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.

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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.

Interview: Sarah Viehmann

Today we’re joined by Sarah Viehmann. Sarah is a phenomenal author whose debut novel, Unrooted, is scheduled to be released this winter. Unrooted is a retelling of Snow White that features two protagonists on the ace spectrum. When she’s not writing novels, Sarah frequently blogs about fairy tales and sometimes about asexuality. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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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: Lauren Hemphill

Today we’re joined by Lauren Hemphill. Lauren is a wonderful author whose novel, Viridis, is available for pre-order. She has created a sci-fi narrative revolving around an aromantic asexual character, who is supported by numerous LGBT+ characters. Lauren has written the characters that she wished she had growing up. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate author with a bright future, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

My work is primarily fiction writing, specifically sci-fi and fantasy. I focus on themes such as gray morality, loyalty, and friendship. I also tend to write LGBT+ characters, with a focus on aro-ace orientations.

What inspires you?

Music tends to be what inspires me most, with instrumental songs from various soundtracks being what I write to most. Excellent storytelling by fellow writers also pushes me to do better, be it T.V. shows or other novels. Seraphina, Orleans, and The Uglies being some of the novels that have inspired me throughout my writing career.

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

Since I was a child, I have always been telling stories. Originally, I sought to be a painter, where I could tell stories through the canvas. As I grew, though, I found myself drawn to writing, and amazed by the use of words and style to make a world come to life. The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld was the first novel that ever hooked me, and is what ended up inspiring my road down writing.

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?

A common theme in most of my written work is the graying of morality. I tend to enjoy playing with the idea that not everything is black and white, that good people do bad things, and vice versa. I seek to show the world as complex in my writing as it is in real life.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Advice I would give fellow artists is this: not everyone will believe in you. Throughout my time as a writer, I have had many people doubt my ability to be published and be successful. In those times, remember how far you’ve come, remember that you need to be your biggest fan. All the best things in life are hard to achieve, but I would encourage all of you to continue your art, because there are people out there that need it more than you could ever know.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m an aromantic asexual.

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

Luckily, I have seemed to dodge most prejudice within the writing field. I’ve found a good group of friends and writers who support what I’m doing, and haven’t had to face writers being ignorant of the orientation. I have encountered people in the outside world who have disliked my inclusion of LGBT+ characters and believed asexuality to be a phase, but writers themselves have come across as inclusive and kind in my experience.

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

I’ve heard most often that asexuality is a phase, or something that will pass when I get older. As I have held no interest in any gender in either a romantic or sexual sense for over twenty-four years now, however, I don’t see legitimacy in the claim.

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

I would tell my fellow aces that it’s okay to not be sure, and it’s okay to take things slow. You should also know that you’re not broken. I know that’s common rhetoric within the community, but please believe all of us that you’re truly not broken. It can be hard accepting your orientation when it’s different than what the world would like to accept, but there’s a community where you belong, and there’s a community that will support you as you figure yourself out. Take your time.

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

My first novel, Viridis, featuring an aro-ace lead and a cast of LGBT+ characters in a sci-fi universe is for preorder now on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble! Searching my name on either website will bring up my novel, or you can follow this link:

http://a.co/6fHcDAC

My website, winter-publishing.com, is occasionally updated with writing WIPs and various other projects, and my YouTube channel, TheKnightmare, is a place where I review indie animated series. You can also follow me on Twitter at knightmarelair and DeviantArt at knightmarekm.

Thank you, Lauren, 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: RoAnna Sylver

Today we’re joined by RoAnna Sylver, RoAnna is a phenomenal author, who has authored such books as Chameleon Moon and Stake Sauce. One is a hopeful dystopia involving superheroes and the other involves punk vampires, which sounds awesome. When they’re not writing, RoAnna enjoys visual art and does a lot of digital painting. They have painted most of their own cover art and hope to get into coloring work for comics, including webcomics. It’s clear they’re an incredibly passionate artist with a great drive, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. Runtime COver
Runtime cover

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Hi there! So, most people probably know me by my writing; I write the Chameleon Moon and Stake Sauce series, hopeful-superhero-dystopian and queer-punk-vampire books, respectively. But I’m also an artist, I design and paint the majority of my own covers, and I’d really like to talk more about visual art for a change.

I love digital painting, and find (most of it) really relaxing and soothing, which is very helpful for when my brain goes into nonverbal mode or I’m just feeling burnt out on talking/writing. Which is pretty often.

I’m definitely going to continue painting my own book covers for as long as I can, and have done commissions for a few people too. I love them, and keep meaning to do more. I’d also love to get some work as a colorist for comics (including webcomics) because I find coloring especially relaxing (and I’m good at it darn it!).

One other cool thing, on the subject of ace stuff specifically, I recently had a journal-type article Thing published in The Asexual, about how important representation in mainstream stuff is (and how much I love Todd Chavez from Bojack Horseman). So check that out if you’d like!

What inspires you?

So much. Music, bits of conversation I overhear, people just living their lives. But most of all I think is reading or watching movies and seeing what I’d do differently. Usually, that means “less marginalized people die, and more get to be the heroes.” If that sounds like fix-fic, that’s because it is! I used to write so much fanfiction before I started my own stuff. I STILL DO, but I also used to. (Thanks, Mitch Hedberg!)

Honestly, I hate when people crap on fanworks so much, both art and writing, because not only are they a great starting point (I’ve written more than one thing as essentially fanfiction AUs. I doubt anyone will ever guess which~), but they’re entirely valid works on their own. And they inspire the hell out of me, both writing my own and reading others’.

Also, it’s not as popular to say, but… spite is a hell of a motivator. Wanting to prove people wrong who’ve said I can’t do something, or people like me (queer, disabled, etc.) don’t belong in publishing/the art industry/life. Knowing bigoted assholes hate what I’m doing is an incredible accelerant. Just warms the cockles of my heart, it does.

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Moonbright Tides cover

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

I joke that I just have a lot of emotions and I need different ways of letting them out—writing, drawing, singing—or I’ll explode. And I’m actually only about 30% joking about that, really. I am blessed/cursed with glorious and overwhelming feels, and if I don’t have an outlet for them, I tend to get paralyzed with…over-feeling. I need to express them like releasing internal pressure with a steam valve.

Unfortunately, I also tend to go nonverbal on a pretty regular basis from any number of reasons (illness flares, pain, various brain weird nonsense) so sometimes I’m physically incapable of writing. But I still have emotion I need to express, or else the pressure just builds up anyway. It doesn’t care that I don’t have words. That’s when the drawing or singing comes in—when writing brain shuts down, art or music brain takes over.

So yeah I guess I have always wanted, and needed, to be an artist.

I used to be a much more physical one, though. I have a degree in dramatic performance and used to do a ton of musical theatre. Nothing comes close to being on stage, and I was convinced that was it for me, that was why I was here and what I was supposed to do with my life. But then I got hit with several debilitating health conditions at once, and never really recovered. I haven’t been on stage in years, and probably will never again. But that’s okay. I still have writing and art, and on an extremely good day, music. Expression is still the most important thing in my life. Without it, I wouldn’t have one.

3. BNUH cover
But Not Up Here cover

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?

For my writing, the Themes are definitely found family, queer and disabled people kicking ass, and trauma healing… the ‘secret symbols’ tend to be really nerdy references. Usually Star Trek and/or Greek myth. Go figure.

For art, I don’t really have a watermark or anything, though I’ll usually sign a major work. Trademark-wise though, I love the idea of making digital art look as traditional as possible, so if you look at something and think it’s an actual watercolor and not a digital one, I’ve done my job right~

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

For commissions, figure out about how long it takes you to do a thing. Timing yourself/logging time is good. Then find out the minimum wage for your state and charge *at least* that per hour.

I saw a really good tweet a while ago saying you should charge at least 3x minimum wage for commissioned art, because 1) it’s your time and energy, 2) art is a specialized skill that you’re applying to this individual request, not a standard product, and 3) you’re your own boss here and paying for your own materials/food/life.

I don’t know if I could ever do that, but I’m sticking to At Least Minimum Wage for myself. I still feel a lot of guilt (as I do asking for money ever even if I’ve worked for it) but honestly, selling your stuff for super cheap really does devalue the whole market and cheats both you and other artists out of hard earned cash. I know it’s different when you’re just starting out and trying to get established, but really, once you are… your efforts are worth so much more than the bare minimum, but that’s a place to start.

4. ev merm
Evelyn merm

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Biromantic ace, and definitely on the aro spectrum too. It took me a long time to figure this out, in all its maybe-seemingly-contradictory glory. I’ve never really experienced sexual attraction to a (real) person. (“Real” because there are some fictional characters who could get ittttt) But I’m romantically attracted to women, agender, and nonbinary people… but like I said, definitely aro-spec too, so this happens much less than you’d think. Polyamorous too; I have queerplatonic partners as well as one romo partner~

In short, “potentially attracted to a lot of people on paper, but not in practice!”  It’s one of those “sounds very complicated, is actually very simple” things. Except for when it actually is very complicated. (What the hell is attraction? I don’t know it.)

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

…Never so much as during Pride Month. It’s really sad, but entirely true. Usually I manage to stay away from the Ace Discourse and keep it to a dull roar in the background of my life, but whenever the spotlight is on The Queer Community in general, that ugly particular head rears once again, and it’s very hard to avoid.

But there’s social media Discourse (harmful on its own) and then there’s creative field prejudice or ignorance, and that’s arguably even more annoying and damaging. Luckily, most of mine has been confined to the occasional shitty comment about my work. I generally don’t read reviews, but sometimes someone will point one out to me that’s particularly… not bad in a ‘didn’t like the book’ sense (I don’t care about those, for real), but a ‘wow, this is a dangerous and bigoted viewpoint actually.’

When people “can’t relate” to asexual (and aromantic, and neurodivergent, disabled, any other marginalization) characters, that tells me right there that I’m not going to be able to trust them. If someone slams a book or marginalized character for displaying characteristics of their marginalization (mentally ill people will act mentally ill; ace people will act ace), and dislike them specifically for what makes them them… that’s a Red Flag right there.

I don’t really “handle” that. I don’t comment (and you shouldn’t either, ever), but I take notice of who said the bigoted thing, and remember. Then I keep writing.

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Goliath Elisa

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

Oh lord, the aro/ace conflation thing. Where people think “asexual” means “aromantic,” and “aromantic” means “what is that, I don’t know what that is, how is that even a thing.” You can absolutely be asexual without being aro, or aro without ace, or a blend of the two that fluctuates over time and you have no interest in categorizing.

The most common individual misconceptions are definitely the “unfeeling, inhuman, dead/lifeless, passionless, robotic, forever alone” ones, because surely it’s romantic love and sex that makes us human, not anything else. Nope, that’s it, that’s the most important “universal” experience. Ever notice how it’s usually the same people who scream “don’t reduce our identities to one thing/define us by that!” Who then go on to do exactly that for others? There’s a lot of TERF overlap here too.

I have to say though, the special poison aimed at allo aromantic people is really something else; apparently just by being sexually but not romantically attracted to someone, you’re a horrible abuser/predator. (This is, of course, not true, and there are such things as attractions and bonds that are not romantic. The small-minded tunnel vision is exhausting.)

So yeah, there’s a lot, and I have absolutely no interest in getting involved in Discourse of any kind anymore. No spoons left for that at all.

6. Zenith Sheet
Zenith Sheet

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

There’s nothing wrong with you, first off. You might feel like there is, and people might decide to be gigantic asshats and say that there is, but there isn’t. There isn’t, regardless of how you end up identifying, even if that’s not ace at all. Try different identities out like clothes until you find one that fits. If none do, keep trying, or throw them out. It’s your “body,” and your identity and life. Use what serves you and makes you happy, not what someone else wants you to.

You’ll know when it’s right. When I finally hit on exactly what my gender and attraction type was, it felt like releasing every clenched muscle all at once. My constant, constant anxiety was silent for once, the panic in my head finally shut up. It was the absence of strain and exhaustion and tension and fear that was shocking. I hope it feels like that for you. The cessation of pain is a hell of a drug, and we don’t get it nearly enough.

Also, you’re totally queer if you want to be. If someone says you aren’t because you’re ace or aro, that person is not your friend. You don’t HAVE to identify as queer, the way some nonbinary people don’t identify as transgender, but you absolutely can, and screw anyone who says otherwise. (Or don’t. Especially if you’re sex-repulsed. *weak rimshot*)

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

I have an Artstation portfolio over here (if you need a colorist and/or inker, talk to me!) – https://www.artstation.com/roannasylver

All of my books are on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/RoAnna-Sylver/e/B00OI321DO

And most are available through other places like B&N and Kobo, which you can find at their universal links at my Draft2Digital page – https://books2read.com/ap/RWk0PR/RoAnna-Sylver

But by far the best place to support me is my Patreon. For as little as $1 a month, you can get Tons of Chameleon Moon bonus content—advance stories, art, lots of stuff—and exclusive looks at what I’m doing next (Like my upcoming interactive fiction portal-fantasy romance, Dawnfall for Choice of Games)! And also make me a little more secure as a disabled creator. patreon.com/RoAnnaSylver

Stake Sauce/Death Masquerade also has one over here, for if you enjoy monthly fiction about queer vampires! patreon.com/ModulatingFrequencies

Also, if you want to say hi on Twitter, I’m at RoAnnaSylver!

7. zadkiel_2
Nonbinary Fire Witch, Zadkiel

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