Today we’re joined by Jessica Meats. Jessica is a phenomenal author from the UK who writes science fiction and fantasy. She writes about everything from superheroes smashing the fourth wall to werewolves fighting for their rights. With a new release on the horizon, Jessica is definitely an author to watch for. When she’s not writing original work, Jessica is curating an online database of books with strong LGBTQ+ representation and is always looking for more recommendations. It’s clear she’s a passionate writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I am a writer, mainly of science fiction and fantasy books of various lengths. The shortest is The Adventures of Technicality Man, a fun and silly superhero parody that doesn’t so much break the fourth wall as smash it into a million pieces. The longest is my soon-to-be-released fantasy novel Wolf Unleashed, a considerably more serious work which explores themes of oppression and prejudice in a world where werewolves are fighting for equal rights.
What inspires you?
I write the sort of stories I enjoy, so I would have to say that I’m inspired by other creators. I’m an avid reader and I love watching SF&F TV shows and films, so I like playing with these ideas and trying to find something new and different to say.
I also find inspiration in the real world. The SF&F genres have always been used to address real world issues by framing them so that people can look at them in a new light. That’s what I’m trying to do with Wolf Unleashed and there were some scenes that were inspired by acts of injustice that have been reported in the news (or frequently misreported and hushed over in cases of institutional racism). There’s a scene in which a Muslim character talks about some of the prejudice he’s faced that I rewrote after the travel ban fiasco in the United States.
It’s not all dark though. I wrote most of my first novel, Child of the Hive, while I was at university studying mathematics and computer science. In the computer science side of the course, we had various lectures and discussions about technology that was currently being worked on, and some of the technology in that book was directly inspired by those discussions of what was cutting edge at the time I was writing it.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I have written stories since I first learned how to pick up a pen. When I was little, I would fold sheets of paper together to make little books and write stories in them. I don’t remember ever making the decision to be a writer – I just always knew I would be. As I grew up, I had to temper that desire with realism about the odds of making a living as an author, but I never stopped writing.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
If I do it’s hidden even from me. My writing style is heavily driven by plot, so I suppose you could say that’s a signature of my style, but It’s not symbolic.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Keep going. Gaining a skill takes time, so keep working on your art and you will keep getting better. Nothing teaches like practice.
For writers in particular, think about the things you read. If you read a book you love, stop and consider what it is about that book that appeals to you so much, Likewise, if you read something you hate, consider what it is about the work that’s putting you off so much so you can try and avoid those things in your own work.
Above all, create the art you enjoy. Focus first and foremost on creating works that you have fun creating and that you’re pleased with when you’re finished. Worry about how you’re going to sell them or find an audience second.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I am biromantic asexual. For a long time, I thought I was bisexual because I didn’t realise the concept of asexuality existed.
I’ve never been sexually attracted to anyone but I have had relationships and I’m open to romantic love with persons of any gender. To me, the match of personalities is more important than anything physical.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Not really. I’ve seen some ignorant comments on social media sites and the like, but nothing that has really impacted my writing. This may be because the discovery of the concept of asexuality and my revelation about how it applied to me came after I’d been writing for several years. Given the length of time it takes for a book to go from inspiration, to first draft, to complete, to publication… my past books haven’t really focused on asexuality. I have one book that is almost ready to go to the publisher which has an asexual protagonist, and another one about halfway through the first draft with an asexual love interest. I may find different reactions when those books come out.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
The one I’ve seen most often is just a lack of knowledge – people don’t know that asexuality is a thing. I went through my teen years thinking that there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t getting crushes on pop stars and actors the way everyone around me seemed to be. I know I’m not the only person to go through this. I had a conversation with a woman in her late fifties, who told me, “I’d always just assumed I was broken,” because she didn’t feel any interest in sex.
I had a conversation with some colleagues from work where we got onto the subject of sexuality. I mentioned asexuality and one of my colleagues asked me to explain because it wasn’t a term she’d heard before. As I explained, her face just lit up with excitement and she went, “That’s me!”
This complete lack of awareness when it comes to even the existence of asexuality is harmful for so many people who think there’s a problem with them. These people need to see asexuality discussed openly and represented in fiction so that they can recognise that they’re not alone.
Outside of LGBTQ+ circles, people aren’t aware of asexuality, and so that leads to people who fall somewhere on the spectrum themselves to develop the misconception that there’s something wrong with them.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
You’re not alone.
There are a lot of different experiences across the breadth of the asexuality spectrum, so don’t worry if the way you feel isn’t a perfect match for the way someone else describes their feelings, just know that you aren’t the only one. There’s nothing wrong with you.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
I have a blog at http://plot-twister.co.uk where I post book reviews, articles on writing advice, and news about my own books. I also have a queer reading list on that site, which is a list of reader-recommended sci-fi and fantasy books that contain strong LGBTQ+ representation. You can apply filters to find books that have specific representations. So if you want to find a book that has a demi-sexual protagonist, or an aromantic major character, you can apply the filters and see what people have recommended. I’m always keen to get new recommendations so if you know of good SF&F with asexual (or other queer) representation, please recommend them.
Thank you, Jessica, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.