Category: novelist

Interview: Zoe

Today we’re joined by Zoe. Zoe is a wonderful young up and coming author who writes YA and middle grade fiction. She has drafted three novels, all are in the genres of supernatural and magical realism. They feature a diverse cast of characters, most of them are LGBTQIA+, the kind of characters Zoe has often wanted to see in the books she was reading. It’s clear she’s a very passionate and dedicated writer with an incredibly bright future ahead of her, 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 write young adult/middle grade books that could
also count as magical realism or supernatural. My current project centres on
different supernatural/paranormal beings such as angels, demons, vampires,
sirens etc. It is pretty diverse compared to a lot of books I’ve read recently,
and includes a gender fluid vampire, a pansexual warlock, an aroace demon in a
queer-platonic relationship, a bisexual demon, a biromantic angel, a lesbian
werewolf, an aroace fae who is sex and romance repulsed (There are others, as well
as heterosexual characters.) It also includes all the struggles they have to
deal with because of their sexualities and genders, as well as their
supernatural race. (While also trying to stop a very evil woman from taking her
revenge out on the whole world)

I thought it should be a bit more diverse than the
other young adult/middle grade books I have read because to me, having two or
three LGBTQIA+ characters in an entire 16 book world seems very unrealistic. At
school, I had at least three or four LGBTQIA+ kids in each class I went to for
every lesson.

What inspires you?

Usually, books I’ve read. I didn’t really know
what to write about to be honest, before I started. But then I read a few young
adult books of the same type I wanted to write and something clicked. With
every book I read, I had a new idea for something that could happen. Of course,
I didn’t steal from the books. What I mean, is that I could picture how old
spell books looked, and realised a King would probably care more about having a
son for an heir than a daughter. This helped me picture a possible scene for an
argument between a father and daughter, in which this point could have been
brought up.

Also, music inspires me a lot. I always listen to
music. Classical pieces, soundtracks from movies, actual songs even musicals.
Whatever it takes to give me some inspiration, I even sleep while listening to
music to help me better picture what might be giving me trouble when writing.
Think of it like writing fanfiction in my head, of my own stories, while I try
to sleep.

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

I have always loved reading, and throughout
primary school (ages 3-11) we had a lot of opportunities to write our own short
stories in class. I loved it, and thought it was fun. I didn’t know I wanted to
be a writer until a few years ago when I discovered NaNoWriMo (I won) and
realised how fun writing could be and got back into it.

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 haven’t done the math, but there’s roughly the
same amount of LGBTQIA+ characters as there are heterosexual characters (not
counting small children). In any book I will ever write, I will always try to
keep it as close to 50/50 as I can, because that is the most realistic figure.
There’s also hardly ever any angst revolving around romance, or any explicit
stuff because I strongly dislike it and have no time for that nonsense of “he
loves me, he loves me not.”

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

Don’t stop writing. If someone says you write too
much, or you should spend more time doing something that benefits them, don’t
listen and keep writing. I was told that I spend too much time reading and
writing, the only two things I do for fun, by my family who wanted me to
essentially become a third parent to my brother who is only 2 years younger
than me. It upset me, and I stopped both. I didn’t read anything for ages, and
eventually forgot about my writing for a few months. It’s good to take a break,
but on your terms, or as close as you can get.

I still struggle trying to get into writing again,
because I feel like it will be hard. Because I don’t remember what I was going
to do with this sentence, or because I can’t remember what that character looked
like or if they are even in this book. Don’t let anyone – and I mean anyone –
tell you that it isn’t worth it. Write for you.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

I identify as a sex and romance repulsed aroace,
and I experience aesthetic attraction. I also identify as pan because my
aesthetic attraction can be to anyone of any gender.

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

I haven’t experienced any. However, when I was
talking to my best friend and fellow Asexual about some of the characters,
trying to work out a scene, I mentioned they were both Aroace. I also have an
ace-biromantic character not in that scene. She asked “That makes three on the
Ace Spectrum, right? Isn’t that a bit much?” No. it is not “a bit much” because
I know several asexual people online, and together we make two. In real life,
in a world with billions of people, at least 1% of which (7 million I think
total) asexuals, it makes sense to have a few who know each other. She knew
this, it was just more of shock at seeing more than one Ace character in a
single book, and she wasn’t being mean or anything.

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

I have several, and they are all from my best
friend’s ex-boyfriend, although I have heard other people say stuff along these
lines too.

  • (asexual refusing to have sex with her boyfriend because
    she’s a sex repulsed asexual) “But biologically speaking everyone needs sex.” –
    This isn’t true. I’ve heard it can be fun, great, stress-relieving, and a bunch
    of other positive things from people who continuously talk to me about it even
    when I tell them not to. But biologically, you don’t crave it. You don’t die
    without it. Biologically speaking, it is how babies are made. Nothing more.
  • “You’re not asexual because you don’t need to
    photosynthesize” – hahaha, no. he said this sincerely, and he meant this to
    hurt. It isn’t a joke. There are multiple meanings for different words in the
    English language. “My nose is running” does not mean you’re nose is in fact
    running down your face and about to make an escape to go join the party next
    door.
  • “Asexuality isn’t a thing. It’s just an excuse. You’re a
    lesbian” – yeah she’s an Aroace lesbian, but she didn’t know it at the time.
    She’s still aroace. It doesn’t matter what else you identify as, if you think
    you are on the spectrum, no one can invalidate you like this. Asexuality is a
    thing. It is also annoying to hear this several times in the same conversation.

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

Asexuality, and the whole spectrum, is a thing.
Aromanticism is a thing. Aroace is a thing. You can be both, you can be one or
the other. You can be in a qpr, you can be single forever. You can have a
partner, or not. You can be a third sexuality on top of this. You can hate
sex/romance with a fiery passion or you can still enjoy it. Don’t let
uninformed people try to tell you how you feel, because the person who knows
you best is you. And if this means having your aroace-pan awakening at 2am and
grinning like a fool for three days then so be it. Because you deserve to be
happy. If someone you love says the words “but biologically-“or “you aren’t
ace/aro” or any variation of “it’s a fad/you just want attention.” Even after
you’ve explained it to them? Even after you’ve given them a chance to learn
about your orientation? Get rid of them because you can do better. Any loved
one who forces you to ignore how you feel, or invalidates you, or pressures you
into things you don’t want to do, is not worth your time.

When you come out to people, be ready for the
inevitable vocab lesson, but don’t be upset about it and if they ask a lot of
questions, try not to be offended. In all likelihood, they have no idea what
any of this means because when they were growing up it wasn’t as widely known.
Take a few minutes to explain. They might get it, they might not. They might be
supportive, they might not. But at least they know. And if they get confused
somehow and think you just came out as a lesbian, please, for the sake of your
sanity, correct them. Do not let them think you and your best friend are
lesbian lovers unless you, for some reason, want them to think that. It is
about what you are comfortable with.

Tell the person you are dating what your
boundaries are, or what you are uncomfortable with. For example, I personally
despise all physical contact with all but 2 people. Maybe they can work their
way in, but for now, tell them. Don’t let yourself be uncomfortable just so you
don’t have to have the awkward conversation where you tell them you don’t want
to be kissed or you don’t want to have sex. And if they don’t respect your boundaries,
get rid of them. A person who is willing to just be platonic cuddle buddies
with no pressure on either side is much better than a person who refuses to
understand your orientation and the things you don’t want to do.

Also, don’t listen to aphobes, at all.

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

I haven’t published anything anywhere, but I’m
always up for questions about my work in progress, or anything to do with
writing (or my orientation really). My Tumblr is at solangelo3088.

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

Interview: Anne Hawley

Today we’re joined by Anne Hawley. Anne is a phenomenal novelist and editor who writes queer-themed historical fiction. She has a novel entitled Restraint, which features an ace secondary character. Anne is currently working on a new historical novel that features an ace protagonist, which is exciting (we need more historical fiction featuring aces). It’s clear she’s a talented and passionate writer 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 write novels featuring queer characters in historical
settings, exploring issues of identity and acceptance. I’m also a Story Grid
Certified fiction editor, helping other writers shape their novels and
screenplays.

What inspires you?

People’s individual search for wholeness and
self-acceptance. The search for meaning. My stories revolve around people on
spiritual journeys, and my editing work is focused on helping writers find and
tell the story that’s in their heart to tell.

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

I’ve been writing since I could read. I started my first
novel when I was nine. I was inspired by fantasy novels and wanted to create my
own worlds.

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 always name something after a notable feature in my
hometown of Portland, Oregon USA

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

If you’ll permit me to change the question, I’d like to say
something to aspiring artists who may not have started young, or aren’t young
anymore. Ageism is real and insidious in our culture, and it has a huge
silencing power. Just as the dominant culture would still prefer it if you were
allosexual and cisgendered (though thank goodness that’s changing), it would
like you to be silent and invisible if you’re not young. If you have a story to
tell, tell it.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

Aromantic asexual. I think “autochor” is probably a term
that applies to me.

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

There’s not much ace representation yet in fiction, and as a
person who came to the identity late in life, I’m still working to change my
own ingrained belief that “nobody” wants to read stories without sexual
tension, or about individuals who are fulfilled without romance.

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

That asexual people don’t really exist, and that people in
my age group who claim that sexual identity are simply resigned to being “too
old” for love or sex–or that we’re some sort of holdover from an earlier and
more prudish, sex-negative era. We aren’t.

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

Many, many people in older age groups like mine have never
even heard of asexuality. If you’re like me, hearing about it at a late age
might create a real internal struggle, especially if you’ve given a lot of
energy over the years trying to conform to old cultural standards of “normal”
sexuality.

It helps to read as much as you can about all the nuances in
the spectrum of asexuality, and realize that it’s okay to try on different
names and labels. It might take a while to feel at home with one or another of
them. But you might also find, as I did, that little by little embracing
asexuality solves so many mysteries of your life.

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

https://annehawley.net

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

Interview: Sean Shannon

Today we’re joined by Sean Shannon. Sean is a phenomenal artist whose a bit of an artist-of-all-trades. She has two main focuses at the moment: writing and creating webseries. She has written a novel entitled The Prostitutes of Lake Wiishkoban that was up for an international award. Sean has also written two ebooks of classroom exercises for humanities instructors, several poems, some short stories, and a seventeen-year-old blog. As if that’s not impressive enough, Sean has also created a couple webseries. It’s clear she’s a 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 am the author of the novel The
Prostitutes of Lake Wiishkoban
, which was shortlisted for the Dundee
International Book Prize and a quarterfinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough
Novel Award. In addition, I’m the creator and host of the teaching webseries Socratic Sense, which explores
current issues in teaching, and the intersection of education with politics and
popular culture, as well as a personal webseries called Musecast. Those are my (current)
major efforts, but I call myself an “artist-of-many-trades” because I work in
all kinds of mediums, from writing to the visual arts.

What inspires you?

I could name specific artists whose influences I can see in
my work, but what inspires me more than anything is the desire to leave the
world a better place than I found it. That’s a drive that influences all my
work, across all mediums.

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

My parents were both artists, so I kind of come by it
naturally. I also had a very difficult childhood, and while I’ve never had
formal sessions in art therapy, my art has always been a refuge for me, and a
place for me to work out the problems I’m having (then and now). I’ve always
wanted to be an artist on some level, but I’ve always wanted to be everything. I still haven’t decided what
I want to be when I grow up.

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?

Whenever I’ve tried to include something like that in my
work, it always feels forced to me. Other artists don’t seem to have that
problem, so I guess I’m just not very good at that sort of thing.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

Absorb everything you can. Consume art far and wide, even if
it’s not in a medium or genre you want to work with. Everything you experience
will fill your artistic well, and could inspire your art five minutes or fifty
years in the future.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

I am a panromantic asexual.

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

The biggest problem I’ve come across is people who assume
that I can’t write a novel about sex work, or a novel with sex scenes, because
I’m asexual. (Never mind that I fit some people’s definition of the term “sex
worker” because I’ve taught safer sex practices before.)

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

That asexuality is synonymous with celibacy, and that
asexuals can’t have (or enjoy) sex.

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

Above all, you are not alone. I don’t believe in making
promises like “it gets better,” because I’m not in a position to be able to
keep that promise to anyone else (or even myself), but know that some of us out
here are at least trying to make things better for asexuals. We would very much
like your help if you can provide it, but it’s okay if you need to stay private
about your asexuality for now, regardless of the reason.

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

My blog, seanshannon.org,
has links to my books and videos, examples of my photography, and short written
pieces about everything on my mind these last couple of decades, ranging from
political essays to narrative non-fiction.

Thank you, Sean, 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.