Interview: Kaj

Today we’re joined by Kaj. Kaj is an awesome up-and-coming writer and a former actor. They’re writing blends a number of different genres, though they write quite a bit of fantasy. Kaj used to perform as an actor in the theater and hopes to return at some point in the future. They’re clearly and enthusiastic and dedicated 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 am a writer and used to be an actor.

Acting was fun, my favourite parts so far (I’m hoping to get back into it one day) were Horatio in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Mrs. Erlynne in Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan. It was just my school’s drama club, but we had the reputation of doing a pretty decent job.

Writing is mostly an outlet for a lot of feelings, for things I think about, and sometimes just plain stress relief. I write basically everything. I started out with Harry Potter-ish fantasy, then crime stories, urban fantasy, and my most recent project is some kind of Fight Club inspired tragedy. -Ish. Actually, I just start writing whatever comes to my mind and see where it takes me from there. I never know what’s going to happen in a story until it happens. Party because of that (and because I keep getting distracted) I never finished one of my “big” projects. I do fine with short stories, but actual novels are usually abandoned somewhere along the way. But maybe my current idea will work out. Being almost ten chapters deep is quite a step forward for me.

What inspires you?

I started writing at a young age (I hardly remember a time where I haven’t been writing), so I have no idea anymore why I started writing in the first place.

And for the individual stories, it depends. My first big project was obviously inspired by Harry Potter. In general, it often happens that I read a book (or fic or watch a movie etc.) and get an idea about what might happen if you took /that/ element and spun it another way.

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

As I said, I don’t remember when and why I started writing. But I think it’s safe to say that my love for books might have something to do with it. As soon as I could read I was hardly ever seen without a book. I think we sometimes got assignments in school to do some creative writing and I kinda noticed how much fun that is.

As long as I’ve been writing stories I also wanted to be an author – as in, a published author. And I still hope that one day I might be able to finish one of my bigger project and actually get it published. But since I have a “real” job, writing is and will always be a hobby.

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?

There are definitely a lot of queer characters in all my stories, but I don’t think that counts. Another constant, I think, is that my protagonists tend to be thrown into some kind of trouble so I can just watch them react. They hardly ever make the first step in the stories, it’s usually something that happens /to/ them. Reactions interest me, because there are so many ways to react to the same situation and every character behaves differently.

Also, many – if not most – of my stories /don’t end well/. Idk why, but tragedy always intrigued me. So, death and violence could probably be counted as “recurring themes”.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

1. Don’t stop. No matter what kind of art you produce, keep doing it. Write short-short-short stories in the notebook on your phone. Write some sentences on the back of your homework and see if it takes you anywhere. It will get messy, you will have loose ends /everywhere/ and the amount of abandoned stories will grow daily, but that’s okay as long as you keep writing. And if you have an idea for a novel, try and work on it whenever you can. You can write the first chapter on your computer. Maybe you get an idea for the next chapter at work – scribble it down on whatever piece of paper you can find. Try to outline the plot in your head when you’re in the supermarket.

2. Don’t beat yourself up about it. It doesn’t matter if it’s not Shakespeare. It doesn’t have to become a novel. It’s okay if you can’t write on your wanna-be novel every day. It’s okay to let stories sit on the shelf for weeks. And it’s okay to abandon stories.

3. Don’t let the muggles get you down. Don’t let anyone talk shit about what you write. Or about the fact /that/ you’re writing. You do you.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual. I didn’t realize until a couple of months ago, because I never gave much thought to it. I experience very strong sensual attraction, which is probably why I never thought about being ace. Only when Tumblr made me realise that sexual attraction actually means looking at someone thinking “I want sex with you” it dawned on me that I might not experience that.

I’m also pretty sure I’m aromantic. This one’s a bit tricky though, because I’m also hella romance-repulsed and I can’t quite tell if I’m not interested in romance with anyone or averse to the thought of a romantic relationship itself.

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

I haven’t encountered any prejudice. But that’s mostly because I’m not out in RL, and I usually don’t connect much with other writers on the internet. The only people who know about me being aroace /and/ me being a writer are close friends, most of them queer. So, I’m in a pretty good place when it comes to that.

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

Being asexual = not liking/having sex. I mean, it’s kinda true for me, since I’m also trans/nonbinary/agender and dysphoria makes it kinda impossible for me to undress in front of anyone, let alone have sex with them. But there are many aces out there who enjoy sex, and the orientation isn’t defined by the behavior.

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

It’s going to be okay. You’re not broken. You’re not alone. And no matter what exclusionists say, you DO belong in the LGBTQIA/Queer Community.

There are many people out there who feel like you do, and just because society tries to tell us we must always want sex with basically anyone, that doesn’t make them right and you wrong.

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

On my http://daughterofhecata.tumblr.com/ blog there’s a page where you can find http://daughterofhecata.tumblr.com/stories my stories. It’s just a tiny bit of my work, because most of it is in German (my first language). Maybe I’ll add some of the German short stories as well, I’m not sure yet. I also have accounts at ff.net and AO3, but I rather not link them with my Tumblr because I’m honestly not too proud of that stuff.

(In shameless self-promoting: Janus is my favourite story so far; it’s actually the longest story I ever finished. Also, once in a lifetime I did plan ahead and outlined the story before jumping into writing.)

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

Interview: Brennan Stidham

Today we’re joined by Brennan Stidham. Brennan is a phenomenal author who has published two books so far. She writes YA fiction, mostly fantasy and scifi. Her second book features an asexual main character. Brennan is a wonderfully dedicated writer with a passion that suggests we’ll be seeing plenty more work from her in the future, which is always great. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Ace trainer
Ace Trainer

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am primarily an author. Thus far, I’ve published two books with my writing/platonic partner under the pseudonym Eden R Souther. So far, we’ve focused mainly on the Young Adult fantasy/fiction genres.

The first one we published is Angel Syndrome, an urban fantasy with sci-fi overtones. It’s part of a much larger universe that the two of us have been building for the past decade.

The other is Cruentus, which is my passion project, and was published at the beginning of the month. I wrote this one on my own, but he’s helping me with later entries.

I also do some digital art, but I have been woefully behind on that, though.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by other authors that I read when I was younger, and honestly also by my partner. He’s a very creative person and I push myself to do better with every project so that we can make a name for ourselves.

I just want one person to connect with the characters or the story and get inspired by it. The idea that I could inspire someone with my words, just like I was, is amazing motivation.

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Angel Syndrome

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

I’ve always wanted to be an artist, but not necessarily an author. My sophomore year of high school I was pursuing my passion for Marine Biology and taking AP Biology and realized … I’m not smart enough for this. I was towards the bottom of the class and hating every single moment. So I took the time to reevaluate what I was really good at.

It was then that I realized that I’ve been writing since 3rd grade, with varying levels of success. The year before I had written my “magnum opus” a 99 page hand written “novel” over the course of 3 months. And I had never been happier than when I was working on it. So I decided that I would focus more on my writing than on the high level academics.

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?

There are actually a couple.

In our work there are very few non-LGBTQ+ characters. In fact, Cassandra, the lead of Cruentus is also Asexual. I really have to push myself to find characters in Cruentus who aren’t LGBTQ+.

Another is that I absolutely love trying to mess with typical or expected tropes in Young Adult literature, and literature in general. One of my absolute least favorite is the “love triangle, how can the girl pick between her two hot boys?” We have fun with that in the sequels to Angel Syndrome, which aren’t out yet, but are currently being edited.

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Cassie

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

The advice I’d give to aspiring writers… honestly, just write. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, or if it’s bad. Because writing is both the most fun, and easiest part. Editing is a super long, and time consuming process.

The second piece of advice, don’t edit until you’ve finished the whole thing. You will spend DAYS fixing and adjusting a single paragraph, and it’ll kill the flow. Just let that book flow out, or push that book out if you have to. Just don’t edit til it’s done. I had to make that promise to my mentor years ago, and it’s honestly made the writing process so much more enjoyable.

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Cruentus

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am an asexual/aromantic. It took a lot of years to get there, but once I found the asexual identity… I felt whole. It was like a missing piece of the puzzle and I just broke down crying. I’m not broken, I’m not wrong, I’m asexual.

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

Honestly, I haven’t in my field because I am independently published. I’m a founding member of the publishing group, and when it boils down it’s me, my mentor, and my QPP.

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

“You just haven’t met the right person yet,” or, “don’t close yourself off for the chance at love.” Those two are seriously annoying. I came out to my boss because she was pestering me about not having a boyfriend and then spent half an hour trying to debate asexuality with me, and how I was wrong about my identity… even though given what she’s said about her marriage and her opinions on sex… she’s on the asexual spectrum.

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Kazun Hockey

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

There are always people who aren’t going to get it. And at some point, you have to realize that you can’t let their ignorance get to you. Every single person is unique, and has a different experience. Your experience is beautiful, enjoy every moment that you have, and love yourself. You are amazing.

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

You can find my work on our author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EdenRSouther/
Our author website: https://www.edenrsouther.com/
Our author Tumblr: http://eden-r-souther.tumblr.com/
My digital art is on DeviantArt: http://black0eternity.deviantart.com/

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Nyssa

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

Interview: Cassandra Wolfe

Today we’re joined by Cassandra Wolfe. Cassandra is a phenomenal artist jack of all trades. She’s predominantly a fantasy writer who is working on a novel that sounds absolutely fascinating. When she’s not writing, Cassandra enjoys photography, particularly wildlife. She’s incredibly passionate, 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’m a bit of a jack of all trades really but my main focus at the moment is my writing (funny considering I’m trained as an art teacher). I work mainly in the fields of urban fantasy. I am currently working on the final drafts of what I hope to be my first novel featuring a bunch of werewolves living in modern day Australia along with a few short stories that I’m working on getting published in some online anthologies.

Outside of writing I’m trained in painting but I find that these days most of my work tends to utilize photography as a medium, with wildlife being one of my favourite subjects. I’ve also dabbled in both ceramics and sketching.

What inspires you?

I get most of my inspiration from the natural world and folklore. I grew up in a family that loved nature so I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the African wilderness which made me fall in love with the wonder that is wildlife. There’s a certain thrill that comes with getting up close to wild animals and it hasn’t faded now that I’m dealing with kangaroos instead of springbok. I’m rather proud of the fact that I can and have gotten within meters of hartebeest, bat-eared foxes, snakes and lizards. Reptiles are my absolute favourite subjects to shoot simply because they’re so chill that it makes approaching them a piece of cake.

The folklore that inspires me comes through mainly in my writing where it combines with my love of the natural world in the form of critters that are closer to that world than most people are. I tend to include a lot of shape shifter lore in my work and the fae are never far behind! I also enjoy including aspects of my religion into what I write in terms of how I shape the magic and witchcraft that is 99% guaranteed to be a part of my fictional work.

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

I was the kid who always wanted to sit down and write stories when asked what I wanted to do; it used to drive my sister up the wall. I actually entered a writing competition when I was pretty young and got to meet a whole bunch of authors at the close of it which helped drive my passion even if my story for it wasn’t what you’d call great. I still own the signed copies of one of Fiona McIntosh’s series and every time I feel disheartened by my writing I find reading that ‘keep writing’ on the front page keeps me going. Reading that little handwritten quote inspired me to be published one day when I was all of ten years old and that dream has yet to die on me.

My passion for Visual Arts came later in life even if, like most kids, I liked to draw when I was young. I actually originally planned on going into the equestrian industry with hopes of training race horses one day and even got a job as a groom at a show yard but unfortunately I had a bit of a tough time of it there. I ended up being rather over worked and on top of a couple of injuries I received I was slowly wearing my body out. I found that at that time the one thing that got me through it all was my art. I was doing some writing at the time but what really distracted me from my sore legs, ankle and back was painting. I bought a couple of canvas boards and some acrylic paint and Bob’s your uncle, I was falling in love with art all over again.

When I finally accepted that working in the equestrian industry wasn’t going to be possible going into art was the obvious choice. And since I had no desire to try and live purely off of my art I felt that being an art teacher was a perfect fit for me.

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

Not so much in my drawings and photographs per say but I do have a few in my writing. One of the big things is ‘circles’, I love having little tidbits here and there that circle back and link to another part of the story. Half the time they’re completely irrelevant to the plot and very subtle in their implementation but I just love including them. Eyes would another one, I fully believe that eyes are the window to the soul and as such the eyes of my various critters tend to tell a tale in themselves. It’s one of the reasons why all of my shifter characters retain their human eye colour when in animal form.

On a larger scale you can expect to see a bunch of diversity in what I write, half of my characters end up being some version of queer (often less well known sexualities) and I try to limit the amount of cis, straight, white males in my writing since they’re over-represented in fiction.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t be afraid to experiment; try different mediums and genres, play around, try something that might not work for the hell of it. It’s the only way to grow no matter what your field is. And above all, persevere. It doesn’t matter if what you made didn’t come out the way you wanted it to, you still made it and the next time it will be even better. Even your worst mistake is better than not having tried in the first place.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as demisexual and homoromantic.

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

Most people haven’t heard of it to be honest, I’ve only heard it mentioned once. That time there was a bit of confusion about it but I didn’t exactly feel comfortable explaining more since I was just a prac student at the time. As a whole the Australian education system is generally anti-LGBTQIA+ with a recent program designed to teach high school students about the various genders and sexualities and why it’s wrong to discriminate being muzzled and defunded by the government over fears that it was sexualizing children. I find that being an art teacher makes it easy enough to get around that prejudice however as half of the artists I teach experienced some form of discrimination.

I haven’t really encountered anything in terms of my writing but if I get published it’ll only be a matter of time considering Wolf Moon and its sequel currently feature at least two lesbians, an ace-aro, and two non-binary folk.

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

That it’s the same as being straight. That’s the big one online at the moment and it drives me demented considering that most of the people spouting it refuse to be swayed from their position by the experiences of actual ace and aro people. It’s especially frustrating because of the impact it has on the ace (and aro) communities as both are made to feel unwelcome in both straight and LGBTQIA+ spaces.

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

Ignore the current online discourse; it’s not reflective of real life LGBTQIA+ spaces at all. Most of the people in those spaces have no issues with aces or aros and those who do aren’t worth giving a damn about if you ask me. Whatever your orientation you are valid, it doesn’t matter if things change down the line or if you don’t have the exact word to describe your orientation, you and your experiences remain valid. Just hold your head up high and be proud of who you are.

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

Those interested in my writing can find it at http://cassandrawolfe.tumblr.com/ I tend to post drabbles, and writing advice there as well as keeping people updated on the progress of my bigger works there. My art can be found at http://thepaintedwolfe.tumblr.com/ with the vast majority of it being wildlife photography.

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