Today we’re joined by RoAnna Sylver, RoAnna is a phenomenal author, who has authored such books as Chameleon Moon and Stake Sauce. One is a hopeful dystopia involving superheroes and the other involves punk vampires, which sounds awesome. When they’re not writing, RoAnna enjoys visual art and does a lot of digital painting. They have painted most of their own cover art and hope to get into coloring work for comics, including webcomics. It’s clear they’re an incredibly passionate artist with a great drive, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about
Hi there! So, most people probably know me by my writing; I
write the Chameleon Moon and Stake Sauce series,
hopeful-superhero-dystopian and queer-punk-vampire books, respectively. But I’m
also an artist, I design and paint the majority of my own covers, and I’d
really like to talk more about visual art for a change.
I love digital painting, and find (most of it) really
relaxing and soothing, which is very helpful for when my brain goes into
nonverbal mode or I’m just feeling burnt out on talking/writing. Which is
I’m definitely going to continue painting my own book covers
for as long as I can, and have done commissions for a few people too. I love
them, and keep meaning to do more. I’d also love to get some work as a colorist
for comics (including webcomics) because I find coloring especially relaxing
(and I’m good at it darn it!).
One other cool thing, on the subject of ace stuff
specifically, I recently had a journal-type article Thing published in The Asexual, about how important
representation in mainstream stuff is (and how much I love Todd Chavez from Bojack Horseman). So check that out if
What inspires you?
So much. Music, bits of conversation I overhear, people just
living their lives. But most of all I think is reading or watching movies and
seeing what I’d do differently. Usually, that means “less marginalized people
die, and more get to be the heroes.” If that sounds like fix-fic, that’s
because it is! I used to write so much fanfiction before I started my own
stuff. I STILL DO, but I also used to. (Thanks, Mitch Hedberg!)
Honestly, I hate when people crap on fanworks so much, both
art and writing, because not only are they a great starting point (I’ve written
more than one thing as essentially fanfiction AUs. I doubt anyone will ever
guess which~), but they’re entirely valid works on their own. And they inspire
the hell out of me, both writing my own and reading others’.
Also, it’s not as popular to say, but… spite is a hell of
a motivator. Wanting to prove people wrong who’ve said I can’t do something, or
people like me (queer, disabled, etc.) don’t belong in publishing/the art
industry/life. Knowing bigoted assholes hate what I’m doing is an incredible
accelerant. Just warms the cockles of my heart, it does.
What got you
interested in your field? Have you
always wanted to be an artist?
I joke that I just have a lot of emotions and I need
different ways of letting them out—writing, drawing, singing—or I’ll explode.
And I’m actually only about 30% joking about that, really. I am blessed/cursed
with glorious and overwhelming feels, and if I don’t have an outlet for them, I
tend to get paralyzed with…over-feeling. I need to express them like releasing
internal pressure with a steam valve.
Unfortunately, I also tend to go nonverbal on a pretty
regular basis from any number of reasons (illness flares, pain, various brain
weird nonsense) so sometimes I’m physically incapable of writing. But I still
have emotion I need to express, or else the pressure just builds up anyway. It
doesn’t care that I don’t have words. That’s when the drawing or singing comes
in—when writing brain shuts down, art or music brain takes over.
So yeah I guess I have always wanted, and needed, to
be an artist.
I used to be a much more physical one, though. I have a
degree in dramatic performance and used to do a ton of musical theatre. Nothing
comes close to being on stage, and I was convinced that was it for me, that was
why I was here and what I was supposed to do with my life. But then I got hit
with several debilitating health conditions at once, and never really
recovered. I haven’t been on stage in years, and probably will never again. But
that’s okay. I still have writing and art, and on an extremely good day,
music. Expression is still the most important thing in my life. Without it, I
wouldn’t have one.
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?
For my writing, the Themes are definitely found family,
queer and disabled people kicking ass, and trauma healing… the ‘secret
symbols’ tend to be really nerdy references. Usually Star Trek and/or Greek myth. Go figure.
For art, I don’t really have a watermark or anything, though
I’ll usually sign a major work. Trademark-wise though, I love the idea of
making digital art look as traditional as possible, so if you look at something
and think it’s an actual watercolor and not a digital one, I’ve done my job
What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?
For commissions, figure out about how long it takes you to
do a thing. Timing yourself/logging time is good. Then find out the minimum
wage for your state and charge *at least* that per hour.
I saw a really good tweet a while ago saying you should
charge at least 3x minimum wage for commissioned art, because 1) it’s your time
and energy, 2) art is a specialized skill that you’re applying to this
individual request, not a standard product, and 3) you’re your own boss here
and paying for your own materials/food/life.
I don’t know if I could ever do that, but I’m sticking to At
Least Minimum Wage for myself. I still feel a lot of guilt (as I do asking for
money ever even if I’ve worked for it) but honestly, selling your stuff for
super cheap really does devalue the whole market and cheats both you and other
artists out of hard earned cash. I know it’s different when you’re just
starting out and trying to get established, but really, once you are… your
efforts are worth so much more than the bare minimum, but that’s a place
Where on the spectrum
do you identify?
Biromantic ace, and definitely on the aro spectrum too. It
took me a long time to figure this out, in all its
maybe-seemingly-contradictory glory. I’ve never really experienced sexual
attraction to a (real) person. (“Real” because there are some fictional
characters who could get ittttt) But I’m romantically attracted to women,
agender, and nonbinary people… but like I said, definitely aro-spec too, so
this happens much less than you’d think. Polyamorous too; I have queerplatonic
partners as well as one romo partner~
In short, “potentially attracted to a lot of people on
paper, but not in practice!” It’s one of
those “sounds very complicated, is actually very simple” things. Except for
when it actually is very complicated. (What the hell is attraction? I don’t
Have you encountered
any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
…Never so much as during Pride Month. It’s really sad, but
entirely true. Usually I manage to stay away from the Ace Discourse and keep it
to a dull roar in the background of my life, but whenever the spotlight is on
The Queer Community in general, that ugly particular head rears once again, and
it’s very hard to avoid.
But there’s social media Discourse (harmful on its own) and
then there’s creative field prejudice or ignorance, and that’s arguably even
more annoying and damaging. Luckily, most of mine has been confined to the
occasional shitty comment about my work. I generally don’t read reviews, but
sometimes someone will point one out to me that’s particularly… not bad in a
‘didn’t like the book’ sense (I don’t care about those, for real), but a ‘wow,
this is a dangerous and bigoted viewpoint actually.’
When people “can’t relate” to asexual (and aromantic, and
neurodivergent, disabled, any other marginalization) characters, that tells me
right there that I’m not going to be able to trust them. If someone slams a
book or marginalized character for displaying characteristics of their
marginalization (mentally ill people will act mentally ill; ace people will act
ace), and dislike them specifically for what makes them them… that’s a Red
Flag right there.
I don’t really “handle” that. I don’t comment (and you
shouldn’t either, ever), but I take notice of who said the bigoted thing, and
remember. Then I keep writing.
What’s the most
common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Oh lord, the aro/ace conflation thing. Where people think
“asexual” means “aromantic,” and “aromantic” means “what is that, I don’t know
what that is, how is that even a thing.” You can absolutely be asexual without
being aro, or aro without ace, or a blend of the two that fluctuates over time
and you have no interest in categorizing.
The most common individual misconceptions are definitely the
“unfeeling, inhuman, dead/lifeless, passionless, robotic, forever alone” ones,
because surely it’s romantic love and sex that makes us human, not anything
else. Nope, that’s it, that’s the most important “universal” experience. Ever
notice how it’s usually the same people who scream “don’t reduce our identities
to one thing/define us by that!” Who then go on to do exactly that for others?
There’s a lot of TERF overlap here too.
I have to say though, the special poison aimed at allo
aromantic people is really something else; apparently just by being sexually
but not romantically attracted to someone, you’re a horrible abuser/predator.
(This is, of course, not true, and there are such things as attractions and
bonds that are not romantic. The small-minded tunnel vision is exhausting.)
So yeah, there’s a lot, and I have absolutely no interest in
getting involved in Discourse of any kind anymore. No spoons left for that at
What advice would you
give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their
There’s nothing wrong with you, first off. You might feel
like there is, and people might decide to be gigantic asshats and say that
there is, but there isn’t. There isn’t, regardless of how you end up identifying,
even if that’s not ace at all. Try different identities out like clothes until
you find one that fits. If none do, keep trying, or throw them out. It’s your
“body,” and your identity and life. Use what serves you and makes you happy,
not what someone else wants you to.
You’ll know when it’s right. When I finally hit on exactly
what my gender and attraction type was, it felt like releasing every clenched
muscle all at once. My constant, constant anxiety was silent for once,
the panic in my head finally shut up. It was the absence of
strain and exhaustion and tension and fear that was shocking. I hope it feels
like that for you. The cessation of pain is a hell of a drug, and we don’t get
it nearly enough.
Also, you’re totally queer if you want to be. If someone
says you aren’t because you’re ace or aro, that person is not your friend. You
don’t HAVE to identify as queer, the way some nonbinary people don’t identify
as transgender, but you absolutely can, and screw anyone who says otherwise.
(Or don’t. Especially if you’re sex-repulsed. *weak rimshot*)
Finally, where can
people find out more about your work?
I have an Artstation portfolio over here (if you need a
colorist and/or inker, talk to me!) – https://www.artstation.com/roannasylver
All of my books are on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/RoAnna-Sylver/e/B00OI321DO
And most are available through other places like B&N and
Kobo, which you can find at their universal links at my Draft2Digital page – https://books2read.com/ap/RWk0PR/RoAnna-Sylver
But by far the best place to support me is my Patreon. For
as little as $1 a month, you can get Tons of Chameleon
Moon bonus content—advance
stories, art, lots of stuff—and exclusive looks at what I’m doing next (Like my
upcoming interactive fiction portal-fantasy romance, Dawnfall for Choice of Games)!
And also make me a little more secure as a disabled creator. patreon.com/RoAnnaSylver
Stake Sauce/Death Masquerade also
has one over here, for if you enjoy monthly fiction about queer vampires! patreon.com/ModulatingFrequencies
Also, if you want to say hi on Twitter, I’m at RoAnnaSylver!
Thank you, RoAnna, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.