Interview: Elizabeth Wambheim

Today we’re joined by Elizabeth Wambheim. Elizabeth is a phenomenal author who writes novels, novellas, and short stories. All her work features ace protagonists (how awesome is that!?) and it mostly falls in the fantasy genre. She has already written an ace retelling of Beauty and the Beast. She has also written a novel about the relationship between a male shepherd and a Viking woman. It’s clear she’s an incredibly passionate and creative individual who loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. Author Image

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am the author of a small (so far!) body of published works that feature asexual protagonists and asexual relationships. My biggest work so far has been a novel titled More Than Enough which is a gay/ace retelling of Beauty and the Beast. My first piece was a novella titled Wolves in the Fold about a male shepherd and a female Viking navigating a relationship as well as language barriers. I love writing fantasy; reworking fairy tales; and establishing soft, supportive relationships between characters.

What inspires you?

Just about everything! Books, movies, television shows, video games, and even music can be a source of inspiration. If something catches at my attention, I file it away for use somewhere. My first story in high school had an ensemble casts because I loved the friendship/team dynamics between the four to eight main characters in the Tales series of video games.

Real-world relationships are also inspiring; if I notice an interesting dynamic between two people (be they friends, family, or coworkers), I’ll make a mental note of it and it might wind up as the building block of a fictional relationship. I also make use of personal experiences: I like to be able to step inside my characters and describe the way their emotions affect them physically. The easiest way for me to do that is to write from a place of understanding—where do my experiences overlap with this character’s? If I haven’t gone through exactly what they have, what comes close? What did it feel like to be there? After really good days and really bad days, I take a lot of notes about what happened and how I felt.

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

I’ve been writing since elementary school, but it was mostly something I did for fun. I took Creative Writing classes all through high school and majored in English in college. After I graduated, I realized there weren’t many fictional partnerships that reflected my preferences or my experiences. I found the undercurrent of sexual tension between would-be romantic partners to be alienating and sometimes uncomfortable. So I started writing the stories I wanted to read.

While my writing is not what I want to depend on for a living, it is a vital part of my life. I love the puzzle of crafting a story from scraps of lived experience and fictional inspirations. Writing also helps me validate who I am and how I feel; it’s a privilege to know that my stories help other people, too.

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

I love mythological and literary symbolism, so there are almost always elements of that in my stories, such as a scar used as a symbol of a character’s triumph over adversity or an oblique reference to the “eating of the pomegranate seeds” in the Hades/Persephone myth.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

You’re the only person in the world uniquely positioned to produce the work that 100% appeals to you in form and content. Work on what makes you happy.

Conversely, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing or you find that you’re bored with the piece, then take a break and don’t feel bad about taking a break. You’re a human being, not a machine! Treat yourself kindly and you’ll come back to the work when you’re ready.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual and sex-repulsed as hell. I’ll say that I’m biromantic, but my take on romantic love is best described by that Pepe Silvia screenshot from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

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

I’ve worked in public libraries for the last three years, and I haven’t experienced any prejudice from any of my coworkers, thankfully! But I’m also not really open at work (either about being ace or about being bi), so that might be part of it.

The only issue I’ve had has been that I have a really hard time shelving titles in the romance section. The covers make me kind of queasy (no one on them is wearing nearly enough clothes), so I just avoid working in that section as much as possible.

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

On a general level: it’s a phase and something we’ll grow out of, or that there’s something inherently childish about it as an orientation.

On a personal level: being asexual means that I’m inherently not interested in (or incapable of having) a committed partnership with another person.

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

Where you are and how you’re feeling is okay! Give yourself space to figure out how who you are and how you feel. Don’t let anyone convince you that your truth isn’t a valid truth.

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

https://ewambheim.wordpress.com/ is the hub for my published work. I have one short story there that you can read for free as a PDF, and it also includes links to the Amazon pages for Wolves in the Fold and More Than Enough.

https://ajumbleofpages.tumblr.com/ is the Tumblr I use for sharing writing updates.

Please also check out the Goodreads page for More Than Enough: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36327532-more-than-enough

Folx have left some very kind and heartfelt reviews there and on its Amazon page!

3. more-than-enough-cover

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

Interview: Zoe

Today we’re joined by Zoe. Zoe is a wonderful young up and coming author who writes YA and middle grade fiction. She has drafted three novels, all are in the genres of supernatural and magical realism. They feature a diverse cast of characters, most of them are LGBTQIA+, the kind of characters Zoe has often wanted to see in the books she was reading. It’s clear she’s a very passionate and dedicated writer with an incredibly bright future ahead of her, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I write young adult/middle grade books that could also count as magical realism or supernatural. My current project centres on different supernatural/paranormal beings such as angels, demons, vampires, sirens etc. It is pretty diverse compared to a lot of books I’ve read recently, and includes a gender fluid vampire, a pansexual warlock, an aroace demon in a queer-platonic relationship, a bisexual demon, a biromantic angel, a lesbian werewolf, an aroace fae who is sex and romance repulsed (There are others, as well as heterosexual characters.) It also includes all the struggles they have to deal with because of their sexualities and genders, as well as their supernatural race. (While also trying to stop a very evil woman from taking her revenge out on the whole world)

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

What inspires you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

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

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

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview: Caw

Today we’re joined by Caw. Caw is a wonderful young fanartist who writes fanfiction for a number of different fandoms. She enjoys writing for people with similar interests to enjoy and enjoys writing as a hobby. It’s clear she’s a dedicated artist who really enjoys writing, 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 fanfiction for communities such as Sander Sides, The Phandom (Dan & Phil), and Sekaiichi Hatsukoi but I have been planning a very own original story of my own for the last year, I’m happy to say I’ll be publishing the first chapter on October 1st!

What inspires you?

I’d have to say my best friends and quotes from my idols! Dan or danerkuu as many know her is such an inspiration to me, she’s always been there when I needed her and I cherish every waking moment we share together. When it comes to a single quote that still gets me is by Daniel Howell, “You are an independent mind in this universe that can do anything and everything you have ever dreamed of.”

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

Well, at first I was intrigued after reading fanfictions about Inuyasha couples so I decided to give it a try and subconsciously it was really to cope with some past trauma of mine through characters I cherished and stories I put them in.

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?

Crutches. It comes from a catchphrase of mine, “When the entire world breaks your legs, I’ll be your crutches always.”

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Fail. Fail over and over and over and over again because then you learn, you become wise and you adapt to the constructive criticism you get. Don’t give up, keep practicing, keeping making your art whatever it may be because if you keep trying that means you’re making progress. It took me three years to get here and I’m still learning. There’s no perfection but progress is so much better than perfection because guess what? That means there’s always something new to learn, some mistake to make, and something to improve which makes you an even better artist.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Apothisexual, I identify as asexual and I’m sex-repulsed by the idea of sex. I really just prefer cuddles and kisses honestly! I prefer to just say asexual but if you want the detail answer, that’s the closest hit home!

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

Not necessarily in my field since I’ve only discovered it recently and I haven’t been attacked either but I am scared for that prejudice. I know Tumblr is split on what to think about asexuality and one of my family members isn’t keen on believing my sexual identity. He’s said I couldn’t possibly know what I am because apparently my hormones haven’t hit yet although I know that’s not true.

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

To be honest, I didn’t hear about it much before 2018 Pride Month but looking through forum discussions and the like, people think we just can’t find the one suddenly spark that sexual attraction.

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

You don’t have to know what you are exactly, I was very hesitant to say I’m apothisexual because that might be wrong but I’m pretty comfortable with it and I think that’s the best thing to go with. If you feel comfortable with your label, then that’s your label! I’m happy just being labeled as asexual and I prefer it actually. Don’t feel a rush to place label on yourself either, you don’t have to place yourself in a box because no one is a perfect size for any box society tries to force upon us!

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

Well, you can always ask on my Tumblr about it and you can read my stories on a few sites; Tumblr, Wattpad, Archive of Our Own, and Amino under the same name I am now – cawerkuu. I talk about when I’m writing on my Instagram, the same username, as well if they’d like to follow that, I’m much more active on it!

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

Interview: Jess Renae Curtis

Today we’re joined by Jess Renae Curtis, who also goes by Jess or Pup. Jess is the phenomenal artist behind PuppyLuver Studios. She does mostly fan work at the moment but has also recently branched out into original work. She is currently dabbling with creating an original universe. Jess is mostly a digital artist and creates both fanart and original characters through drawing. Her work is bright and colorful, capturing the viewer and drawing them in. It shows an amazing attention to detail. It’s clear she’s an extraordinarily talented artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. owl barber
Owl Barber

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m both a writer and a digital artist. My illustrations are generally focused on characters, both original designs and those from fandoms I’m involved in, and tend to use a lot of varied color. My writing is involved in both fanfiction (notable ones I’m working on at the moment include Chronicles of Tajiria, a Pokémon series but with the Pokémon as people with superpowers/magic, and Sonata in Triplicate, a Legend of Zelda AU series) and my original series Theia Historica, of which I have the first entry (titled A Kingdom of Children) published.

What inspires you?

I don’t really have a definite answer for that, it could be just about anything depending on what sort of thing or things it ends up inspiring. I’ve had small one-page comics based on something funny that happened to me while playing a video game, I’ve designed a character because a YouTuber I follow posted a video of himself shaving his beard with a razor that I initially thought looked like an owl, I’ve drawn pieces based on something funny a friend said to me, lots of things. In fact, the general art direction of Theia Historica has its roots in one very specific part in the PS2 role-playing game Okage: Shadow King, but it’s a long explanation so that’s a story for another time.

2. mermaids working out
Mermaids Working Out

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

I’ve been drawing ever since I was a little kid, and while I always liked drawing it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life for the longest time. Funnily enough, my first career choices were astronaut and veterinarian, before I realized that the things in space kinda scared me and I was squeamish about blood and other bodily fluids, so around middle school I decided to try a career path that I already had some skill and comfort in. I started storytelling shortly after becoming literate, though unlike visual art that was always something I could see myself doing professionally, though more as an “after I’m done being an astrovet” thing than as part of my main career.

3. brunswick manor front
Brunswick Manor front

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?

Can’t think of anything in particular except for the star that I use as my watermark (a five-point star with each point being a different color of the rainbow except for orange). Also in major writing projects I tend to find some way or another to put myself in there. Just…self-insert in the background, there I am.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

If you’re feeling discouraged about your skill level, remember to keep trying and that you can only get better. You’ve got wonderful visions that’ve been concocted solely by the processes of your imagination, and only you can bring them to life for the world to see. Also, don’t pay attention to what cringe culture says. Make that multicolor Sonic OC if you want. Write a short story about you getting transported to your favorite fictional world and becoming best buds with the main characters if doing so cheers you up when you’re feeling down. Don’t let anyone stop you from enjoying something that makes you happy and doesn’t hurt others.

4. journey-traveler's hub
Journey-Traveler’s Hub

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m a sex-repulsed asexual. I’m not entirely sure yet of where I fall in regards to romantic attraction, but if I were to try dating I think I’d want my first attempts at romantic experiences to be with women.

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

Not specifically in my field, no, and I don’t really know how I would handle it if I were to encounter prejudice that was physical or coming from a position of authority. Most people I’ve told about my asexuality are a bit confused as to what it means at first, but once I explain they’re generally supportive. I have had encounters with people who flat-out refused to believe that I was an adult who didn’t enjoy sex and couldn’t ever imagine doing so, but that one was on me for commenting on a video explicitly titled “Why Does Sex Feel Good?” and saying that I couldn’t understand why sex-havers craved it so strongly (I mean, I technically can, cuz if sex weren’t at least somewhat pleasurable to those willingly engaging in it then the species would die out because then no one would be boinking and possibly making babies) and I thought the whole societal obsession with it was a bit ridiculous. I kinda walked into that one, and I ended up just muting that conversation and moving on.

5. skull kid and deku tree
Skull Kid and Deku Tree

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

If they don’t outright dismiss the possibility of asexuality/aromanticism existing, they tend to assume all asexual people share my feelings in that sex is something they wish to avoid. While I am not one of them, there are obviously plenty of asexuals who either are indifferent or even enjoy sex as an activity. I’m put off by all the mess that I’ve heard results from a typical sexual encounter to even consider trying it, but I will never knock on any sex-positive or sex-neutral aces.

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

Not having a sexual or romantic attraction is just as normal as having a sexual or romantic attraction to people of a different gender, the same gender, or multiple genders. You’re not broken just because all your peers are ogling “sexy” celebrities and you find yourself feeling indifferent to the whole thing. And don’t listen to all the highly vocal exclusionists plaguing the internet that say a-spec people don’t belong. They are the minority given megaphones, and the majority of LGBT groups and spaces are inclusive of a-specs.

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

You can find my stuff on DeviantART under the username PuppyLuver, and on Tumblr, Twitter, FanFiction.net, and AO3 under the username PuppyLuver256. I also have a Redbubble store and a Patreon.

6. shiny mahina
Shiny Mahina

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

Interview: Morgan

Today we’re joined by Morgan. Morgan is a phenomenal artist who is currently studying to become a fashion designer. When they’re not studying, Morgan cosplays as a hobby and they also draw as well. It’s clear they’re an incredibly talented and dedicated artist with a very bright future ahead of them, 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 am studying to be a fashion designer and also cosplay and draw casually. I have various designs as well as cosplays and art pieces.

What inspires you?

As a cosplayer and artist, I am influenced by shows and characters I love and feel passionate about. For original art and designs I am inspired by issues I care about as well as interpretations of my environment and my own feelings. My gender identity and sexuality also inspire my art.

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

I was always interested in drawing, especially nature and humans. My passion and creativity extended to my self-expression through clothing and led me to create my own clothing.

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 necessarily. When I start to have more clothing designs that I have made and created I plan to name my brand after my grandmother’s last name, because she has always supported my art and all aspects of my identity.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Explore different ways of expressing your creativity and don’t limit yourself to one media. Even if you aren’t as experienced or skilled in other areas, trying different methods opens new ways to interpret your feelings and your art.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am asexual and sex-repulsed.

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

Not yet. Though I feel as though some of my family/friends doesn’t understand why some of my art/designs are more revealing or “sexual” in nature when I myself am not sexual.

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

That being asexual (and/or sex repulsed) means you think sex and people who have sex are dirty/wrong. I believe sex is a very natural thing and if all parties concerned are happy and consenting, then that’s great. Do what makes you happy. Just because there are people who aren’t into it doesn’t mean they are against it.

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

Even if you are worried that you might change your mind in the future or that you should be sexually attracted to others, remember that your feelings and identity NOW are valid, no matter what you have felt in the past or could potentially feel in the future.

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

I have an art Tumblr under the URL mmmdraws and a cosplay Tumblr with the URL maeroncosplays. I also post a lot of my cosplay/cosplay progress on my Instagram irish.i.was.dead. My clothing design Instagram is morrisroe_designs though I haven’t posted a whole lot on there yet.

5. maeron
Maeron

Thank you, Morgan, 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: 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.