Asexual Authors Discuss Why They Write And Their Experiences: 5×5

Five authors on the asexual spectrum answer five questions about the writing process, identity, and gender. Read on to understand their experiences.

5x5 Author's Corner Diverse Voices LGBTQ Voices
Sarah Whalen, Lauren Jankowski, Michele Kirichanskaya, Dianna Gunn, Minerva Cerriweden Bookstr's 5 by 5, Five QUestions For FIve Authors

Everyone writes differently and everyone has different reasons for writing. Many authors were influenced by experiences in their lives. Many people also write with the hope of having a positive impact on their readers. We spoke to five authors who all identify somewhere on the asexual spectrum. Each author was asked to answer the same five questions. They discussed their reasons for writing and their writing style. They also went into how they hope to affect their readers and how their queerness and place on the asexual spectrum influence their writing. 

Lauren Jankowski

Lauren Jankowski

(She/Her) A fantasy author who also incorporates elements of mystery and horror, Lauren is an openly aromantic asexual. She has been reading her whole life and writing since she was a teenager. Lauren’s five-book series, The Shapeshifter Chronicles, tells the story of a race of shape-shifters that protect the earth and can shift from human to animal. One thing that inspired Lauren to write was the lack of strong independent queer women in popular literature so she set out to accomplish it herself.

Minerva Cerridwen

Minerva Cerriweden holding her novella The Dragon of Ynys

(Xe/Xem/Xyr or She/Her) Cerridwen is a fantasy, science fiction, and horror author from Belgium. Xe identifies as genderqueer, aromantic, and asexual. Xe often writes about characters with similar experiences and identities. Xyr novella, The Dragon of Ynys, features an aro ace main character. Xyr first published work was a short story called “Match Sticks” in Unburied Fables, an anthology of queer retellings of fairy tales. Xe continues to write short stories and poems often found in anthologies.

Sarah Whalen

Sarah Whalen holding her book This Doesn’t Mean Anything

(She/Her) Whalen is a fiction writer with a focus on young adult and new adult romance. Identifying as Asexual, her novel, This Doesn’t Mean Anything is the first in a series of four interconnected books. The book’s main character, Spencer, finds herself in college as she discovers the meaning of asexual and how this may affect her romantic relationships moving forward.

Dianna Gunn

DIanna Gunn

(She/Her) A fantasy and horror author, as well as an artist, Gunn identifies as asexual and polyamorous. She also wrote Moonshadow’s Guardian, a fantasy novel about a demon who desires freedom. The book also features gods, vampires, and a dragon. She also founded the Weeknight Writers Group, which aims to provide “accessible and affordable education and community support for writers.”

Michele Kirichanskaya

Art work of Michele Kirichanskaya

A first-generation Ukrainian Jewish writer, Kirichanskaya has many different focuses. Their nonfiction work is compiled mostly of narrative nonfiction and essays. In fiction, they write contemporary realistic, and fantasy. Kirichanskaya identifies as asexual and has written about asexuality in pop culture. Their first nonfiction book, Ace Notes: Tips and Tricks on Existing in an Allo World, works to add to a currently lacking list of nonfiction works that cover asexuality.

The Questions

1. Why do you write?

Lauren Jankowski: I write the stories that I needed and wanted to read when I was growing up. I write about strong queer women who go on adventures and value friendships as much as romantic relationships. I do my best to dismantle love hierarchies in my work.

Minerva Cerridwen: For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved stories. Before I could read, I could be found holding a book of fairy tales and telling them—or rather, a made-up version of these tales—to my stuffed animals. I loved books, and then it turned out I could write my own! I still find childlike joy in the idea of sharing the stories that wander about in my mind.

Sarah Whalen: I’ve always been an avid reader, so I guess it was a natural progression into writing. When I was younger, I used to carry around loose-leaf sheets of paper to write stories during recess. I quickly realized that I never felt like I was represented in the books I was reading as a Vietnamese American girl, nor did I really see any Vietnamese authors/books that weren’t related to the Vietnam War in some way.

I wanted to be able to write books that made other people feel seen and include nuances and references that I never saw. I wanted to show characters like me living out tropes and clichés, the way I’d read about so many other types of characters.

Dianna Gunn: I write because I can’t imagine not writing. There are stories inside of me that are desperate to get out, and writing is the way those stories can be brought into our world and shared with others who might need them (almost) as much as I do.

Michele Kirichanskaya: I guess I write in the same way some humans choose to speak out loud: to communicate, to say the things I want to say and need to say. The purpose of my writing, whether in writing non-fiction, geeking out about my interests or fiction, exploring memory and identity, is to be truthful in ways I don’t think I could have gotten to be without writing it down or typing it on a computer. Writing helps me process information, like recording my memories in a given period of time or organizing my thoughts on a certain subject, so it’s definitely been helpful for me. Especially when I get paid to write about things I like, lol.

2. How do you hope your writing affects your readers?

Lauren Jankowski: I hope my readers see themselves in a character (or characters) in my story. I truly believe that everyone deserves to see themselves in the stories we tell. For too long, too many people have been made to feel invisible.

Minerva Cerridwen: I hope to offer an escape from everyday life, in a world where you can meet dragons or magicians or monsters. I like to include elements in my stories that spark joy in me or make me feel seen, in the hope that the same is true for my readers. Including queer representation is an important part of that. Knowing that someone else, even if it’s a fictional character, shares our experience can create a connection strong enough to beat feeling lonely or excluded.

Sarah Whalen: I really hope that anyone who reads my books gets a sense of comfort or belonging. I hope my books help people realize that they are so much more than what society condemns them for “lacking,” and that they feel seen in a way I wish I had when I was younger.

Dianna Gunn: First, I want my fiction to give people safe spaces to explore the darker side of humanity and human living, and (in most of my stories) a sense that they can find their way through that darkness to hope. Second, I want to inspire others to tell their own stories. I want other people who are poor, who are disabled, who are neurodivergent, who are LGBTQIA+, to see my stories and realize that their own stories also have power and deserve to be shared. Of course, my end goal is to make a living at this, but if my stories can inspire even one other person to write their own, I’ve accomplished something powerful.

Michele Kirichanskaya: I can’t always predict how readers will react to my writing, but I hope that they take away good things from my work, like maybe learning something new or feeling “seen” or “reflected” in the things I write about. When readers have reached out to me in the past, saying how they felt they could relate to something I had written about, and that it made them feel less alone, which genuinely made me feel very honored and touched. 

3. What does a full day of writing look like for you? What’s your writing routine?

Lauren Jankowski: It depends on if I have a shift at my side hustle. I usually don’t write on days I have a shift because of how utterly exhausting my side hustle is. On the days I don’t work a shift, I’m writing on and off throughout the day. I tend to write at least 10 pages if I’m in a good headspace, but sometimes I can only manage a paragraph or jotting down some notes on where I want a story to go when I get going again.

Minerva Cerridwen: To be honest, I’m still looking for something I can really call a routine, as my schedule varies from day to day. But I’m always much more of an evening person than an early riser. Especially on hot summer days like the ones we’re currently having here in Belgium, I like to be writing late at night, when my brain no longer feels like it might overheat if I dare use it, and the world has quieted down so I can hear my own stories just a little better.

Sarah Whalen: My day-to-day varies, sometimes I light a candle, sit at my desk, drink an emotional support matcha, turn on a playlist, and word dump. Other days, I write from Google Docs on my phone in bed. Being chronically ill means I have to listen to my body and adjust my goalposts and expectations for myself, and that I sometimes have to go outside of the conventional writing routine if I want anything to get done.

Dianna Gunn: A full day of writing, at this point, feels kind of like a dream to me, but it does happen on occasion. And it’s not usually an eight-hour day; writing fiction is the kind of deep work that most people simply can’t do for more than a few hours a day. Most of my writing days involve about an hour of stretching, an hour of going through notes/revisiting what I last wrote, and then 2-3 hours of actual writing or editing. On a really inspired day, I might go for 4-5 hours, but I never hit the full eight hours.

Michele Kirichanskaya: That’s tricky to answer because my writing schedule or routine can often change on a day-to-day basis depending on whether I’m doing full-time or part-time work, as well as my own energy levels which can fluctuate. Even though I’ve been writing for a while, I feel like I’m still learning what’s the best way to write for me, because I’m still learning how to navigate times when I feel most productive versus times when I need to listen to my brain and body and take some time to rest.

4. When did you discover that language and words had power?

Lauren Jankowski: I was a little girl in 5th grade and the teacher read “The Book of Three” to my class. Hearing Lloyd Alexander’s description of the plucky little Eilonwy, who was a girl who went on adventures just like the boys, it lit a fire in me and showed me that girls could also be active (we didn’t all have to be the princess waiting for a prince to rescue her. Hell, that’s probably when I realized not every girl needs a boy).

Minerva Cerridwen: As much as I’ve always loved stories and learning languages, I think that, in a way, I’ve only fully begun to appreciate the importance of using the right word in the right place since I ventured on the quest of rewriting The Dragon of Ynys with the help of editor E.D.E. Bell before the new edition was published in 2020. The earlier ebook edition, from a different publisher, had used phrases I had heard when people in my environment talked about queerness.

In the years that followed, I discovered that they had not sounded as inclusive as I had intended, and this made me acknowledge how much queerphobia I had internalized, even though at that time I had come to a point where I felt comfortable in my identity as a queer person. More importantly, this made me realize how the reverse is also true: a simple adaptation of the language we use in everyday life as well as in our stories can make marginalized groups feel infinitely more welcomed. Words are magical like that!

Sarah Whalen: I had selective mutism from about age 5 to age 12. This meant that I had to learn how to communicate without spoken language or words, which, when you’re that young, means that you realize pretty quickly how the way you speak/write language affects your life experiences. Specifically, I think we should understand how language combats the assumptions that people make — and this applies to such a wide range of things.

Literally speaking, people seemed to assume that because I couldn’t speak, it also meant I couldn’t hear or read. I had to constantly prove that I could comprehend and communicate things, which often meant writing things out. Outside of this, I think about how saying gendered terms like husband/wife excludes so many people, either assuming heterosexuality or a strict designation in the gender binary. Or something like how “more than friends,” assumes that platonic relationships are somehow below romantic/sexual relationships. These are just a few pointed examples; I could go on and on.

Dianna Gunn: I’m not sure there was a time when I didn’t know that words and stories have power. I grew up in a very bookish family, and stories have always been part of my life. I also was bullied a lot as a kid, which teaches you the power of words in another way: it teaches you how much they can hurt. My awareness of the power of words and stories grew a lot in my teen years, too, as I developed a fascination with history and began to understand the power of propaganda.

I learned how stories can be used to manipulate huge swathes of people, and how even stories that state their fictional nature can influence how we see the world. Those lessons have helped me understand my own responsibility as an author, a person with the potential to shape how other people see the world in a major way, and it’s this understanding that has led to me writing more inclusive casts with every story.

Michele Kirichanskaya: I discovered language and words had power from a pretty early age. I grew up as a first-generation kid in a multilingual world with varying degrees of fluency between the languages spoken in my home, as well as going through years of speech therapy.

All of that made language often feel like a very delicate, if not dangerous thing, because if I wasn’t feeling self-conscious about my voice, like being laughed at for mispronouncing something in school, then I was feeling left out of conversations with loved ones who weren’t totally fluent in English, which was the dominant language of my outside environment. There’s this quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world,” and that definitely feels true to me. So now, I work not to feel so limited anymore.

5. Do you think your queerness/place on the asexual spectrum influences your writing? If yes how so?

Lauren Jankowski: Oh god yes. It definitely does. It affects how I write my characters, who are all queer. My characters experience the world similar to the way I do. My rejection of love hierarchies influences how I write relationships. I tend to focus more on friendships and other platonic bonds. Those are more interesting to me and more fun to explore.

Minerva Cerridwen: Absolutely. We live in a world where the most-heard marketing device is that “sex sells”. And yet I know I’m definitely not the only one who’s relieved when a character is explicitly shown not to have any interest in that or is interested in ways that are far removed from the mainstream concept that if a story contains a male and a female character, they have to end up feeling the Attraction™. I make a point of including asexual representation in many of my stories, and queer acceptance even became a plot point in my novella, The Dragon of Ynys.

Even in the queer community, being asexual can sometimes feel lonely because many people’s identities are based on whom they’re attracted to in ways I can’t relate to at all. Sharing asexual experiences feels important both to fellow aces who are looking for characters like themselves, and to allosexual readers who might understand us a little better, just like we all learn from reading about experiences different from our own.

Sarah Whalen: I think it does. Most of my characters fall somewhere on the asexual spectrum because my experiences have shaped me so profoundly, that trying to write non-aspect characters can be a challenge. I don’t mean to say that my characters’ asexuality is their sole character trait, but it does impact how they see themselves and interact with each other and the world around them.

Dianna Gunn: My asexuality, and queerness more generally, absolutely influences my writing. The most obvious way it influences my writing is that I can’t write sexual tension to save my life. Most of my main characters are somewhere on the asexual spectrum, partially because it’s just easier to not have to even try to write sexual tension, and partially because I believe we need more asexual representation. As I’ve explored my own relationship to relationships (talk about meta), I’ve also become more comfortable exploring a variety of relationships in my work.

The novel I have out right now is a project I started many, many years ago and is therefore pretty straight, but there are some queer characters in it and my stories seem to become more queer every year that I continue writing. In 20 years I suspect there won’t be a single straight person in the stories I’m writing — and that’s honestly pretty cool.

Michele Kirichanskaya: Definitely. I often write about the subjects that matter to me and queerness/asexuality is one of those subjects. In the past, I’ve written about asexuality in pop culture, and as I got older and lived more experiences as an ace person, I’ve started writing more about asexuality because I figured the media needed to pay more attention to it, and that maybe some ace people could resonate with that part of my work.

My book, Ace Notes: Tips and Tricks on Existing in an Allo World, came out of the desire to have more non-fiction books covering asexuality, to hopefully share some of the information I learned about being ace and being part of the ace community and make it more accessible for other aces.

Find Lauren Jankowski here

Find Minerva Cerridwen here

Find Sarah Whalen here

Find Dianna Gunn here

Find Michele Kirichanskaya here