Interview: Elliott Dunstan

Today we’re joined by Elliott Dunstan. Elliott is an awesome grey-ace trans writer who works in a couple different styles. He’s currently working on an online webnovel (found at Ghosts in Quicksilver), which features an ace main character. When he’s not working on his webnovel, Elliott also writes quite a lot of poetry and he has also published two zines. It’s very obvious that he’s incredibly passionate, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

I’m a writer of poetry, mythic fiction and queer literature,
and I’m happiest when I find those three things intermingling with each other.
My primary project right now is Ghosts in
Quicksilver,
a web-novel about a 17-year-old wannabe private investigator
who can speak to the dead. The book features characters from all over the queer
spectrum, and the main character is an ace butch lesbian.

I’m also the author of two self-published zines, Deep in the Bone and Home Is Where The Ghosts Are, available
in both print and digital formats on my Etsy store. They’re collections of
poetry and a short story each, the first centered around mythology and the
second telling the story of my semi-haunted apartment.

What inspires you?

Anything and everything. Music is a big one – certain songs
inspire visuals which in turn become stories. I’m also inspired by the
reflection of mythology onto modern day issues and vice versa; the story of Icarus
projected onto somebody’s manic phase, the tale of the Golem in a world where
AI is becoming a certainty, or the story of the forbidden love of Eros and
Psyche recontextualized as a queer love story.

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

Always, always, always. I can’t remember a time I didn’t want to be a writer; I learned to read
when I was two and how to write a few years later, and even from very early on
I was scrawling poetry in margins. Not very good
poetry, but poetry nonetheless.

As far as my genres and medium of choice, I prefer to have a
certain amount of control over my work, and the business practices of Cory
Doctorow is probably what inspired me the most directly to do a webnovel. It’s
also a testament to old Dickens novels and Stephen King’s slightly more recent The Green Mile; serial novels have
always been around in one form or another. My poetry zines are a little bit
more directly inspired by ‘zine culture’ in indie writer/musician circles.  

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 really sure! I suppose there is symbolism I return
to, but in general I think my ‘trademark’ would be the clash between darkness
and humour. I have a very morbid sense of humour, so I manage to find something
funny in almost everything I write. A girl seeing the ghost of her dead sister
is scary. A girl arguing with her
dead sister and hoping nobody else catches on is hilarious. Dionysus going to
the Underworld is a myth. Dionysus catching a cab and striking up a casual
conversation with the cabbie while terrorizing them into driving to the Styx is
bizarrely entertaining.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

A couple things, I suppose. One, that the whole ‘keep
writing no matter what’ phrase is true. It really is. But having a few bad days
isn’t going to ruin everything. Two, your writing is never going to be perfect. But you have the right to talk it up
like it is, to have pride in your own work, and
to have the courage to open up to criticism and filter out the good from
the bad. There’s a lot of culture around how you’re ‘supposed’ to talk about
something you’re proud of, and I hate it. Be proud of what you’ve made, even if
you know you’ll do better next time.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

Oof. Uh, all over the place? Somewhere between gray-ace and
demisexual, or both at once. Or maybe completely asexual – I haven’t been able
to divide up how I feel about things accurately enough to really know. But I
know I’m definitely somewhere in there. The actual label I think is less
important than being in the right general area.

I’m also somewhere on the aromantic spectrum, although that
one’s even harder to pin down. I just know I have a very different way and
intensity of feeling those emotions, so

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

I actually haven’t dealt with any direct ace prejudice in my
artistic field, but I do see it a lot on the platforms where I try to market
with social media. I generally deal with it by blocking and moving on –
sometimes it means I’m cutting myself out of a potential audience but I
consider it worth it.

Offline, it’s mostly the pressure to put romance in my books
and stories even when it doesn’t fit, or sexual commentary on my characters
when it really, really isn’t appropriate. I have no interest in explaining to
people whether my asexual character is a ‘top’ or a ‘bottom’. I count that as
ignorance because it’s the running assumption that I’m writing a YA book, it
must have something to do with sex.
Otherwise teenagers won’t pay attention. Whereas what I’ve discovered is that
teenagers and young adults are actually thirsting for a book that doesn’t treat
these topics as the be-all, end-all of human existence.

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

You can’t be asexual and attractive. You can’t be asexual
and still have sex. You can’t be asexual and gay. You can’t be ace from trauma.
You can only be ace from trauma. If
you’re aromantic, you don’t have a heart. You can’t be aro and ace, that’s just boring.

Basically, there’s too many to count. Asexuality is
critically, functionally misunderstood in both mainstream straight communities
and queer/LGBT+ circles. I think if I had to pick one, though, it’s the idea
that asexuality is just ‘straight lite’ or ‘gay lite’. Being on the ace
spectrum doesn’t make my attraction to men or women any less potent – it’s just
a different way of feeling and expressing that attraction. And the ‘gay lite’
in particular upsets me because, if two guys are walking down the street
holding hands, no homophobe is going to stop and ask if they’re having sex.

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

That it’s okay to identify as ace and/or aro. Whether it ends
up being temporary, whether it’s a reaction to trauma, whether it’s something
you’ve known for years, whether it poked up its head yesterday – it’s okay to
identify this way. A lot of people are going to try tell you that it’s not, or
that it’s a phase (and what’s so wrong with phases?) and honestly? Ignore them.
Your identity is yours to negotiate, nobody else’s.

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

You can find me at moonlitwaterwriting.tumblr.com
or at elliottmoonlit on
Twitter. My Etsy is AnachronistPanic
and linked on my Tumblr page, and if you want to read Ghosts in Quicksilver, it’s up to read for free at ghosts-in-quicksilver.tumblr.com.

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