Category: fantasy

Interview: Jacob

Today we’re joined by Jacob, who is known on social media as Jacob’s Jottings. Jacob is a phenomenal author who writes both original fiction, nonfiction, and fanfiction. For nonfiction, he writes about autism and mental health for the site “The Mighty.” For fiction, he has mostly written fanfiction and original short stories, but has recently taken on two large projects. One involves a detective in post-war Britain and the other is about an autistic wizard (which is something i would absolutely love to read because it sounds fantastic). It’s clear he’s a dedicated and passionate writer, 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, and I’ve really started to come out of my
shell in the last few years. I’ve always written short stories and never shown
them to anyone before, but that changed when my friends started writing
fan-fiction, and my English teacher at college told me to attend a creative
writing club.

Though I’m still very private about my larger projects, I
started publishing articles for mental health site The Mighty, one of those
articles received 32,000 hearts on the site, and got shared a lot on social media,
so I started to say to myself ‘what if people would like my creative work too?’
and here I am now, writing two large scale projects, one about an autistic
wizard, the other about a detective in post-war Britain. Not just that, but I
published some fan-fiction of my own, and I found once that was out there, I
found it a lot easier to write without much self-doubt.

I’ve recently finished college, and I’ve been accepted onto
the Creative Writing BA course at a university I’ve dreamed about going to for
years. I’m hoping this will really make my dream of being a full-time writer a
reality, even if it takes years to take off.

As well as writing, I also do a bit of photography, and some
digital design. I make all my own covers for my projects, as well as posters
for events, and I love going out and taking pictures. I often use the pictures
for reference for my writing, and it’s a great skill to have alongside.

What inspires you?

I find inspiration in many things, mainly everyday life. But
I often find myself looking into what I loved as a child, certainly what
comforted me. Sometimes this is in the form of stories by other authors, such
as J. K Rowling, or Terry Pratchett, but other times its films and music, or
most importantly to me: knowledge. Plants, animals, and space particularly
always have heavy presence in my stories, and that’s because I love to learn
new things.

I’ve always written to escape the real world, so I suppose
it is natural that my other methods of escape blend well with this, I often
find that going to a museum or exhibition particularly fuels my writing, it
often ends in me trying to fit a lot into one box- my wizarding story contains
as much knowledge of the natural world as it does fictional magic for example.  

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

I’ve always been creative, and I was sure I wanted to
utilise that in some way, but could never find an exact form that suited me. I
tried art, and drama, and found myself not ever truly comfortable. I mainly
thank books, films, and television, for getting me into writing. The idea of
making my own stories was irresistible! I cannot pinpoint when it exactly
started happening, probably about five years ago, but I finally found that
writing (alongside reading and watching) was the most enjoyable thing to do. Then
it all fell into place, and I find myself writing all the time, even if it
never gets added to again- it’s fun.

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?

Oh definitely! The infinity symbol finds its way into most
of the stuff I write, not just because of its use by the autistic rights
movement, but because of my fascination with the concept behind the symbol. I
also always incorporate types of birds as symbolism- usually owls, or penguins,
as they’re my favourite, penguins especially.

Playing with colour is something I’ve recently moved into, I
don’t have a single character that does not heavily associate themselves with
colours and their meanings, even if it is just a subtle inclusion. Blue for my
protagonists usually, a colour I use not only to create a cold atmosphere, but
also to show the presence of intelligence, imagination, and peace. Reds and
oranges meanwhile shows up my more passionate and instinctual characters, with
purple showing a combination of the two.

I also love playing with imagery, with many of my characters
having ‘hair the colour of fertile soil’ or the ‘great spurts of an ancient
wine, hemorrhaging profusely’- it can feel a bit forced sometimes, but it often
pays off, and I find it a great way of illustrating the worlds I’ve made.

I’m also told I tell stories in a unique way, my friend
recently commented that when she reads my writing, I am clearly telling the
story, rather than just creating it. I’ve never quite understood this
evaluation, but I’ve heard it quite a few times in several forms.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

It sounds cliché- but I would say just do whatever you love!
I spent far too long worrying about what others think, and though that matters
if you want to make a career out of it, the initial starting of a new art is a
solo-activity. If painting makes you happy- paint! Everyone I know who does
something creative for a living started off doing it to just kill time, or to
help them with another activity, and it grew from there.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

I use the label asexual as standard, to me, this means not
feeling sexual attraction. I’m confident in identifying as a sex positive
asexual, but I’m yet to 100% settle on my romantic orientation.

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

I think one of the strangest encounters in my life was when
I first explained asexuality to someone, without attaching the label to myself.
I was told its ‘unnatural’- for this reason, in my private life, I don’t talk
about my sexuality until prompted.

I also find that some in my age group is often sex-obsessed,
I’ve often been labelled prudish just for not wanting to talk about sex, and I
find it very hard to try and express my frustration with that. I am not at all
prudish, I just think about it completely differently to they do!

I incorporate it into my work- I actually find it harder to
write allosexual characters, and therefore many of my characters are asexual by
accident! And I do worry that some people won’t understand the representation
if they haven’t experienced it first-hand, but I do my best to write characters
that educate as well as represent now.

Outside of my field, I see prejudice and ignorance
regularly, insults such as ‘frigid’ and so on, I also see the constant
discourse present on sites such as Tumblr, and though I do my best to keep out,
I sometimes worry for our community, I hate the idea that anyone who identifies
as asexual will feel like it isn’t valid or can’t talk about it in case they’re
verbally attacked.

As an autistic person, I also find that some people think my
asexuality is part of that. I don’t think it is- and it’s quite insulting to
assume that someone’s sexuality is part of their sensory issues for example.
The two often overlap for me, and I also know autistics that do feel sexual
attraction and have those sensory issues anyway. Some people in both
communities would even say their sensory difficulties enhance their sexual
experiences.

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

Personally, I find that the definition of asexual is often mis-identified.
It means lacking sexual attraction. But I know people who are completely
convinced it simply means ‘won’t have sex, or won’t masturbate’- it is often a
pain to try and debate it with them, and I find myself bringing up articles
from the community to back my side up.

I don’t like discussing the personal details of my own
asexuality in too much depth with people who might not understand, and therefore
I think the extra labels of ‘sex positive’ are really useful when discussing
asexuality, as well as the other identities within the spectrum.

At the end of the day though, the only person other than me
who has a right to that deeper information is a partner, and I don’t think
asexuals should ever feel pressured to dissect their identities for another
person’s curiosity or because of an ignorant person’s misconceptions.

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

Firstly, it is okay to struggle! I found it incredibly hard
to find the orientation that best described me. I still think sexual
orientation is a fluid concept, and I think people who are struggling should
remember that. If something doesn’t feel right, find the label that does feel
right, and don’t feel guilty if that changes. Some asexuals might not find that
identity for a long time.

I myself often find myself wondering if I might be aromantic
as well as asexual, or demisexual instead of asexual, this is a natural part of
development. Just as sexuality in all its forms is natural. A lot of people go
through that internal debate. And nobody should ever be afraid of using the
label that best suits them.

I would also repeat that the only person who needs to be
happy is you. Come out at your own pace. Experience your sexuality at your own
pace. Some people don’t find the identity they’re most comfortable with until
they’re halfway through life, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

There’s a thriving asexual and LGBT+ community waiting to
help you through it all, and the right people within it are not going to judge
you for struggling.

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

People can find my work in several places. For a more personal
touch, there’s my own Tumblr blog which is at jacobs-jottings, or my AO3 under the
same name (but without a hyphen).

As well as this there’s my new Facebook page, also called
Jacob’s Jottings, and my user page on The Mighty, under my full name-
Jacob Durn. If anyone is curious, my photography can be found easily on Instagram, where my
username is identical to my AO3 one.

My blog has a bit of everything (including personal posts,
and lots of reblogs), my AO3 some fanfiction, and soon some original works, whilst
the last two focus on my non-creative work.

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

Interview: Ash Kleczka

Today we’re joined by Ash Kleczka, who also goes by Umber online. Ash is a phenomenal visual artist, an all-around fantasy enthusiast. They love using visual art to tell a story and highlight beauty. Their images show a unique style and a very vivid imagination. It’s clear Ash loves to create, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

I’m a fantasy illustrator, a painter, concept artist, and
all around enthusiast… I was going to add more to that statement, but
honestly I think ‘enthusiast’ about covers it. I get really excited about
concepts that are self-reflective in some way, or that highlight an unexpected
beauty.

I really try to create art that tells a story.  

What inspires you?

Nature, mythology, the occult. Things that are taboo or
archaic. I’m also deeply inspired by role-playing games like D&D and the
character building process.

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

The simple, inelegant answer is that I got into visual arts
because I was dissatisfied with the attractiveness of some characters from a
video game I was into at the time – and I wanted to make characters that would
appeal to me.

It’s an ongoing struggle haha.

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?

My super-secret naming convention for pretty much any
character I’ve ever created ever is to try to match their
personality/appearance/some interesting feature to a bird or other natural
flora or fauna and then I build their name around the scientific binomial of
that thing.

So for example, one character named Cyril Alcyon is based
around the belted kingfisher megaceryle
alcyon
. Another is named Melia Edarach which is taken from the chinaberry
tree, or Melia azedarach.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

My advice is to just keep going. It’s OK for things to not
look exactly as they do in your head, or to be dissatisfied with where you are
with your art. It means that you have room to grow! Stay open to new ideas and
roll with the punches. Art, like life, is full of happy accidents.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

Grey-Ace/Pansexual

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

I’m not particularly open about my sexuality in the
workplace, but the few times it’s come up typically end with the person I’m
talking to feeling sorry for me. It’s not hateful – just a lack of
understanding. So I try my best to explain that it’s not a negative part of my
life experience. It’s just an orientation in the same way that being gay, or
bisexual is.

I have encountered prejudice
in my personal life however. One instance was in my last D&D
campaign. I played an ace/aro character, and was met with some questionably in-character commentary from
another player. That was really the first time I’d encountered something like
that in the wild before, and honestly…I’m open to advice myself.

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

That it’s something to be fixed.

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

Find people you trust that you can talk to, and be patient
with yourself. Sometimes it’s not as simple as just being one piece of the big
sex/gender pie. Sometimes you’re a triple decker slice of pie with whipped
cream and cherries.

I’ve found it really helpful to talk to my husband (who’s
allo) to see where we differ. Sometimes the answers you’re looking for are in
the empty spaces between two truths.

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

I have a website umbertheprussianblue.com!

You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter at ThePrussianBlue

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

Interview: Lucas Wilga

Today we’re joined by Lucas Wilga, who also goes by luci online. Lucas is a phenomenal game maker and writer. They create tabletop role-playing games and the first one is entitled Sundown, which sounds fascinating and I highly recommend checking it out. Lucas has recently branched out into writing short stories set in the Sundown universe. It’s clear they’re an incredibly passionate and driven artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

I make tabletop role-playing games, and I recently branched
out into writing fiction as well. The first game I’m creating professionally, Sundown, is currently in an open
playtest. It’ll have an official launch sometime next year. It’s light on
rules, and it’s set in this cyberpunk, biotech inspired fantasy setting. It has
transhumanism, politics, and sword cowboys. My work on it is mostly done, so
I’ve started occupying my creative time writing a serial of short stories set
in Sundown, starring a sarcastic
young monster slayer.

What inspires you?

Other games and works of fiction. I’m always itching to
design something new after I read a new game. Sundown itself came out of a modification of a different game I’d
recently picked up at the time.

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

I’ve always been imaginative. I entered the hobby at eleven,
and I started running games and designing adventures at fourteen. This
eventually turned into creating my own games, but I didn’t know I wanted to
make a career out of it until a year ago.

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?

My style is all about keeping people engaged, so my
signature has become brevity. I keep things short and snappy. Whether teaching
a game or weaving a narrative, it pays to avoid toiling too long on the nitty
gritty.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

Especially when designing a game, start small. Keep your
scope limited. Know what you want to say and cut anything that isn’t in direct
support of it. Don’t overthink it. Don’t spend too long thinking about one
specific thing. Don’t try to create the perfect piece. You’ll burn yourself out
chasing perfection.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

I don’t know if there’s a word for this yet, but I’m okay
with sexual things that take place entirely within my imagination. Things like
smut. Sometimes images are okay, too. But I have no desire for, and am usually
repulsed by, sex ‘in real life.’

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

I’ve had folk tell me to tone down the queerness in my work,
but I haven’t really encountered any sort of acephobia. There is a strong queer
independent tabletop role-playing game community, so I don’t really have to try
to sell to, or interact with, non-LGBT+ spaces.

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

The most common misconception, I’d say, is the idea that
asexual is synonymous with aromantic. Especially for ace folks in relationships,
it can get tiring to explain the difference.

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

This might be hard advice to follow, but just don’t give it
so much weight. It’s okay for your sexuality to shift or change as you grow as
a person and learn more about yourself.

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

Grasswatch Games is the company my two creative partners and
I created to work on Sundown. Its
website, grasswatchgames.com is
the hub for our current work. You can find Sundown
itself there, as well as my first short story. You can also find our Twitter, Facebook, and the Discord server we’re running Sundown’s playtest on.

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

Interview: CG Thomson

Today we’re joined by CG Thomson. CG is a wonderful fantasy author who is currently working on a seven-book fantasy series. She’s currently pursuing representation for the first novel of the series. CG is an imaginative and passionate artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

I’m a fantasy writer,
currently working on the fourth book of my seven book series while seeking
representation for the first book.

What inspires you?

Everything. 🙂 No,
really. I have so much wonder for this world we live on. I find inspiration in
nature, humanity, everyday life. I can spend twenty minutes marveling at
sunlight dappling the ground, lose hours by the sea.

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

I’ve been writing since
I was three. My mother chose storytelling as a way to focus her very ADHD
toddler and whether I was simply telling her stories or learning how to write
them down, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer of fantastic tales.

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 is always an
element of found family in my work, specifically a flawed heroic father figure,
a man whose daughter is not his biologically but chosen by heart. This is an
homage to my father who is (technically) my stepfather. We chose one another
when I was very young and he has defined my life like no other.

What advice would you give
young aspiring artists?

There’s so much advice
out there, and most of it is good, but no matter how good, no matter how
successful the person giving that advice, that does not mean it will work for
you. Figure out what you want from your art. Not everyone wants a career and
not everyone can make a career of it (I’m certainly still waiting to see) and
there’s nothing wrong with that. Figure out what you want and then figure out
what works for you. Sadly, there isn’t a formula for success, but if you’re doing
something you love and you’re improving regularly, you’re on the right path.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do
you identify?

I’m demisexual.

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

Interestingly enough, I
would have answered this with a no just a week ago, but when I tweeted a boost
to this website’s call for interviewees, I lost followers. That said, as a
cisgender female married to a cisgender male, I am heteronormative passing.
There is some privilege there and I acknowledge that and try to use it to raise
asexuality awareness.

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

That being on the
asexuality spectrum means a person must be sex-repulsed. Of course a person can
be, but frankly a person who is not asexual can be sex-repulsed. Likewise a
person can be asexual and sex-ambivalent or even sex-positive.

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

Understand that you
don’t have to “know” right now. You can be questioning. You can still be
figuring things out. No matter what, you are perfect and lovable just as you
are.

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

I’m currently seeking
representation, so there’s nothing out yet, but anyone wishing to keep up with
my process can find me at onaredhorse on Twitter.

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

Interview: Sarah Viehmann

Today we’re joined by Sarah Viehmann. Sarah is a phenomenal author whose debut novel, Unrooted, is scheduled to be released this winter. Unrooted is a retelling of Snow White that features two protagonists on the ace spectrum. When she’s not writing novels, Sarah frequently blogs about fairy tales and sometimes about asexuality. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

I am a novelist writing adult fantasy, a series of fairy
tale retellings beginning with Unrooted,
debuting Winter 2018 with REUTS Publications. The first book retells the “Snow
White” fairy tale and features protagonists on the ace spectrum, along with
other LGBT+ characters, disabled characters, and characters of color. Unrooted is the first in a series of
five books called The Iridia Series.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the human impulse that drives us to tell
stories. How do we use stories to communicate deep needs within the individual
and the community? How do stories changes based on who is telling them? How
have stories changed and how will they continue to change in the future? My
fairy tale retellings seek to explore, if not answer, these questions.

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

When it comes to fairy tales, I was introduced to them by my
father reading me Three Billy Goats Gruff
and similar fairy tales before bed at night. I also frequented the local
library and always went directly toward the 398.2 section where fairy tales are
housed. As for writing, I tend to joke that I’ve been writing since I could
hold a marker, but that really isn’t too far off from the truth! I’ve always
been inventive and a lover of words, so combining those two things into writing
seemed to be incredibly natural 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?

Oh goodness … I’m not sure how to best answer this. I
think the themes that appear most frequently in my work include mother-daughter
relationships, women who have lost and regain their voices, and attention to
language. There are also many elements from my academic study of literature
that appear in my work, such as structuralism and mise en abyme (the mirror in the text), and those who might be
familiar with such ideas should be able to pick them out.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

Do it, and do it for yourself. Disregard any thoughts of
“what if no one likes it?” It’s yours to
like, and what other people think only matters once the work is done and/if you
decide to share it. Don’t let the input of others affect your creative process,
because then the work won’t be true to you.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

I identify as asexual and grey-biromantic. The latter part
of that is more nebulous for me and I slide around a lot. I tend to find
cis-women and nonbinary people more aesthetically attractive than cis-men, but
that could be a matter of circumstance than anything else!

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

Yes. I once pointed out amisia in a very popular book series
that appeared in the preview a few days before the newest book release. I spent
a weekend fending off aggressive anons on tumblr telling me I’d read it wrong
and I shouldn’t be upset by it. It’s difficult being in the minority of writers
and readers who can and do point out things like that in published writing (and
that’s not the only example). I still find it very important to point these
things out so readers and writers alike learn, but it’s always a little
uncomfortable having to be That Person. In addition to that, I try and model
positive ace and aro representation in my own writing as a model for what I as
an ace and grey-ro person would like to see in writing.

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

Recently, I think it’s the idea that ace people don’t like sex or are disgusted by it. That’s
not the experience of all ace people, and it shouldn’t be a stereotype. That
said, the experience of those who are sex-repulsed
should be respected.

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

It’s okay to try on labels to see what fits. You’re not
betraying anyone by adjusting the label over time to figure out what fits you
best. I had to play around with my romantic orientation a lot before I decided on one, and I’m still not wholly committed to
it. Also, seek out other ace folks, because on the whole I find we’re an
incredibly kind and welcoming community willing to help you figure things out
if you have questions.

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

My official website is www.sarahviehmann.com,
but I’m most active on Tumblr (sarahviehmann.tumblr.com)
and Twitter at SarahViehmann.
You can also find Unrooted on
Goodreads! Please stay tuned for its release and other exciting things leading
up to the release date!

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

Interview: Lauren Hemphill

Today we’re joined by Lauren Hemphill. Lauren is a wonderful author whose novel, Viridis, is available for pre-order. She has created a sci-fi narrative revolving around an aromantic asexual character, who is supported by numerous LGBT+ characters. Lauren has written the characters that she wished she had growing up. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate author with a bright future, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

My work is primarily fiction writing, specifically sci-fi
and fantasy. I focus on themes such as gray morality, loyalty, and friendship.
I also tend to write LGBT+ characters, with a focus on aro-ace orientations.

What inspires you?

Music tends to be what inspires me most, with instrumental
songs from various soundtracks being what I write to most. Excellent
storytelling by fellow writers also pushes me to do better, be it T.V. shows or
other novels. Seraphina, Orleans, and The Uglies being some of the novels that have inspired me
throughout my writing career.

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

Since I was a child, I have always been telling stories.
Originally, I sought to be a painter, where I could tell stories through the
canvas. As I grew, though, I found myself drawn to writing, and amazed by the
use of words and style to make a world come to life. The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld was the first novel that ever hooked
me, and is what ended up inspiring my road down 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?

A common theme in most of my written work is the graying of
morality. I tend to enjoy playing with the idea that not everything is black
and white, that good people do bad things, and vice versa. I seek to show the
world as complex in my writing as it is in real life.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

Advice I would give fellow artists is this: not everyone
will believe in you. Throughout my time as a writer, I have had many people
doubt my ability to be published and be successful. In those times, remember
how far you’ve come, remember that you need to be your biggest fan. All the
best things in life are hard to achieve, but I would encourage all of you to
continue your art, because there are people out there that need it more than
you could ever know.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

I’m an aromantic asexual.

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

Luckily, I have seemed to dodge most prejudice within the
writing field. I’ve found a good group of friends and writers who support what
I’m doing, and haven’t had to face writers being ignorant of the orientation. I
have encountered people in the outside world who have disliked my inclusion of LGBT+
characters and believed asexuality to be a phase, but writers themselves have
come across as inclusive and kind in my experience.

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

I’ve heard most often that asexuality is a phase, or
something that will pass when I get older. As I have held no interest in any
gender in either a romantic or sexual sense for over twenty-four years now,
however, I don’t see legitimacy in the claim.

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

I would tell my fellow aces that it’s okay to not be sure,
and it’s okay to take things slow. You should also know that you’re not broken.
I know that’s common rhetoric within the community, but please believe all of
us that you’re truly not broken. It can be hard accepting your orientation when
it’s different than what the world would like to accept, but there’s a
community where you belong, and there’s a community that will support you as
you figure yourself out. Take your time.

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

My first novel, Viridis,
featuring an aro-ace lead and a cast of LGBT+ characters in a sci-fi universe
is for preorder now on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble! Searching my name on
either website will bring up my novel, or you can follow this link:

http://a.co/6fHcDAC

My website, winter-publishing.com,
is occasionally updated with writing WIPs and various other projects, and my
YouTube channel, TheKnightmare,
is a place where I review indie animated series. You can also follow me on
Twitter at knightmarelair and
DeviantArt at knightmarekm.

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

Interview: Minerva Cerridwen

Today we’re joined by Minerva Cerridwen. Minerva is a phenomenal SFF author and visual artist. For writing, she has a story published in Unburied Fables and recently released her novella, The Dragon of Ynys (which features an aro-ace main character). Visual art is more of a hobby for her, though she does do commissions. Minerva does handlettering and draws, using traditional mediums such as pencils and ink. It’s clear she’s a very passionate and dedicated artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’ve always
loved writing, and to my great joy I can call myself a published author these
days. I mainly write fantasy and science fiction and sometimes dabble in poetry
and horror. So far I’ve got a short story in the queer fairy tale anthology Unburied Fables and my debut novella, The Dragon of Ynys, came out in May 2018.

The Dragon of Ynys is a light fantasy tale suitable for all ages,
starring aro/ace main character Sir Violet, the knight of Ynys. He helps Holly,
a trans woman, to find her missing wife, the baker. They suspect the
ever-thieving dragon who lives near the village might have something to do with
her disappearance…

Cover by Kirby Crow

I also love
drawing and handlettering, using traditional materials—mainly because I haven’t
had the time yet to learn more about digital art. I like to experiment with
different techniques: I’ve been using pencils, watercolour, brushmarkers and
ink, both for original works and fanart. I wouldn’t mind taking this to a
professional level someday, but so far I’ve mainly been drawing for myself and
my friends.

What inspires you?

I grew up
with fairy tales, both the ones my mother read to me as a child and all the
Disney movies I watched so many times. It’s no wonder that I love writing fairy
tales myself. However, the big difference with the tales I consumed at a young
age is that there will always be queer characters in my stories. It’s so
important to be able to relate to characters when you’re trying to figure out
your own identity, and I feel like it took too long before I finally
experienced that moment myself. Once you’ve seen your identity validated in
popular media, it’s so much easier to accept who you are, rather than to
believe those who say you can’t feel the way you feel or be the way you are.

I hope that
my writing will make it easier for future generations to find stories that tell
them they’re not alone, not broken, and that teach them acceptance towards
others as well. In that light, I write the stories that I would love to read
myself, with all the dragons and magic and hopefully wittiness that I adore in
the works of Pratchett, Rowling, Tolkien and other masters.

For more
specific inspiration, my friend Fie and I started a project in 2013, inspired
by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-golden Tales. Every week, she took a picture for
which I wrote a ten-sentence story. These days we’ve dialled it down to two
photo-story combinations per month, but Paranatellonta
is still going strong after five years! Getting random prompts from friends is
a great way to stay inspired at all times.

When it
comes to visual art, getting an Instagram account has definitely done wonders.
There are a lot of awesome artists out there whose samples inspired me to try
new techniques. Every month there are challenges going around in different
themes, for any kind of art actually, but in my case those mainly influenced my
handlettering. Practice really helps! I also finished Inktober last year. It
once again proved that an inspiring prompt doesn’t need to be more than one
word or one image. You can see my Inktober drawings if you scroll down a little
on my Instagram.

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

I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember. As
I said, my mother read fairy tales to me from a young age, and once I learned
to read myself, my greatest joy was to discover more fun stories. There were
never enough of them, so it only made sense that I wrote down my own as soon as
I could. Surrounded by those fictional adventures, somewhere deep inside I knew
what adventure I wanted to have myself, even when I was five years old: I
wanted to be an author, like those wonderful people who’d given me all those
beautiful tales to enjoy.

My drawing
story is completely different. For a very long time I was convinced I couldn’t
draw at all. I just didn’t have the talent. Looking back at art class in
school, I feel like they never stressed the importance of studying references
enough. I was always doodling in my school books for fun, but it never felt
like that counted.

Fast-forward
to when I’d finished university and my parents were celebrating their 25th
wedding anniversary. I didn’t have much gift inspiration, and they joked about
a “grown-up” child making a drawing for their parents—and the fact it
was a joke tells you enough about how much the arts are respected unless you’re
a Big Name. I often feel like our society expects people either to be a grand
artist or talentless, and the fact that there must be a learning process in
between is often completely neglected.

Anyway, I
went through with it, and as I was drawing my parents from a reference photo,
it turned out pretty okay (especially considering it was supposed to remind
them of a child’s drawing). Most important of all, I had a lot of fun working on it. I’d been looking at a
lot of art online since I’d last taken up a pencil, and combined with using a
reference for the first time, I could see I’d massively improved since my last
school drawing years earlier.

From that
point on I let my more artsy friend Fie convince me to take part in courses on
Skillshare to improve my drawing techniques and handlettering. Now, almost five
years after that anniversary drawing, I actually feel like I’ve made some
pretty things!

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?

As I
mentioned above, you’ll find many fairy tale elements and queer characters in
my writing. More specifically, you’ll encounter a lot of dragons and spiders.
The dragons are a more conscious choice than the spiders, who just always
happen to show up… Just like in real life, I suppose.

I don’t
think I have any recurring elements in my visual art, but I’ve been using a
signature since late 2016. It’s made up of the initials of both my pen name and
legal name.

What advice would you give young aspiring
artists?

I think
it’s an important message that you can always learn and improve. That’s
something I only truly learned from starting to draw. I’d always been
“born” a writer: I started at a very young age and people told me I was
talented. But I had to work to become
better at visual art, and that made me realise that the reason why I’d loved
writing all my life was that I’d been exposed to so many stories to learn from.
Having played with words from a very young age, stories had never been the big
“mystery” that a beautiful piece of art was. So what I mean to say
is: people aren’t born a Grand Artist. They become them. And going down into
history means you’ve worked hard, but also that you were lucky (or, in some
cases, unlucky) enough to have your name picked up and talked about. But that
luck, too, is something you can influence by promoting your work. Like doing
interviews on awesome websites. 😉

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual
and somewhere on the aromantic spectrum, but I usually go with “aro-spec”
rather than a more specific label, because it’s difficult for me to figure that
one out.

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

There’s
certainly a lot of ignorance. Even in some queer organisations, it seems the A’s
are often forgotten. I can only hope that my stories will spread more
knowledge, while still being entertaining rather than feeling like a lecture.

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

That
asexuality would mean you never have sex. It can mean that, and I guess it does for me. There’s certainly
nothing wrong with a life without sex. But for sex-positive aces it makes
things all the more confusing to figure out their orientation when people keep
asking: “But you’ve enjoyed having sex, how can you be ace?”

Aside from
that, I think that asexuality and aromanticism are too often considered the
same thing. This also makes it hard to find a label that fits you when you do
experience romantic attraction but no sexual attraction, or the other way
round. When different sources tell you that you need to feel things a certain,
very specific way in order to identify as ace or aro, it can be a long search
to find a label that fits. And of course not everyone needs to label their orientation, but in my own experience finding
the names and other people who used them certainly helped to stop thinking I
might be broken or wrong.

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

You’re not
alone and you’re not broken. For me it was a massive help to enter queer spaces
(in my case on Tumblr) and read experiences from other queer people. It made me
discover terms (like asexual and aromantic) which I’d never heard of before I
made a Tumblr account almost 10 years ago. It showed me that they weren’t some
kind of theoretical concept, but a whole spectrum of people who experienced things in different ways—and some of their
experiences were just like mine! Suddenly I was no longer “the weird
one”. Which actually took me some time to adapt to, because I’d become
quite used to being “just odd” and labelling myself that way 😛

However, in
the long run, learning about all flavours of queer (be it through books, blogs,
or directly talking to others) taught me to be more open-minded in general and
made me more comfortable with myself.

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

My website
is http://minervacerridwen.wordpress.com/. There you find everything about
both my writing and drawings, with links to my social media. Feel free to
follow me!

Paranatellonta,
a flash fiction project inspired
by my friend’s photography, can be found at http://paranatellonta.tumblr.com/. It updates twice a month and you can read
all the stories and see all the pictures for free.

My visual art can be found
here: https://www.instagram.com/minerva_cerridwen/. I’m posting pretty much everything I draw
on Instagram, showing my learning process with both the pieces that worked out and
the ones that didn’t. Mainly because I find it interesting to track my own
evolution and learn from that in turn!

Other places you can find
me:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/minerva_cerr
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/minervacerridwen/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15904760.Minerva_Cerridwen

And places
to buy my stories:

– The
Dragon of Ynys (Publisher | List of other retailers)
– Unburied Fables (Amazon)

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

Interview: Megan

Today we’re joined by Megan. Megan is a phenomenal visual artist who is starting out in writing as well. They are an illustrator and comic artist from the Kansas City area, who focuses mainly on storytelling and narratives. They do a lot of narrative illustrations and comics. For writing, they’re interested in writing fantasy and prose. They’re clearly an incredibly dedicated and talented artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

I am an illustrator and writer, working full time as a
production artist to pay the bills, and then working on comics and
illustrations with narrative components on the side. I primarily work
digitally, employing both a comic-y inking style, as well as a realistic sort
of oil-painting style, all either on my computer and display tablet, or on
programs on my iPad. As a writer I love to write fantasy and other prose
fiction, and have started efforts to build a portfolio and work towards getting
published, both short stories and future novels.

What inspires you?

The first place I usually look for some sort of inspiration
is anything Neil Gaiman has said. He has given many speeches and written many
essays on the importance of story and art in the world, and those- as well as
his words on imposter syndrome- give me strength.

But I’m also fascinated by people. Humans are capable of
amazing things like constructing massive skyscrapers and engineering microscopic
movies
; surviving under dangerous conditions, and getting together to hold
festivals full of color and light.
Traveling to different countries and being exposed to new cultures has been
eye-opening for me and is a never-ending resource for inspiration and
creativity.

As of late, Dungeons and Dragons has also been stimulating
for me, from the components like dice and figurines to the stories people tell
through the witty and clever characters they (and I) create. Who doesn’t love
goblins and magic?

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

I always enjoyed drawing and painting, although I was never
really good at it. I loved getting new paint kits and sitting down to paint a
little teapot or planter, but what really got me into art was my obsession with a particular video game.
I was a high school sophomore, just starting part-time in college with the
intent of pursuing a medical degree, and bored. My dad worked at my school, so
I would sit in his office after class and wait til he could take me home. I
vividly remember one day sitting in his office, and instead of doing homework,
I started writing a fanfiction, pen on paper, that I had started rolling around
in my head. Art had also sprung out of this video game obsession, where I discovered
the concept of fanart on DeviantART (I was a sheltered homeschooled child). It
made me honestly, truly happy to write and draw and see the progress I was
making, and to see other people enjoying what I had made. When I took a college
drawing course a year later, I only became more passionate and ditched the
medical school plans for art, and never looked back.

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?

One thing I like to do is that whenever I have to draw a
crowd scene, I like to sneak in some of my characters from other places-
Dungeons and Dragons, or old fanfiction characters- just subtly enough that not
many would see anything different, but if you know the character, you could
find them. I hope someday it becomes a bit of a ‘Where’s Waldo’ game.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

Have fun, and take care of yourself.

These two tasks seem so arbitrary but they really mean the
difference for physical and mental wellbeing. Drawing can seem like a chore
sometimes, especially when you’re only drawing or writing something to pay
bills, but when you have free time to draw whatever you want, you should draw
what you want to draw. Write what you want to write. If you go in with the
idea that whatever you make has to be ‘good enough’ to be printed or published,
you’re going to hit a lot of brick walls in the process that only give you
headaches. But if you have fun with it, you’re more likely to finish your
project, and just finishing is half the battle.

But taking care of yourself is vital as well, and I wish it
was emphasized more in educational settings. You NEED rest, you NEED food and
water, and though I realize the idea of the ‘depressed artist working 16 hour
days’ is fairly romanticized, it’s actually incredibly debilitating to work
like that, if you can work at all. You can’t make your best work while you’re
exhausted, and pushing yourself too hard will end up destroying your mind and
body. Seriously. Take a break. Right now, go stretch and drink a glass of
water.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

I identify as Asexual as a broad term, and I’ve definitely
hovered over different labels and questioned myself several times, but I’m most
comfortable for the time being with the umbrella term of ‘Ace’. I believe I may
be demiromantic, but I’ve never had a relationship and don’t intend to explore
that area just yet. Someday though.

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

I’m not really out about my identity, so I’ve avoided it.
There aren’t many aces that I’m aware of in my field, so I haven’t seen
anything. I’m sure there’s prejudice out there though, people are unfortunately
afraid of things that are different.

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

That asexuals don’t like sex! I think that it could be more
difficult for some to get into the mood, but Asexuality is defined as having a
lack of sexual attraction to people, not the lack of desire for sex. An ace
person could still be romanced for sure, or maybe they just really enjoy some
self-love!

(Also, the A stands for Asexual, not Ally!!)

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

Nothing is set in stone, your identity is going to change as
you explore and experiment. And that’s fine, most people try several different
labels and have various experiences before they settle into something that
‘fits’. And sometimes, maybe you don’t find something that fits, and that’s
okay, too. You’ll always be You.

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

You can find my artwork here, and my little baby blog is here!

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

Interview: Jennifer Lee Rossman

Today we’re joined by Jennifer Lee Rossman. Jennifer is a phenomenal author who also does cross stitch. For writing, Jennifer writes science fiction and fantasy. She has written stories for various anthologies and just recently released her debut novella entitled Anachronism, published through Kristell Ink. When she’s not writing, Jennifer enjoys cross stitching and comes up with her own patterns. It’s clear she’s a passionate and dedicated artist who loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

I’m a sci-fi and fantasy writer. I’ve had stories in several
anthologies and my debut novella, Anachronism,
was published this year by Kristell Ink, an imprint of Grimbold Books.

I write weird little stories that make people happy (or at
least cry while smiling) and hopefully make them see the world from another
angle. Violence and swearing levels vary from story to story, but there’s never
anything too gory and swearing is usually limited. Sex is a part of life for a
lot of people, so while it might be mentioned as part of the story, I will
never show anything more than a kiss on the page. (I don’t write anything I
wouldn’t want my grandmother reading.)

My goal is for my words to be a safe space no matter your
gender, orientation, ability, race, or body type.

I also cross stitch. I make all of my own patterns, mostly
dinosaurs and nerd stuff.

What inspires you?

Weird science facts and song lyrics, mostly.

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

I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon, but only got
serious about it when I realized my disability was going to make having a
traditional job impossible.

Cross stitch was a natural path for me to take: I love
crocheting, but my muscular dystrophy makes that much movement difficult, so I
needed something smaller and more fiddly. I grew up making Pokémon sprites on
the computer, and it turns out cross stitch is really just analog pixel art!

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 crafts, bright colors and animals that are cute while
still being scientifically accurate.

In my stories…I guess queer people and Jurassic Park
references show up a lot.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

You know that weird idea you have? The really silly thing
you want to make, but it’ll probably suck and no one but you will like it? Do
it. Give it permission to suck, let it be just for you. Chances are it’ll be
amazing, and your fellow weirdos will find you and you can be weird together.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

Not entirely asexual, but pretty close. I experience romantic
attraction, but sexual attraction is kind of an abstract concept to me. It’s
there sometimes, not very often and not very strong, and sex sounds interesting
in theory, but most of the times it’s just not something I even think about.

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

Ignorance more than prejudice. When you’re writing about
aliens and robots, it’s easy to fall into the “this character is just as
human as the humans because they feel attraction” trap. I usually try to
point out the errors in my reviews.

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

That all disabled people are asexual. My disability has
nothing to do with my asexuality, and there are plenty of disabled people who
experience sexual attraction.

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

You’re not broken just because you’re different. Find some
ace people on the Internet – we’re super friendly and our pride flag is
beautiful!

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

I have a blog https://jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com/
and I’m on the Twitter https://twitter.com/JenLRossman
Links to all of my books (including my debut novella Anachronism) and stories can be found here: http://jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com/p/my-work.html

I don’t sell my cross stitch because each piece is usually
custom made for myself or someone I know, but I’m always happy to take on a new
project.

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

Interview: Wolfberry Studio

Today we’re joined by Jay at Wolfberry Studio. Jay is a phenomenal visual artist who works in digital illustration. Their work is mostly in the science fiction and fantasy genres and features people of color, who are underrepresented in such genres. Jay’s work shows extraordinary attention to detail and the images evoke such an amazing sense of imagination and beauty. It’s clear they’re a very dedicated and talented artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

image

WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

I am a digital illustrator who works mostly in vector. My
fantasy and sci-fi illustrations focus on people of color who are
under-represented in these genres.  

What inspires you?

I am inspired by legends and myths from around the world. I
enjoy exploring the differences and similarities between stories from different
cultures. Stylistic influences include Chinese classical painting and Japanese
animation.

In addition to visiting museums and galleries regularly to
gain exposure to a wide range of styles, I do live drawing outdoors. Nature can
inspire, even if you are not a nature painter.

image

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

I’ve always enjoyed drawing. I was one of those kids who got
reprimanded for doodling in class in elementary school. I saw drawing as a way
to tell stories. I drew comics about my classmates.

As I grew older, I became increasingly aware of the role of
visual art in disseminating social messages. I had observed the lack of
diversity in certain genres. One day, I realized that instead of complaining
about other artists not drawing what I want to see, maybe I should draw what I
want to see. That was when I decided to pursue formal artistic training.

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?

My studio signature is consists of the Chinese characters
for Wolfberry Studio.  Wolfberry is
another name for goji berry.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

It is OK to feel disappointed with your work sometimes.  The fact that you are self-critical is a good
thing. It shows that you are ready and willing to improve. In art school, I saw
that the artists who improved their skills most quickly were the ones who were
the most open to critique.

Regarding how to deal with the gap between where we are as
creatives and where we want to be, Ira Glass of This American Life says it best
in a 2009 interview:  (http://www.mcwade.com/DesignTalk/2011/04/nobody-tells-this-to-beginners/)

He was talking about video producers, but his comments can
apply to just about any field.

We are all on a journey to getting better. It never ends.

image

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

Gray-A. Aromantic.

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

Not in professional relationships, since the subject has
never come up with clients.

I do want to say that I am pleased by the presence of out
asexual artists of all levels in online communities. Their visibility paves the
way for the rest of us.  

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

Some people think that asexuality is pathological, and that aces
would be happier if they weren’t asexual.

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

There is no need to fit yourself into someone else’s concept
of a happy, fulfilling life.  What’s right
for others might not be right for you. You are the only one who knows what’s
right for you.

People shouldn’t be giving you a hard time for being asexual
any more than you should be giving than a hard time for being allosexual, or
for being a football fan, or liking ice cream, or being into whatever else
they’re into but you’re not into.

You’re the only one who has to live your life. You’re not
living it for anyone else. Seek out people who respect you and accept you the
way you are.

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

https://wolfberry-j.deviantart.com/
https://wolfberrystudio.blogspot.com/
https://www.instagram.com/wolfberrystudio/
https://www.redbubble.com/people/WolfberryStudio/portfolio.

image

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