Interview: Juju

Today we’re joined by Juju. Juju is a wonderful writer who is mostly known for their fanfiction. Aside from fanfiction, they also write some original fiction and are currently working on a novel. Juju includes aspec characters in everything they write. It’s clear they’re a dedicated and passionate writer who loves what they do, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

image0

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I write things! Most of my readers know me for fanfiction, but I also write short stories and I’m working on a novel! I also like to share stories through little video games made in RPG Maker, although I don’t often share them as much as I probably should.

What inspires you?

At the risk of sounding like an overenthusiastic alien, humanity itself is my greatest inspiration. Humans are utterly fascinating.

We have the power to wage war, and also help each other in times of need. We spend years learning each other’s languages just to communicate with people outside of our own circle. We all share the same range of emotions. We can communicate through looks without saying a word to each other; even a smile is something we can share, if we have nothing else in common.

Our experiences are diverse and universal at the same time. The relationships we have with each other—parents, lovers, siblings, friends, workmates, etc.—are varied, but when you put it all together you have the story of a life. It’s my privilege as an author to take a slice of a life, any character’s life, and portray it for the world.

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

I’ve been writing stories ever since I learned what letters were. I used to write little stories for my younger brother on notebook paper, lying on the floor in my bedroom. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t read them; I read them to him! In elementary school when they taught us the writing assessment, I used to pray that I’d get a narrative prompt (sadly, I never did).

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?

Unique feature? That’s a hard one… I have a terrible time recognizing themes in my work; usually other people point them out to me and I just accept that they must be right, haha.

I guess I can say I do enjoy writing about belonging; I like to do character analyses in my work in the form of introspection. I also really enjoy writing sibling relationships, especially if it’s found family and siblings. I love ships as much as the next fan, but there’s something about “they’re like a brother/sister to me”. That’s a deep platonic love that never gets as much recognition as it deserves.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Make the content you want to see in the world. Who cares if it’s entirely self-indulgent? If it makes you happy, do it! Do it, do it again, read it and enjoy it; the best part is that sometimes, other people will like it too!

Practice doesn’t have to be boring. How do I practice writing? I read books. I watch movies.. I look at screenplays. I go to the theatre, if I can. I play video games. I study the plot, the dialogue. Look at your favorite stories—why do you like them? What’s your favorite part? How do the character interact? Of course, grammar is important and the fundamentals are there for a reason, but no one said practice had to be all textbooks and essays.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual! I find men and women both aesthetically pleasing, but I don’t experience sexual attraction to them.

When I first learned the terminology I thought I might be gray-ace or demi, but I realized that I was only tying into some of the myths surrounding asexuality. I was letting people who didn’t know me tell me who I was, based on generalizations. It wasn’t until I asked myself who thought I was that I was able to come to terms with my own sexuality.

I also identify as heteroromantic, or at least gray-romantic to some extent.

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

Oh, for sure!

I think what I’ve heard the most is that I’m “faking” being an asexual because I write nsfw content. That’s also the most laughable, since I never realized you could only write about your own experience and nothing else! I’m openly sex-positive; sex is a beautiful, intimate thing… it’s just not for me.

I’ve also gotten anon hate on social media from people who don’t like my headcanons, especially if they’re on the ace spectrum. If it’s a LGBT ship it’s homophobic to have them as ace, if it’s a straight ship it’s too pandering. Can’t win for losing, right? Beyond that, it’s usually the same old “asexuality isn’t LGBT, you aren’t oppressed, make your own community” garbáge that exists all over social media (mostly Tumblr).

It always hurts the worst when it comes from mutuals that I trusted; sometimes people I considered my friends share or say aphobic things and I want to shout “Don’t reblog those lies! Ask me, I’m right here, I’m always willing to talk about my own experience with you!” But, if I said those things, 9/10 times I’m accused of stirring up discourse or being too defensive.

I learned long ago to keep my mouth shut, write what I want, and freely use the Block feature. Life’s too short to worry about what some faceless person on the internet thinks about me, and besides: probably they’d be too cowardly to say those hurtful comments if we were in the same room together.

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

“Asexuals hate sex and look down on people who don’t.”

I know aces who are sex-repulsed. I know aces who are married with kids. I know aces who are fine with giving, not receiving. I know aces who only dislike intercourse. I know aces who have sex because, for them, it’s a way to be close to their partner.

Sex positive, negative, neutral— we all share one important thing: we don’t experience sexual attraction. That is what makes us asexual… not our opinions.

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

It’s okay to be asexual.

If you think you’re 1% ace today and 99% ace tomorrow, you can say you’re ace. If you’re not sure yet, you can say you’re ace. If you think you might change your mind, or you’re using this label until you figure yourself out, you can say you’re ace.

Sexuality is fluid and confusing, and it’s even more confusing if you don’t experience it at all. We’ve been there. We are there. We know. The people with the loudest voices and biggest hatred are often the minority. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Remember to love, and allow yourself to be loved. Love isn’t binary, it’s not limited to intimacy or romance. Love your friends, your family, your pets, and (most importantly) yourself. Love is so many shades, a thousand thousand nuances that we can experience together as humans. Don’t lose hope by focusing on one color when you’re surrounded by a rainbow.

Having sex doesn’t make you less ace. Being in a relationship doesn’t make you less ace. Wanting to be closer to your partner doesn’t make you less ace. Wanting children doesn’t make you less ace. You are allowed to ask for physical affection without it having to lead to sex. You are allowed to want to kiss, to cuddle, even to make out or pet your partner without it having to lead to sex. You do not have to do anything you are uncomfortable with. You don’t owe the world, or anyone in it, anything that will bring you harm.

You are not broken. You are valid. You are loved.

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

You can find my work at https://archiveofourown.org/users/Jubalii! Just look for the sheep, haha! I’m also on Tumblr at https://heyheyitsjuju.tumblr.com/. On Tumblr I post fanfiction as well as more about my original stories, OCs, etc.

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

Interview: Eva I.

Today we’re joined by Eva I. Eva is a phenomenal South Asian visual artist and author. She draws portraits and character concepts, using a variety of mediums. As far as writing, Eva is currently working on two fantasy novels, both of which feature asexual protagonists. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate artist with an incredibly bright future. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Character Concept
Character Concept

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m one of those artists who likes to dabble in, well, everything. Over the years, I’ve tried out typography and hand lettering, crafts, music (I still play the ukulele occasionally), writing, and drawing. Out of all those things, I suppose the ones that have stuck with me would be the latter two.

Even with drawing, I can’t make up my mind. My style fluctuates with my mood, the weather, every time I sneeze… This is evident if you scroll through my Instagram feed; it’s like one of those repost accounts featuring different artists. However, I am consistent in the sense that I mainly draw portraits and character concepts, and my preferred medium is digital art – although I do work traditionally, using ink and sometimes watercolours, whenever the fancy strikes me. I’m hoping to branch out and try illustrating more environments in the future.

As for my writing… I’m currently working on two fantasy novels, both of them featuring ace protagonists, because I want to see more ace characters (particularly those of colour) in SFF. I’m a slow writer, especially as my mental and physical health are never that great, but I think I’ve made good progress with both novels. I’m almost done with a passable draft for one of them, which I hope to send out to trusted readers soon. I’m not sure if I want to publish these stories or not – at least, not at this point in my life.

What inspires you?

I draw inspiration (haha) by consuming all kinds of art by all kinds of artists. In fact, I’ve found it pretty inspiring to go through some of the interviews on this blog! Whenever I need to recharge my creative battery, I just read a book, study the works of my favourite artists, watch a movie/show, read/watch interviews, and listen to some music. In addition to that, I also like sleeping? I’m a permanently exhausted pigeon (aka I have a chronic illness) so I tend to sleep a lot; I end up having a ton of cool dreams, which I sometimes weave into my writing.

fish
Fish

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

Creativity runs in the family, so I picked up art as a matter of course when I was very young. I have vague memories of throwing tantrums at the age of five when I couldn’t draw things the way I wanted; thankfully, I’ve since managed to improve my skills (and my temper). I opened my first art account on Facebook when I was fifteen-ish. I deleted that one a few years ago, and started my current accounts on Twitter and Instagram under a pseudonym so I can be more out about myself.

More recently, I started accepting freelance commissions via social media, which has helped expand my reach (and my wallet). I wouldn’t consider this as a career, yet, though. I don’t receive enough commissions to depend upon it as a main source of income, so I have a day job of sorts, and I’m trying to figure out how to get myself yeeted into college.

Writing has also been a huge interest for me since I was a toddler; my earliest memories are of my father telling me stories. I was quick to develop my reading skills, and you would rarely find me without a book to read. From there, it felt natural to me that I would eventually write my own stories. I’m a big fan of fantasy, so I read and write those for the most part. I used to post my writing on Wattpad, but I’m a little more private about my writing at the moment.

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 almost always sign my art, either with ‘EVA’ or ‘evadrawssometimes’. I don’t really hide anything special in my artwork, but there is one thing about them that I can confess to: I sometimes forget to draw eyelashes. I’m not very good at drawing them either. I’m working on it.

In contrast, I think my writing contains many elements that I feel are personal to me; I include puns (multilingual ones, too) and references to real-life events that I’ve experienced personally, or have taken place in my hometown. Those who know, will know.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Your art is a luxury, so if you’re offering commissions, price them as such! You deserve to be compensated for your time and efforts. (Still working on this one myself).

Breaks are good! Don’t burn yourself out just for the sake of updating your social media. Your most dedicated fans will still stick around even if you miss a post or ten. Maintaining a social media presence is not worth the risk of burnout, injury, or even losing passion for your art.

If you’re offering commissions, try to include your contact information on your profiles. Make it easier, not harder, for potential clients to reach you.

Don’t feel obligated to post all your art on social media.

Don’t forget to make art just for yourself sometimes! Even if capitalism says otherwise, you don’t have to monetise all your work/hobbies, particularly when it comes to art.

It is acceptable – and good, even – to use references. It’ll save time, and ultimately it will help you improve.

ilyas
Ilyas

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m ace, I guess. I’m still figuring it out, though I’ve gotten more comfortable with my identity over time. I experience little to no sexual attraction, aesthetic attraction to people of all genders, and romantic attraction mainly towards people who are not of the same gender as myself (I think??).

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

In my field? Not directly, I would say. I choose my audience very carefully, and so far people have been largely accepting. I have come across some misconceptions from others, but thankfully, most people have been receptive to being corrected. I block those who are not interested in changing their minds, and honestly? Best decision I ever made.

I’m not out in other circles except for a select few family members, friends, and my current partner. I only come out to and explain my identity to those who I think will be understanding. I don’t really mind explaining, but it can get exhausting, especially when you’re dealing with people who don’t listen in good faith.

Lake of Voices
Lake of Voices

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

One of the major ones I’ve come across is the conflation of asexuality with aromanticisim, and asexuality with lack of desire for sex; the Venn diagram of those experiences is often seen as a circle, when in reality there are an intersection of various experiences, some of which may or may not overlap depending on the individual.

In addition to that, there are people who believe that the ‘A’ in LGBTQIAP+ stands for ally and not asexual, aromantic, and agender. I’ve also had someone suggest that asexuality was a phase I would outgrow, or that I was simply nervous or afraid. There have been other extremely harmful hot takes I’ve come across on Twitter by trolls, but they’re too numerous and unpleasant to recount.

All of these misconceptions seem to multiply during Pride month, which is disappointing but not surprising.

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

I would say… be open to the possibilities, and don’t be too worried about taking your time figuring yourself out. It’s also okay to decide on another label in the future; it does not negate the label itself nor your experience while using it. Ultimately, it’s your identity and you are in control of deciding who you are. Even if you’re not comfortable with/able to come out to certain people, I hope you get to feel confident about your own sense of self.

I’ve also managed to connect with a lot of aces during my time on Twitter, which has been a big help in affirming and discovering more about my identity – and, incidentally, picking up on quality ace puns (and pins. Gotta love well-designed merch by ace/LGBTQIAP+ artists).

Finally, I highly recommend checking out The Asexual (http://theasexual.com), an online journal about asexuality run by Michael Paramo. The site includes content like essays, artwork, and personal pieces, contributed by ace people of various backgrounds. The Asexual has helped me pick apart many of my own misconceptions and find joy in being who I am. You can find The Asexual on Twitter as asexualjournal (https://twitter.com/asexualjournal).

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

You can find me on Twitter as isthispigeon (https://twitter.com/isthispigeon), where I sometimes post my art and accept art commissions, but mostly tweet about art-related shenanigans. If you want to get to know me, or commission me in a more informal setting, that’s the place to go!

I’m also on Instagram as evadrawssometimes (http://instagram.com/evadrawssometimes), if you want to see all my art in one place without getting distracted by random thoughts and terrible puns (though they sometimes work their way into the captions). I accept commissions there as well.

I have a few phone wallpapers available on my Buy Me A Coffee account (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/isthispigeon), if that’s something you might be interested in.

Finally, if social media is not for you or if you wish to contact/commission me in a more professional setting, you can reach me via email: eva (dot) isq4 (at) gmail (dot) com. Currently, my writing is not available anywhere.

Shampoo ad Alucard
Shampoo ad Alucard

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

Interview: Elowen

Today we’re joined by Elowen. Elowen is a phenomenal author who is currently hard at work on her first novel. She enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy. The novel she’s currently working on features an ace main character and it sounds like a fascinating story. 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’m a fantasy and science fiction writer, albeit still unpublished. At the moment I’m working on what I hope will be my debut novel, a fantasy novel set in a bronze age-world heavily inspired by Ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq). One of the main characters is an asexual priestess, the other is a cis-het single mother who fights against the religious establishment. This story is a complete overhaul of my very first novel, combined with some elements from my third, and it has taken me several months of research and false starts, but I finally have a completed first draft that I think I can work with.

What inspires you?

Everything, really. The world around me, other people’s lives and relationships, other fantasy and sci-fi stories, my own experiences of being “the odd one out”. There’s a quote from Ursula Le Guin’s Tales from Earthsea that I have stuck on my computer: “The great and mighty go their way unchecked. All the hope left in the world is in the people of no account.” It’s this quote that inspires me to continue working on my current novel. I want to try to tell the stories of people of no account. The ordinary people who are made to suffer because of the greed of those in power.

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

When I was six, I found out what a writer was and I decided I wanted to be one. I still have my old notebooks from that time, with stories that blatantly ripped off Care Bears and My Little Pony, though I’m glad to say that later on, my stories became a bit more original ,-). Unfortunately, although I definitely have creative family members, none of them are or were professional artists, so becoming a writer wasn’t considered a proper career choice, and my writing ambitions were reduced to keeping a diary when I was a teenager. I went to university to study science instead, and later theology. It was only when I moved to a different country that I came back to wanting to be a writer. One of my “problems” is that I’m multi-passionate. I play baroque violin, I was a fanatic badminton player in my teens, and in my early twenties I got heavily into Irish dancing, for example. Only when I moved away from all these “distractions” and started afresh in a different country was I able to come to terms with the fact that I’m just interested in many different things, and reasonably successful at pursuing those interests. My love for science got me into writing science fiction, and my fascination with religion, mythology and anything magical got me into fantasy. Fantasy, to me, isn’t ‘make-believe’, it’s a modern type of mythology meant to explore fundamental ideas about the world, and about life. Together with science fiction, I think fantasy is the perfect genre to explore alternatives to reality.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I love inventing religions and write about made-up gods. I also love writing about mentors, and I think that’s because all my life I’ve been looking for one myself. I had teachers and mentors, of course, but none of them could really help me figure out where my real talents lie. They were all specialists in their field, while I have to see ‘the big picture’ and explore many things at once.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Do what you love doing, but play the game if you have to. I.e. if you need a steady day job to support your own artistic efforts and have stability in your life, it doesn’t make you any less of an artist. Keep learning and stay curious. You’re never too old to try something new.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m grey-ace leaning towards being demisexual, and I also identify as genderfluid between cis-female and non-binary. After having been a happy single for most of my life, I’m now in happy, stable relationship with a man, so to all intents and purposes I’m a cis-het woman, but I don’t feel that way. For me, sex is a form of intimacy that I can enjoy because it brings me closer to the man I love, but I’d have no problem going without it for the rest of my life. It’s something to enjoy like a cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate, nothing more. Sex has never played an important part in my life. I am however a very touchy-feely type of person with people I trust, and that kind of non-sexual contact is much more important to me.

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

No, because so far I’m only out on Twitter, where I use an alias.

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

I think that having no interest in sex is often “infantilized”, as if being ace means you’re not developed enough yet to join in with the adults. At one point I was convinced that the only difference between YA and adult fantasy is that in adult fantasy the characters explicitly talk about sex and genitals, and have sex. I thought that my own writing was not adult fantasy because I didn’t want to write about those things.

Another thing is that I can have platonic crushes, meaning that I am attracted to certain people (or even fictional characters) for their intellectual insights or artistry or their personality. One example is the actor Alexander Siddig. I’d love to be able to have a deep conversation with him one day, but there is no way on earth I’d ever be interested in any kind of sexual contact. And yet many people confuse these things. I can also admire physical beauty in certain people, but even then there’s no sexual attraction involved, and many people find that hard to grasp. That always puzzled me, until I discovered I was ace.

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

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Sex is overrated. There, I said it.

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

Well, there’s nothing to find yet, but you can follow me on Twitter if you like (at scriobhann_si). I love connecting with other artists!

Thank you, Elowen, 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.

2. wolves-in-the-fold-cover-redo

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!

3. more-than-enough-cover

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

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: Anne Hawley

Today we’re joined by Anne Hawley. Anne is a phenomenal novelist and editor who writes queer-themed historical fiction. She has a novel entitled Restraint, which features an ace secondary character. Anne is currently working on a new historical novel that features an ace protagonist, which is exciting (we need more historical fiction featuring aces). It’s clear she’s a talented and passionate writer who loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Laughing

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

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

What inspires you?

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

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

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

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

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

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

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

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://annehawley.net

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