Interview: Carmilla DeWinter

Today we’re joined by Carmilla DeWinter. Carmilla is an absolutely fantastic fantasy novelist from Germany. All her original work is in German and she also writes some fanfiction in English. She also blogs about a variety of subjects, including feminism and fantasy (a fellow genre feminist? Yes, please). Carmilla is an incredibly passionate writer who displays this amazing amount of enthusiasm, which is always wonderful to read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

albenbrut-ein-bindender-eid cover
Cover for “Albenbrut” (loosely translates to “Elfspawn”)

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

As I’m probably telling everyone, even those who don’t want to hear it: I’m a writer. Most of my writing is novel-length fantasy, followed by blog posts – both German – and some fanfiction, which is in English. Original fiction-wise, I’ve published one gay fantasy novel in two parts with a small press so far. I’m currently looking for an agent.

What inspires you?

People. I find the stuff we humans do intensely fascinating, and sometimes funny, so a lot of my writing is about trying to understand why other people do what they do.

Why most of my fiction ends up being speculative is harder to explain. First, I absolutely love setting up the experiment from near-scratch by reading a lot about history and then putting it through a what-if filter (aka world building). Second has to do with the what-if. So what if I imagine a medieval “Europe” plus magic, minus Christianity? The interesting part starts when magic makes women independent, and thus half the kingdoms there are actually queendoms.

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

Once I knew how to read, it quickly became my favorite pastime, and thanks to understanding parents, I was always encouraged to let my imagination run wild. So, in hindsight, writing as the art of choice seems kind of inevitable. Plus, thanks to my dad and a distant aunt, I always had SF or Fantasy novels to read as a kid.

I won’t claim I’ve always wanted to be a writer – I made that conscious decision at age 19 – but even before that it was always the creative outlet I’d return to, from my first bad, unfinished Jurassic Park rip-off at age 12 to atrocious poetry to slightly less atrocious song lyrics. And no kidding: I get grumpy when refused a creative outlet.

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?

No – that is, there’s nothing to reveal, really. The only thing that is perhaps recurrent is that I tend to feature at least one aromantic character per longer original work, and in fact did before I knew aromanticism was a thing.

Nowadays, I try to include at least one asexual character per longer work – that is, someone who states a clear lack of attraction or disinterest in sex, not some ambiguous “could be read as”.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Most parts of writing can be learned. It’s a craft. There’s courses, online resources, writing groups, books in the library. I’ve found it useful to create some stuff first, then learn more, then critique what I wrote in light of what I learned.

Learning how to tell a story well is way more difficult than writing beautiful sentences, though.

Search for people who will give you honest feedback about what works, and not just go “squee”.

Otherwise, writing means that you’ll need to spend large portions of your life inside your own head, which is not for everyone. Finishing a novel also requires time, patience and a heaping helping of determination to make it to “The End”.

albenbrut-gebrannte kinder-cover
Albenbrut 2 cover

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual. I’m also aromantic, but that’s more an aside to my identity than a central defining feature.

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

Actually, my fellow writers have been quite understanding so far, though there’s been a handful of people who like to argue about feminism. Or about whether sexism actually is real.

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

When doing vis/ed, mostly it’s people assuming that either I’m recruiting or that asexuals as a group are somehow disordered.

I actually kind of get the first response, because it hasn’t been that long that homosexuality was classified as a sickness. Given that a lot of people still believe that belonging to a minority orientation is a choice of lifestyle, the fear of being recruited tells me a lot about the amount of homophobia in our society. Most of the time you can counter that misconception by being respectful and reading up on the issue, though.

The second assumption – that we’re all suffering from an illness, a disorder or whatever – tells me a lot about the popular narratives and how pervasive they are. Asexual people never get a story, thus they can’t exist, and everyone who says they’re ace has to have A Reason(TM) to be like that.

When talking about being an ace writer, most people’s minds boggle at the fact that I write about characters who occasionally do have sex, sometimes on-screen. As if that’s somewhat more outlandish than someone else writing about things they never did, either, like living in a historical time-period or serial killing or whatever else.

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

You are not alone. There’s others like you out there. They may be found online or offline, though you’re obviously not required to be an active participant in the community.

You’re probably scared, and that’s okay. Our society likes to draw a lot of lines into the sand about what is normal and acceptable behavior. Most of those lines are completely arbitrary, but it can still be very intimidating to step outside those boundaries, even if it’s just in your own thoughts.

Your feelings are valid. You’re not broken. The majority however might prefer if you felt that way, because it’s a sure-fire way to keep you quiet.

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

There’s my German blog, where I ponder the intersection of fantasy, feminism and other forms of marginalization. I’m not doing in it English, because it’s something long overdue in Germany. There you can also find links to my original fiction (or at least to the shops where it’s sold): http://carmilladewinter.com

If you want English stuff, I’m one of those people who joined the Pit of Voles a decade ago and have yet to leave: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/906810/Carmilla-DeWinter

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

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