Interview: Sarah Neila Elkins

Today we’re joined by Sarah Neila Elkins. Sarah is a phenomenal writer and visual artist who specializes in novels and comics. She enjoys writing the speculative genres and her work features asexual protagonists. It’s clear she’s a talented artist who loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

 

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I make fantasy, horror, and sci-fi novels and comics featuring asexual protagonists. Since 2015 I have been more active writing novels than creating comics due to having angio fibro dysplasia, a type of chronic ossifying tennis elbow that kept me from using my right hand for almost a year. I had to relearn how to draw as a result.

What inspires you?

I want to make stories that I want to read. I’m asexual but didn’t know that was a thing until I was an adult and I have tons of queer friends but, although it is more common to see LGBTQIA+ characters in stories it’s less common to see them in fantasy and horror. I want to write the kinds of tense, action-filled books and comics I like to read but with queer characters.

I also really like Nikola Tesla, so working him or things related to him in stories is fun. I guess it’s like writing fanfiction though I’ve never been good about sticking with anything else for that. Every time I tried writing proper fanfiction whatever I wrote turned into something original without any characters or worlds from whatever the fanfic was supposed to be based on.

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

I’ve been writing and drawing since I was a kid. I daydreamed, a lot. Probably more than was healthy to be honest. Eventually I started writing those daydreams down as a film script because I wanted to make movies. Then I did research on the screenwriter’s guild and realized that would never happen. Granted, that was before indie films got bigger. I decided that I could just draw whatever story I wanted to make so I got into making comics. When my elbow tendons essentially turned to bone I had to give up my comic flatting job, my comic inking job, and comics altogether for a while. It broke my heart but I was able to use a keyboard with my left hand and wrote a novel to deal with the stress and depression I was feeling from losing my only source of income and the only real job I had ever known. That book, Psychic Underground: The Facility is available now from Ninestar Press. Thankfully, I have recovered enough to draw again and even want to make a graphic novel. I’m still writing prose novels and the second book in the Psychic Underground series should come out later this year (2019.)

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?

Nikola Tesla. If he’s not mentioned out-right he or something related to him is in there be it a street name or invention. It’s like ‘Where’s Waldo’ except sometimes I make it very obvious. I also like to put my favorite number in things, 8, as well as Tesla’s favorite numbers 3, 6, and 9.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Be mindful of your body and health. If your arms or hands start hurting try to skip ahead and see an orthopedic surgeon instead of a general doctor. If I had done that I would have skipped about six months of terrible pain and one ER visit. Also, remember that just because someone gets a job or opportunity you wanted that comics and prose writing isn’t Highlander. There’s plenty of room. If you get knocked down, get back up.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am alloromantic asexual.

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

In my field? Years ago a friend who helped me get a big flatting job said something to the effect of “asexuals aren’t queer” but then she worked with another friend of mine who is asexual on a queer anthology that the ace friend told me was welcoming to aces, so maybe her view changed. To be honest she kinda hasn’t talked to me much since the whole incident where she said she thought ace’s weren’t queer and that bothers me. I don’t like not having closure if a friendship is over, you know?

Otherwise I dated an artist for years and when I tried to explain to them I’m asexual and sex-repulsed/genophobic they didn’t take it well. I thought they’d take it better since the main character of their then pretty popular webcomic was aromantic asexual. We wound up breaking up and tried to stay friends but the friendship imploded when my arm trouble got bad. They said some things to me during the relationship that made me doubt myself and they continued to do that when my arm was causing me excruciating pain. I know I wish they would apologize someday but I’ll never get that closure either. I’m not sure if that counts but they were a colleague I looked up to a lot.

Beyond those two instances I have been out of the creative game for a few years due to my arm so I’m just now getting back where I can pursue jobs in both writing and comics. I have little doubt I’ll run across more pronounced cases of ace prejudice and ignorance in the future.

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

The most common misconception about asexuality I’ve encountered is that all asexuals are aromantic, celibate, and sex repulsed or that they want to prevent someone else from having sex. I am celibate but not aromantic. I am sex repulsed and genophobic but I don’t want to prevent others from having sex. I just can’t talk about or see sex for long without having an anxiety attack.

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

You are not alone. You are not broken. Asexuality is a vast spectrum within the queer spectrum. You don’t have to be anything but ace to be queer, either. There’s no real rule that says “you must be asexual AND anything else also queer to qualify as queer.” You can just be asexual and qualify as queer. Anyone who’s not cis heterosexual qualifies as queer. If you’re asexual then by definition you’re not heterosexual. Don’t listen to anyone who claims you’re faking your identity. You are the only person who gets to define who you are.

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

I just launched a personal website: https://www.sarahneilaelkins.com/
I still haunt the hell out of Twitter: https://twitter.com/NeilaK20
I mirror posts on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SarahNeilaElkins/
And on Mastodon: https://mastodon.social/@NeilaK20
And I’m trying to use Instagram more: https://www.instagram.com/neilak20/

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

Interview: Gemma Irene

Today we’re joined by Gemma Irene. Gemma is a phenomenal writer who writes a variety of things. She’s written a few novels and hundreds of poems, as well as some fanfiction. When she’s not writing, she enjoys visual art. Gemma draws, paints, sews, and takes photographs. She even plays the violin. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate individual who loves to create, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m primarily a writer, though I’ve been known to draw, paint, sew, take pictures, and play violin. Anything to keep my hands busy! As far as writing goes, I stick to fiction, with occasional detours for poetry, and a song on the very rare occasion. I haven’t published anything yet, but I’ve got about three original novels and around a hundred poems under my belt. I’ve also been pretty immersed in fan fiction the past few years, writing for The Phantom of the Opera, The Boondock Saints, The Walking Dead, and Supernatural.

What inspires you?

I hate to say it, it sounds cliché, but inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. I wrote my first novel after a daydream I had when I was bored at the mall and trying to entertain myself. I’ve drawn things I’ve seen in dreams. I’ve photographed things that happened to catch my eye. One of my favorite poems I ever wrote came about while I was sitting outside listening to the creek flow. I try to stay alert to anything that feeds the muse, which means either living very much in the moment, or hiding out in my own little world.

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

I’ve always loved stories and storytelling. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my grandpa’s lap with a book, with me reading to him as much as he read to me. I remember telling stories to my mother and her writing them down in a blank journal. I relate a lot to Anne Shirley, or Sara Crewe in A Little Princess like that; my stories always started as a game of pretend, and realizing I could share them with people was a game changer. With the Internet, I could share with even more people. And in the case of fan fiction, connecting with people who were as passionate about the same characters as I was helped me get even more joy out of it. So, long answer to a short question, I’ve always wanted to do this!

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?

In my writing, I notice a lot of alliteration, and a lot of fire imagery. I like getting down into the deep, personal aspects of storytelling, so I’m very concerned with the soulful and intimate. I don’t know if there’s any specific thing that watermarks my writing as mine…if any readers would like to point something out?

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Experiment. Let yourself suck. That first novel I wrote? As is, nobody is reading that, if I have anything to say about it. There’s a lot of hang-ups about being trite or cringey, but that’s the only way you grow and evolve. And it’s cool if you want to pursue more interests than one, or if you’re only so-so at something else but do it for the joy of it. I’ve worked for years at my writing, but only ever turned to drawing when I needed the release it gave me. Consequently, it’s not one of my strongest skills. Same deal with the violin. I’ll never be the next Van Gogh, or play in an orchestra, but that’s fine. I draw and play for love of both, and that’s enough for me.

The inverse is true, as well. If you’re passionate about your art, don’t be afraid to invest yourself in it. Any way you feel called to. I’m going to go off on a tangent for a second and say how glad I am that fan fic is slowly getting positive traction, because if I hadn’t started writing fic, I would never have found an audience, much less one willing to give feedback and help me grow as a writer. That’s the thing about finding someone genuinely interested in what you’re sharing, they want more, and they’ll often help you in the process. Whether it’s encouragement, advice, or simple enthusiasm, it’s out there. Hold it up to your ear and give it a listen, then decide if it will help you develop your art. Keep what does, discard what doesn’t. That’s what fan fiction did for me, is help me find my voice a lot sooner than I might have without it.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m a panromantic demisexual, which is at once very broad and very specific. To me, they go hand-in-hand. I don’t develop sexual attraction without an emotional bond, and if I’ve gotten close enough to someone to form that bond, I’m unlikely to care about gender. It’s the person I’ve developed feelings for.

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

In my field? No. In my life? A bit. I was discussing sexuality and orientation with a group of ordinarily open-minded individuals and casually mentioned I identify as demi. I explained it was similar to being asexual, and they were on board with the ace part but casually dismissed the demi part. “Some people just want to be special.” It took a while to get past that, and I’ve presented myself since then a little differently. On social media, I proudly post all the ace, aro, demi, bi, pan, gay, trans, nb, everything, supporting positivity that I want to see in the world. In person, I’ll comment on my aesthetic attractions, regardless of gender, I’ll express support of representation, and shut down discourse when I hear it. I do what I can to be an ally and a safe space, and hopefully send a message that I won’t stand for any prejudice.

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

That we’re prudes, afraid of sex, damaged, or “waiting for the right person.” Yeah, some of us are, but so are some allosexuals. Sexuality is such a complex, complicated subject, and I don’t understand the aphobia and ace discourse I’ve seen. The thing is, we’ve always been here, it’s just that now we’re willing to claim our space, and hopefully we can spread more knowledge to put an end to the misconceptions.

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

Hang in there. It’s a process. I remember that I was elated at first to realize I was demi, then I had to process what that meant to me, evaluate my relationships with people in light of my new understanding of my identity, decide whether this was something I wanted to keep to myself or make known to others. Then on down the line, after I felt reasonably secure in my identity, I realized I was panromantic and had to start all over again. I’ve found my writing is a very good way to explore my sexuality and my orientation, and I’m working on more aspec characters to reflect how I feel about my identity.

My biggest ongoing struggle is feeling ace enough to identify on the spectrum. I’m very sex positive, and I lean towards the, let’s say, colorful side of sexual expression, which is far removed from the misconception about asexuals and how we’re all prudes afraid of sex. That’s where the ignorance hurts us the most, in my opinion. We measure ourselves by the stereotypes and assumptions, which are often incorrect, and we cut ourselves down when we don’t fit. Thing is, I’m still aspec whether I like sex or hate it, whether I’m kinky or vanilla, because it’s about attraction, not action.

Aces, grays, and demis, you do you. Own your identity. Share it if you want, or keep it secret. It’s who you are, and it’s as much about discovery as the rest of you.

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

Tumblr is my primary hang out. My URL is at risingphoenix761, and my blog is a giant mess of fandom, writing, music, humor, and positivity. I’m also on Fanfiction.Net as AngelxPhoenix, and Archive of Our Own as RisingPhoenix761. For anyone interested in my visual art (I consider myself a passionate amateur), my Instagram is at risingphoenix_761. Come say hi to me!

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

Interview: Jenny Prater

Today we’re joined by Jenny Prater. Jenny is a phenomenal author who writes a bit of everything. She writes novels, short stories, poetry, and even fairy tale analysis blogs. She has recently released a poetry book about being ace this past Valentine’s Day. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate writer. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. Dear somebody cover only

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m an author; I write novels, short stories, poems, picture books, and fairy tale analysis blogs, though mostly only the poetry and blogs have been made available to read. I’m currently working on starting my own small press, so I want to wait to release most of my work until I have that going. I have two larger poetry books published through Amazon, and two chapbooks that I hand-bind and sell on Etsy. My last one just came out on Valentine’s Day; it’s called “Dear Somebody,” and it’s a collection of 12 poems about being asexual.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired mostly by folklore—not just the traditional stories, but their history. I love the idea of all of these very similar patterns being followed in so many places and time periods. Folk tales are a great example of collective storytelling. You can never attribute them to any author, because everyone who’s heard a story like Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, over thousands of years, has heard it and told it slightly differently. When I write a poem about Sleeping Beauty or a short story based on The Little Mermaid, I’m participating in an ancient conversation. Story as a reflection of community is something I just think is really beautiful and inspiring.

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

Always. My parents have videos of me, age 3, wandering around the house telling stories out loud about princesses and dinosaurs. I’ve never not had a story running in the back of my head; at some point it just seemed natural to start writing them down.

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 really don’t! I do so many different kinds of writing, there’s not really one key feature that would carry through well in all of them. Though I guess I’ve never really gotten through an entire book without making some reference to folk or fairy tales, now that I’m thinking about it. I just don’t really do it on purpose.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Focus on making things before you focus on making good things. It’s so easy to get caught up in making something perfect and never actually finish. Finish first. Fix later.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual and, like, a tiny bit heteromantic, sometimes, depending on the day. Sometimes dating sounds fun, but mostly boys just seem gross.

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

Not in my field, no. But it’s only been a couple weeks since I released my first project that deals really directly with asexuality, so time will tell, I guess.

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

That I’m a late bloomer or haven’t met the right guy yet. You know, at 25, I’m pretty sure I’m done blooming.

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

You’re not broken. I remember being just so confused about what was wrong with me, in middle school when all the other girls were starting to feel things that I wasn’t. It took a long time to figure things out, and that time was…not pleasant. But everything is fine! You’re not falling behind and nothing is wrong with you!

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

I’m kind of all over the place. You can find me on most social media sites under the username “konglindorm,” which is the name of my favorite fairy tale, but I think the best places to find out about my work are my fairy tale blog, http://konglindorm.blogspot.com/, and this page here that has links to all my published books: http://konglindorm.tumblr.com/books.

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

Interview: Martha J Allard

Today we’re joined by Martha J Allard. Martha is a phenomenal author who writes various kinds of fantasy. She writes both short stories and novels. Her work is mostly dark and contemporary fantasy. Her novel is entitled Black Light and it sounds fascinating. 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.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I write fiction, mostly dark and contemporary fantasy. I write both short stories and novels. My first one of those came out a two years ago called Black Light. It’s about rock and roll and finding yourself in what you want.

What inspires you?

I always try to look for the magic hidden in normal life. I believe it’s always there, but we can’t always see it. I try to put that in my writing.

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

Yes, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I grew up with a book in my hand. I traded Laura Ingles Wilder for Anne of Green Gables, for the Nine Princes in Amber and on. I loved all those stories and more, but there were no characters that I could identify with.

I grew up in a small town in Michigan, in the late 70’s. It was miles and miles away from any queer culture. I didn’t know it existed, much less that I could be a part of it.

One night I waited until my parents were asleep and snuck back downstairs to the TV to watch videos. This was pre-MTV. They played a video by David Bowie called I Am A DJ. I was riveted, never having seen him before. In the video, a man comes up to Bowie on the street to kiss him. This opened my small-town brain up to the possibilities that lay beyond my tiny borders. Somehow those possibilities got my pen moving.

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?

Well, yes. Or I think of them as Easter eggs, really. Because of my connection to Bowie, I always put something of him in my work. Sometimes it’s small, something nobody but me will notice, and sometimes it’s bigger, for example the entire plot of Black Light started out with one of his songs.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t write what you know. Write what you want to discover. Write the things that scare you and let your words be wild.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I came to asexuality late in life. In the past I’ve also identified as Bi and Lesbian. I feel that I can only speak for right now, and right now I feel Panromantic.

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

I write queer fiction, and so I rub shoulders with other queer writers. When I first came out as Ace, some of them advised against it. I was surprised, because I had already identified as queer, and had for years. I’ve found that some people think of Asexual as “damaged,” and I didn’t want to be thought of like that, did I?

No. I didn’t. So when I came out to people, I armed myself with explanations, reasons for my sexuality. But finally, I stopped myself. Now I deal with push back by not apologizing, but it took a while.

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

As I mentioned above, it’s that somehow, I became asexual because of damaged I’ve suffered.  Also that I’m wasting myself? That one always makes me laugh. It feels just the opposite to me.

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

I would say, it’s a journey, not a destination. For me, each day is different, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, and as David Bowie famously said once, “All I can tell you is what I feel right now.”

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

My website: https://www.marthajallard.com/
My Facebook page: marthajallard
Amazon link to Black Light: http://a.co/d/bT1PCsp

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

Interview: Maeve Forde

Today we’re joined by Maeve Forde. Maeve is a phenomenal actress and writer. Her main passion is acting and she acts in sketch comedy, plays, short films, and television. Recently she has written and acted in a webseries entitled, “Suddenly Super?” which is now available on YouTube. When she’s not acting, Maeve enjoys writing and currently has a novel in the works. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Forde Upper

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m an actor and a writer. I list actor first, because that’s my primary job right now (even though I’m still starting out and I have other jobs to pay the bills) but I’m also a writer.  I’ll write just about anything – I’ve got a novel in the works, I’ve written a web series that is out now on YouTube, I’ve written fanfiction for years. I’ll act in just about anything too – so far I’ve done sketch comedy, plays, web series, short films, and television.

What inspires you?

A lot of times when I start to write, I have a specific scene, line, or emotion in mind that I’ll come up with that I really want to nail, so I’ll fill in everything else around that.  Ultimately, the scenes and lines come from an emotional basis anyway for the characters, so I’m inspired by the idea that I can make these characters feel something and make it honest and earned.  I know that art can have an impact so I use my writing a lot to explore different emotions and different power dynamics, but I always want to make sure that it all makes sense and doesn’t feel forced or like I’m trying to force an audience to feel something that’s not there.

I have a similar approach to acting.  I’m inspired by what’s in the script primarily, but while taking into account that emotional impact.  So, I guess I’m inspired by that impact; I’m inspired by the idea that when someone is taking in the art I’ve made, I’m trying to make sure they get something out of it, so my job is to ensure they do.

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

I’ve been writing creatively for pretty much as long as I could write at all.  I remember being in grade school and having like special notebooks to write stories in when we had downtime in class. I always dreamed of being a published author.  I wrote a lot of original stuff until high school, when I wrote almost exclusively fanfiction.  I’m 22 now, and in the past three or four years or so I’ve been getting back into writing original stories in various forms.

I acted in school plays growing up, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do until high school.  High school was when I started getting really into fandom and writing fanfiction and I started getting connected to characters rather than to stories, because it was individual characters that brought me into fandom rather than overarching plots and mythologies.  And since I got so into characters and how they interacted, it got into my head that I could play characters one day, and that’s how I got serious about acting.  I didn’t really tell anyone for a while that I was interested in acting seriously but I’d act out the stories I wrote, and then once I got to college (to study History) I took acting more seriously and auditioned for student projects there.

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 have a rule for myself now that I always include queer characters and that none of them die. It’s not really a signature and it’s not something I can really control when I’m acting in someone else’s piece, but for my own writing, it’s a definite rule.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

It is okay to take time to figure out what you want!  And it is okay to want multiple things!  I studied history in college and right out of school, I had a job in a history museum because that was a dream of mine, too.  There’s this myth that in order to be a ~real artist~ you have to go for it entirely. There’s this romanticized idea especially regarding actors but really in probably every facet of artistry, that says you shouldn’t have a safety net and that romanticizes the idea of being on your last few dollars but being so committed to ~the art~.  There is nothing wrong with doing it halfway until you can do it fully.  There’s nothing wrong with doing it halfway, or 70% of the way, or 12% of the way, or whatever if that’s what you want.  Whether you act professionally or you act once a year in your local community theater, you’re still an actor.

You can have a day job in an office or a restaurant or a library or whatever and still be an artist. Your level of commitment is up to you, and no part of it needs to be performative.  If you’re comfortable going all in, good for you!  Do it!  If you aren’t, you don’t have to!  You don’t have to be one thing, you don’t have to struggle and suffer for your art if it can be avoided, and you can change your mind about all of that at any time. Commitment is good, but it’s also flexible.  Let it bend so it doesn’t break.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual panromantic.

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

To be honest, I’m pretty closeted professionally, especially in acting circles.  I’ve yet to do anything that required any sex scenes or anything like that, though I am generally open to it.  Right now, I feel like as an actor starting out, it’s in my best interest to keep it quiet.  Even in roles that don’t include sex scenes, there is still a lot of expectation on female characters, and in turn their actors, to be seen as sexual beings.  We still see actors struggle to get work after coming out as gay, so there’s still an atmosphere, especially among actors starting out, to keep it quiet, because no matter how good our acting may be, there are still people who, when they know we are out and see our work, will still refuse to see our character as anything other than what we are out as. I’ve had conversations along those lines with people in and out of the industry, who just love to mention that when an actor is out, they “just can’t see their character as straight.”  Bonus points if the actor comes out while their tv show/movie series is still in progress, and the person just outright adds an “anymore” to the end.  There’s a definite, accepted attitude that queer actors don’t need to be believed when they play straight and that it’s a-okay to just admit that.  There are pretty famous actors who are out as ace like Janeane Garofalo and other famous people who are out and it doesn’t seem to have affected their work, but many came out after they were already solidly in their field.  So, I think I have a ways to go until I can be more comfortably openly out, though I am out with one actor I worked with on a play.

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

That something can ~turn~ us at some point.  I’m open about my asexuality with romantic partners pretty much from the start, especially on dating apps.  I’ve had quite a few encounters on apps along the lines of “well you haven’t found the right person.”

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

I would tell that it whatever they are feeling is okay.  It’s tough to find a label that fits, it’s tough to accept that orientations are on a spectrum and they may move around on that spectrum or they may not, it’s tough to know that there are people who won’t understand and won’t bother to try. But the most important thing is that you feel what you feel. You can’t run from what you feel, and what you feel is okay.  It’s good. I live in the US, so I know the culture around sex here can be really, really tricky to navigate but it is easier when you know where you’re going.  There are a lot of great resources to make you feel more comfortable in the ace community; I know that when I first figured out I was ace I panicked but then I looked around on the internet and found a whole community of people like me.  It helped to see people of all ages, of all backgrounds so comfortable with who they were. So, if you’re struggling, reach out. You don’t even need to talk to anyone; just seeing someone be comfortable in their skin to can be enough to make everyone else a little more comfortable.

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

My Instagram is at maeve.forde and my web series “Suddenly Super?” is on YouTube now at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL-prcEKVIVCY5Zoz3rXDCQ.

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

Interview: Elizabeth Wambheim

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.

1. Author Image

WORK

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.

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ASEXUALITY

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!

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

Exciting Announcement

Hello everybody!

Interviews shall resume next week (and I still need more, so please keep sending those interview requests!).

Today I have an exciting announcement about an upcoming appearance.

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Yours truly is going to be in Artist Alley at Ace Comic Con with my series The Shape Shifter Chronicles! I’m super excited about this show because it’s freaking massive. I love meeting readers and fellow aces at these shows. And I’m also going to be table neighbors with a fellow ace artist, who was actually featured on this site a while back (Hallopino: Tumblr & WordPress).

Here’s the message that was sent with this shiny social media badge: “I am thrilled to announce I will be appearing at @acecomiccon Midwest at Chicago’s Navy Pier October 12-14th alongside Tom Hiddleston, Josh Brolin, & many more for an amazing weekend! Want to join us? Get your tix here: http://ow.ly/uqjO30l7DOf #acecomiccon”

It’s going to be a great show.

If you’re planning on attending, please drop by Artist Alley and say hi!

Thanks, everybody!

ADDENDUM: Ace Comic Con has nothing to do with asexuality. Rather that’s more a hilarious coincidence :-p