Interview: Schi-Lee A. Smith

Today we’re joined by Schi-Lee A. Smith. Schi-Lee is a phenomenal artist who is incredibly versatile. She does a lot of visual art and even teaches painting classes. When she’s not doing visual art, Schi-Lee enjoys writing and writes both original work and fanfiction. Schi-Lee also has a passion for singing and even has some karaoke fans. It’s clear she’s a dedicated artist with an impressive amount of passion, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Well, I paint quite often, I actually teach painting classes sometimes.  I sing, a lot; I have some fans at karaoke.  I draw with pen or pencil, too, and I write, both fanfiction and original works.  My writing is usually like what I read, sci-fi ish, and I pride myself on making realistic dialogue.  I like to paint and draw realistically, haven’t quite gotten abstract down.  My singing can be just about anything, I can sing Creep by Postmodern Jukebox and Highway to Hell just as easily.

What inspires you?

When I was a child, it was my Dad.  I still have his drawings and poems around my house, and when I was very young, he would record us singing on a giant cassette tape recorder thing and let me do skits in between songs.  He was very artistic, and just about all my artistic tendencies stem from him.  Now, it’s still that in a way, but also I just want to see the beauty in the world, and add to it if I can.  Lots of people love hearing me sing, and love my writing, and love my artwork.  If I can make someone else happy, then I’ve succeeded.

2

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

Technically my field is Biology, that’s what I’m majoring in in University, but I’ll always consider myself a musician, artist, and writer.  My Dad never put me down for any art I did, so I was never afraid to get into something I wanted to do, and it’s always been with me since childhood so even if I never get any recognition for any of it, I’ll always be an artist. Therefore it’s not as much something I want to do, as something I’m doing, even if I stay obscure.

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 do, actually.  My Dad’s signature was a heart with ‘LAB’, his initials, in the center, all interconnected, it’s really neat.  I made one for myself when my initials were still SAB, but it looked really weird, so when I got married, I changed it to a kind of horns, or something, to match SAS.  It’s hard to draw with a mouse, but it’s basically this.

Signature

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t worry about what others say is art, art is what you want it to be.  I have friend who play metal that people say isn’t music, but it is to them, and it makes them happy.  Draw/sing/write/do whatever to make you happy, or to get it out of your head, don’t do it for others.

And don’t be put down if it sucks at first, most everyone’s first drawing of a person is a stick figure, just practice, and practice a lot.

3

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a biromantic asexual.  I suppose if one goes for this part, I’m sex-positive.

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

I have encountered some people that didn’t really know what it was, but my friends were very supportive and defended me before I could.  I have awesome friends.  Thankfully I have yet to encounter any prejudice or ignorance that scared me like I know plenty have, so I thank God every day for where I am in life.

4

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

That we hate sex, or we never have sex.

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

You aren’t alone, that feeling that you don’t understand what all the fuss is about?  Other people feel it.  It’s not weird to think that a ‘hot’ person isn’t hot, according to your body. You don’t have to pretend.

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

Well, I have a YouTube channel, youtube.com/schihigh, where I’m attempting to post my singing and music videos I make on.  I also have a Tumblr and a specific tag with my art on it.  You can just search ‘schi’s art’ on schi-walker-locked.tumblr.com.  If someone were to want commissions, they could message me on Tumblr, or email me at schihigh@yahoo.com.  Just put commission in the subject.

5

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

Interview: Jacob

Today we’re joined by Jacob, who is known on social media as Jacob’s Jottings. Jacob is a phenomenal author who writes both original fiction, nonfiction, and fanfiction. For nonfiction, he writes about autism and mental health for the site “The Mighty.” For fiction, he has mostly written fanfiction and original short stories, but has recently taken on two large projects. One involves a detective in post-war Britain and the other is about an autistic wizard (which is something i would absolutely love to read because it sounds fantastic). It’s clear he’s a dedicated and passionate writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. The Capitoline Academy (Sunset) (A4 cover logo)
The Capitoline Academy (Sunset)

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a writer, and I’ve really started to come out of my shell in the last few years. I’ve always written short stories and never shown them to anyone before, but that changed when my friends started writing fan-fiction, and my English teacher at college told me to attend a creative writing club.

Though I’m still very private about my larger projects, I started publishing articles for mental health site The Mighty, one of those articles received 32,000 hearts on the site, and got shared a lot on social media, so I started to say to myself ‘what if people would like my creative work too?’ and here I am now, writing two large scale projects, one about an autistic wizard, the other about a detective in post-war Britain. Not just that, but I published some fan-fiction of my own, and I found once that was out there, I found it a lot easier to write without much self-doubt.

I’ve recently finished college, and I’ve been accepted onto the Creative Writing BA course at a university I’ve dreamed about going to for years. I’m hoping this will really make my dream of being a full-time writer a reality, even if it takes years to take off.

As well as writing, I also do a bit of photography, and some digital design. I make all my own covers for my projects, as well as posters for events, and I love going out and taking pictures. I often use the pictures for reference for my writing, and it’s a great skill to have alongside.

What inspires you?

I find inspiration in many things, mainly everyday life. But I often find myself looking into what I loved as a child, certainly what comforted me. Sometimes this is in the form of stories by other authors, such as J. K Rowling, or Terry Pratchett, but other times its films and music, or most importantly to me: knowledge. Plants, animals, and space particularly always have heavy presence in my stories, and that’s because I love to learn new things.

I’ve always written to escape the real world, so I suppose it is natural that my other methods of escape blend well with this, I often find that going to a museum or exhibition particularly fuels my writing, it often ends in me trying to fit a lot into one box- my wizarding story contains as much knowledge of the natural world as it does fictional magic for example.

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

I’ve always been creative, and I was sure I wanted to utilise that in some way, but could never find an exact form that suited me. I tried art, and drama, and found myself not ever truly comfortable. I mainly thank books, films, and television, for getting me into writing. The idea of making my own stories was irresistible! I cannot pinpoint when it exactly started happening, probably about five years ago, but I finally found that writing (alongside reading and watching) was the most enjoyable thing to do. Then it all fell into place, and I find myself writing all the time, even if it never gets added to again- it’s fun.

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 definitely! The infinity symbol finds its way into most of the stuff I write, not just because of its use by the autistic rights movement, but because of my fascination with the concept behind the symbol. I also always incorporate types of birds as symbolism- usually owls, or penguins, as they’re my favourite, penguins especially.

Playing with colour is something I’ve recently moved into, I don’t have a single character that does not heavily associate themselves with colours and their meanings, even if it is just a subtle inclusion. Blue for my protagonists usually, a colour I use not only to create a cold atmosphere, but also to show the presence of intelligence, imagination, and peace. Reds and oranges meanwhile shows up my more passionate and instinctual characters, with purple showing a combination of the two.

I also love playing with imagery, with many of my characters having ‘hair the colour of fertile soil’ or the ‘great spurts of an ancient wine, hemorrhaging profusely’- it can feel a bit forced sometimes, but it often pays off, and I find it a great way of illustrating the worlds I’ve made.

I’m also told I tell stories in a unique way, my friend recently commented that when she reads my writing, I am clearly telling the story, rather than just creating it. I’ve never quite understood this evaluation, but I’ve heard it quite a few times in several forms.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

It sounds cliché- but I would say just do whatever you love! I spent far too long worrying about what others think, and though that matters if you want to make a career out of it, the initial starting of a new art is a solo-activity. If painting makes you happy- paint! Everyone I know who does something creative for a living started off doing it to just kill time, or to help them with another activity, and it grew from there.

2. Inherited Intuition A4 Cover
Inherited Intuition

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I use the label asexual as standard, to me, this means not feeling sexual attraction. I’m confident in identifying as a sex positive asexual, but I’m yet to 100% settle on my romantic orientation.

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

I think one of the strangest encounters in my life was when I first explained asexuality to someone, without attaching the label to myself. I was told its ‘unnatural’- for this reason, in my private life, I don’t talk about my sexuality until prompted.

I also find that some in my age group is often sex-obsessed, I’ve often been labelled prudish just for not wanting to talk about sex, and I find it very hard to try and express my frustration with that. I am not at all prudish, I just think about it completely differently to they do!

I incorporate it into my work- I actually find it harder to write allosexual characters, and therefore many of my characters are asexual by accident! And I do worry that some people won’t understand the representation if they haven’t experienced it first-hand, but I do my best to write characters that educate as well as represent now.

Outside of my field, I see prejudice and ignorance regularly, insults such as ‘frigid’ and so on, I also see the constant discourse present on sites such as Tumblr, and though I do my best to keep out, I sometimes worry for our community, I hate the idea that anyone who identifies as asexual will feel like it isn’t valid or can’t talk about it in case they’re verbally attacked.

As an autistic person, I also find that some people think my asexuality is part of that. I don’t think it is- and it’s quite insulting to assume that someone’s sexuality is part of their sensory issues for example. The two often overlap for me, and I also know autistics that do feel sexual attraction and have those sensory issues anyway. Some people in both communities would even say their sensory difficulties enhance their sexual experiences.

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

Personally, I find that the definition of asexual is often mis-identified. It means lacking sexual attraction. But I know people who are completely convinced it simply means ‘won’t have sex, or won’t masturbate’- it is often a pain to try and debate it with them, and I find myself bringing up articles from the community to back my side up.

I don’t like discussing the personal details of my own asexuality in too much depth with people who might not understand, and therefore I think the extra labels of ‘sex positive’ are really useful when discussing asexuality, as well as the other identities within the spectrum.

At the end of the day though, the only person other than me who has a right to that deeper information is a partner, and I don’t think asexuals should ever feel pressured to dissect their identities for another person’s curiosity or because of an ignorant person’s misconceptions.

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

Firstly, it is okay to struggle! I found it incredibly hard to find the orientation that best described me. I still think sexual orientation is a fluid concept, and I think people who are struggling should remember that. If something doesn’t feel right, find the label that does feel right, and don’t feel guilty if that changes. Some asexuals might not find that identity for a long time.

I myself often find myself wondering if I might be aromantic as well as asexual, or demisexual instead of asexual, this is a natural part of development. Just as sexuality in all its forms is natural. A lot of people go through that internal debate. And nobody should ever be afraid of using the label that best suits them.

I would also repeat that the only person who needs to be happy is you. Come out at your own pace. Experience your sexuality at your own pace. Some people don’t find the identity they’re most comfortable with until they’re halfway through life, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

There’s a thriving asexual and LGBT+ community waiting to help you through it all, and the right people within it are not going to judge you for struggling.

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

People can find my work in several places. For a more personal touch, there’s my own Tumblr blog which is at jacobs-jottings, or my AO3 under the same name (but without a hyphen).

As well as this there’s my new Facebook page, also called Jacob’s Jottings, and my user page on The Mighty, under my full name- Jacob Durn. If anyone is curious, my photography can be found easily on Instagram, where my username is identical to my AO3 one.

My blog has a bit of everything (including personal posts, and lots of reblogs), my AO3 some fanfiction, and soon some original works, whilst the last two focus on my non-creative work.

3. Murder On The Hogwarts Express
Murder On The Hogwarts Express

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

Interview: Minerva Cerridwen

Today we’re joined by Minerva Cerridwen. Minerva is a phenomenal SFF author and visual artist. For writing, she has a story published in Unburied Fables and recently released her novella, The Dragon of Ynys (which features an aro-ace main character). Visual art is more of a hobby for her, though she does do commissions. Minerva does handlettering and draws, using traditional mediums such as pencils and ink. It’s clear she’s a very passionate and dedicated artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

01 Bianca (own character) - pencil - 2017
Bianca (own character)

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’ve always loved writing, and to my great joy I can call myself a published author these days. I mainly write fantasy and science fiction and sometimes dabble in poetry and horror. So far I’ve got a short story in the queer fairy tale anthology Unburied Fables and my debut novella, The Dragon of Ynys, came out in May 2018.

The Dragon of Ynys is a light fantasy tale suitable for all ages, starring aro/ace main character Sir Violet, the knight of Ynys. He helps Holly, a trans woman, to find her missing wife, the baker. They suspect the ever-thieving dragon who lives near the village might have something to do with her disappearance…

02 Cover for 'The Dragon of Ynys' by Kirby Crow
Cover for ‘The Dragon of Ynys’ by Kirby Crow

I also love drawing and handlettering, using traditional materials—mainly because I haven’t had the time yet to learn more about digital art. I like to experiment with different techniques: I’ve been using pencils, watercolour, brushmarkers and ink, both for original works and fanart. I wouldn’t mind taking this to a professional level someday, but so far I’ve mainly been drawing for myself and my friends.

What inspires you?

I grew up with fairy tales, both the ones my mother read to me as a child and all the Disney movies I watched so many times. It’s no wonder that I love writing fairy tales myself. However, the big difference with the tales I consumed at a young age is that there will always be queer characters in my stories. It’s so important to be able to relate to characters when you’re trying to figure out your own identity, and I feel like it took too long before I finally experienced that moment myself. Once you’ve seen your identity validated in popular media, it’s so much easier to accept who you are, rather than to believe those who say you can’t feel the way you feel or be the way you are.

I hope that my writing will make it easier for future generations to find stories that tell them they’re not alone, not broken, and that teach them acceptance towards others as well. In that light, I write the stories that I would love to read myself, with all the dragons and magic and hopefully wittiness that I adore in the works of Pratchett, Rowling, Tolkien and other masters.

For more specific inspiration, my friend Fie and I started a project in 2013, inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-golden Tales. Every week, she took a picture for which I wrote a ten-sentence story. These days we’ve dialled it down to two photo-story combinations per month, but Paranatellonta is still going strong after five years! Getting random prompts from friends is a great way to stay inspired at all times.

When it comes to visual art, getting an Instagram account has definitely done wonders. There are a lot of awesome artists out there whose samples inspired me to try new techniques. Every month there are challenges going around in different themes, for any kind of art actually, but in my case those mainly influenced my handlettering. Practice really helps! I also finished Inktober last year. It once again proved that an inspiring prompt doesn’t need to be more than one word or one image. You can see my Inktober drawings if you scroll down a little on my Instagram.

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

I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember. As I said, my mother read fairy tales to me from a young age, and once I learned to read myself, my greatest joy was to discover more fun stories. There were never enough of them, so it only made sense that I wrote down my own as soon as I could. Surrounded by those fictional adventures, somewhere deep inside I knew what adventure I wanted to have myself, even when I was five years old: I wanted to be an author, like those wonderful people who’d given me all those beautiful tales to enjoy.

My drawing story is completely different. For a very long time I was convinced I couldn’t draw at all. I just didn’t have the talent. Looking back at art class in school, I feel like they never stressed the importance of studying references enough. I was always doodling in my school books for fun, but it never felt like that counted.

Fast-forward to when I’d finished university and my parents were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. I didn’t have much gift inspiration, and they joked about a “grown-up” child making a drawing for their parents—and the fact it was a joke tells you enough about how much the arts are respected unless you’re a Big Name. I often feel like our society expects people either to be a grand artist or talentless, and the fact that there must be a learning process in between is often completely neglected.

Anyway, I went through with it, and as I was drawing my parents from a reference photo, it turned out pretty okay (especially considering it was supposed to remind them of a child’s drawing). Most important of all, I had a lot of fun working on it. I’d been looking at a lot of art online since I’d last taken up a pencil, and combined with using a reference for the first time, I could see I’d massively improved since my last school drawing years earlier.

From that point on I let my more artsy friend Fie convince me to take part in courses on Skillshare to improve my drawing techniques and handlettering. Now, almost five years after that anniversary drawing, I actually feel like I’ve made some pretty things!

03 Fiery Mushroom - brush markers - 2017
Fiery Mushroom (brush markers)

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?

As I mentioned above, you’ll find many fairy tale elements and queer characters in my writing. More specifically, you’ll encounter a lot of dragons and spiders. The dragons are a more conscious choice than the spiders, who just always happen to show up… Just like in real life, I suppose.

I don’t think I have any recurring elements in my visual art, but I’ve been using a signature since late 2016. It’s made up of the initials of both my pen name and legal name.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I think it’s an important message that you can always learn and improve. That’s something I only truly learned from starting to draw. I’d always been “born” a writer: I started at a very young age and people told me I was talented. But I had to work to become better at visual art, and that made me realise that the reason why I’d loved writing all my life was that I’d been exposed to so many stories to learn from. Having played with words from a very young age, stories had never been the big “mystery” that a beautiful piece of art was. So what I mean to say is: people aren’t born a Grand Artist. They become them. And going down into history means you’ve worked hard, but also that you were lucky (or, in some cases, unlucky) enough to have your name picked up and talked about. But that luck, too, is something you can influence by promoting your work. Like doing interviews on awesome websites. 😉

04 Space Ace 2 for Tanouska - watercolour - 2018
Space Ace 2 (watercolour)

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual and somewhere on the aromantic spectrum, but I usually go with “aro-spec” rather than a more specific label, because it’s difficult for me to figure that one out.

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

There’s certainly a lot of ignorance. Even in some queer organisations, it seems the A’s are often forgotten. I can only hope that my stories will spread more knowledge, while still being entertaining rather than feeling like a lecture.

05 Violet - ink - 2018
Violet (ink)

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

That asexuality would mean you never have sex. It can mean that, and I guess it does for me. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a life without sex. But for sex-positive aces it makes things all the more confusing to figure out their orientation when people keep asking: “But you’ve enjoyed having sex, how can you be ace?”

Aside from that, I think that asexuality and aromanticism are too often considered the same thing. This also makes it hard to find a label that fits you when you do experience romantic attraction but no sexual attraction, or the other way round. When different sources tell you that you need to feel things a certain, very specific way in order to identify as ace or aro, it can be a long search to find a label that fits. And of course not everyone needs to label their orientation, but in my own experience finding the names and other people who used them certainly helped to stop thinking I might be broken or wrong.

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

You’re not alone and you’re not broken. For me it was a massive help to enter queer spaces (in my case on Tumblr) and read experiences from other queer people. It made me discover terms (like asexual and aromantic) which I’d never heard of before I made a Tumblr account almost 10 years ago. It showed me that they weren’t some kind of theoretical concept, but a whole spectrum of people who experienced things in different ways—and some of their experiences were just like mine! Suddenly I was no longer “the weird one”. Which actually took me some time to adapt to, because I’d become quite used to being “just odd” and labelling myself that way 😛

However, in the long run, learning about all flavours of queer (be it through books, blogs, or directly talking to others) taught me to be more open-minded in general and made me more comfortable with myself.

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

My website is http://minervacerridwen.wordpress.com/. There you find everything about both my writing and drawings, with links to my social media. Feel free to follow me!

Paranatellonta, a flash fiction project inspired by my friend’s photography, can be found at http://paranatellonta.tumblr.com/. It updates twice a month and you can read all the stories and see all the pictures for free.

My visual art can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/minerva_cerridwen/. I’m posting pretty much everything I draw on Instagram, showing my learning process with both the pieces that worked out and the ones that didn’t. Mainly because I find it interesting to track my own evolution and learn from that in turn!

Other places you can find me:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/minerva_cerr
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/minervacerridwen/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15904760.Minerva_Cerridwen

And places to buy my stories:

– The Dragon of Ynys (Publisher | List of other retailers)
– Unburied Fables (Amazon)

06 Cats Rule the World for Ether - watercolour - 2017
Cats Rule the World (watercolour)

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

Interview: Alex

Today we’re joined by Alex. Alex is a wonderful visual artist who works with both digital and traditional media. A lot of their work is experimental or abstract. They have a particular affinity for the strange and enjoy drawing monster people. Their work is interesting, with muted colors adding a sense of eeriness to it. It’s clear that they’re a dedicated and passionate artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

bleedingheart
Bleeding Heart

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Oh man, what is there to tell? I draw original works and a lot of abstract and experimental ideas. Be they my own or friend’s characters, ideas, scenes, bad puns, you name it. I am constantly challenging myself to improve and draw all the strange ideas that come into my head.

I do have an intense interest in monster people though.

What inspires you?

It’s more along the lines of “What doesn’t inspire me?” Being disabled I’ve spent a lot of time inside my own head; built species, characters, worlds, ideas. A bit of music, a bit of nature, a phrase, a person in a state of emotion, smells even can get my brain working and thinking; ‘Who does this remind me of, what would this character do in this situation? How would this species interpret this?’

I’ve ended up creating entire characters after waking up after a rough night in the hospital from drug fueled dreams, desperately pleading with the nurses for some paper and pen so I could get it out of my head before I forgot all of it.

Myself
Myself

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

I always drew but didn’t always want to be an artist. I remember my duotangs in elementary school being filled to just an inch short of the brink with doodles, shapes, silly cartoons, puzzles, patterns and a lot of dragons. I remember then never hitting the edge of the duotang because I used the work paper inside to hide the fact that I used drawing to pay attention to my lessons.

It was honestly my paternal grandmother that really got me into art, she paints but never had a knack for drawing things from her imagination. And when she found out I could and did, she actively encouraged me, often getting me to draw fantasy creatures for her to use as references for her own art.

I didn’t start doing digital art seriously until a few years ago when the arthritis in my hands started to make using pen and pencils difficult to use for long periods of time. Its been a fun learning process that I’ve been lucky to have other artists that inspire and encourage me along the 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?

I sort of do but I tend to forget to put it as a watermark on my art. I designed a crest for myself that is in desperate need of an update. (My digital art skills have evolved a lot since then)

Other then that, maybe intense colours and lots of flowing lines.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

As dumb as it sounds, practice the basics. When you find yourself frustrated with your art go back to doing basic gesture pieces and pages of doodles. Once your ready to draw something big that practice will be ingrained into you and will make things easier in the long run.

And don’t be afraid to fuck up! Making mistakes is how you learn, its allowed, and sometimes you end up finding out how to use those mistakes to make your art even cooler!

Newface
New Face

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m a panromantic asexual in a polyamorous relationship. I’m also a transitioning agender person. Two months on hormones now, woot woot!

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

Not overly, I’ve faced more backlash for being non-binary transgender then I have for being asexual. Most of the time my sexuality doesn’t come up when I’m drawing for someone, and the few times it has those I’ve been working with have been openly curious or even relieved because WOW there are a lot of Ace artists out there.

Redemption by Blood
Redemption by Blood

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

‘You can’t be asexual, all humans have sexual urges, you’re not a plant’ –Said to me by my abusive mother at 15 when I was trying to explain why I wasn’t really okay with identifying as just bisexual.

Another big misconception people seem to have is that I won’t have a raunchy as hell sense of humour. Admittedly my humour tends to go from raunchy to ‘wtf’ in seconds flat because I don’t view sex as anything but funny, so see no issue mixing it with other things I find absurd and funny.

I like to write porn (my favourite people to write it with are other Asexual people or Demisexual people) and think dildos are the funniest things on the planet. Just because I don’t want to hear about my friend’s sex lives or be physically involved myself in sex doesn’t mean I can’t see how it can be important in other people’s relationships.

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

Its okay to be unsure, its okay to question things. But know this, no matter what anyone else says, you know you the best. You always will.

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

I’m mostly active on Tumblr: bohgeyboss.tumblr.com

Or at my Redbubble shop: www.redbubble.com/people/agentboss.

waterravensmall
Water Raven

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

Interview: Fishtanks

Today we’re joined by Fishtanks. Fishtanks is a wonderful visual artist who also does some writing. They mostly do fanart, but also do original work. When they’re not drawing, Fishtanks is working on a webcomic and also does zines. They’re very enthusiastic, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

tumblr_oqsrra9TZW1urxn9fo1_400

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am mostly a fan artist of a company called Rooster Teeth, but I also do Original pieces, Zines, animatics, and you heard it here first, I’m working on creating a webcomic right now!

What inspires you?

My inspiration for a majority of what I do is a mix of determination and stubbornness. If I want to do something someone tells me I can’t I work ten times as hard to do it! I have people watching me every day, and I want everyone who does watch me to know they can do whatever their heart desires.

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

I actually never thought that I would be an artist in any capacity as a child. I was interested in engineering and medicine! What got me interested was in my sophomore year of high school, I started talking to my now best friend. He was always by himself drawing, so to get closer to him, I started drawing! Once I started, and my best friend encouraged me, I was hooked!

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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 sign all my works of course, but nothing particularly special!

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

If someone says you can’t do something, do it anyway. Prove them wrong. Work harder to get there. Know you can do anything you want when you work harder and look at things from a new perspective.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Regular ol’ asexual

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

I have had a few times I have had to stop talking to people I enjoyed messaging because they either said aces aren’t real, or they don’t belong in the LGBT+ community, as well as left group chats.

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

Me complimenting a person or saying “She’s cute” and someone responding “But you’re ace.” Ace people can think someone is cute or attractive

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

It’s totally okay to be confused and questioning, and I even encourage it! Do not worry about saying you are something and then change it if you think it is wrong. Also, it is okay to not have a label for who you are, you are you, not a sum of labels!

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

I post most on my Tumblr: http://emptyfishtanks.tumblr.com/
And YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClB2m2taU60U_br8hQ7P4og
But I also have Twitter: https://twitter.com/emptyfishtanks
And Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fishtanksart/

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

Interview: Orion

Today we’re joined by Orion. Orion is a wonderful visual artist who does both original and fanart. They’re currently doing a lot of work with ink and watercolors. Their work has a delightful sense of whimsy and playfulness to it. Their characters are so expressive, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I like to try many different types and styles of art, though at the moment I’m focusing on inked and watercolour fanart and original visual art.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by my desire to see more positive representation of LGBT+ people in art and media. And by the desire to continue to develop my artistic skills.

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

My grandfather is an artist. Throughout my childhood I loved to visit him, I’d look through his hobby room at the artworks on the walls, the huge painting station, the sketches and canvas spread throughout and I loved it. I’d draw with the art set (a plastic half oval case filled with pencils, crayons, etc.) he had for his grandkids and a drawing I had done as a child of a girl in a dress (me? I cannot remember) was always proudly displayed in Grandpa’s study.

I’ve been interested in art since childhood thanks to Pa’s influence, and messy drawings with crayons slowly turned into something better.

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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 have any intentional things like that, though at the moment, binders have been featured in a lot of my works.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Be a good consumer of art.

Learn to give reviews to other artist’s works, even a short sentence explaining what you like about it. It helps to encourage a culture of interacting with art and sharing it rather than just letting it go by unnoticed and it’s a nice thing to do for the artist.

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Additionally, if you learn to see what makes an artwork good (e.g. “Hey! This is a great work and I really love the detail put into the hair and freckles!”), you’ll know what to put into your own work to make it better (e.g. Detailed hair/freckles).

And keep practicing, create as often as you can, and, if you feel comfortable with it, show as much of your work as you can to the world.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am an asexual nonbinary person. The romantic part is slightly more complex as I go by many terms, grey-biromantic, aromantic, and cupioromantic.

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

I’ve gotten hate mail and death threats on Tumblr for being openly ace but overall most people are okay with aces and if they’re not (or send hate mail) I block them immediately.

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

That asexuals just don’t like sex or haven’t found ‘the right person’.

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

Understand that if the issue is figuring out where on the asexual/aromantic spectrum you lie there’s no rush. There’s no real reason you need to have that figured out by a set date, just let yourself explore and eventually you’ll figure it out.

And if it’s becoming comfortable with your orientation that is the issue, firstly try to find other aces to talk to about it and then try to remind yourself that there’s absolutely, 100% nothing wrong with being asexual.

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

My Tumblrs: orioart.tumblr.com for original artworks and orionsfanart.tumblr.com for fanart.

Or my Deviantart: amazingacearmy.deviantart.com

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

Interview: Jordan S. Brock

Today we’re joined by Jordan S. Brock, who also goes by Kryptaria. Jordan is a wonderful author who specializes in queer romance. She writes both original work and fanfiction. Jordan is currently working on a book she describes as “a kinky m/m asexual romance.” She is obviously an incredibly 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’ve been writing all my life, though I spent forty-plus years trying and failing to muster the courage to submit to a publishing slush pile. For years, I read and wrote sci-fi/fantasy. Then I found fanfiction and fell in love with romance in fanfic — which is strange. I was never able to connect to mainstream romance, to the point where I could reasonably say I hated romance novels.

But romance in fanfic is a different creature altogether. As at earlgreytea68 says here [http://anauthorandherservicedog.tumblr.com/post/159134116719/on-fanfic-emotional-continuity]:

“[F]anfiction has nothing to do with using other people’s characters, it’s just a character-driven *genre* that is so character-driven that it can be more effective to use other people’s characters because then we can really get the impact of the storyteller’s message but I feel like it could also be not using other people’s characters, just a more character-driven story. Like, I feel like my original stuff–the novellas I have up on AO3, the draft I just finished–are probably really fanfiction, even though they’re original, because they’re hitting fanfic beats.”

This is the original fic I write. It’s marketed as romance, and the focus is on a happily-ever-after ending, but the romance is organic. It grows step-by-step, as true to the characters’ motivation as I can get, without heavy-handed external machinations to cram the characters together.

My first published romance novel, The Longest Night, is actually a nearly word-for-word copy of my Sherlock (BBC) fanfic, Northwest Passage [http://archiveofourown.org/works/531662/chapters/943040]. After I posted NWP, a senior editor at Sourcebooks contacted me on Twitter and asked if I’d be willing to scrub the fic and change it from m/m to m/f. After forty years of wanting to see my name in print, I agreed and signed a two-book contract.

Never let anyone say that fanfic isn’t real writing!

These days, though, I’m much happier to be writing queer romance. In October 2016, at Riptide Publishing released Change of Address [http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/change-of-address], an #ownvoices story about PTSD, a service dog, and a Jewish character — who, unlike me, is a fantastic cook. The sequel, tentatively titled Building Bridges, will be written as soon as my brain cooperates.

COA Book cover from Riptide

For now, I’m very excited to be working on a kinky asexual m/m romance. It’s an awesome challenge, writing an asexual character who’s sex-neutral (bordering on sex-repulsed) but also has a mile-wide dominant streak. He’s learned to navigate kinky spaces in various ways, both healthy and unhealthy, but he’s never found his happily ever after — until now, though it doesn’t come without a whole lot of stumbling blocks in the way. I hope to have the first draft done before May 2017 so the book can be released this year, but no guarantees. Real life keeps getting in the way!

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

I’ve always needed to write, for my own mental health. I’ve noticed a direct correlation between periods when I don’t write and times when I’m depressed or unhealthy.

As for inspiration, these days I look to the unusual romances: ones that sneak up on people from unexpected connections, ones that are realistic, ones that don’t fix the world or cure a character’s problems but that make life a little happier for everyone involved.

That’s what I love about queer romance. I’m not shoehorning or stereotyping my characters into “male” or “female” roles as they’ve become traditionally defined in the romance genre. I can let my characters develop as they will, without fear that an editor will redline a character because of breaking those gender-based molds.

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?

Animals! I tend to sneak in animals, especially dogs or cats, wherever I can, because they’re so important in my own life. I have a service dog for PTSD — two, actually, since my senior service dog, Darian, has retired due to bad hips and I’m now working with Bucky, my service dog in training. Isn’t he gorgeous?

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In Change of Address, I gave Michael, who also has PTSD (from combat), a service dog named Kaylee. She’s a German Shepherd Dog who’s a mix, in temperament, of Bucky and Darian. She’s not perfect, but she’s the steady rock that Michael needs to anchor himself as he finds his way in the civilian world — and the reason that he and Josh eventually end up together.

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In my next book, one of the characters has an adopted greyhound. She offers her human unconditional love in exchange for long naps on the sofa. Really, what more could a person want? And I have plans for a golden retriever puppy to take a starring role in Building Bridges.

My fanfics, whether solo- or co-written, also tend to have pets of various types, whether it’s a pair of ferrets, a basket of kittens, or an over-dramatic saluki.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Remind yourself that art isn’t a zero-sum game. Other artists aren’t your competition — they’re your colleagues. Cheer their successes, because every successful artist brings new consumers into the fold, whether it’s a Big Name Fan writing a breakaway hit fanfic and bringing in new readers who eventually discover your fics or a New York Times bestselling author bringing new readers into the sub-genre in which you write. Yes, sometimes success is a matter of luck, of connections, of timing, but mostly success is a matter of talent and hard work.

Consume other art in your chosen field. If you’re a writer, read all the books you can in your genre — and a few in related genres. For example, I’ve learned a whole lot about writing humor in romance by reading historical m/f romances, even though I don’t think I’ll ever write a historical.

Study the market if you want to turn your art into a career. Learn the formulas and what made the big names successful. Study the fundamentals. Learn all the rules, whether grammar or color theory or whatever applies to your art. You can’t know which rules to break until you have a deep understanding of those rules.

Then feel free to break the rules. Be true to the art you create. You’ll find a market somewhere.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

These days, I come closest to identifying as autochorissexual.

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

I’m fortunate that I haven’t, though I suspect that’s because I’m working with publishing professionals who are from all over the queer spectrum, including an ace senior editor.

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

Any sentence that includes the words “all aces” is bound to be 1) “commonly” believed or taken to be true and 2) actually flat-out wrong.

When it comes to my next book, I’m actually bracing for backlash from outside the ace community from people telling me I can’t write a kinky asexual character because “all aces” don’t like sex and therefore can’t be kinky.

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

A few things:

  1. “All aces” don’t exist. Every asexual person is different. Sex-positive, sex-neutral, sex-repulsed. Kinky, vanilla, or none of the above. Masturbates or doesn’t. Experiences arousal under whatever circumstances or none at all.
  2. If someone tells you “you can’t be ace because…” or “you’re not a real ace because…” walk away and don’t look back. Nobody elected these gatekeepers, and nobody has a lock on knowing everything about asexuality — not even other aces. We all live in a continuous state of self-discovery, from the day we’re born until the day we die.
  3. And that means sometimes you change, whether from biology or circumstance or because you simply learned a new word that comes closer to resonating with who you really are inside. There was a time I identified as het, then bi, then pan, then gray-ace, then demi-ace, then back to gray-ace/aro. It took me something like 43 years to get where I am now, and that doesn’t mean it won’t change again. That’s okay!

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

These days, I tend to be most active on my Twitter, https://twitter.com/jordansbrock/ for original work or pictures of Bucky. I’m terrible at keeping up my website, jordansbrock.com, even though it’s a Tumblr. You’d think it’d be easy!

My Riptide Publishing author page will also have a link to all books I’ve released through them. http://riptidepublishing.com/authors/jordan-s-brock

For fanfic, my work is all available on AO3 at http://archiveofourown.org/users/Kryptaria/works and my Tumblr, at kryptaria, is full of inspirational pictures. These days, it’s mostly Marvel Cinematic Universe. I keep my James Bond stuff at kryptaria00Q and post random writing/service dog bits at anauthorandherservicedog.

Thank you, Jordan, for participating in this interview and this project. It is very much appreciated.