Interview: Zoe

Today we’re joined by Zoe. Zoe is a wonderful young up and coming author who writes YA and middle grade fiction. She has drafted three novels, all are in the genres of supernatural and magical realism. They feature a diverse cast of characters, most of them are LGBTQIA+, the kind of characters Zoe has often wanted to see in the books she was reading. It’s clear she’s a very passionate and dedicated writer with an incredibly bright future ahead of her, 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 young adult/middle grade books that could also count as magical realism or supernatural. My current project centres on different supernatural/paranormal beings such as angels, demons, vampires, sirens etc. It is pretty diverse compared to a lot of books I’ve read recently, and includes a gender fluid vampire, a pansexual warlock, an aroace demon in a queer-platonic relationship, a bisexual demon, a biromantic angel, a lesbian werewolf, an aroace fae who is sex and romance repulsed (There are others, as well as heterosexual characters.) It also includes all the struggles they have to deal with because of their sexualities and genders, as well as their supernatural race. (While also trying to stop a very evil woman from taking her revenge out on the whole world)

I thought it should be a bit more diverse than the other young adult/middle grade books I have read because to me, having two or three LGBTQIA+ characters in an entire 16 book world seems very unrealistic. At school, I had at least three or four LGBTQIA+ kids in each class I went to for every lesson.

What inspires you?

Usually, books I’ve read. I didn’t really know what to write about to be honest, before I started. But then I read a few young adult books of the same type I wanted to write and something clicked. With every book I read, I had a new idea for something that could happen. Of course, I didn’t steal from the books. What I mean, is that I could picture how old spell books looked, and realised a King would probably care more about having a son for an heir than a daughter. This helped me picture a possible scene for an argument between a father and daughter, in which this point could have been brought up.

Also, music inspires me a lot. I always listen to music. Classical pieces, soundtracks from movies, actual songs even musicals. Whatever it takes to give me some inspiration, I even sleep while listening to music to help me better picture what might be giving me trouble when writing. Think of it like writing fanfiction in my head, of my own stories, while I try to sleep.

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

I have always loved reading, and throughout primary school (ages 3-11) we had a lot of opportunities to write our own short stories in class. I loved it, and thought it was fun. I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until a few years ago when I discovered NaNoWriMo (I won) and realised how fun writing could be and got back into it.

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 haven’t done the math, but there’s roughly the same amount of LGBTQIA+ characters as there are heterosexual characters (not counting small children). In any book I will ever write, I will always try to keep it as close to 50/50 as I can, because that is the most realistic figure. There’s also hardly ever any angst revolving around romance, or any explicit stuff because I strongly dislike it and have no time for that nonsense of “he loves me, he loves me not.”

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t stop writing. If someone says you write too much, or you should spend more time doing something that benefits them, don’t listen and keep writing. I was told that I spend too much time reading and writing, the only two things I do for fun, by my family who wanted me to essentially become a third parent to my brother who is only 2 years younger than me. It upset me, and I stopped both. I didn’t read anything for ages, and eventually forgot about my writing for a few months. It’s good to take a break, but on your terms, or as close as you can get.

I still struggle trying to get into writing again, because I feel like it will be hard. Because I don’t remember what I was going to do with this sentence, or because I can’t remember what that character looked like or if they are even in this book. Don’t let anyone – and I mean anyone – tell you that it isn’t worth it. Write for you.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a sex and romance repulsed aroace, and I experience aesthetic attraction. I also identify as pan because my aesthetic attraction can be to anyone of any gender.

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

I haven’t experienced any. However, when I was talking to my best friend and fellow Asexual about some of the characters, trying to work out a scene, I mentioned they were both Aroace. I also have an ace-biromantic character not in that scene. She asked “That makes three on the Ace Spectrum, right? Isn’t that a bit much?” No. it is not “a bit much” because I know several asexual people online, and together we make two. In real life, in a world with billions of people, at least 1% of which (7 million I think total) asexuals, it makes sense to have a few who know each other. She knew this, it was just more of shock at seeing more than one Ace character in a single book, and she wasn’t being mean or anything.

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

I have several, and they are all from my best friend’s ex-boyfriend, although I have heard other people say stuff along these lines too.

  • (asexual refusing to have sex with her boyfriend because she’s a sex repulsed asexual) “But biologically speaking everyone needs sex.” – This isn’t true. I’ve heard it can be fun, great, stress-relieving, and a bunch of other positive things from people who continuously talk to me about it even when I tell them not to. But biologically, you don’t crave it. You don’t die without it. Biologically speaking, it is how babies are made. Nothing more.
  • “You’re not asexual because you don’t need to photosynthesize” – hahaha, no. he said this sincerely, and he meant this to hurt. It isn’t a joke. There are multiple meanings for different words in the English language. “My nose is running” does not mean you’re nose is in fact running down your face and about to make an escape to go join the party next door.
  • “Asexuality isn’t a thing. It’s just an excuse. You’re a lesbian” – yeah she’s an Aroace lesbian, but she didn’t know it at the time. She’s still aroace. It doesn’t matter what else you identify as, if you think you are on the spectrum, no one can invalidate you like this. Asexuality is a thing. It is also annoying to hear this several times in the same conversation.

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

Asexuality, and the whole spectrum, is a thing. Aromanticism is a thing. Aroace is a thing. You can be both, you can be one or the other. You can be in a qpr, you can be single forever. You can have a partner, or not. You can be a third sexuality on top of this. You can hate sex/romance with a fiery passion or you can still enjoy it. Don’t let uninformed people try to tell you how you feel, because the person who knows you best is you. And if this means having your aroace-pan awakening at 2am and grinning like a fool for three days then so be it. Because you deserve to be happy. If someone you love says the words “but biologically-“or “you aren’t ace/aro” or any variation of “it’s a fad/you just want attention.” Even after you’ve explained it to them? Even after you’ve given them a chance to learn about your orientation? Get rid of them because you can do better. Any loved one who forces you to ignore how you feel, or invalidates you, or pressures you into things you don’t want to do, is not worth your time.

When you come out to people, be ready for the inevitable vocab lesson, but don’t be upset about it and if they ask a lot of questions, try not to be offended. In all likelihood, they have no idea what any of this means because when they were growing up it wasn’t as widely known. Take a few minutes to explain. They might get it, they might not. They might be supportive, they might not. But at least they know. And if they get confused somehow and think you just came out as a lesbian, please, for the sake of your sanity, correct them. Do not let them think you and your best friend are lesbian lovers unless you, for some reason, want them to think that. It is about what you are comfortable with.

Tell the person you are dating what your boundaries are, or what you are uncomfortable with. For example, I personally despise all physical contact with all but 2 people. Maybe they can work their way in, but for now, tell them. Don’t let yourself be uncomfortable just so you don’t have to have the awkward conversation where you tell them you don’t want to be kissed or you don’t want to have sex. And if they don’t respect your boundaries, get rid of them. A person who is willing to just be platonic cuddle buddies with no pressure on either side is much better than a person who refuses to understand your orientation and the things you don’t want to do.

Also, don’t listen to aphobes, at all.

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

I haven’t published anything anywhere, but I’m always up for questions about my work in progress, or anything to do with writing (or my orientation really). My Tumblr is at solangelo3088.

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

Interview: Reimena Yee

Today we’re joined by Reimena Yee. Reimena is a phenomenal visual artist and writer whose graphic novel, The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya, was recently nominated for an Eisner Award. Reimena has done a bit of everything, but webcomics are where her focus is at the moment. Much of her work is rooted in an ace POV and many of the characters she writes are asexual, including the main character of The Carpet Merchant. How cool is that!? Reimena is a talented and dedicated artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. Dullahan
Dullahan

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Heylo! I’m an artist, writer and designer. I’ve worked on all kinds of projects, from game design, clothing collaborations and editorial illustration, but I spend most of my time developing comics. I’m the creator of two webcomics, The World in Deeper Inspection, and The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya, which recently was nominated for the Eisner Awards.

I’d consider myself a visual problem solver — I provide artwork that my clients want, whether it’s something personal like a wedding card or a commercial thing like a game. If I’m not occupied working on solutions, I’m telling stories.

What inspires you?

I’ve a deep passion for the world’s history, art and cultures. Learning is what inspires me. It’s fascinating to think about the lives and stories of people back then, and how they expressed themselves through artwork and literature.

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

I’ve always been doing some form of art and storytelling throughout my life; if not a dominant pursuit, it was something that occurred at the periphery. It was only recently that I decided to commit to it as a career, after half a life of pursuing science and academia.

3. BabushkaCatWitch
Babushka Cat Witch

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. My work is all over the place, in the sense that you can see what is my latest obsession at the time. Lately, it’s tapestry and florals, but I want to progress to something with a more Malaysian flavour.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I’d recommend finding a passion, interest or even side gig that isn’t art-related, or as removed from your art specialisation as possible. For example, sports, knitting, cooking, reading, etc. Having something separate, especially if you don’t monetise it, helps in establishing balance and perspective in your life, as doing only one thing for the rest of your time can affect you mentally and emotionally.

4. TCMTapestry
The Carpet Merchant Tapestry

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Probably closer to demi, but if asexuality was a black-white spectrum, I’m a dark grey.

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

Personally I haven’t had any issue. I rarely ever talk about asexuality or sexuality. I only speak about myself as ‘queer’, which is true due to being non-binary, and my biromantic interests (disclaimer: more complex than this).

BUT there has been some feeling in the field that asexuality, along with bi/pansexuality, and other so-called smaller identities, have been looked down upon as identities that don’t experience the same kind of trauma or oppression as the more prominent identities. This logic (which needs to be unpacked for its problematic implications) skews the community’s ability to be a safe space.

How I handle that is to just to do good work. Hopefully, by being myself and making work I believe in that also happens to include aces, it normalises asexuality as an identity that can just exist.

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

There’s just a general misunderstanding of what asexuality is, and how it is a nuanced and complicated experience that differs even between aces. It doesn’t help that there are parts of the ace community that adopt puritan, conservative language to control other people’s expression of queerness. Having such a voice be the dominant one narrows other’s view of what asexuality can be.

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

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but it helps to think of your asexuality (however it expresses itself) as part of the large, varied, diverse, individualised experiences of being human. The bigger your conception of what being a person is, the easier it is to accept your unique brand of asexuality, alongside others’, as a normal, human thing. And you don’t have to be asexual, or strictly a particular kind of asexual, forever either – things can change, morph, shift, be more complicated – but you’re still a valued human with talents to contribute to society.

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

My website is reimenayee.com
I post a lot of my art, and talk aplenty on Twitter (at reimenayee)
A more curated experience is blog.reimenayee.com

You can read my webcomics at alcottgrimsley.com

At the moment, The Carpet Merchant has a crowdfunder to publish a hardcover copy of Vol I. If you want to buy a book, head on here: https://unbound.com/books/the-carpet-merchant-voli

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Enchanted

Thank you, Reimena, 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.

sara2

WORK

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: Anne Bashore and M.E. Wilson

Today we’re joined by Anne Bashore and M.E. Wilson. Anne and M.E. (who also goes by Liz) are two phenomenal indie authors who have just released the first novel in their trilogy entitled The Portal Series. The two main characters are both a-spec as both Anne and Liz are interested in creating literature that gives aces the chances to see themselves in fiction. It’s very clear they’re dedicated artists, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

We’re writers, currently working on a trilogy called The Portal Series. Our protag, Daphne Seidler, and her romantic interest are A-spec. Our purpose in writing this series is to create Ace-centered literature that allows Aces to see themselves portrayed in fiction, and portrayed in a positive light. The focus of the novels aren’t the sexualities of either character, as we also very much wanted this to be entertaining. Aces don’t need a swamp of sad literature focusing on how alienating and terrible the experience can be — we need literature that shows us as human, and as capable as anyone else is of being happy.

What inspires you?

We draw our inspiration from a lot of places — if you asked us for an exhaustive list of the things that have inspired just The Paris Portal, it would be quite long. If you mean what gives us the drive to work through our novels, it’s each other and our desire to do things better, for ourselves, and for other Aces.

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

Liz has always wanted to be a writer — they’ve been telling stories for almost as long as they can remember. The first one that they really started to write would have been probably around sixth grade. It was never finished, and suffice to say, it was terrible — it involved griffon races, bequeathed princesses, and escaping said betrothal, and that was the entire concept.

Anne’s interest in writing started in 8th grade, when her first creative writing assignment ended up being 22k words. Surprise, it was about French people.

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?

We don’t, currently — at this point, we don’t have a body of work large enough at this time to have a signature, and our next project after The Portal Series is still very much in the planning stages.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Liz: Get to work, but be gentle with yourself. Burn your fictional bridges and don’t look back. Ashes make for great soil — use it to your advantage. Find people who support you in every aspect of yourself, and who support your work. Anyone who doesn’t want to support you isn’t worth your efforts, but don’t forget to be supporting of others, too.

Anne: Don’t delete anything, as you never know what you’ll be able to pick and choose from later. And frankly, it’s always fun to reflect on how far you’ve come further down the road. However, also don’t hold onto anything too tightly. Let your characters and projects breathe and grow. Trust me, it’ll be much more rewarding in the long run. Sometimes it will surprise even you!

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

We’re both Ace.

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

We probably aren’t big enough to attract a lot of attention quite yet, but there’s always the common sort of discussion about how asexuality isn’t real or how Ace-spec individuals aren’t a part of the larger Community.

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

That it’s just a matter of not finding the right person or that it’s a choice — that I’m not making enough effort to find what I want. That if I engage in sexual activity of any kind I can’t be asexual.

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

Liz: Be patient with yourself, be gentle with yourself. Anyone who doesn’t support you with whatever identity you have, whether you’re questioning or kind of certain, super certain, or anywhere in between, isn’t worth investing in. Even if you find out you aren’t Ace later, that’s okay. Life isn’t about being stable, being stagnant. Everyone will have their constants, but you are in a state of constant change. Also, people used to think that uteri wandered around the bodies of those that housed them, so if you don’t understand yourself, you’re in decent company.

Anne: It doesn’t hurt to ask questions, do research, read experiences, investigate. You’re better prepared to understand and educate others the more you know yourself. Also, don’t forget you’re part of a society that, for the most part, is just becoming aware of and educated about the whole spectrum. You probably will meet people who don’t know anything–but you telling them your experience is valuable in teaching everyone else around you. If you don’t feel comfortable telling a soul, that’s okay, too. Even if you don’t want to put a label on it, or you don’t have a neat and tidy “name” for it, do what makes you comfortable. That’s the bottom line.

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

We’re available on most social media sites at BWAuthors (Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Ko-Fi, Patreaon), and we’re always happy to answer questions wherever you find us! Our first of book, The Paris Portal, is currently available on Amazon, and the first three chapters are available for free on Wattpad.

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

Signal Boost: The Blood Prince

Hi everyone!

I have a very exciting signal boost today. An ace author has just released her first novel and it sounds fantastic! Marie Blanchet was interviewed on this site a while back (WordPress & Tumblr) has just released The Blood Prince, the first in a fantasy trilogy entitled the Scale Hearts trilogy. It has an aro-ace main character and dragons! What more could you want? 🙂

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Cover

Here’s what Marie has to say about it:

“Until two years ago, Rainbow was ruled by dragumens. Now, there’s a human Empress on the throne, and she rules with an iron fist. Breaking promises after promises, she controls the people with lies, taxes, and murder. Everywhere in the land, rebellion is brewing. Gangav, the fallen dragumen prince who wants nothing more than revenge, rallies humans and dragumens to his cause. Sasha, his best friend and fiercest supporter, is eager to help him and is spoiling for a fight. Alexander on the other hand never wanted to be a part of it, but finds himself with no other choice when tragedy strikes home, bringing the cruelty of the empress to his doorstep. When news of a spy amongst their ranks turns everything on its head and the sudden outbreak of a new illness threatens the safety of the rebels, the three of them must find a way to relocate their camp before they are discovered, or the rebellion may very well end before it even begins. The first book in the “Scale Hearts” trilogy, “The Blood Prince” is a story about dragons and rebellions, but also about inner strength and figuring out your place in the world.

It might interest readers of you blog to know that the main character Sasha is aromantic in the book, and has somewhat of a journey of self-discovery while working for the rebellion. Being ace but not aro myself, I have consulted with several aromantic betas to make sure that Sasha and her storyline was handled with care. 

The book can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Prince-Scale-Hearts/dp/177511970X/

And here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/760868

I designed everything in the book, from the cover to several character illustrations inside to the page layout and the map.”

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Map

Seriously, Blanchet’s artwork is absolutely beautiful:

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Alex
Anzuu
Anzuu
gangav
Gangav
Sasha
Sasha

So if you love fantasy and ace characters, this is definitely a book you want to pick up (and review and recommend).

Thanks, everybody!

Signal Boost: “Albenzauber“

Hello all!

I’ve got a special signal boost today. Carmilla DeWinter is an author who did an interview with Asexual Artists a while back (Tumblr & WordPress). She’s got a new book out entitled Albenzauber. Carmilla is also going to be doing a reading on April 23rd in Mainz, Germany.

Here’s all the information about the book:

“Albenzauber” (Elven Charms) is about the elf Nives, who has raised her prince Cir in the human realm after saving him from a coup. When she accidentally uses the elven charm on a young human male, thus driving him out of his mind, she and Cir return home to find a cure. There they find out that the usurper, beautiful and power-hungry Noctuola, is preparing a war with the humans. Cir is determined to save his heritage and asks a seer for help: They will have to find a human being, neither man nor woman, who is immune to the elven charms. This seems highly unlikely, until they meet the androgynous human mage Heilika. Heilika does agree to help them, while forcing Nives to question everything she believes about herself.

You’ll meet two aces, one of them genderqueer with female pronouns, plus everything a sword and sorcery adventure needs.

Unfortunately, only available in German.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.de/Albenzauber-Carmilla-DeWinter-ebook/dp/B06Y5CLPQ1/

Albenzauber 1200pt

I’ll be reading an excerpt on Sunday, April 23rd, in Mainz, Germany. (Link for more info: https://carmilladewinter.com/2017/04/09/lesung-5/

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So if you’re in Germany, please go show a fellow ace some love!

Thanks, everybody!