Interview: Martha J Allard

Today we’re joined by Martha J Allard. Martha is a phenomenal author who writes various kinds of fantasy. She writes both short stories and novels. Her work is mostly dark and contemporary fantasy. Her novel is entitled Black Light and it sounds fascinating. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I write fiction, mostly dark and contemporary fantasy. I write both short stories and novels. My first one of those came out a two years ago called Black Light. It’s about rock and roll and finding yourself in what you want.

What inspires you?

I always try to look for the magic hidden in normal life. I believe it’s always there, but we can’t always see it. I try to put that in my writing.

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

Yes, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I grew up with a book in my hand. I traded Laura Ingles Wilder for Anne of Green Gables, for the Nine Princes in Amber and on. I loved all those stories and more, but there were no characters that I could identify with.

I grew up in a small town in Michigan, in the late 70’s. It was miles and miles away from any queer culture. I didn’t know it existed, much less that I could be a part of it.

One night I waited until my parents were asleep and snuck back downstairs to the TV to watch videos. This was pre-MTV. They played a video by David Bowie called I Am A DJ. I was riveted, never having seen him before. In the video, a man comes up to Bowie on the street to kiss him. This opened my small-town brain up to the possibilities that lay beyond my tiny borders. Somehow those possibilities got my pen moving.

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, yes. Or I think of them as Easter eggs, really. Because of my connection to Bowie, I always put something of him in my work. Sometimes it’s small, something nobody but me will notice, and sometimes it’s bigger, for example the entire plot of Black Light started out with one of his songs.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t write what you know. Write what you want to discover. Write the things that scare you and let your words be wild.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I came to asexuality late in life. In the past I’ve also identified as Bi and Lesbian. I feel that I can only speak for right now, and right now I feel Panromantic.

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

I write queer fiction, and so I rub shoulders with other queer writers. When I first came out as Ace, some of them advised against it. I was surprised, because I had already identified as queer, and had for years. I’ve found that some people think of Asexual as “damaged,” and I didn’t want to be thought of like that, did I?

No. I didn’t. So when I came out to people, I armed myself with explanations, reasons for my sexuality. But finally, I stopped myself. Now I deal with push back by not apologizing, but it took a while.

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

As I mentioned above, it’s that somehow, I became asexual because of damaged I’ve suffered.  Also that I’m wasting myself? That one always makes me laugh. It feels just the opposite to me.

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

I would say, it’s a journey, not a destination. For me, each day is different, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, and as David Bowie famously said once, “All I can tell you is what I feel right now.”

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

My website: https://www.marthajallard.com/
My Facebook page: marthajallard
Amazon link to Black Light: http://a.co/d/bT1PCsp

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

Interview: Elizabeth Wambheim

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

1. Author Image

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

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

What inspires you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

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

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

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

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. more-than-enough-cover

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

Interview: Ellison

Today we’re joined by Ellison. Ellison is a phenomenal actress and an aspiring writer. She writes mainly poetry and short stories and hopes to be published one day. When she’s not acting or writing, Ellison enjoys to work on her visual art. She draws and sketches frequently. It’s clear she’s a dedicated artist who really loves to create. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I dabble in lots of art forms, but mainly pursue theater, writing (poetry and short stories), and drawing. I’ve been in multiple productions, most recently A Midsummer Night’s Dream and will be playing Penny in You Can’t Take It With You this fall. If you’d like to contact me about doodles, sketches, poems, or stories, please contact me directly on my Tumblr:   wellnoduhofcourceimafangirl.

What inspires you?

I get a lot of my inspiration from my past and experiences I’ve had, a lot of which were bad. I also take motivation from close friends and one that not many people seem to talk about, but the media I consume. I read all the time, almost always fiction. In a well written book there might be a storyline that inspires me or the way something is described, I just have to sketch it out.

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

I’ve always loved art, in some form or another and I’ve been a performer, or depending on who you ask, a drama queen, as long as I can remember. I wanted to be an artist but not until high school did I actually think about making a career out of it. Little kid me would’ve been okay with princess, but really wanted to be a spy. Currently I’d go for taking deep breaths and making it through the day because the future is big and loud. As a career, I think I’d be most likely to pursue my writing.

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

I don’t, I’m pretty boring. Though, now that I’m thinking about it, I should totally come up with one. I’m always willing to listen to suggestions.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

No matter your art form, never stop. Ever. If you practice your art every day, you’re an artist. If you only practice one a year, you’re still an artist. I’ve been at an art school for over two years and I still invalidate myself as an artist. You’re not an imposter, you are good enough. And if anyone tells you otherwise, contact me for a hug plus I’ll fight them.

ART picture 2

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Currently I identify as asexual but I’m still trying to figure myself out. One of the biggest problems I’ve had is feeling like it is just a phase, or maybe I am just doing for attention. I still struggle with that. It’s okay if you try on labels to see what fits you. It doesn’t make you a liar or an imposter. All I really have to do now is figure out how to take my own advice.

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

I haven’t. I hear the stories about acephobia and I haven’t experienced any yet and I have to remind myself that everyone’s experiences are different, and that doesn’t make you wrong.

Art picture

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

That Aces can’t have or don’t like sex. It’s not about whether we enjoy, or even have sex. It’s not about sex drive, nor about whether we think someone is beautiful or hot. We just don’t experience sexual attraction. That’s it.

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

Talk to people that understand. Talk to people who love you regardless of how you identify. Try as hard as you can to love yourself and remember that it isn’t anyways easy. Remember you aren’t alone. You will find love as you are, whether it’s physical or romantic or platonic or familial or self-love. You’re amazing.

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

To see my work or ask about commissions, contact me at my Tumblr:    wellnoduhofcourceimafangirl.

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

Interview: Adrienne

Today we’re joined by Adrienne. Adrienne is a phenomenal young up-and-coming writer who is currently studying creative writing at college in Canada. She has been writing fanfiction for years and has just started getting into original work. She’s a wonderfully enthusiastic 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.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a creative writer. I currently specialize in fan-fiction and original short stories. I must admit – however, that much of the latter is still very new to me and is currently a work in progress. 😀

What inspires you?

There’s so much! I almost don’t know where to start! A lot of my inspiration for writing comes from the fantasy/fiction genre. A lot of my inspiration also comes from what I see in other people’s writing/art work, as well as what I see in my day to day activities.

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

The Lord of the Rings. I started writing self-insert fiction when I was 14, and it sort of spiraled upwards form there.

I have always wanted to be an artist, yes. It’s fun!

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’m not sure that I’ve got any special sort of writing style or anything. I guess it’s hard to figure out your own writing style when you’re constantly editing and re-reading it. ;D

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Keep writing! Keep drawing! Keep doing! It’s super hard, I know. But you must try!

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am pretty firm on the asexual part of the spectrum. There are other unrelated attractions there as well, but all in all – pretty firm on the asexual part.

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

I have been fortunate enough to not have experienced any sort of ace prejudice or ignorance in my field yet.

There have been a couple encounters where I’ve had to explain my sexuality with close friends, but otherwise no negative feedback yet.

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

I have been most fortunate in having friends and family who have accepted my sexuality and have made attempts to learn more about what it is to be asexual.

That’s not to say that there are no misconceptions about asexuality, only that I have been lucky in my personal experiences.

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

Your identity is real. What you experience is real. You are valid. You are not alone.

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

My work can mainly be found at diariesofawaywardwriter.wordpress.com.

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

Interview: Jacob

Today we’re joined by Jacob, who is known on social media as Jacob’s Jottings. Jacob is a phenomenal author who writes both original fiction, nonfiction, and fanfiction. For nonfiction, he writes about autism and mental health for the site “The Mighty.” For fiction, he has mostly written fanfiction and original short stories, but has recently taken on two large projects. One involves a detective in post-war Britain and the other is about an autistic wizard (which is something i would absolutely love to read because it sounds fantastic). It’s clear he’s a dedicated and passionate writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. The Capitoline Academy (Sunset) (A4 cover logo)
The Capitoline Academy (Sunset)

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a writer, and I’ve really started to come out of my shell in the last few years. I’ve always written short stories and never shown them to anyone before, but that changed when my friends started writing fan-fiction, and my English teacher at college told me to attend a creative writing club.

Though I’m still very private about my larger projects, I started publishing articles for mental health site The Mighty, one of those articles received 32,000 hearts on the site, and got shared a lot on social media, so I started to say to myself ‘what if people would like my creative work too?’ and here I am now, writing two large scale projects, one about an autistic wizard, the other about a detective in post-war Britain. Not just that, but I published some fan-fiction of my own, and I found once that was out there, I found it a lot easier to write without much self-doubt.

I’ve recently finished college, and I’ve been accepted onto the Creative Writing BA course at a university I’ve dreamed about going to for years. I’m hoping this will really make my dream of being a full-time writer a reality, even if it takes years to take off.

As well as writing, I also do a bit of photography, and some digital design. I make all my own covers for my projects, as well as posters for events, and I love going out and taking pictures. I often use the pictures for reference for my writing, and it’s a great skill to have alongside.

What inspires you?

I find inspiration in many things, mainly everyday life. But I often find myself looking into what I loved as a child, certainly what comforted me. Sometimes this is in the form of stories by other authors, such as J. K Rowling, or Terry Pratchett, but other times its films and music, or most importantly to me: knowledge. Plants, animals, and space particularly always have heavy presence in my stories, and that’s because I love to learn new things.

I’ve always written to escape the real world, so I suppose it is natural that my other methods of escape blend well with this, I often find that going to a museum or exhibition particularly fuels my writing, it often ends in me trying to fit a lot into one box- my wizarding story contains as much knowledge of the natural world as it does fictional magic for example.

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

I’ve always been creative, and I was sure I wanted to utilise that in some way, but could never find an exact form that suited me. I tried art, and drama, and found myself not ever truly comfortable. I mainly thank books, films, and television, for getting me into writing. The idea of making my own stories was irresistible! I cannot pinpoint when it exactly started happening, probably about five years ago, but I finally found that writing (alongside reading and watching) was the most enjoyable thing to do. Then it all fell into place, and I find myself writing all the time, even if it never gets added to again- it’s fun.

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

Oh definitely! The infinity symbol finds its way into most of the stuff I write, not just because of its use by the autistic rights movement, but because of my fascination with the concept behind the symbol. I also always incorporate types of birds as symbolism- usually owls, or penguins, as they’re my favourite, penguins especially.

Playing with colour is something I’ve recently moved into, I don’t have a single character that does not heavily associate themselves with colours and their meanings, even if it is just a subtle inclusion. Blue for my protagonists usually, a colour I use not only to create a cold atmosphere, but also to show the presence of intelligence, imagination, and peace. Reds and oranges meanwhile shows up my more passionate and instinctual characters, with purple showing a combination of the two.

I also love playing with imagery, with many of my characters having ‘hair the colour of fertile soil’ or the ‘great spurts of an ancient wine, hemorrhaging profusely’- it can feel a bit forced sometimes, but it often pays off, and I find it a great way of illustrating the worlds I’ve made.

I’m also told I tell stories in a unique way, my friend recently commented that when she reads my writing, I am clearly telling the story, rather than just creating it. I’ve never quite understood this evaluation, but I’ve heard it quite a few times in several forms.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

It sounds cliché- but I would say just do whatever you love! I spent far too long worrying about what others think, and though that matters if you want to make a career out of it, the initial starting of a new art is a solo-activity. If painting makes you happy- paint! Everyone I know who does something creative for a living started off doing it to just kill time, or to help them with another activity, and it grew from there.

2. Inherited Intuition A4 Cover
Inherited Intuition

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I use the label asexual as standard, to me, this means not feeling sexual attraction. I’m confident in identifying as a sex positive asexual, but I’m yet to 100% settle on my romantic orientation.

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

I think one of the strangest encounters in my life was when I first explained asexuality to someone, without attaching the label to myself. I was told its ‘unnatural’- for this reason, in my private life, I don’t talk about my sexuality until prompted.

I also find that some in my age group is often sex-obsessed, I’ve often been labelled prudish just for not wanting to talk about sex, and I find it very hard to try and express my frustration with that. I am not at all prudish, I just think about it completely differently to they do!

I incorporate it into my work- I actually find it harder to write allosexual characters, and therefore many of my characters are asexual by accident! And I do worry that some people won’t understand the representation if they haven’t experienced it first-hand, but I do my best to write characters that educate as well as represent now.

Outside of my field, I see prejudice and ignorance regularly, insults such as ‘frigid’ and so on, I also see the constant discourse present on sites such as Tumblr, and though I do my best to keep out, I sometimes worry for our community, I hate the idea that anyone who identifies as asexual will feel like it isn’t valid or can’t talk about it in case they’re verbally attacked.

As an autistic person, I also find that some people think my asexuality is part of that. I don’t think it is- and it’s quite insulting to assume that someone’s sexuality is part of their sensory issues for example. The two often overlap for me, and I also know autistics that do feel sexual attraction and have those sensory issues anyway. Some people in both communities would even say their sensory difficulties enhance their sexual experiences.

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

Personally, I find that the definition of asexual is often mis-identified. It means lacking sexual attraction. But I know people who are completely convinced it simply means ‘won’t have sex, or won’t masturbate’- it is often a pain to try and debate it with them, and I find myself bringing up articles from the community to back my side up.

I don’t like discussing the personal details of my own asexuality in too much depth with people who might not understand, and therefore I think the extra labels of ‘sex positive’ are really useful when discussing asexuality, as well as the other identities within the spectrum.

At the end of the day though, the only person other than me who has a right to that deeper information is a partner, and I don’t think asexuals should ever feel pressured to dissect their identities for another person’s curiosity or because of an ignorant person’s misconceptions.

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

Firstly, it is okay to struggle! I found it incredibly hard to find the orientation that best described me. I still think sexual orientation is a fluid concept, and I think people who are struggling should remember that. If something doesn’t feel right, find the label that does feel right, and don’t feel guilty if that changes. Some asexuals might not find that identity for a long time.

I myself often find myself wondering if I might be aromantic as well as asexual, or demisexual instead of asexual, this is a natural part of development. Just as sexuality in all its forms is natural. A lot of people go through that internal debate. And nobody should ever be afraid of using the label that best suits them.

I would also repeat that the only person who needs to be happy is you. Come out at your own pace. Experience your sexuality at your own pace. Some people don’t find the identity they’re most comfortable with until they’re halfway through life, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

There’s a thriving asexual and LGBT+ community waiting to help you through it all, and the right people within it are not going to judge you for struggling.

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

People can find my work in several places. For a more personal touch, there’s my own Tumblr blog which is at jacobs-jottings, or my AO3 under the same name (but without a hyphen).

As well as this there’s my new Facebook page, also called Jacob’s Jottings, and my user page on The Mighty, under my full name- Jacob Durn. If anyone is curious, my photography can be found easily on Instagram, where my username is identical to my AO3 one.

My blog has a bit of everything (including personal posts, and lots of reblogs), my AO3 some fanfiction, and soon some original works, whilst the last two focus on my non-creative work.

3. Murder On The Hogwarts Express
Murder On The Hogwarts Express

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

Interview: Lucas Wilga

Today we’re joined by Lucas Wilga, who also goes by luci online. Lucas is a phenomenal game maker and writer. They create tabletop role-playing games and the first one is entitled Sundown, which sounds fascinating and I highly recommend checking it out. Lucas has recently branched out into writing short stories set in the Sundown universe. It’s clear they’re an incredibly passionate and driven artist, 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 make tabletop role-playing games, and I recently branched out into writing fiction as well. The first game I’m creating professionally, Sundown, is currently in an open playtest. It’ll have an official launch sometime next year. It’s light on rules, and it’s set in this cyberpunk, biotech inspired fantasy setting. It has transhumanism, politics, and sword cowboys. My work on it is mostly done, so I’ve started occupying my creative time writing a serial of short stories set in Sundown, starring a sarcastic young monster slayer.

What inspires you?

Other games and works of fiction. I’m always itching to design something new after I read a new game. Sundown itself came out of a modification of a different game I’d recently picked up at the time.

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

I’ve always been imaginative. I entered the hobby at eleven, and I started running games and designing adventures at fourteen. This eventually turned into creating my own games, but I didn’t know I wanted to make a career out of it until a year ago.

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 style is all about keeping people engaged, so my signature has become brevity. I keep things short and snappy. Whether teaching a game or weaving a narrative, it pays to avoid toiling too long on the nitty gritty.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Especially when designing a game, start small. Keep your scope limited. Know what you want to say and cut anything that isn’t in direct support of it. Don’t overthink it. Don’t spend too long thinking about one specific thing. Don’t try to create the perfect piece. You’ll burn yourself out chasing perfection.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I don’t know if there’s a word for this yet, but I’m okay with sexual things that take place entirely within my imagination. Things like smut. Sometimes images are okay, too. But I have no desire for, and am usually repulsed by, sex ‘in real life.’

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

I’ve had folk tell me to tone down the queerness in my work, but I haven’t really encountered any sort of acephobia. There is a strong queer independent tabletop role-playing game community, so I don’t really have to try to sell to, or interact with, non-LGBT+ spaces.

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

The most common misconception, I’d say, is the idea that asexual is synonymous with aromantic. Especially for ace folks in relationships, it can get tiring to explain the difference.

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

This might be hard advice to follow, but just don’t give it so much weight. It’s okay for your sexuality to shift or change as you grow as a person and learn more about yourself.

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

Grasswatch Games is the company my two creative partners and I created to work on Sundown. Its website, grasswatchgames.com is the hub for our current work. You can find Sundown itself there, as well as my first short story. You can also find our Twitter, Facebook, and the Discord server we’re running Sundown’s playtest on.

Thank you, Lucas, 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.