell in love with acting in high school, and I was probably the first person in my grade who knew what they were going to major in. My grandest moment was as Mrs. Bennett in a stage rendition of “Pride & Prejudice” that our director was writing.

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Mrs. Bennet

Unfortunately, since graduating I haven’t had much chance to do any acting, but I would love to end up in television–writing, acting, directing, and producing.

The audiobook narrating was unexpected. I did some live voicework for some friends’ senior shows in college, and afterwards had people come up to me and tell me I should pursue it. I never really thought I would until it turned out the son of my parents’ neighbor had just self-published a book and wanted to do an audiobook. I was just about to move to the same city he lives so we connected, and I’ve recorded the first two books of his series.

Growing up, I hated cooking. I think it was part rebelling against the expectations of being a housewife someday and part the fact that I’m a picky eater. One summer during college, however, I was doing a summer semester and was bored out of my mind. So I started making a whole bunch of different foods–mostly desserts–for my landlady. Someday soon I want to actually go to culinary school and maybe eventually open a little bistro.

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Fruit Pie

What inspires you?

I’ve found that inspiration for me can come from anywhere. It can come from that one image in a dream that sticks long after waking up. It can come from a personal story someone told me that sounded like something out of a fairytale. It can come from real life experiences where the emotions were loud and visceral. It can come from a visual of certain actors in certain costumes or situations. I can be inspired by an actor that makes me cry. And, of course, the Food Network and Pinterest can be extremely inspiring when it comes to cooking.

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

As for writing, I’ve loved it so long I honestly have no idea what got me interested. I finally decided to start writing my own books after falling in love with Tamora Pierce’s “The Song of the Lioness” series.

Acting, it was the first director I had in high school. The first play I was in, I was just a somebody. The second one, he cast me as the lead female part. He took a chance on me, and he believed in me, and I fell in love.

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As You Like It

Narrating was explained a little in the first question, but I really decided I liked it once I started and realized it was a form of acting. While I wasn’t on stage or in front of a camera, I got to act and put heart into it, and it was a relief to be doing that again.

Cooking was boredom. I’ve really fallen in love with cooking because I love feeding people. It’s just like storytelling–I get to give people this beautiful thing I’ve created and I love watching their reactions.

Have I always wanted to be an artist? Yes. I don’t know that I could be anything else.

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?

Not really.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

This is cliché, but just do it. As someone with mental illness, trust me, I know it can be hard sometimes to motivate yourself even to do the things you love. But you have to. Don’t let it stress you out, of course, because then you’ll start to hate it. But do little things. If you write, but you’re having trouble getting any words down, outline. If you act, but you’re having trouble getting out the auditions, act out some of your favorite movie scenes in the shower. Do what little you can.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual, poly, panromantic. I’m not sex repulsed, but I’m not really interested too much in sex. It doesn’t faze me usually. I like having sex, but I forget that it’s an option a lot of the time, and I’m in a committed relationship with someone with a high sex drive. I’ll watch porn and I read porn, but if I’m not in exactly the right mood for it, I get bored really quickly.

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

The only example I can think of that happened in any of my fields was once I was discussing with the producer of the audiobooks I’ve worked on other types of books I’d be interested in narrating. He made some comment assuming that I’d like to steer clear of romance novels. I said, actually, I wouldn’t mind. In fact, someday in the future, I plan on narrating my fiancé’s novels, most of which fall in the category of “romance”. He then made some comment assuming I’d like to stay away from more hardcore stuff, and again, I said actually, I don’t mind. I’m asexual, I said, so it really doesn’t faze me. The rest of the elevator ride was quiet and uncomfortable.

I talked to my fiancé about it afterwards. That’s how I deal with most things. It felt a little funny. It was kind of tiring. I didn’t know how to react, really, because in this particular situation–wouldn’t that be an advantage? Why should it matter if it’s actually going to make both your job and my job easier? It never came up again. I guess we’ll see if it does if I ever narrate a romance produced by him.

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Orchard

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

Mostly I’ve just met people who had no idea what it meant and said as much. Who’d either never heard the term or only had in high school biology talking about asexual reproduction. Luckily, most of the time they just ask, and I’m able to explain in a way that I’m comfortable with, saying this is a general definition, and this is what it means in my case.

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

It’s a spectrum. It’s a moving spectrum. Do you know how old I was when I realized I was asexual? Twenty-three. For a while I even thought I hadn’t always been asexual. But the more time goes on, the more I look back, I just realize that I’ve simply become more comfortable with my asexuality and let that color how my life is. Don’t stress. If you used to think you were straight, or if you used to think you were demi, or if you’re certain you’re into women but the idea of sex freaks you out? It’s a scale. Things change. And you’re allowed to feel more ways than one.

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

Check out my Tumblr at nrsully.tumblr.com and my Facebook page at Nora Rose Sullivan. You can find the audiobook for “Orchard” on Audible here. You can also find my more recent fanfiction on AO3 at Briar_Elwood.

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Curious Savage

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

Interview: Alex Clarke

Today we’re joined by Alex Clarke. Alex is a talented young aspiring novelist. She’s written a novel and is quite a productive poet. She has a wonderful enthusiasm and love for the art of writing, 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.

I’m a writer with a particular passion for novels and poetry. Many of my writings deal with complex societal matters such as war, mental health, and religion, but I also reflect myself into my work. My poetry in particular deals with my own life and thoughts, often serving as a mode of emotional catharsis.

What inspires you?

Nature is my primary inspiration, as my mind is never as clear as when I am alone with the world. Every novel I’ve written was begun shortly after a long hiking trip with my family, and I’ve been amazed to see the extent to which those landscapes have influenced the storylines of my books. I’m also inspired from seemingly unspectacular moments, such as conversations with strangers, the way sunlight streams through windows, or the tingling tactile sensation of climbing into a hot car. Questions of science are constantly bombarding my mind, and thus often make their way into my work as well.

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

I started writing at the age of five after discovering dozens of empty notebooks in my grandfather’s dresser. I scribbled the stories down, rife with spelling errors, in multicolored crayon until my penmanship advanced enough to warrant more precise instruments. I would write countless short stories in those beginning years, culminating with the completion of my first novel five years later. That same year, I wrote three different plays that were performed by my school’s theatre program. My grandparents bought me a book of poems for my twelfth birthday, which catalyzed my passion for poetry. My childhood dream was to be a professional writer, and now, as a high school senior, I’m in the process of applying to college to make that dream a reality.

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 weaving in subtle aspects of old legends and folklore into my work! Other than that, there are motifs that I thread throughout individual works, but not one single thing that encompasses them all.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

There are lots of people who do, in fact, make their careers out of art and do not starve. I am also a young aspiring artist, and it’s been very important for me to learn that happiness and passion are much more important than any salary can ever be, no matter what society says.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual and biromantic.

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

I haven’t encountered any direct prejudice targeting the ace community among other writers, although I do often see sexual attraction represented as a necessary component of all characters in a multitude of books. This can be very problematic both for readers who cannot identify with many characters in this aspect and society as a whole, as asexuality’s lack of substantial presence in the literary canon can contribute to widespread ace erasure. To combat this, I try to always include ace-spec characters in my stories and discuss asexuality in my poetry.

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

Many people I know have confused asexuality and aromanticism, and are unable to wrap their heads around the fact that I can be ace while having had crushes in the past. Also, several people have asked me if I’m sure I’m not just gay and in denial.

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

It’s okay to be confused! I struggled for a long time about where exactly on the spectrum I fit in (and to some extent, still do), and it’s okay not to know. Do a lot of research, and I’d recommend browsing the internet ace community to find stories of people with experiences similar to your own. There are plenty of people out there that feel the same, and accept you just as you are!

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

I’m not currently published, but I’m in the process of sending a novel out to agents at the moment, so hopefully that will happen soon! In the meantime, I recently started a blog for my poetry, which you may visit at wistfulwordsmith.tumblr.com!

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

Interview: Dylan Fields

Today we’re joined by Dylan Fields. Dylan is a fantastic writer who is currently working on a couple stories. At present, he is working on a chapter based story that he’s uploading to DeviantArt and Fur Affinity. It’s very clear that he is a dedicated writer who loves the art. 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’m a fiction writer. I have quite a few story ideas just sitting in my computer, but right now, my main project is a, yet to be titled, fantasy novel. It’s about a young boy, named Nathan, who’s found in a tent with two dead wolves when he’s just an infant. Once he has grown to be 12 he and his adoptive parents discover something about himself, he’s a werewolf, meaning the two dead wolves were his birth parents, who died in their forms. He lives in a world, very similar to ours, similar time period, style of dress, and some technology, but magic and non-human creatures are openly known to everyone in the world.

The other project I’m working on is a story called Bruce and Danny, which is about an anthropomorphic grizzly bear, named Bruce, and his adopted human son, named Danny, and their life together.

What inspires you?

Honestly, what I feel inspires me the most is when I see other people make something that a lot of people enjoy. Whether it’s an indie game, a book, or a web comic, when I see that those people’s creations make others really happy, even if it doesn’t necessarily reward them financially, it makes me want to contribute, and try to see if my story ideas interest other people. It makes me think, “Wow, I can do that! I can make something like that!”

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

Honestly I’ve always done really well in English classes, but I didn’t really get started until I met my current girlfriend, who’s also a writer, who encouraged me to write a little more, after seeing the little bit of stuff I had, and I realized I really liked writing my own original stories.

I started out just writing some fan-fiction, in high school, which you can still find on my Deviant Art page. But eventually I started thinking of my own original ideas and putting those down on paper.

I haven’t always thought of being a writer, even now I’m currently majoring in the healthcare field. But I still really like doing it as a hobby, and would love to upload, or even publish more of my stuff in the future.

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?

Hm…Not that I can think of. I am particularly partial to including bears in my stories. One of the main characters in Bruce and Danny is an anthropomorphic grizzly bear, and in my werewolf story there’s a larger bear that guards the forest outside of the main character’s town. They’re just my favorite animal, and I can’t help but put them in. That’s the closest thing to a “signature” that I can think of.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Never be afraid to show your work to people, even if you don’t think it’s that good. It’s always great to get feedback on your work, that way you can improve where you need to.

Also don’t let your creative work make you lose track of your life. Everyone’s human and sometimes life gets in the way and you need to take a break and that’s fine. It’s okay to put your art on hiatus if you need to take care of some things in your life.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Pretty sure I’m Greysexual, currently in a relationship with a demisexual woman.

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

Mainly over the internet, none really in real life. I mostly just handle the clearly irrational comments with a lot of sarcasm, and lame jokes. But when I encounter someone who’s clearly just ignorant on ace issues, but aren’t being malicious about it, I do my best to explain what being ace is actually like, so that they’re more informed and have a better perspective.

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

That, “if you’re asexual you can’t acknowledge when someone is good looking, or laugh at sexual jokes, etc.” Just because I don’t feel sexual attraction doesn’t mean I can’t find humor in a sexual pun or think that someone looks good today.

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

You’re not “broken” and you aren’t alone. Just because you aren’t attracted to anyone, opposite sex or same sex, doesn’t make you any less valid than anyone else. This especially goes out to anyone reading this of middle school to high school age. I had a lot of confusion about what I was at that age, and I feel like if I had known there was a term for what I was, I wouldn’t have felt so alone, or that there was something wrong with me. If you’re repulsed by sex, that’s fine. If you only feel sexual attraction in certain circumstances, that’s fine too.

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

You can find the completed chapters of Bruce and Danny on my Fur Affinity page and my Deviant Art page.

I also have a Tumblr, feel free to ask me about my stuff, including my novel. Maybe I’ll post a preview of my novel sometime in the future.

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

Interview: Carmilla DeWinter

Today we’re joined by Carmilla DeWinter. Carmilla is an absolutely fantastic fantasy novelist from Germany. All her original work is in German and she also writes some fanfiction in English. She also blogs about a variety of subjects, including feminism and fantasy (a fellow genre feminist? Yes, please). Carmilla is an incredibly passionate writer who displays this amazing amount of enthusiasm, which is always wonderful to read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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Cover for “Albenbrut” (loosely translates to “Elfspawn”)

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Please, tell us about your art.

As I’m probably telling everyone, even those who don’t want to hear it: I’m a writer. Most of my writing is novel-length fantasy, followed by blog posts – both German – and some fanfiction, which is in English. Original fiction-wise, I’ve published one gay fantasy novel in two parts with a small press so far. I’m currently looking for an agent.

What inspires you?

People. I find the stuff we humans do intensely fascinating, and sometimes funny, so a lot of my writing is about trying to understand why other people do what they do.

Why most of my fiction ends up being speculative is harder to explain. First, I absolutely love setting up the experiment from near-scratch by reading a lot about history and then putting it through a what-if filter (aka world building). Second has to do with the what-if. So what if I imagine a medieval “Europe” plus magic, minus Christianity? The interesting part starts when magic makes women independent, and thus half the kingdoms there are actually queendoms.

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

Once I knew how to read, it quickly became my favorite pastime, and thanks to understanding parents, I was always encouraged to let my imagination run wild. So, in hindsight, writing as the art of choice seems kind of inevitable. Plus, thanks to my dad and a distant aunt, I always had SF or Fantasy novels to read as a kid.

I won’t claim I’ve always wanted to be a writer – I made that conscious decision at age 19 – but even before that it was always the creative outlet I’d return to, from my first bad, unfinished Jurassic Park rip-off at age 12 to atrocious poetry to slightly less atrocious song lyrics. And no kidding: I get grumpy when refused a creative outlet.

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?

No – that is, there’s nothing to reveal, really. The only thing that is perhaps recurrent is that I tend to feature at least one aromantic character per longer original work, and in fact did before I knew aromanticism was a thing.

Nowadays, I try to include at least one asexual character per longer work – that is, someone who states a clear lack of attraction or disinterest in sex, not some ambiguous “could be read as”.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Most parts of writing can be learned. It’s a craft. There’s courses, online resources, writing groups, books in the library. I’ve found it useful to create some stuff first, then learn more, then critique what I wrote in light of what I learned.

Learning how to tell a story well is way more difficult than writing beautiful sentences, though.

Search for people who will give you honest feedback about what works, and not just go “squee”.

Otherwise, writing means that you’ll need to spend large portions of your life inside your own head, which is not for everyone. Finishing a novel also requires time, patience and a heaping helping of determination to make it to “The End”.

albenbrut-gebrannte kinder-cover
Albenbrut 2 cover

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual. I’m also aromantic, but that’s more an aside to my identity than a central defining feature.

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

Actually, my fellow writers have been quite understanding so far, though there’s been a handful of people who like to argue about feminism. Or about whether sexism actually is real.

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

When doing vis/ed, mostly it’s people assuming that either I’m recruiting or that asexuals as a group are somehow disordered.

I actually kind of get the first response, because it hasn’t been that long that homosexuality was classified as a sickness. Given that a lot of people still believe that belonging to a minority orientation is a choice of lifestyle, the fear of being recruited tells me a lot about the amount of homophobia in our society. Most of the time you can counter that misconception by being respectful and reading up on the issue, though.

The second assumption – that we’re all suffering from an illness, a disorder or whatever – tells me a lot about the popular narratives and how pervasive they are. Asexual people never get a story, thus they can’t exist, and everyone who says they’re ace has to have A Reason(TM) to be like that.

When talking about being an ace writer, most people’s minds boggle at the fact that I write about characters who occasionally do have sex, sometimes on-screen. As if that’s somewhat more outlandish than someone else writing about things they never did, either, like living in a historical time-period or serial killing or whatever else.

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

You are not alone. There’s others like you out there. They may be found online or offline, though you’re obviously not required to be an active participant in the community.

You’re probably scared, and that’s okay. Our society likes to draw a lot of lines into the sand about what is normal and acceptable behavior. Most of those lines are completely arbitrary, but it can still be very intimidating to step outside those boundaries, even if it’s just in your own thoughts.

Your feelings are valid. You’re not broken. The majority however might prefer if you felt that way, because it’s a sure-fire way to keep you quiet.

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

There’s my German blog, where I ponder the intersection of fantasy, feminism and other forms of marginalization. I’m not doing in it English, because it’s something long overdue in Germany. There you can also find links to my original fiction (or at least to the shops where it’s sold): http://carmilladewinter.com

If you want English stuff, I’m one of those people who joined the Pit of Voles a decade ago and have yet to leave: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/906810/Carmilla-DeWinter

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