Interview: Eli Alaimo

Today we’re joined by Eli Alaimo. Eli is a phenomenal author and former animator. They have written a full-length novel as well as two cyberpunk novellas. When they’re not working on creative writing, they write for a podcast entitled “The Gimmick Room,” which sounds hilarious. It’s clear they’re a passionate artist who loves what they do. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I have to be upfront about it: I’m a failed animator. That sounds grim, I know, but I don’t take it as a bad thing. I have a degree in animation, and spent the better part of a decade trying to find animation work. That’s not meant to be discouraging; I had a lot of other factors going on that I had to sort through. But I did my best for a long enough time that nobody can say I didn’t try. In the end, it wasn’t for me.

Nowadays, I’m a writer. In one way or another I’ve been writing for almost 20 years. I’ve written a full-length novel called Bonneville, and two cyberpunk novellas titled MLAW.EXE and Crystal!. I also do writing for a podcast I’m on called The Gimmick Room, where I and a friend of mine come up with wrestling characters for the fictional company we work for.

Honestly it’s been kind of a big shift for me in the past year switching from animation to writing, but I’ve also been more productive writing than I ever have when animating so while I’m still early in it, it’s a positive career change for me. I don’t feel like my time spent working on animation was wasted, though. At the very least it means that I can design and draw my own covers for my books.

What inspires you?

An important part of my work is whatever project I’m working on, there’s this emotional core to it. Whether it be based upon an event in my life, or a way I felt, or someone I knew, that core is what gives me the inspiration to work on something. It ties into the old saying of “write what you know.” You don’t have to write a 1:1 account of something that happened to you. But you can draw upon the feelings of abandonment you felt during high school and apply it to a medieval story.

Oh, and also cyberpunk. Cyberpunk is rad as hell and a big inspiration for me. Same for any 80’s-90’s anime with two girls teaming up and kicking ass. (See: Dirty Pair or Gunsmith Cats)

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

I picked up drawing in high school, and originally I wanted to get into animation to work on video games. (Jet Set Radio helped with that.) Then I wanted to make my own animated TV show or movie. Through everything though, I would work on writing as a hobby. My reasoning was that I’d get into the animation industry as an animator, and work my way into writing from there. (I know now that it absolutely does not work that way and I strongly advise against anybody else doing 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 decided a while back that nobody in my books would be straight unless it’s explicitly pointed out. At first it was to be kinda cheeky and spiteful, but now it’s more of a “oh, these are the kinds of people I’m interested in writing, and relate to the most.” Plus I want queer people to be normalized. You should never have to explain why a character is queer or not cis. They just are. And I want that to be normal.

Also: one of my favorite things to put into books is scenes with food. I believe that cooking and sharing meals with other people is one of the best ways to get to know someone or help them in bad times. So I always go into detail with scenes where people are eating or prepping food.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

You know that idea you have? The one that you’re like “Oh this is my dream project. I’ve been thinking about it for years! I’ll get to it someday when I’m good enough!” Make it now. Just go ahead and make it now. If it’s a book, a comic, a cartoon, a script, album, whatever it is just work on it and finish it to the best of your ability. Because when you finish that first project, the others will come a lot easier. It took me three years to finish my first book. Honestly if you trace the lineage of it that book existed in some form for the better part of nine years. My second book took me 11 months. Then my third took less than a month. Granted, the second two were novellas, so they were shorter, but I knew I was working faster on them, and I knew the quality of my writing was getting better as I did.

The point is: you’re not going to get anywhere waiting for your ‘perfect idea’ to be executed. Just make it. I promise your next idea will be even better, because you will be better.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual. I was undecided on whether I was aromantic or not, and I don’t think I am. But I haven’t really thought about it in years. But even realizing that asexuality was A Thing helped put a lot of things into perspective from when I was younger.

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

Ignorance definitely. An astounding number of people don’t know what asexuality is, and those who do have next to no correct understanding of it. I try to be courteous when I correct people’s misconceptions, or even tell them about asexuality.

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

That asexual people don’t have a sex drive at all. In reality, sometimes the truth is even more hellish because you can have a libido, but also be asexual which means now you have this energy but don’t feel attraction to anybody. This also helped put a lot of my earlier life into perspective.

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

Don’t let anybody tell you it’s not real, or that you’re invalid, or that it’s a phase, you’re not “queer enough” or any other hot trash take. Ace people are part of the queer community, and never feel like you’re not. It can be tough because a lot of times the community can feel “sex positive” in a way that can make a lot of people uncomfortable. But remember; it’s not a failing on your part.

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

Currently you can find my books on my Gumroad and my itch.io pages. They’re pay what you want! If you wanna download them for free, go ahead!

https://gumroad.com/ealaimo
https://ealaimo.itch.io/

The podcast I work on is the Gimmick Room and we update every two weeks: https://thegimmickroom.simplecast.fm/

I also use Twitter more than any other social platform: https://twitter.com/ealaimo

Be warned I say a lot more cuss words on there than this interview would lead you to believe. But I’m also really funny. We all make sacrifices.

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

Interview: Casye Erins

Today we’re joined by Casye Erins. Casye is a phenomenal writer, actress, and podcaster. They mainly act on stage and in film. They’re currently focused mainly on stage and are currently rehearsing for an upcoming production. Aside from writing and acting, Casye also has a podcast called This is Lit, which discuses books. It’s clear she’s a passionate and dedicated artist, 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 writer and actress. I do both stage and film work, but right now I’m focused on the stage. Currently, I’m writing on a one-person musical to debut at next year’s Fringe Festival. I also do immersion theatre and local community theatre. I just finished a production of the musical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and started rehearsals for Shrek: The Musical. My most recent project is a podcast called This is Lit where my co-host and I drink and talk about our favorite books.

What inspires you?

Music is definitely an inspiration for me, which is why I love musicals so much. I also find a lot of writing inspiration in my real-life experiences and the experiences of those around me. The one-person show I’m currently writing could probably be described as “artistically embellished autobiography.” I believe people are most impacted by stories that are rooted in authentic feeling.

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

I learned to read at a very young age and have been writing my own stories ever since. My first performance experiences were also very young; church plays and the like. I always knew I wanted to be an actor, and I always loved writing, but it wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized that I could write my own material. Seeing creators like Lin Manuel-Miranda (Hamilton, In The Heights) and Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) who didn’t wait around for parts that they could play really inspired me to start working on my own material.

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

I don’t know that I do. As an actor, unless you’re A-list, it’s hard to cultivate a specific type or characteristic that people associate with your performance, mainly because you can’t afford to say no to parts that don’t necessarily fit.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Two things. Number one: just keep working at it. I’ve been a performer for the better part of two decades and still don’t make my full-time living at it. If you want to have a job in the arts, you’ve got to be willing to grind. The other advice, which kind of goes hand-in-hand with the first piece is: if you’re able, create your own content. If you are an actor who can’t find roles that fit you, write your own. If you’re a pianist that can’t find an orchestra that jives with your personal style, compose your own sonata and try to find a way to perform it. Take the initiative and you’ll be rewarded.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as biromantic asexual.

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

I haven’t experienced active prejudice in my field, mostly because I’m very selective about who I’m completely out to. Most of my colleagues are aware I’m bi, but not that I’m ace, because I don’t trust that it would go over well. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of roles for asexual characters that I’ve encountered, which I ascribe mostly to ignorance. It would be nice to be able to play a character who is actually ace sometime in the future though! I have hopes that it will start happening more frequently.

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

I’ve come across a lot of misconceptions, but I’d have to say the most common is that asexuals are “frigid” or incapable of love. It’s a very dehumanizing concept. Non-aro aces can still want and find romance, and aroace people can still feel platonic or fraternal love for their friends and family.

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

Honestly, it’s hard. I struggle with it sometimes too, and that’s after almost a decade of identifying this way, and while having a very accepting and understanding partner (who is allo!). It’s okay to struggle with your orientation, or to have doubts. But be gentle with yourself and surround yourself with a community of people who love and care about you, and those doubts will get less frequent over time.

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

Since acting is kind of impermanent (unless it’s on film), I’ll encourage you to check out my podcast at www.litliteraturepodcast.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at casyeerins or under the same username on Instagram.

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

Interview: Shannen Michaelsen

Today we’re joined by Shannen Michaelsen. Shannen is a phenomenal filmmaker and podcaster who has a number of projects. As a filmmaker, they specialize in webseries, which are produced through RSC, an affiliate of ParaFable. As a co-founder of RSC, Shannen has been able to produce four webseries and two podcasts. They have a few podcasts that they participate in, including a Dungeons & Dragons one. It’s clear they’re a passionate and talented artist who loves what they do, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a co-founder of Remarkable, Singular, Curious Productions, and an affiliate of the collective ParaFable. Through RSC and ParaFable, I have produced four webseries and two podcasts.

My first webseries was “The Adventures of Jamie Watson (and Sherlock Holmes)”, a literary-inspired webseries based on Sherlock Holmes. I co-wrote the series and played our aroace Sherlock Holmes, and was therefore the first Holmes in film to be canonically aroace. After two years of “TAJWASH”, I decided to work on a few short-form shows. I wrote, produced, and starred in “Hamlet the Dame.” I then co-wrote and co-produced “Eddy Rex” (Oedipus Rex) and “Dear Natalie” (A Christmas Carol).

With ParaFable, I produce and DM the dungeons & dragons podcast, Daring Fables. And with RSC, my sister and I occasionally host Pop Culture Pie. I’m also a host of MuggleNet.com’s Fantastic Beasts podcast, SpeakBeasty.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by classic literature, obviously. Sherlock Holmes has always been a particularly important character to me. I’ve identified with him as both an asexual and autistic person, and that’s why making “TAJWASH” was so important to me. In Daring Fables, I take a lot of inspiration from old fairytales and myths. I’m also inspired by all the music I listen to, and like to create playlists for different stories and characters.

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

I have always been creative. My dad has worked in TV news my entire life, so I was always interested in filming. My friends and I made music videos and vlogs when I was a kid. I’ve been writing stories since elementary school. Webseries have been a great way to combine both art-forms. I got interested in literary-inspired webseries specifically after watching “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”, and then working on “Notes By Christine.” As for podcasts, I joined SpeakBeasty when it first started and never looked back. Podcasts are an entirely different kind of art, but I’ve found them to be a great way to just talk to friends every couple weeks.

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

Well, almost all of my main characters are asexual, and most of my stories are about friendship. Most of my webseries have a reference to another one of my shows or one of my friends’ shows, either with a line of dialogue or some kind of imagery.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Keep consuming the kind of art that you want to create. Keep reading, watching, listening, and admiring. The more you understand how other people create their art, the better you’ll understand how you can create your own. And just remember that everybody’s process is different, so don’t worry if you’re going about it in a different way.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as aromantic and asexual.

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

I haven’t encountered prejudice, but I have encountered a lack of representation. That is part of the reason it has been so important for me to create shows with ace characters. Not only am I creating representation for myself and others, but I’m showing other creators that ace characters can have great, engaging stories.

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

The most common misconception I’ve encountered is that asexuality means not having sex. Of course many ace people have sex or want sex, and many ace people don’t. Many ace people are uncomfortable hearing about sex, many ace people aren’t. We’re just like everybody else, with our own individual needs and desires!

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

Ignore the discourse. Remember that there are people who accept you. Don’t feel the need to come out if you don’t want to. Focus on yourself and not everybody else.

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

They can visit remarkablesingularcurious.tumblr.com, theadventuresofjamiewatson.tumblr.com, or parafable.tumblr.com. Or they can search on YouTube for my various webseries, and iTunes for my podcasts.

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

Signal Boost: Aced It podcast

Hello all!

I’ve got a special signal boost for you today. A recent interviewee, Ryan Meier (Tumblr & WordPress), has recently launched a brand new ace podcast. He requested a signal boost and of course, I said yes. It sounds pretty great. Here’s what he had to say about it:

“It’s called Aced It! And it’s an Advice Podcast where I take listener submitted questions about their love, sex and dating lives and I give advice as best I can through the lens of an aromantic asexual person. You can find it on aceditpodcast.com and it should be hitting iTunes/Google Play.”

So go subscribe, comment, signal boost, and show Ryan some love!

Thanks everybody!

Interview: Chesh

Today we’re joined by Chesh. Chesh is part of the duo behind Lani and Chesh; Only Confused About Taxes, a podcast that covers a wide variety of topics. I’ll leave the explaining to her, since she’ll do a much better job. Her description had me intrigued and I’ve already subscribed. It’s clear she’s a talented and dedicated artist, 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 co-host a podcast with my QPR (queer platonic relationship) called Lani and Chesh; Only Confused About Taxes (or OCAT for short.) The title comes from a Tumblr post about bisexuality that talks about how bisexuals are not confused and it’s not a phase, etc. Someone responded that well, yes actually; they are a little confused about things like taxes. And it goes on from there. Since Lani is bi and I’m acearo, both “invisible” orientations often accused of just “being too young” or “being confused,” we decided it was the perfect tag-line.

OCAT is in constant transition as we figure out what works best for us, but basically it’s a show about two friends talking about the world. We want to highlight media that has great representation, honor religious traditions that are in the minority in the US, talk about current events, and discuss how to change the world for the better. There are personal anecdotes, political opinions, and plenty of laughs.

What inspires you?

My co-host inspires me a lot. For one, she has a number of neurodivergencies and physical ailments that can make it difficult for her to function in a so called “normal” fashion and despite that she marches on. She has so much passion and belief in the idea that we can change the world. I’ve always been more of a “well, guess we’re all fucked anyway, why bother?” kind of person. She takes “be the change you want to see in the world” (Gandhi I think?) to a phenomenal level. It’s due to her that we are starting Shatter Entertainment, a media company devoted to equal representation of race, gender, sexualities, and more. We want to create things like an all-female cast recording of Newsies, write children’s books about the some of the amazing women of the past that history as we know it ignores, and create tv shows and movies that have strong women, LGBTQPIA, POC, Disabled, and everyone else that current media often ignores or lets down. Changing the world requires changing what the world sees. She truly believes she can make that happen. I want to help.

I’m also pretty inspired by the change we are currently seeing in the world, right now. Movies like the new Ghostbusters and Ocean’s Eight. Shows like Shadowhunters and B99. There are openly trans individuals in government and more and more people are willing to stand up and say “this is me.” Yeah, we have a REALLY long way to go, but at least we’re going. If I can contribute to that, even peripherally, I’d be honored.

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

Lani walked up to me (virtually; I think it was a text message) about a year ago and said “hey, would you co-host a show with me. It’s gonna be the starting point for my new company.” That’s it. That’s what got me interested in the field. We’re pretty funny together and as queer individuals on the millennial/gen z divide, we have a unique perspective on life and society. Podcasting as an art doesn’t interest me specifically. I’m an organizer by nature. I schedule and edit; I’m a fixer (in a non-mafia kinda way.) OCAT, and anything that follows, gives me a way to influence society as a whole, to maybe make it better. Lani’s the creative half. That being said, there is so much more to podcasting then I ever realized. There is a ton to learn and plenty of room to grow. Editing, marketing, planning; it never ends!!

I’ve always wanted to do art on some level. I’ve dabbled in poetry, fiction, painting, origami, piano, guitar, recorder, etc. I’m actually not too bad at the poetry and basic origami. But, because of my depression, I’ve never followed through on much of anything. OCAT is an amazing opportunity for another chance. I have Lani supporting me, a larger goal to dream of and focus on, and there are so many options and opportunities that the podcast does, or potentially may, link me to.

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

We’re a bit too new to have developed anything like that, really. Mostly, we just try to be honest, optimistic, and grateful towards all the amazing people who have helped and inspired us.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

It’s super cliché, but practice and don’t give up. You are probably going to suck when you first start at whatever it is you’re doing. There will probably be people who are assholes about that fact. But we can’t all be Mozart’s. And, most of all, YOU HAVE TIME!!! So many of us in the millennial/gen z generations have had it indoctrinated into us that we have to have it all figured out by the time we’re 18. That is bullshit!! Pick a subject you enjoy for your undergraduate, instead of a profitable career path that you don’t really even like. Pursue a new skill even though you suck and there doesn’t appear to be any money in it. Jump from field to field for a while; become a jack of all trades, master of none. Study Buddhism or Paganism or Christianity or investigate a new religious movement. Some of the most well-known people of our time didn’t “figure it out” until their 40’s or 50’s or 60’s. Yes you probably could be like that teenager who started a successful shampoo empire or that musical protégé everyone knows of, but you probably aren’t and that’s OKAY!  Take your time, experiment, and realize that you and life can and will get better!

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I typically use AceAro (asexual, aromantic) as my chosen identity terms. Sexuality wise, while I certainly experience aesthetic appreciation, I’ve never looked at someone and gone “I’d like to fuck that.” The idea of being in a relationship/having sex with a celebrity or some random on the street, which the allos in my life assure me is normal, has never made sense. I don’t know them and they’re probably WAY older then I am. And they don’t know me, so it’s always seemed kinda creepy. Plus, I’ve never been turned on just by someone’s appearance which made ace the best descriptor for me. Confidence is attractive. A certain face or body? Nah, not so much.

Romantically speaking, while I usually use aromantic for simplicity’s sake, I identify more as quoiromantic, which basically means I don’t understand what romance is. What makes something romantic rather than platonic? There’s a difference? It’s hard to look at someone and think “I’d like to be in a romantic relationship with that person” when you don’t really know what romance is. The term comes for the French world for “what,” which is, really, just spot on!

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

Not specifically in my fields/professions, no. OCAT is too new to have made any sort of waves in the podcast/communication community, so it’s never really come up. In my 9-5 job, it just hasn’t been worth discussing. I’m the youngest person in my office by over 20 years in a conservative part of the country. My coworkers would simply be confused if I tried to tell them I was this new-fangled thing called “asexual/aromantic”, and I haven’t deemed it worth trying to explain to a bunch of grandmothers who still struggle to understand that people can be gay. They try, but they struggle. So I just don’t say anything.

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

The idea that it’s a “phase.” When I came out to my step-father, he told me that it just wasn’t believable because I was “too young.” Maybe he’d believe me if I was in my 40’s or something. (That’s a direct quote and this from a man who’s known he was gay since he was FIVE.) My mother thinks that I’m only ace because of my depression. Which 1)even if that’s true, it doesn’t make me any less ace; identity is still valid even if its influenced by outside factors and 2) has more to do with her discomfort with labels then with me. My step-father still tries to set me up with any male who happens to interact with my social media or that I talk about even briefly (it’s really kinda creepy. Helped me realize I was being stalked on social media once). Because allos experience sexual attraction and it’s so consistently reinforced in society, people have trouble conceptualizing that some of us just…don’t.

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

Take a second, breath. You don’t have to have this all figured out. Identity is fluid and there are so many terms and labels out there, ranging from the general to the specific. Do some research, follow some Tumblr blogs, join a chat room or 12 on Discord. AVEN is a great starting point. The Invisible Orientation is a really good book on sexual and romantic identity in general, although it does focus on asexuality. I defaulted as straight until my sophomore year of college when I saw a presentation put on by the university’s sexual and gender diversity club. I didn’t find the aromantic label until a year later and didn’t use it until I got three months into a relationship and realized I wanted nothing to do with romance or relationships. It was another year or two after that that I found quoi and realized that’s what had happened between me and my ex-girlfriend; I’d taken a platonic friendship too far. Talk with someone you trust; I can’t count the number of conversations and freak-outs Lani has walked me through and vice-versa. Try a term for a while. If it doesn’t fit, try another. We are the children and grandchildren of people who thought gay could be cured and gender is binary. We are all figuring this out as we go along with barely a foot path to follow, if that. It’s okay to be uncertain.

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

OCAT can be found on GooglePlay and iTunes as well as on the company website www.shattertheentertainment.com. If you like us, remember to like, subscribe, and comment. We can also be found on Twitter (at LaniandChesh and at yerawizardlani) Tumblr (at foiblefoldandflail and at yerawizardlani) and feel free to email us at laniandchesh@gmail.com. We would love to hear from you!

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

Interview: Holly

Today we’re joined by Holly. Holly is a wonderful writer who is currently working towards a biochem degree. In her free time, she runs a D&D campaign that involves a lot of writing and worldbuilding. They’re also working on a story podcast project, which she hopes to bring to fruition in the future. Holly is clearly a dedicated and talented hobbyist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

It’s something I use to distract a little bit from the real world, nothing too professional. I’m mostly interested in writing short stories, and I’m currently working on a fictional podcast series with one of my favourite people, and while we do have some scripts written up, it is going to take a while to put into production. While I’m making my way through university for a biochemistry B.Sc, most of my creative energy goes towards a lore-rich D&D campaign in a homebrew setting that I run for my very best friends. It’s difficult and long-form but it’s increased my social confidence, I’ve created some wonderful characters that I feel able to apply to different forms of writing, and it’s definitely given me more experience with storybuilding.

What inspires you?

Generally, looking at fictional stories and seeing what hasn’t been included, rather than what has. It’s satisfying to fill a gap and tell the stories of people who aren’t often looked at in popular media, i.e. neurodivergent characters, people with underrepresented gender identities and sexualities, people with disabilities, people of varying ethnic backgrounds. I’m aware that I can’t personally relate to some of the characters I write, so I do try and stay respectful and do a ton of research, ask people who know better than me, etc. Sometimes I do make characters that correspond to my own experiences with depression and severe social anxiety, and even the speech impediment I still have to manage – and the personal catharsis I get from that can be reward enough, even if I don’t do anything with the characters or works I create.

For the most part though, I tend to like interspersing mundane reality with absurd high fantasy or scifi concepts. Like a time traveler who uses their ability to cut in line before it forms, or a particularly finicky pit fiend who wants you to remove your shoes before entering its lair.

On another level, I’d say my friends inspire me on a day to day basis. Especially the person I’m working on this project with, whom I’ll call T. T has a fascinating mind and boundless creativity, and with her and K’s support, I can have days where I feel indestructible. My mum also tends to listen to whatever crazy plotlines I’ve come up with that day too, so I’d say she also plays a big part in my support network.

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

I always wanted to be an actress when I was growing up, but did a big ol’ switcharoo around college (not university, the British meaning of college), where I found an interest in biochemistry. I’d begun to feel directing and writing was more my thing by that point anyway, but didn’t have enough belief in myself to do it. I think what drew me back to creative writing alongside my STEM studies was the freedom I felt when I began this D&D campaign. Building the world, building the story, adapting to the unexpected antics of my players, it felt like when I was a kid throwing blankets and pretending they were fireballs, or picking up a stick and pretending it was a greatsword, having intricate sociopolitical plotlines with my Barbies, and all that grand stuff. I’d been doubting for a while the value of that kind of imagination, but gradually it became necessary to keep me sane during university. Now I appreciate silliness and the Rule of Cool way more than I do grimdark, gritty, realistic scenarios.

I write more often than not to just have fun. Sometimes it’s a scenario that I can’t stop thinking about and I have to write it down or it’ll keep bouncing around in my head, and other times it’s building a character that can help me feel less alone when I’m winding myself into a spiral about the simplest social situation. I write so that any potential readers can have fun too – and, if I’m lucky, find a character that they can carry about with them like I do.

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 usually include at least one of my NPCs from my campaign in almost everything I write – with a different name and/or species. This isn’t obvious unless you’re part of that group, though.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I have struggled with finding my voice because I thought I needed someone to address – like an audience or someone who wouldn’t reject me. But to hell with it. This isn’t a marketing strategy meeting, go ahead and shout into the void with your art until someone shouts back, if that’s what you’re after. Make the art for yourself. What’s actually stopping you?

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am ace demi-aro. I think. The ace part I’m certain about, but I’m still figuring out my romantic orientation. Demi fits for now.

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

Not in my field particularly, but I’ve been given the ‘you’re young’ and ‘you’ll find someone’ or ‘how can you not be attracted to anyone, is there something wrong with you?’ talk quite a few times by well-meaning friends or relatives. Usually this is met with an eyeroll, but it hasn’t held me back anywhere. I’ve experienced some anxiety about going to LGBTQIA events because of the whole ace inclusion debate I saw floating around at the time, but I’m fairly confident aces are more universally accepted than not, these days.

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

The idea that it means having no sex drive. Even people who are familiar with asexuality seem to fall into this trap a lot. Many non-ace people seem to have trouble separating the idea of having a libido or enjoying sex with sexual attraction. I guess I can understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t know how many times I’ve said the sentence: “Asexuality is literally just a lack of sexual attraction. It means I don’t look at a person and want to have sex with them. That’s it.”

Some people seem to get it after that explanation. Others don’t. Whaddya gonna do except raise awareness?

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

Finding out that you’re ace can be a confusing and deceptive road, simply because it’s harder to characterize a lack of something than it is to characterize a different something. I thought I was bi or pan for a long time in high school because I felt the same way about all genders (turns out? Not an uncommon experience for ace/aros), and many people still don’t even believe being ace is a thing. Protip: don’t listen to those people.

What I would say? If you don’t feel you fit neatly into the ace label, firstly remember that there is a wide spectrum of asexuality, and includes identities such as gray-ace or demi-ace, but secondly remember that you don’t have to assume it. Same goes for knowing your romantic orientation. This is not required of you. Honestly, this applies to any LGBTQIA identities – you are not required to know what label you are. Just listen to yourself and trust what yourself is saying, because you know better than everyone who you are.

You are still a ‘proper ace’ if you’re not sure what labels fit you, and you’re still a ‘proper ace’ if your orientation was due to past events, or if you think it might be temporary. It is not a life sentence. It is simply what fits you the most at the time, and sexuality can be fluid as heck.

Most importantly – you are welcome here. You are welcome in LGBTQIA. You’re always free to find one of us in the ace community and ask questions if you’re not sure where you fit or how you feel about your orientation.

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

Nowhere yet as I’ve still gotta get this degree under my belt before I take on any projects, but soon. Soon.

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