Interview: Jordan S. Brock

Today we’re joined by Jordan S. Brock, who also goes by Kryptaria. Jordan is a wonderful author who specializes in queer romance. She writes both original work and fanfiction. Jordan is currently working on a book she describes as “a kinky m/m asexual romance.” She is obviously an incredibly 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’ve been writing all my life, though I spent forty-plus years trying and failing to muster the courage to submit to a publishing slush pile. For years, I read and wrote sci-fi/fantasy. Then I found fanfiction and fell in love with romance in fanfic — which is strange. I was never able to connect to mainstream romance, to the point where I could reasonably say I hated romance novels.

But romance in fanfic is a different creature altogether. As at earlgreytea68 says here [http://anauthorandherservicedog.tumblr.com/post/159134116719/on-fanfic-emotional-continuity]:

“[F]anfiction has nothing to do with using other people’s characters, it’s just a character-driven *genre* that is so character-driven that it can be more effective to use other people’s characters because then we can really get the impact of the storyteller’s message but I feel like it could also be not using other people’s characters, just a more character-driven story. Like, I feel like my original stuff–the novellas I have up on AO3, the draft I just finished–are probably really fanfiction, even though they’re original, because they’re hitting fanfic beats.”

This is the original fic I write. It’s marketed as romance, and the focus is on a happily-ever-after ending, but the romance is organic. It grows step-by-step, as true to the characters’ motivation as I can get, without heavy-handed external machinations to cram the characters together.

My first published romance novel, The Longest Night, is actually a nearly word-for-word copy of my Sherlock (BBC) fanfic, Northwest Passage [http://archiveofourown.org/works/531662/chapters/943040]. After I posted NWP, a senior editor at Sourcebooks contacted me on Twitter and asked if I’d be willing to scrub the fic and change it from m/m to m/f. After forty years of wanting to see my name in print, I agreed and signed a two-book contract.

Never let anyone say that fanfic isn’t real writing!

These days, though, I’m much happier to be writing queer romance. In October 2016, at Riptide Publishing released Change of Address [http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/change-of-address], an #ownvoices story about PTSD, a service dog, and a Jewish character — who, unlike me, is a fantastic cook. The sequel, tentatively titled Building Bridges, will be written as soon as my brain cooperates.

COA Book cover from Riptide

For now, I’m very excited to be working on a kinky asexual m/m romance. It’s an awesome challenge, writing an asexual character who’s sex-neutral (bordering on sex-repulsed) but also has a mile-wide dominant streak. He’s learned to navigate kinky spaces in various ways, both healthy and unhealthy, but he’s never found his happily ever after — until now, though it doesn’t come without a whole lot of stumbling blocks in the way. I hope to have the first draft done before May 2017 so the book can be released this year, but no guarantees. Real life keeps getting in the way!

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

I’ve always needed to write, for my own mental health. I’ve noticed a direct correlation between periods when I don’t write and times when I’m depressed or unhealthy.

As for inspiration, these days I look to the unusual romances: ones that sneak up on people from unexpected connections, ones that are realistic, ones that don’t fix the world or cure a character’s problems but that make life a little happier for everyone involved.

That’s what I love about queer romance. I’m not shoehorning or stereotyping my characters into “male” or “female” roles as they’ve become traditionally defined in the romance genre. I can let my characters develop as they will, without fear that an editor will redline a character because of breaking those gender-based molds.

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?

Animals! I tend to sneak in animals, especially dogs or cats, wherever I can, because they’re so important in my own life. I have a service dog for PTSD — two, actually, since my senior service dog, Darian, has retired due to bad hips and I’m now working with Bucky, my service dog in training. Isn’t he gorgeous?

Bucky 39

In Change of Address, I gave Michael, who also has PTSD (from combat), a service dog named Kaylee. She’s a German Shepherd Dog who’s a mix, in temperament, of Bucky and Darian. She’s not perfect, but she’s the steady rock that Michael needs to anchor himself as he finds his way in the civilian world — and the reason that he and Josh eventually end up together.

COA tumblr header

In my next book, one of the characters has an adopted greyhound. She offers her human unconditional love in exchange for long naps on the sofa. Really, what more could a person want? And I have plans for a golden retriever puppy to take a starring role in Building Bridges.

My fanfics, whether solo- or co-written, also tend to have pets of various types, whether it’s a pair of ferrets, a basket of kittens, or an over-dramatic saluki.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Remind yourself that art isn’t a zero-sum game. Other artists aren’t your competition — they’re your colleagues. Cheer their successes, because every successful artist brings new consumers into the fold, whether it’s a Big Name Fan writing a breakaway hit fanfic and bringing in new readers who eventually discover your fics or a New York Times bestselling author bringing new readers into the sub-genre in which you write. Yes, sometimes success is a matter of luck, of connections, of timing, but mostly success is a matter of talent and hard work.

Consume other art in your chosen field. If you’re a writer, read all the books you can in your genre — and a few in related genres. For example, I’ve learned a whole lot about writing humor in romance by reading historical m/f romances, even though I don’t think I’ll ever write a historical.

Study the market if you want to turn your art into a career. Learn the formulas and what made the big names successful. Study the fundamentals. Learn all the rules, whether grammar or color theory or whatever applies to your art. You can’t know which rules to break until you have a deep understanding of those rules.

Then feel free to break the rules. Be true to the art you create. You’ll find a market somewhere.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

These days, I come closest to identifying as autochorissexual.

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

I’m fortunate that I haven’t, though I suspect that’s because I’m working with publishing professionals who are from all over the queer spectrum, including an ace senior editor.

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

Any sentence that includes the words “all aces” is bound to be 1) “commonly” believed or taken to be true and 2) actually flat-out wrong.

When it comes to my next book, I’m actually bracing for backlash from outside the ace community from people telling me I can’t write a kinky asexual character because “all aces” don’t like sex and therefore can’t be kinky.

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

A few things:

  1. “All aces” don’t exist. Every asexual person is different. Sex-positive, sex-neutral, sex-repulsed. Kinky, vanilla, or none of the above. Masturbates or doesn’t. Experiences arousal under whatever circumstances or none at all.
  2. If someone tells you “you can’t be ace because…” or “you’re not a real ace because…” walk away and don’t look back. Nobody elected these gatekeepers, and nobody has a lock on knowing everything about asexuality — not even other aces. We all live in a continuous state of self-discovery, from the day we’re born until the day we die.
  3. And that means sometimes you change, whether from biology or circumstance or because you simply learned a new word that comes closer to resonating with who you really are inside. There was a time I identified as het, then bi, then pan, then gray-ace, then demi-ace, then back to gray-ace/aro. It took me something like 43 years to get where I am now, and that doesn’t mean it won’t change again. That’s okay!

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

These days, I tend to be most active on my Twitter, https://twitter.com/jordansbrock/ for original work or pictures of Bucky. I’m terrible at keeping up my website, jordansbrock.com, even though it’s a Tumblr. You’d think it’d be easy!

My Riptide Publishing author page will also have a link to all books I’ve released through them. http://riptidepublishing.com/authors/jordan-s-brock

For fanfic, my work is all available on AO3 at http://archiveofourown.org/users/Kryptaria/works and my Tumblr, at kryptaria, is full of inspirational pictures. These days, it’s mostly Marvel Cinematic Universe. I keep my James Bond stuff at kryptaria00Q and post random writing/service dog bits at anauthorandherservicedog.

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

Interview: Amber

Today we’re joined by Amber. Amber is a fantastic visual artist and a writer. She mostly does fanart and fanfiction though she also does original work. Amber loves what she does and it shows in her work. She has a phenomenal attention to detail and color. It’s very clear she has a very creative spirit. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

amber5
Amber 5

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’ve only been drawing for a couple of years, so I haven’t really developed a certain style yet. A lot of what I draw is fanart, from books or TV shows, but, especially recently, I’ve been drawing more and more OCs and original things. I do most of my sketching on paper with pencil (and a massive, heavy duty eraser) but I do most my Nice Good Pieces digitally!

I write as well, I’ve been writing for a longer time, and I mostly do queer romance or zombie/horror stories, and fanfiction.

What inspires you?

Other artists, mainly. I love looking at other people’s styles and techniques and try to expand my skills that way. A lot of inspiration also comes from art books, like ‘The Art of the Legend of Korra’, movie concept art, things like that. I have an active imagination (blame my ADHD) and am constantly coming up with scenes and images in my head and I try to draw them a lot.

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

I’ve always loved to draw, but when I was younger there was never the ‘I want to get really good at art and make a career out of it!!’ mindset. It was just fun and games, a way to pass the time when I was bored. It wasn’t until my older sibling went to university and I started paying attention to the details, like the behind-the-scenes of movies and shows and games, that I decided that’s what I wanted to aim for. I’ve been seriously drawing for two years now.

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?

Uhh, not really. Most of the time I’ll sign with my Tumblr URL just so people know it’s mine, but I don’t have a special mark. Yet. I’m working on it.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I am a young aspiring artist, so I’ll say what I keep telling myself – don’t compare your art to others’ work. Compare yourself to your old art, sure, but never to artists with more experience than you. It won’t help. And, tutorials. Tutorials are life, tutorials are great. Always look out for tutorials, especially in the form of speedpaints! It really helps to actually see how things are done.

dreadlocks_by_chelberno1-daid8qz
Dreadlocks

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Just plain ol’ ace! Not quite sex repulsed, but almost.

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

Uh, yeah. My family knew nothing about it before I started to talk about, and I live in a small country town where everyone is very old fashioned, so yeah, I’ve encountered a lot of that. I used to try and correct people and explain why they were wrong about whatever, sometimes I still try if I’m in the right mood, but then people started to say that I was too defensive and that I should stop taking everything so seriously and stop trying to upset people. So now I mostly just grumble under my breath and rant to internet friends, and wait for the day when I’ll finally be an Adult and can have my say without getting into trouble.

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

My dad used to always assume that because I was ace, I wasn’t interested in dating and people at all. When I came out as pan shortly after I came out as ace he kept asking how it was possible if I didn’t like people like that, and what would be the point of dating anyone. It took a while to actually get him to understand that ‘asexual’ does only mean ‘no sexual attraction’ and that yes, I am still able to date, and yes, it’s possible to date without having sex. Even at school and everywhere else I go – where I’m not out – everyone automatically thinks that and given up trying to correct them without giving myself away.

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

I’m not the best person for this type of advice, since I’m still struggling with it, but what helps me a lot is just finding and making friends that understand how I feel and friends that know a lot about asexuality and other queer identities. I follow a lot of blogs that have a lot of handy information and a lot of positive posts: (at) rainbow-hotline is a good one, as is (at) ace-big-sis!

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

I have an art blog on Tumblr, over at cheldraws! I also have a Devinatart (ChelberNo1) and an Instagram (at cheldraws)!

I also write, both fanfiction and my own original works, you should be able to google ‘ChelberNo1’ and find where I post things.

you_know_that_you_re_beautiful_when_you_work__by_chelberno1-dam5zel
You Know that You’re Beautiful when You Work

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