Today we’re joined by N J Magas. N J is a very talented writer who writes fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. She’s also an amazing painter. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m a writer of fantasy, science fiction and horror. My themes often center around death or impermanence, and what culturally makes us who we are. Characters are very important to me, so I try to focus more on the players within the story, rather than the world around them. I prefer to work with characters who are or act outside of expectation—characters who have deep, dark secrets, hidden personalities, contradictory hobbies or unusual lifestyles. The goal is to never leave a reader in a position where they can guess what’s going to happen next.
What inspires you?
Living in Kyoto is obviously a huge inspiration for me. The history and physical beauty of the landmarks and geography tickle my creative brain almost every day. Little things tend to spark bigger inspiration, though: the sound of the cicada, egrets on the river, a row of trees in a cemetery. I also draw inspiration from past experiences, mostly from family, though I try to stay away from taking too much from real life. I don’t consider my childhood exciting enough to adapt it into a fantasy setting.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I haven’t always wanted to be a creative, but it’s always been with me. I drew a lot as a child, and told myself stories through pictures. I grew into a decent artist, but it’s never been a big enough passion in my life to try to make a career out of it. I really started writing in high school. That was when I first toyed with the idea of becoming a writer. It was something that came naturally to me, and the novels that I read throughout my youth obviously had a big impact on that. I liked the way a book could take you to a completely different reality or experience. What started as a desire to deeper explore the stories I read eventually evolved into creating and then telling my own. The actual decision to become a writer, however, happened much later, after I moved to Japan.
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 lot of the worlds in my separate stories intersect. Sometimes it’s out of convenience. Other times it’s more of a ‘hey, wouldn’t this be cool if these were connected?’ sort of thing. One of the nice things about writing fantasy is that one book focusing on one region can be expanded into an entire globe of places, people and cultures. Not all of that makes it to the page, obviously, but when the imagination hits on something, I tend to tack it on to the nebulous sub-reality that is my fiction.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
If art is what you want to do, then do it. There will be lots of people telling you that it’s a pointless pursuit, a dead-end career with little to no chance of commercial success. You may have to be the only one championing your dream, so do so loudly, over the din of everyone else.
You’ll have moments of thinking your art is pointless. It’s not. There will be times when you feel you’re no good and you’re not getting anywhere and everyone else is light years ahead of you in terms of talent and success. The reality is that art is a skill like anything else that must be practiced. Talent helps, but without the drive and the dedication to try and fail, try and fail, try and fail again and again, you’re not going to advance.
Finally, never stop trying to improve. If you feel like you’ve learned all there is to know, find someone who knows more than you. If you look at your work and you can’t find any more mistakes, find that person who will be able to red line all its flaws. Work with critiquers who know how to balance your vision with suggestions for improvement, and always look for people who are unafraid to point out your mistakes. Yes-men are useless and counter productive to an artist, no matter how much our egos may want them.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Bi-romantic asexual, I suppose, though I don’t think about it all that much.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Not specifically, no, though not many people know that I’m asexual. Not that I hide it, but I don’t feel the need to announce it, either. I tend to simplify my relationship to ‘lesbian’ though, to avoid having to give complicated explanations.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
I suppose it’s the idea that a relationship can’t be healthy if it doesn’t include sex. If a relationship contains people who have a mutual understanding of what the relationship is going to mean, and where it is going in the future, if it is mutually gratifying to both (or more) parties, then it is a healthy relationship. For some people, sex is a part of this mutual gratification. For others, it’s not. Sex for me is just not something I think about. At all. It’s not what attracts me to my partner (which, for the record does not equate to not finding my partner attractive which is another misconception). It took some getting used to for both of us, but we’ve since settled into a comfortable understanding of each other, and continue to have a loving, fulfilling relationship without sex.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
First of all, just be who you feel that you are. That goes for anyone, really. Don’t be a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. You’ll make yourself miserable trying to fit someone else’s definition of who you should be.
Secondly, the more you know, the more comfortable you’ll feel. Asexuality isn’t as out there as some other expressions of sexuality, but awareness is growing. Don’t be afraid to question and explore yourself, and search for others like you. It’s very unlikely that you’re the only one feeling as you do. You’re not alone.
Finally, don’t let anyone tell you that sex is necessary to be a healthy, well-adjusted individual. It’s not true. If you feel that sex isn’t a part of who you are, then it may not be. That’s fine. It doesn’t make you broken, or sick. It just makes you different from the people who find enjoyment and fulfillment in sex.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
You can find my writing updates, information about new releases, book reviews and samples of visual art on my blog: https://njmagas.wordpress.com/
Thank you so much, N J, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.