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: Phoebe Barton

Today we’re joined by Phoebe Barton. Phoebe is a phenomenal science fiction author who specializes in hard science fiction. She enjoys writing women-centered fiction and has published a few stories online. Her work has a lot of relevant themes and sounds positively fascinating. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Portrait 1-sm [Philippe McNally]
Portrait by Philippe McNally

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I write science fiction; people have tended to describe it as hard science fiction, and while I don’t agree with the way “hard science fiction” is often wielded as a hammer to invalidate peoples’ work, I do try to get things as correct as I can with the knowledge I have access to. If I can’t believe the accuracy of something, what business do I have expecting a reader to believe it?

I prefer writing stories that centre around women, and some of my favourites are the ones that include no men at all – even before I knew I was a trans woman, I knew that was what made it more comfortable for me to inhabit the story’s world. Since I started being published I’ve only written from two masculine perspectives, and one of them is a character in my still-unpublished, desperately-in-need-of-redrafting novel. Themes of isolation come up a lot in my work as well, with stories set in places like the rings of Saturn or Earth orbit or the fringes of the known galaxy, which owes a lot to my own isolation growing up on the suburban edge of Central Ontario.

What inspires you?

Thinking about all the wide and diverse possibilities of what the future could hold, of what could become of us if we’re wise enough to know what we’re doing while we reach for it. A lot of my characters are genetically engineered or technologically enhanced in some way or another, and I’ve always been inspired by how the vast canvas of science fiction can allow us to look at new things in new ways, as long as we’re careful to not fall into familiar pitfalls.

I’ve also been inspired to write stories as rebuttals to obscure, nearly-forgotten science fiction stories from decades ago. There were a lot of problems with the genre back then – there still are, to be honest – but I think that building something modern on its foundation is beneficial.

Sometimes, too, it’s just things that jump out at me in the course of ordinary reading that sends me on trajectories I never would have expected. Sentences in Wikipedia articles have unfolded into stories, and Foz Meadows’ Manifold Worlds books got me thinking about new story possibilities I might not have considered otherwise.

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

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in science fiction – I grew up with a library of Star Trek VHS tapes and tie-in novels – and I’ve been writing for about as long. My earliest breakthrough was in high school, when my Grade 9 English teacher gave me a 10/10 for a short story that, honestly, wasn’t very good, but it was the first time I’d ever got a hint that there might be something to stringing all these words together. I never thought of pursuing it in an organized, focused way until fairly recently, though.

When I was a teenager, I read the Writer’s Handbook 1998 Edition over and over, as if it contained all the secrets for success I’d ever need to know. My original copy disappeared in a move, so I bought a used copy a little while ago and still read through it occasionally. I think it’s good to be aware of your personal journey, where you started and how far you’ve come.

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 enjoy building puns into the framework of a story, but mostly the sort that don’t immediately present themselves as such. The entire concept behind my story “One to Watch,” for example, was derived from a multilingual pun.

Beyond that, all my stories take place in the same setting, in different points of space and time. There’s something calming and focusing about gradually building something intricate out of ordinary parts. The unifying threads can be hard to see sometimes, but they’re usually there.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t wait until everything feels perfect. Press on with what you have, and keep pushing. Some of it will taste pretty sour after you’ve been at it for a while, but that only means you’ve learned and grown as an artist.

Be curious, and be aware of the context your art lives in! I didn’t even know that there were markets for short science fiction when I was just starting out. The more you know, the more you’re capable of.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a sex-repulsed grey-asexual. It took me a long, long time – we’re talking decades – before I realized that, no, this is not the way everyone is. Most people don’t think of sex the same way as that Fear Factor challenge where they put you in a giant tank and then fill it to the brim with wriggling mealworms.

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

I’ve been fortunate to not encounter very much of either. Granted, it’s not something I talk about much either, so it may be that my luck comes from not bringing it up.

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

That it’s not a thing that exists.

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

You are valid and you are not broken. As much as this culture might want to justify it as “being a late bloomer,” sex is not the be-all and end-all of life. You are not the only one going through this, and you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.

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

I’ve recently opened an author website at www.phoebebartonsf.com with a bibliography, links to my online fiction and non-fiction, and some other bits of interest. Some of my stories are available to read for free online at www.curiousfictions.com. I also maintain an older blog, www.actsofminortreason.com, where I run a couple of science fiction review series, among other things. Additionally I’m active on Twitter at aphoebebarton.

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

Interview: Jennifer Lee Rossman

Today we’re joined by Jennifer Lee Rossman. Jennifer is a phenomenal author who also does cross stitch. For writing, Jennifer writes science fiction and fantasy. She has written stories for various anthologies and just recently released her debut novella entitled Anachronism, published through Kristell Ink. When she’s not writing, Jennifer enjoys cross stitching and comes up with her own patterns. It’s clear she’s a passionate and dedicated artist who loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. AuthorPhoto18WhiteHatCropped

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a sci-fi and fantasy writer. I’ve had stories in several anthologies and my debut novella, Anachronism, was published this year by Kristell Ink, an imprint of Grimbold Books.

I write weird little stories that make people happy (or at least cry while smiling) and hopefully make them see the world from another angle. Violence and swearing levels vary from story to story, but there’s never anything too gory and swearing is usually limited. Sex is a part of life for a lot of people, so while it might be mentioned as part of the story, I will never show anything more than a kiss on the page. (I don’t write anything I wouldn’t want my grandmother reading.)

My goal is for my words to be a safe space no matter your gender, orientation, ability, race, or body type.

I also cross stitch. I make all of my own patterns, mostly dinosaurs and nerd stuff.

2. Anachronism Front CoverSmall
“Anachronism” front cover

What inspires you?

Weird science facts and song lyrics, mostly.

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

I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon, but only got serious about it when I realized my disability was going to make having a traditional job impossible.

Cross stitch was a natural path for me to take: I love crocheting, but my muscular dystrophy makes that much movement difficult, so I needed something smaller and more fiddly. I grew up making Pokémon sprites on the computer, and it turns out cross stitch is really just analog pixel art!

3. LochVan2
Loch Van

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 crafts, bright colors and animals that are cute while still being scientifically accurate.

In my stories…I guess queer people and Jurassic Park references show up a lot.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

You know that weird idea you have? The really silly thing you want to make, but it’ll probably suck and no one but you will like it? Do it. Give it permission to suck, let it be just for you. Chances are it’ll be amazing, and your fellow weirdos will find you and you can be weird together.

4. CrossStitchShellsFramed
Shells

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Not entirely asexual, but pretty close. I experience romantic attraction, but sexual attraction is kind of an abstract concept to me. It’s there sometimes, not very often and not very strong, and sex sounds interesting in theory, but most of the times it’s just not something I even think about.

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

Ignorance more than prejudice. When you’re writing about aliens and robots, it’s easy to fall into the “this character is just as human as the humans because they feel attraction” trap. I usually try to point out the errors in my reviews.

5. Dinosaur_Rainbow
Dinosaur Rainbow

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

That all disabled people are asexual. My disability has nothing to do with my asexuality, and there are plenty of disabled people who experience sexual attraction.

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

You’re not broken just because you’re different. Find some ace people on the Internet — we’re super friendly and our pride flag is beautiful!

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

I have a blog https://jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com/ and I’m on the Twitter https://twitter.com/JenLRossman Links to all of my books (including my debut novella Anachronism) and stories can be found here: http://jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com/p/my-work.html

I don’t sell my cross stitch because each piece is usually custom made for myself or someone I know, but I’m always happy to take on a new project.

6. Phil2
Phil

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

Interview: Wolfberry Studio

Today we’re joined by Jay at Wolfberry Studio. Jay is a phenomenal visual artist who works in digital illustration. Their work is mostly in the science fiction and fantasy genres and features people of color, who are underrepresented in such genres. Jay’s work shows extraordinary attention to detail and the images evoke such an amazing sense of imagination and beauty. It’s clear they’re a very dedicated and talented artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Kadal Kanni
Kadal Kanni

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a digital illustrator who works mostly in vector. My fantasy and sci-fi illustrations focus on people of color who are under-represented in these genres.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by legends and myths from around the world. I enjoy exploring the differences and similarities between stories from different cultures. Stylistic influences include Chinese classical painting and Japanese animation.

In addition to visiting museums and galleries regularly to gain exposure to a wide range of styles, I do live drawing outdoors. Nature can inspire, even if you are not a nature painter.

Cables
Cables

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

I’ve always enjoyed drawing. I was one of those kids who got reprimanded for doodling in class in elementary school. I saw drawing as a way to tell stories. I drew comics about my classmates.

As I grew older, I became increasingly aware of the role of visual art in disseminating social messages. I had observed the lack of diversity in certain genres. One day, I realized that instead of complaining about other artists not drawing what I want to see, maybe I should draw what I want to see. That was when I decided to pursue formal artistic training.

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?

My studio signature is consists of the Chinese characters for Wolfberry Studio.  Wolfberry is another name for goji berry.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

It is OK to feel disappointed with your work sometimes.  The fact that you are self-critical is a good thing. It shows that you are ready and willing to improve. In art school, I saw that the artists who improved their skills most quickly were the ones who were the most open to critique.

Regarding how to deal with the gap between where we are as creatives and where we want to be, Ira Glass of This American Life says it best in a 2009 interview:  (http://www.mcwade.com/DesignTalk/2011/04/nobody-tells-this-to-beginners/)

He was talking about video producers, but his comments can apply to just about any field.

We are all on a journey to getting better. It never ends.

Lattices
Lattices

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Gray-A. Aromantic.

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

Not in professional relationships, since the subject has never come up with clients.

I do want to say that I am pleased by the presence of out asexual artists of all levels in online communities. Their visibility paves the way for the rest of us.

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

Some people think that asexuality is pathological, and that aces would be happier if they weren’t asexual.

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

There is no need to fit yourself into someone else’s concept of a happy, fulfilling life.  What’s right for others might not be right for you. You are the only one who knows what’s right for you.

People shouldn’t be giving you a hard time for being asexual any more than you should be giving than a hard time for being allosexual, or for being a football fan, or liking ice cream, or being into whatever else they’re into but you’re not into.

You’re the only one who has to live your life. You’re not living it for anyone else. Seek out people who respect you and accept you the way you are.

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

https://wolfberry-j.deviantart.com/
https://wolfberrystudio.blogspot.com/
https://www.instagram.com/wolfberrystudio/
https://www.redbubble.com/people/WolfberryStudio/portfolio.

Autumn Kitten
Autumn Kitten

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

Interview: Isis E. Prosser

Today we’re joined by Isis E. Prosser. Isis is a phenomenal writer and jewelry maker who I met at Indy PopCon. I was blown away by the gorgeous jewelry she made and then she told me about the web novel she was working on entitled Lamenting City (chapters are posted on her main blog: https://lairofthestormdragon.com/). Not only does it sound positively fascinating, but it’s an ownvoices work. The main character of the series is an ace lesbian named Axel and there are also two minor asexual characters. I highly recommend checking it out. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate author, 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 writer and a jewelry maker. When it comes to my writing, I tend to focus on humour and emotions, lots of humour and emotions. Sometimes I write purely humourous stories and sometimes I write purely emotional (whether angsty or uplifting) stories. Longer stories tend to swing between both extremes and I like to think the more I write, the better I become at blending the two together. I write a mix of fanfiction and original stuff, and I’m also not the greatest at updating either in a timely fashion (sorry!), but I am trying and getting better at that.

My jewelry is something I also do with my mom (she’s my teacher!) and currently I’m focusing on Pride jewelry and fandom jewelry (currently, Harry Potter-inspired pieces with some My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic-inspired pieces coming…. eventually). I’m very new to this craft.

In the future I’d like to make video games, too. I’ve written scenarios/concepts and dabbled a little in RPG Maker over the years, but haven’t yet finished a thing. Maybe one day soon I’ll have something to show. In the meantime it’s likely the characters of those ideas will be introduced in short stories or novels.

I’m very passionate about storytelling in general.

What inspires you?

Many, many things! From real life experiences to other fiction, and to the beauty of the natural world and that of architecture, as well as mythology (Egyptian mythology is my fave). I’ve also been inspired by vivid dreams I’ve had. And my inspirations tend to shine through in my work, whether original or fanfiction. For example, my current web novel project, Lamenting City, was initially inspired by a dream I had that came about when I was marathoning every Zoids anime with a friend. The dream introduced me to Axel and offered a tantalizing glimpse of her world, and afterwards I knew I had to write it. And often times I’ll have scenes or entire stories inspired by music I listen to.

When it comes to jewelry, I tend to find inspiration looking at gemstones or browsing jewelry supply shops. Sometimes I also get inspiration from media, hence the Harry Potter bracelets.

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

I’ve wanted to be writer for as long as I can remember. I’m not entirely sure where it started, but I know it did start in some form with kid me’s obsession with Beatrix Potter’s stories and later stuff like OT Star Wars and Disney’s Gargoyles. I would also read a lot and then read some more, and the more I read, the more I wanted to write.

As time went on, I also noticed more and more that there weren’t a lot of characters like me in fiction. There weren’t a lot of diverse characters and author voices in general. So, a lot of my writing is me creating the stories and characters I wanted to see, and to give myself a voice.

With jewelry, I played around with plastic beads as a child but then the hobby faded for many years. Earlier this year I got interested in it again after looking at pride jewelry and deciding I could make the types of bracelets I wanted… and then a lightbulb turned on and I realized that, hey, if I wanted jewelry like this, other LGBTQIANP+ folks might want it, too. And then my love for fandom made me start slowly getting into making fandom jewelry as well.

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, looking at my writing as of 2015, dream and nightmare sequences seem to be a pretty big thing. They appeared in my (currently unposted) Metroid fic that I wrote for my first NaNoWriMo (2015), appeared again in my Camp NaNoWriMo project, a Legend of Spyro fanfic (I haven’t yet posted the chapter with the first dream sequence however), and then they’ve appeared in every NaNo project since…

I find dream and nightmare sequences really fun to write. They’re a good way to explore the character’s mind without having to worry about realism or even my own canon.

In general, I like to use dreams/nightmares to introduce concepts and foreshadowing in ways that (hopefully) aren’t immediately obvious.

With my jewelry, it’s a bit hard to say since it’s all so new to me. But I like to add a touch of whimsy to everything I create!

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

To not be discouraged, and to get your art out there. It can be very daunting, yeah, I’ve been there (and in many ways still am), but your voice is needed. Perhaps some people won’t get your story, but for the people who do, it could mean the world.

Understand that you have room to grow, but to also be you. Improve and become the best you.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Homoromantic/demiromantic asexual. Also sex-repulsed.

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

More times than I’d like to count, especially offline. I try to clarify things for people who simply don’t know, but find it’s easier on my mental health to avoid actually prejudiced people who are unlikely to change their mind. Sometimes both of those things are easier said than done.

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

The most common seem to be “Asexuals are incapable of love in any form” and “Asexuals can’t have sex/be sex positive”. Trying to correct either misconception isn’t usually a fun time for me, especially the latter (where being a sex-repulsed ace with no intention of having sex gets thrown back in my face as if it’s some kind of gotcha).

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

That you’re not broken, and that you’re ace enough.  You’re loveable and amazing as you are, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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

My main home of operation is on my website/blog: https://lairofthestormdragon.com/

There I post short stories, chapters of Lamenting City, and blog posts where I yell about video games and music.

And while there’s not as much content as I’d like (I’m working on it!), you can find my newer fanfiction on AO3: https://archiveofourown.org/users/MetroidReploid/profile

I will be updating my Legend of Spyro fic (well, the first one) soon and will be adding a Metroid fic and a Star Wars fic at some point this year. I like many fandoms!

And you can check out my jewelry here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/StormDragonsWares

More designs coming soon!

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

Interview: Jessica Meats

Today we’re joined by Jessica Meats. Jessica is a phenomenal author from the UK who writes science fiction and fantasy. She writes about everything from superheroes smashing the fourth wall to werewolves fighting for their rights. With a new release on the horizon, Jessica is definitely an author to watch for. When she’s not writing original work, Jessica is curating an online database of books with strong LGBTQ+ representation and is always looking for more recommendations. It’s clear she’s a passionate writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

adventures of technicality man cover

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a writer, mainly of science fiction and fantasy books of various lengths. The shortest is The Adventures of Technicality Man, a fun and silly superhero parody that doesn’t so much break the fourth wall as smash it into a million pieces. The longest is my soon-to-be-released fantasy novel Wolf Unleashed, a considerably more serious work which explores themes of oppression and prejudice in a world where werewolves are fighting for equal rights.

What inspires you?

I write the sort of stories I enjoy, so I would have to say that I’m inspired by other creators. I’m an avid reader and I love watching SF&F TV shows and films, so I like playing with these ideas and trying to find something new and different to say.

I also find inspiration in the real world. The SF&F genres have always been used to address real world issues by framing them so that people can look at them in a new light. That’s what I’m trying to do with Wolf Unleashed and there were some scenes that were inspired by acts of injustice that have been reported in the news (or frequently misreported and hushed over in cases of institutional racism). There’s a scene in which a Muslim character talks about some of the prejudice he’s faced that I rewrote after the travel ban fiasco in the United States.

It’s not all dark though. I wrote most of my first novel, Child of the Hive, while I was at university studying mathematics and computer science. In the computer science side of the course, we had various lectures and discussions about technology that was currently being worked on, and some of the technology in that book was directly inspired by those discussions of what was cutting edge at the time I was writing it.

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

I have written stories since I first learned how to pick up a pen. When I was little, I would fold sheets of paper together to make little books and write stories in them. I don’t remember ever making the decision to be a writer – I just always knew I would be. As I grew up, I had to temper that desire with realism about the odds of making a living as an author, but I never stopped 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?

If I do it’s hidden even from me. My writing style is heavily driven by plot, so I suppose you could say that’s a signature of my style, but It’s not symbolic.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Keep going. Gaining a skill takes time, so keep working on your art and you will keep getting better. Nothing teaches like practice.

For writers in particular, think about the things you read. If you read a book you love, stop and consider what it is about that book that appeals to you so much, Likewise, if you read something you hate, consider what it is about the work that’s putting you off so much so you can try and avoid those things in your own work.

Above all, create the art you enjoy. Focus first and foremost on creating works that you have fun creating and that you’re pleased with when you’re finished. Worry about how you’re going to sell them or find an audience second.

child of the hive cover

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am biromantic asexual. For a long time, I thought I was bisexual because I didn’t realise the concept of asexuality existed.

I’ve never been sexually attracted to anyone but I have had relationships and I’m open to romantic love with persons of any gender. To me, the match of personalities is more important than anything physical.

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

Not really. I’ve seen some ignorant comments on social media sites and the like, but nothing that has really impacted my writing. This may be because the discovery of the concept of asexuality and my revelation about how it applied to me came after I’d been writing for several years. Given the length of time it takes for a book to go from inspiration, to first draft, to complete, to publication… my past books haven’t really focused on asexuality. I have one book that is almost ready to go to the publisher which has an asexual protagonist, and another one about halfway through the first draft with an asexual love interest. I may find different reactions when those books come out.

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

The one I’ve seen most often is just a lack of knowledge – people don’t know that asexuality is a thing. I went through my teen years thinking that there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t getting crushes on pop stars and actors the way everyone around me seemed to be. I know I’m not the only person to go through this. I had a conversation with a woman in her late fifties, who told me, “I’d always just assumed I was broken,” because she didn’t feel any interest in sex.

I had a conversation with some colleagues from work where we got onto the subject of sexuality. I mentioned asexuality and one of my colleagues asked me to explain because it wasn’t a term she’d heard before. As I explained, her face just lit up with excitement and she went, “That’s me!”

This complete lack of awareness when it comes to even the existence of asexuality is harmful for so many people who think there’s a problem with them. These people need to see asexuality discussed openly and represented in fiction so that they can recognise that they’re not alone.

Outside of LGBTQ+ circles, people aren’t aware of asexuality, and so that leads to people who fall somewhere on the spectrum themselves to develop the misconception that there’s something wrong with them.

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

You’re not alone.

There are a lot of different experiences across the breadth of the asexuality spectrum, so don’t worry if the way you feel isn’t a perfect match for the way someone else describes their feelings, just know that you aren’t the only one. There’s nothing wrong with you.

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

I have a blog at http://plot-twister.co.uk where I post book reviews, articles on writing advice, and news about my own books. I also have a queer reading list on that site, which is a list of reader-recommended sci-fi and fantasy books that contain strong LGBTQ+ representation. You can apply filters to find books that have specific representations. So if you want to find a book that has a demi-sexual protagonist, or an aromantic major character, you can apply the filters and see what people have recommended. I’m always keen to get new recommendations so if you know of good SF&F with asexual (or other queer) representation, please recommend them.

You can also follow me on Tumblr at http://jessicameats.tumblr.com or Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicameats or like my Facebook page.

Wolf Unleashed cover

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