Interview: Dominique Cyprès

Today we’re joined by Dominique Cyprès. Dominique is a phenomenal writer who has dabbled with various forms including fiction and nonfiction. Their first love is poetry and they have written plenty of different kinds of poetry. They have a story in Unburied Fables, an anthology from Creative Aces. It’s obvious they’re a passionate and dedicated writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’ve dabbled in a lot of different sorts of writing – from fiction to creative non-fiction, poetry in both verse and prose. As someone with an overlapping interest in tech, I’ve also experimented a little with interactive fiction. I’m really interested in what new ground can still be broken with Infocom-style text adventures.

I’ve also forayed a little into video editing and stereographic photography. I’m pretty much the prototypical “jack of all trades” in that I keep trying new media and I don’t often stick with one and try to master it. In the end, though, everything seems to come back to poetry. I often find that when I’m working on fiction, or text adventures, or visual media, I’m compelled to find a way to inject poetry into that medium.

What inspires you?

My primary motivation in making art is a sort of practical mysticism; my goal is to give voice to the enormous wonder and bewilderment I feel trying to make sense of both the natural world and interpersonal interaction. As an autistic person, I often find myself in the sort of situation that Temple Grandin refers to as being “an anthropologist on Mars.” The world often seems an altogether foreign place to me, and my art (when I have the time to make it) acts essentially as fields notes on this inscrutable country.

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

The artistic role models who have most informed the direction I take in poetry are probably Emily Dickinson, Miyazawa Kenji (whose work I have read only in English translation), and Charles Simic. Dickinson and Miyazawa together really pulled me toward poetry as a medium in the first place, and their biographies and work share certain themes in common. Both were disabled and regarded as odd by their communities. Both expressed in their work an immense love of humanity and of nature, but wrote from a perspective of looking upon these subjects from the outside, and both wrote largely for themselves and did not manage to sell much of their work to professional publications during their lifetimes.

Simic’s influence on me comes through his seminal Pulitzer-prize winning volume The World Doesn’t End, and largely has to do with his pioneering work on the form of prose poetry, and his use of ambiguous and discordant sensory images to cultivate what poets refer to as “negative capability,” the ability to draw art out of questions that have no answers, out of confusion and non-rational thought.

I tend to think of art as something I am inclined to do, and not as a feature of who I am, perhaps because I’ve long had it drilled into my head that writing poetry alone is not a viable professional path for someone who needs to support themself and their family financially. I’ve heard this even from former U.S. Poet Laureate Mark Strand, who derives much of his personal income from his work as a college professor.

As a young person I wanted to devote my life to art in some way professionally. As I neared the end of high school I told my parents I wanted to study acting full-time in college and choose that as my field. They asked where I would find the money to feed myself and I didn’t really have an answer, so I studied psychology instead, and wound up dropping out of college after three years when I reached a point where my undiagnosed learning disabilities had started to make it impossible to complete my coursework.

At that point, in 2012, my self-esteem just bottomed out entirely, and one thing to I did in an effort to pull it back up was to take a bunch of poetry I had been working on while I was at school (where I was pursuing a creative writing minor) and build on that work, flesh out its themes a little bit, and compile it into a book I could have printed through a major self-publishing-platform. That was Dogs from your childhood & other unrealities. I had neither the money nor the energy to engage in any serious promotion for it at the time, but being able to share my work with some appreciative friends in that manner was the kind of encouragement I needed.

Now I’m working on a new volume of poems. It’s necessarily very different from my last book, because I’ve changed a lot since 2012. It’s in verse, whereas my last book was entirely in prose. It’s much more concerned with overtly political questions, with the relationships between the wage worker and their work, with the struggles of a young and growing family. I hardly find time to work on it, as a full-time retail worker, part-time student, and parent, but I’m excited to share the personal growth I’ve experienced in this form.

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 often feel that I’m walking a metaphorical tightrope in my work, attempting to balance impulses toward self-deprecation, disillusionment, and cynicism on one hand and an irrepressible sense of naïve wonder on the other. That’s a feature of my everyday life, too, but I expect it comes out a lot in what I make.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

My advice would be to try to hold on to your art, to what you do that moves you on a deep level, even when it doesn’t pay the bills. And if you have to step aside from making art because you’re depressed or just too busy struggling to survive for a while, you need not be ashamed. Go back to your art when you’re ready and let it accept you with open arms.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual, and I’ve identified myself as such since age 20 when I first heard about other asexual people. I’m quoiromantic. I’m married now; I have two spouses and a child, and the fact that I’m asexual doesn’t come up very often in my day-to-day life. But if I had never identified myself as asexual in the first place, I probably wouldn’t be married now, because it was identifying as asexual that allowed me first to accept myself for who I am, and then to find people who understood and accepted me enough to start a family with me.

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

There’s a strong push for writers of creative non-fiction and poetry today to candidly confess intimate details of their personal lives, and that very often includes one’s sex life and sexuality. That can be an uncomfortable demand for an asexual writer and I encourage other writers to share only what they can share confidently. As it happens, though, I have made very few connections “in my field”, so I don’t yet have any direct experience with ignorance around ace issues directed at me as a writer.

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

As much as you can insist to people that asexuality is your sexual orientation, some people will be determined to see it as a medical symptom that you should somehow be treating, or as an ideological position. There’s only so much myth-dispelling educational material you can provide to someone before it becomes a waste of time.

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

The decision to reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet, and not as a proper planet, was an arbitrary taxonomic exercise, motivated by mounting discoveries of Pluto-sized objects in our solar system. Essentially, if we continued to count Pluto as a planet, there would be so many newly-found planets of similar size that we could never hope to make elementary school children memorize all their names. But Pluto is still out there in the Kuiper belt, and it’s still an important target for scientific research.

Similarly, your experiences as an asexual person are real and an important part of your life even when other people find it inconvenient to acknowledge them.

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

Dogs from your childhood & other unrealities is still available in print and as a free e-book via my blog. My next book, tentatively titled dead monochrome doggerel, is still in the works and I’ll be sure to announce it on my blog when it’s ready.

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

Interview: Fiia

Today we’re joined by Fiia. Fiia is an amazingly versatile young artist from Finland. She does a bit of everything: writing, film, and plenty of visual art. She’s marvelously passionate about the art she does and has a very creative spirit, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I do many kinds of art, especially now that I study media. Photography, all kinds of editing (photos, videos, sound), short films, graphic design… and the list goes on. And I love it all! I also like to draw and paint and whatnot. I’m not that great, but I like it. That’s the important thing, right?

But what I absolutely love to do, is write.

So I love to write. What I write has been ranging from poetry to fanfiction, and from regular short stories to screenwriting. The last year or so I’ve been concentrating on screenwriting; TV show scripts, to be precise. The genre is usually somewhere along the lines of action drama, because I can’t bring myself to be interested in “regular” relationship love dramas.

Also, I always write in English. I’m from Finland, so English isn’t my first language (it’s actually my third, Swedish being the second) but I’ve kept it from stopping me. I was around 13 when I started writing in English, and I haven’t stopped since. Nowadays I couldn’t write in Finnish even if I tried, because everything sounds so dumb to me!

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by a lot of things. Mostly just what happens around me; regular people. I love the idea of taking a normal person and throwing them into a completely different setting, like in a story I’m currently writing. It’s the regular life and regular people who inspire me to begin a story, but it’s the adventure that inspires me to work out the plot and write it down.

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

I’ve always loved writing, ever since I knew how to hold a pen and how to write Finnish. I don’t even know where the passion comes from, because even though I have artists in my family (mom is a tattoo artist and my big brother does comics for a living), I’m the only one who enjoys writing.

It’s probably just the power to create anything that’s got me hooked on writing. Pick a word, write it down, and a couple thousand words later I could’ve created a whole different universe. This isn’t, naturally, how I saw it as a kid, but it was probably something similar even if I didn’t actually realize it. I just wanted to tell stories.

One of my earliest dream jobs was to be an author. Over the years it shifted and I dreamt of becoming a psychologist, but I still wanted to publish a book. Then I wanted to become a nurse, a teacher, a translator … and now finally I want to be in the TV/movie business. Either as a screenwriter or a cameraman/editor. Or maybe even all three.

So being an author/screenwriter wasn’t always on the top of the list, but it was always there.

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 love to explore friendships. They are important in whatever I write, because I love nothing more than a person willing to go to a great length for the sake of a close friend.

This isn’t as important as the above, but there is always (a lot of) action in my stories, and recently the stories have revolved around good and bad, as simple as it sounds. There is more often than not a criminal aspect, usually pretty important, and how the lines between good and bad are really shaky, blurry and broken sometimes.

To put it short, I have a certain style, like most artists. I try new things every now and then, but the above is what feels best to me and what I enjoy the most.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

This may be a bit cliché, but believe in what you do and work hard. It’s a sad truth that maybe it will never work out and you’ll have to settle for a job that isn’t an artist – but other people have made it, and you shouldn’t give up your dream without a fight. Get better at what you do, practice some more and never give up, and who knows? Just make sure to keep at least your other foot on the ground and remember that life goes on even if we don’t make it there.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Totally asexual, like 110%. I’m also biromantic.

Although, I must admit, I just usually call myself bisexual. I don’t think it’s anyone’s business, really, and it’s just less confusing that way.

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

No, I’m lucky and I haven’t. Asexuality hasn’t really been a problem for me in any way, and since I’m still just a student with a few close friends in a small town, I’m relatively safe from anything like that.

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

That I’ll magically like it once I try it. I’ve been trying to explain it to my mom and my best friend, and they both keep saying I can’t know whether or not I like it since I’m a virgin. I keep telling them “I know I won’t like parachuting either, even though I haven’t tried it, because I know myself and I’ve seen enough of it to have a feeling of what it’s like.”

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

Accept yourself, and understand that there’s nothing wrong with you. Sex is all over the place and we all know the pressure to have it, but just know that that’s not the case. You’re perfect just the way you are, and asexuality doesn’t define you. You can do and be whatever you want.

Also, you’ll find someone who loves you, asexual or not, and they won’t give a shred of an f. Just keep your head high, be yourself, and the right people will find you.

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

Unfortunately nowhere just yet, but who knows, maybe in some years you’ll see my TV shows on TV 😉

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Thank you, Fiia, for participating in this interview and this project. It is very much appreciated.

Interview: Lahraeb Munir

Today we’re joined by Lahraeb Munir. Lahraeb is a wonderful writer who writes a lot of poetry and is currently working on a novel as well as some short stories. They’ve published some creative non-fiction and have been published in some literary magazines. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I consider myself a writer, albeit an experimental one! I mainly write poetry, though am working on a novel & I also have a couple of short story projects on the side. My poetry is definitely what you’d call abstract – I like readers to take their own interpretations & I love reading their understanding of the words, which is so different to mine, yet just as valid. It’s pretty cool. In books, I like to write underrepresented or misunderstood characters, such as poc, queer or disabled people. I have had poetry & creative non-fiction published in a few literary magazines, which is a heck of an experience & I am thankful to anyone who reads my work, enjoys it & connects with it.

What inspires you?

I focus very much on the human condition: why we do what we do & how we do it. I often draw on personal experiences to write pieces & tend to use the written word as a form of communication. I am inspired by the relentlessness & fragility of humanity & how people are different in all the same ways. I am both scared & awed by people & that is what I try to express. Also nice comments from my readers keep me going.

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

I have always been an avid reader, but only started writing myself in my early teens. I think words are incredibly valuable & so many people misuse or abuse them, which is quite sad. I am drawn to their perfect infallibility – try as I might, I can never really get across what I am trying to say, so in that way I can tell the same story an infinite amount of times & I think that`s rather amazing. I am not really sure what career path I want to take & writing has always been more of a hobby than anything else – though that does have the potential to change.

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?

Well, as you can see, I like to write in lowercase & use “&” – for no other reason than I find it aesthetically calming. I am aware that some people may find it annoying, so I tend to capitalize properly in novels. I also like using {these brackets} because I think they are cool {that being said by a vastly uncool person!} I am also a fan of puns & wordplay & having more than one meaning attached to a particular phrase so people can take it to mean what they want to – & so I end up playing around with format and structure a lot.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I would tell them to always make sure they enjoy what they create – it’s easy to get lost in the demands and whims of people, particularly in this technological age, so if you find that you are not enjoying the creative process as much or just creating for other people and not yourself then it’s perfectly acceptable to step back and take a break to evaluate what your art really means to you. Also, take risks – most of the time, they might not work out, but that one time it does, it’s freaking awesome!

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual – simply using the umbrella term, as I don’t really connect with any of the more specific terms. All I know is I am not sexually attracted to people & I am fine with that.

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

The writing community itself is so diverse, so I have been lucky not to encounter any prejudice regarding my sexuality.

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

that we are all broken or damaged in some way – we’ve either been abused, have hormone imbalances or some other underlying pathology to make us this way – & why that may be true for some aces, they are still valid aces regardless. People seem to find it hard to comprehend that asexuality is not a choice, and although it may be influenced by life events, it is not caused by it.

Also, people seem to think that the concept of being queer & the concept of being religious are so dramatically opposed that should the two collide in one person, the notion is completely rejected! Although this refers to queerness in general, it is still something that annoys me a lot because I am pretty sure I exist, but people seem to want to challenge me on that.

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

It’s okay to be struggling, but the struggles do not define who you are & it is important to remember that. It’s best to surround yourself with a positive network of people with similar experiences – & there is loads of ace positivity online {try your best to avoid the discourse}. Remember: you are not a freak, you are accepted and valid – even if it doesn’t feel that way. & it’s okay if your orientation changes – there are a wide variety of terms to accommodate whatever it is you feel & you will always be valid no matter what labels you choose.

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

People can see more of my work on Wattpad: thefineideayoucrave
I also have a blog: https://uncoveringthefineideaswecrave.wordpress.com/
& a Tumblr: https://thefineideayoucrave.tumblr.com/

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

Interview: Sarah Pickard

Today we’re joined by Sarah Pickard. Sarah is a phenomenal writer who specializes in genre fiction. She writes a variety of genres and has a wide array of LGBTQ+ characters populating her work. Her passion and enthusiasm shines through in her interview, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

While I’ve been published for poetry, I mostly work writing LGBT+ genre fiction. In my experience as a reader, too much of LGBT+ media is focused on the coming out process, so I try to fill a niche of writing fantasy, steampunk, cyberpunk, etc. novels that has a full LGBT+ cast. There’s none of the angst that comes with the discovery or coming out process. Instead we have a cast with a full range of gender identities and sexualities who are out living their lives, commanding airships or working in underground street-racing teams. When you already had to live through the experience, sometimes you just want to see a lesbian punch a dragon.

(I also have a personal pledge to only ever write one straight character, which to this day I’ve maintained.)

What inspires you?

I think every comment about ‘pandering diversity’ or ‘if you want representation, go out and make it’ fuels me to take these genres that have been traditionally very heteronormative and queer the fuck out of them. For anyone who widely reads fanfiction, the transition back to reading traditional literature is always a jarring one as you remember how white/straight/cis everything really is. And there’s no reason it has to be! Diversity breathes life into plotlines – not stifles them. Why close yourself off to possibilities? I mean, when we add nonbinary people to high fantasy, think of all the curses/prophecies that get foiled. And why deprive yourself of all the puns? Yes, that’s it. I’m inspired by all the pun-possibilities.

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

I’ve wanted to be a writer…always. Honestly, my first written work was dictated to my grandmother at the age of four. And in some ways it’s terrifying to have no idea who I’d be without writing, but I count myself very lucky that I found my calling at such a young age. There was never any specific moment or event that triggered it. I probably came out of the womb this way.

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?

Yes! So, I basically write my own novel length AU fanfiction. That is, I have a set cast I work with in all my novels and genres, and the fun comes from exploring how they and their relationships grow and change and develop under different circumstances and settings. And most of my readers find comfort knowing that just because their favourite character died in one novel doesn’t mean they won’t survive the next. How many works can boast that?

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

If you really love something, do it. Do it in every free moment you have. If you wait for inspiration, you’ll never be inspired. Writing is hard work (no matter how easy Stephen King makes it seem) and it never gets any easier. Most of the time it gets harder as the years go on! You start worrying about sentence structure repetition and never using the word ‘was’ and staying in the active voice and before you know it you’ve rewritten the same sentence ten times because something’s wrong with it and you can’t figure out what. Yeah, some days words will fly off the keyboard like little fairies with minds of their own, but most of them time you’re going to slog through it one word at a time.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual, and I have no idea what my romantic orientation is.

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

While I haven’t personally encountered any writers who are against asexuality, I have run into the old rhetoric of asexual characters being boring to write about. But honestly, if you need sex to move your plot along, you have a pretty terrible plot?

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

That we’re all either Childish, Sociopaths, or Geniuses instead of actual people.

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

Right now, Tumblr is probably the worst place to be if you’re struggling with your asexual identity. Nearly every LGBT+ space I’ve encountered in person has been warm and welcoming and accepting. So just forget all the bullshit about whether or not you’re a part of the community – because you absolutely are – and figure everything out on your own terms. Also aromantic heterosexuals and heteromantic asexuals are 100% queer (no take backs) and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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

I’m afraid I don’t post any of my work online. I’m soliciting my first novel right now and it can’t be previously published – and some publishing companies consider posting online as ‘previously published’. But if anyone wants to Beta any of my work, they can contact me at reallifeisfiction@gmail.com. I’m always happy to get feedback and constructive criticism!

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

Interview: Cas Fletcher

Today we’re joined by Cas Fletcher. Cas is a wonderful writer who writes in a variety of forms. She writes short fiction, poetry, and fanfiction. Cas is currently working on a longer story, which might become a novel. It’s very apparent that she loves the art of writing, 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 mostly write short stories and poetry, but I also write fanfiction and I am planning something of a longer piece at the moment. Not sure if it’ll be a full length novel, but I suppose I’ll find out when I get there.

What inspires you?

I feel like I have a lot of different stories to tell and I am mostly motivated by my characters demanding that I write them down, however I do feel like another major motivation for me is spite. Ever since Steven Moffat’s lovely ‘asexuals are boring’ comment, my main aim is to include as many asexual characters as possible in my stories, just to prove him wrong. That and his special interest in nonsensical plots and overindulgent twists have set me firmly on the course to prove myself better than him.

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

I read a lot of books as a child and I came across a book that had been written by a girl who was fourteen at the time, and my little girl brain thought ‘well I’m nine, I’ve got plenty of time to write a book’ (I haven’t and I’m twenty-one now, but oh well, I’ll get there) and I’ve been writing since then.

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?

Nothing particularly special, I don’t think. The strongest aspect of my writing is often the dialogue, so you’ll find a lot of that in the longer pieces.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

My advice would be, don’t be discouraged if you read back a first draft and it’s not exactly the way you want it to be. Editing and redrafting is the majority of the process and if you keep at it, it’ll get there eventually. Also try not to compare yourself to other authors’ published work. When you read a book, it’s been extensively polished and edited, and what you’re looking at is the result of month-years of hard work, arguing with editors and a lot of wasted ink. Finally, let your characters drive the plot, otherwise the plot just comes across as empty and forced. They are the core of the story.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual, bi-romantic.

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

Nothing especially in my field, but perhaps an abundance of forced, explicit sexual scenes. Once my scriptwriting tutor told me that my relationship is meaningless because I don’t have sex (not that she even knows this) and that was quite hurtful.

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

When I first got together with my boyfriend, people kept asking me ‘so does that mean you’re not asexual anymore?’ It’s like they think that it just goes away as soon as you get a partner.

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

My advice would be to find as much information as you can. Definitely check out AVEN. It helps a lot to know that you aren’t the only one that feels this way. I’m only just discovering the community myself and I’ve felt very welcomed.

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

My original works can be found on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/casfletcherwriting/ WordPress: https://casfletcher.wordpress.com/ and Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/casfletcherwriting, whichever you’d prefer, and my fanfiction can be found on AO3: http://archiveofourown.org/users/Nurmengardx/pseuds/Nurmengardx

I’m working on my dissertation right now, but I hope to post a lot more once I graduate.

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

Interview: Mike Crawford

Today we’re joined by Mike Crawford. Mike is a wonderful visual artist from Scotland. He specializes in photography, but he also does a lot of drawing and painting. When he’s not creating visual art, Mike also writes poetry. It’s very clear he enjoys creating, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

My art is mostly figurative and realist, and includes such things as life drawing, still life, portraiture and landscape.

I identify as ace, but as yet this doesn’t really make an appearance in my art.

I have had long conversations with ace friends about what ‘Ace Art’ might actually be….whether it might be a political statement about our struggle, or whether there is actually some sort of intrinsic ‘Aceness’ that might be detectable in a person’s paintings.

And also there’s the whole question of ‘Ghetto Art’ i.e. ‘Gay Art’, ‘Black Art’, ‘Feminist Art’, ‘Queer Art’ etc. To me, those forms of expressions can be valuable politically, but I think they raise expectations in the minds of the potential audience, so for instance if I had an exhibition entitled ‘Queer Art’ which was made up of naturalistic landscapes, I can almost hear a viewer saying ‘Oh…this isn’t quite what I expected…’ …so the fact that I’m queer and I make art doesn’t perhaps automatically lead to ‘Queer Art’

So I guess I’m still pondering any ‘ace dimension’ that my work may or may not contain.

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What inspires you?

I’m inspired by the world around me, by places I visit and by people I meet.
I’m also inspired by the artists, poets and photographers I love.

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

Yes, from a very young age I was always drawing or colouring in.

In my teens, I was very fortunate to have an inspiring art tutor at school. He taught me how to use a grid pattern to scale up my vinyl album sleeves into posters, so I spent many happy hours in school copying photos of Bowie, Elton John, Roxy Music and Queen. People began to ask me if I could paint a design on their leather jacket or on a drum kit or the petrol tank of their motorbike and I became hooked on the incredibly social nature of art. I’m naturally shy, but art gave me a position within the group, in the same way as the class clown or sporty person… I was the arty one.

Later on, I went to some evening classes to study colour theory and then after I moved to Scotland to live at Faslane Peace Camp (a community which protests against nuclear weapons), I began to stop using photos and other people’s art as my references and to instead draw the people I was meeting and the landscape around me. This was very liberating as I discovered that I no longer needed to be copying other people’s ideas….that I could be original.

During my time at the Peace Camp, I also studied for a Foundation Art Course, which allowed me to build a portfolio of life drawings etc…and to then apply to Art School.

I then spent the next four years studying intently and have basically never stopped learning ever since.

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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 try to begin every artwork from scratch….from first principles if possible. One of the problems I’ve had with using galleries and agents is that they prefer you to be the guy or gal who paints cottages or stormy skies or clowns or whatever. If a painting sells, they want you paint another 20 exactly the same, because that’s how they make money. I don’t do that and I try never to repeat myself.

I don’t really have any recurring iconography in my work, except to say that I love to paint flowers. But no….not a unique symbol as such.

Many of my favourite artists very much DO have repeated objects and themes in their art and I love it….it just doesn’t happen for me in my own work, but if it works for you, I would absolutely encourage you to explore any and all personal symbolism.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

To always be your authentic self and to get as far away from any form of copying as possible. Try every possible medium you can. You might suck at oil on canvas, but be amazing at lino printing, so give everything a try. And also just have fun!

Something I used to teach my students;

Remember two simple things…’What do I want to say?’ and ‘How do I want to say it?’

…in other words, what do you wish your artwork to convey in terms of meaning, colours, politics etc, and also, which mediums will be best suited to tell your story? And of course as you continually revise your ideas, the mediums and methods can change too, so it’s a constant process…a journey rather than a destination.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Just plain old ace is fine for me, as I’m personally not the world’s biggest fan of the ‘spectrum’ concept.

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

Several years ago I was invited by some gay friends to take part in a local LGBT art exhibition. I submitted a painting, but it was returned to me by the organisers with a note to the effect that ‘asexuality has nothing to do with LGBT’ and that ‘there must be some confusion, so we are returning your artwork’.

In actual fact, what upset me the most was not the ignorance of the organisers, but the fact that several LGBT artists I know were happy to continue to submit work to the show without a word of protest about my poor treatment. That experience taught me a lot.

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

Most of the misconceptions and negativity seem to come from gay acquaintances, who will say stuff about asexuality being a medical problem caused by a hormone deficiency, or that ace relationships are not genuine or are ‘merely friendships’.

I’m not sure why straight friends have never said any of that stuff to me.

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

I would say that you are in a more fortunate position now than folk in my age bracket, who were struggling with their sexuality in a pre-internet, pre-google world.

I know it’s impossible to imagine now, but in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, there was literally no way to meet other aces, and no coherent way to explain to friends and family who you were as a person. Aces in their 50s and 60s often have failed relationships and marriages behind them, and years of suffering blindly, so I would say to young people ‘enjoy this amazing new community’

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

http://mikeyartwork.weebly.com/.

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

Interview: Anya

Today we’re joined by Anya. Anya is a phenomenal up and coming writer who is working on her first novel. She has written a variety of forms: short fiction, poetry, and fanfiction. Anya has also written a little non-fiction. She’s an incredibly passionate writer who has a great love for the written word, as you’ll read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am an aspiring writer. Or, more accurately, I am a writer aspiring to get published. I used to mainly write short stories, but I am now working on my first novel! I sometimes write fanfiction, and I dabble in poetry and non-fiction occasionally, but my true love is – and probably always will be – fiction. I do various different types of fiction, but I do tend to lean towards the dramatic and fantastical.

What inspires you?

Honestly? A lot of things. I don’t even know what brings it on. The strangest things inspire me. I’ll be reading the newspaper and come across an article that sparks a story within me. Or I’ll be talking to a friend and it will fan an idea I had into a full blown flame. I think what really encourages me to write is the idea of putting myself into other people’s heads. I tend to write about characters that are very different from me (though a lot of them do tend to be acespec) because I like to use writing as a way to explore people, as well as situations I might not generally get to experience.

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

I’ve been a total bookworm since I was a little child, so the desire to be a writer happened very organically. I had to write a diary for school, and that diary turned into a book full of short stories, and I never stopped writing since then. I think I’ve always had that need to be a writer within me. I don’t think I’m a writer because I want to be one, I just think I never really had another choice. Throughout my life whenever I strayed from writing, there were always things that brought me right back to 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 don’t really know if I do. I think my writing style has developed and now reflects my voice, in a sense, but I’m not sure if I do anything unique. I know I tend to be kind of indulgent, and so sometimes there are certain tropes that appear in a lot of my works.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Writing sucks. It may seem easy, but you will spend hours hating yourself and hating your work, and thinking you’re never going to make it big. You’re going to be stuck on a word for hours, and even days sometimes. People are going to think what you do is a hobby and treat you like you don’t know anything about the real world. Knowing all of this, if you still want to be a writer, then my friend, I promise you have it within you to succeed.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m still figuring it out, in a sense. I go back and forth between demiromantic demisexual and grayromantic graysexual. Or some mix of the two… I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

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

All the damn time. I’ve always sort of fancied the idea of writing for TV, and I think part of it is because sex and romance are such a staple on TV. I want to prove that you can have characters that are openly proudly asexual and acespec and interesting in TV shows. I want to show that you don’t necessarily need sex for a story to be interesting. I don’t know if I will ever get into television, but I know I will write my book one day, and I currently have an asexual main character and a demisexual supporting character. I hope exposing people to characters like them will teach them about this sexuality. I don’t quite know how else to handle it. While aro-spec, I am heteroromantic and grew up in a culture where we were not exposed to the LGBT community as much. It was through TV shows that I learned I had a skewed view of the community. I want to use my books in order to do the same thing with asexuality.

That is another factor too, actually. I’m from India, and I remember once reading an advice column, and there was a boy who’d written in. He was describing how he wasn’t interested in girls so… maybe he was gay? But he also wasn’t interested in boys. He asked the person writing the advice column if there was a name for what he was. The man wrote back “The name is ‘cute’.”

That really pissed me off. I know asexual awareness isn’t going to happen anytime soon in India where the LGBT community is treated appallingly. So I think this is my way of sort of reaching out, helping people like that boy. I know he’s probably not going to pick up my book and see the ace protag and realise holy shit, I’m not broken, but I hope it will help people like him. Also, I sometimes like to believe he will too. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

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

That we just haven’t met the right one. People keep telling me that I’m wrong about myself, or that if I keep going on dates with whichever guy I’m seeing that I will develop feelings and want to have sex with him. That I’m just making up labels.

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

You’re not broken. Sometimes it’ll feel like it. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re all alone, but you’re not. There are tons of acespec people out there, and a lot of people just don’t talk about it, but we’re out there, and it’s normal, and it’s OK.

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

You can find my fanfiction here, but there isn’t much explicit ace representation in it unfortunately. A lot of my fanfiction actually has acespec characters, but since most of my longer pieces were written before I knew the terms and before I fully understood that what I was writing were demi characters, there’s some badly phrased explanations of sexual identities. My newer ones are all one-shots. Though if you want fluffy pieces where characters don’t have sex, and tend to fall in love only after knowing the other person for a while, then check it out!

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