Today we’re joined by Holly. Holly is a wonderful writer who is currently working towards a biochem degree. In her free time, she runs a D&D campaign that involves a lot of writing and worldbuilding. They’re also working on a story podcast project, which she hopes to bring to fruition in the future. Holly is clearly a dedicated and talented hobbyist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about
It’s something I use to distract a little bit from the real
world, nothing too professional. I’m mostly interested in writing short
stories, and I’m currently working on a fictional podcast series with one of my
favourite people, and while we do have some scripts written up, it is going to
take a while to put into production. While I’m making my way through university
for a biochemistry B.Sc, most of my creative energy goes towards a lore-rich
D&D campaign in a homebrew setting that I run for my very best friends.
It’s difficult and long-form but it’s increased my social confidence, I’ve
created some wonderful characters that I feel able to apply to different forms
of writing, and it’s definitely given me more experience with storybuilding.
What inspires you?
Generally, looking at fictional stories and seeing what hasn’t been included, rather than what
has. It’s satisfying to fill a gap and tell the stories of people who aren’t
often looked at in popular media, i.e. neurodivergent characters, people with underrepresented
gender identities and sexualities, people with disabilities, people of varying
ethnic backgrounds. I’m aware that I can’t personally relate to some of the
characters I write, so I do try and stay respectful and do a ton of research,
ask people who know better than me, etc. Sometimes I do make characters that
correspond to my own experiences with depression and severe social anxiety, and
even the speech impediment I still have to manage – and the personal catharsis
I get from that can be reward enough, even if I don’t do anything with the
characters or works I create.
For the most part though, I tend to like interspersing
mundane reality with absurd high fantasy or scifi concepts. Like a time
traveler who uses their ability to cut in line before it forms, or a
particularly finicky pit fiend who wants you to remove your shoes before
entering its lair.
On another level, I’d say my friends inspire me on a day to
day basis. Especially the person I’m working on this project with, whom I’ll
call T. T has a fascinating mind and boundless creativity, and with her and K’s
support, I can have days where I feel indestructible. My mum also tends to
listen to whatever crazy plotlines I’ve come up with that day too, so I’d say
she also plays a big part in my support network.
What got you
interested in your field? Have you
always wanted to be an artist?
I always wanted to be an actress when I was growing up, but
did a big ol’ switcharoo around college (not university, the British meaning of
college), where I found an interest in biochemistry. I’d begun to feel
directing and writing was more my thing by that point anyway, but didn’t have
enough belief in myself to do it. I think what drew me back to creative writing
alongside my STEM studies was the freedom I felt when I began this D&D
campaign. Building the world, building the story, adapting to the unexpected
antics of my players, it felt like when I was a kid throwing blankets and
pretending they were fireballs, or picking up a stick and pretending it was a
greatsword, having intricate sociopolitical plotlines with my Barbies, and all
that grand stuff. I’d been doubting for a while the value of that kind of
imagination, but gradually it became necessary to keep me sane during
university. Now I appreciate silliness and the Rule of Cool way more than I do
grimdark, gritty, realistic scenarios.
I write more often than not to just have fun. Sometimes it’s
a scenario that I can’t stop thinking about and I have to write it down or
it’ll keep bouncing around in my head, and other times it’s building a
character that can help me feel less alone when I’m winding myself into a
spiral about the simplest social situation. I write so that any potential
readers can have fun too – and, if I’m lucky, find a character that they can
carry about with them like I do.
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 usually include at least one of my NPCs from my campaign
in almost everything I write – with a different name and/or species. This isn’t
obvious unless you’re part of that group, though.
What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?
I have struggled with finding my voice because I thought I
needed someone to address – like an audience or someone who wouldn’t reject me.
But to hell with it. This isn’t a marketing strategy meeting, go ahead and
shout into the void with your art until someone shouts back, if that’s what
you’re after. Make the art for yourself. What’s actually stopping you?
Where on the spectrum
do you identify?
I am ace demi-aro. I think. The ace part I’m certain about,
but I’m still figuring out my romantic orientation. Demi fits for now.
Have you encountered
any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Not in my field particularly, but I’ve been given the
‘you’re young’ and ‘you’ll find someone’ or ‘how can you not be attracted to
anyone, is there something wrong with you?’ talk quite a few times by
well-meaning friends or relatives. Usually this is met with an eyeroll, but it
hasn’t held me back anywhere. I’ve experienced some anxiety about going to
LGBTQIA events because of the whole ace inclusion debate I saw floating around
at the time, but I’m fairly confident aces are more universally accepted than
not, these days.
What’s the most
common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
The idea that it means having no sex drive. Even people who
are familiar with asexuality seem to fall into this trap a lot. Many non-ace
people seem to have trouble separating the idea of having a libido or enjoying
sex with sexual attraction. I guess I can understand where they’re coming from,
but I don’t know how many times I’ve said the sentence: “Asexuality is
literally just a lack of sexual attraction. It means I don’t look at a person
and want to have sex with them. That’s it.”
Some people seem to get it after that explanation. Others
don’t. Whaddya gonna do except raise awareness?
What advice would you
give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their
Finding out that you’re ace can be a confusing and deceptive
road, simply because it’s harder to characterize a lack of something than it is to characterize a different something. I thought I was bi or pan for a long time in
high school because I felt the same way about all genders (turns out? Not an
uncommon experience for ace/aros), and many people still don’t even believe
being ace is a thing. Protip: don’t listen to those people.
What I would say? If you don’t feel you fit neatly into the
ace label, firstly remember that there is a wide spectrum of asexuality, and
includes identities such as gray-ace or demi-ace, but secondly remember that
you don’t have to assume it. Same goes for knowing your romantic orientation.
This is not required of you. Honestly, this applies to any LGBTQIA identities –
you are not required to know what label you are. Just listen to yourself and
trust what yourself is saying, because you know better than everyone who you
You are still a ‘proper ace’ if you’re not sure what labels
fit you, and you’re still a ‘proper ace’ if your orientation was due to past
events, or if you think it might be temporary. It is not a life sentence. It is
simply what fits you the most at the time, and sexuality can be fluid as heck.
Most importantly – you are welcome here. You are welcome in
LGBTQIA. You’re always free to find one of us in the ace community and ask
questions if you’re not sure where you fit or how you feel about your
Finally, where can
people find out more about your work?
Nowhere yet as I’ve still gotta get this degree under my
belt before I take on any projects, but soon. Soon.
Thank you, Holly, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.