Please introduce yourself! Who are you? What are your passions, hobbies, interests?
Romana Hassan: I’m Romana, a Muslim American writer and overall artist.
Jaecyn Boné: I’m Jaecyn, a queer, disabled, Asian-American writer, artist, and stay at home parent. My passions include upending the status quo, challenging the patriarchy, and continually educating myself on the injustices of the world. My hobby list is pretty extensive; currently I’m into candle making, gardening, junk journaling, makeup, witchcraft (I’m a pagan witch), cooking, writing, reading, digital art, video gaming, and tabletop gaming. I’m a huge nerd; I collect Magic: The Gathering cards, play in local tournaments, and I also participate in two different Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, one of which I lead.
Archer Long: I’m Archer or Adik (they/them), a queer Asian-American writer and student. Ninety percent of my life is taken up by either writing stories or consuming them, and the other ten percent I use to talk about those stories with other people. When I’m not doing either of those things, though, I also like cooking, listening to music, and hanging out with my dog.
Mo McGee: My name is Mo! I’m a queer, disabled, internationally and interracially adopted Asian American. Besides writing, my favorite hobbies are cross stitch, cosplay, embroidery, video games, ttrpgs, and talking with friends. My passions right now are mostly academic, as I have been studying to go into curatorial work at a museum. Obviously I’m a bit on the nerdier side, and I’m planning on combining two of my interests (Late Republic Rome and ttrpgs) into a homebrew ttrpg game for my friends.
Elyssa D Perkins: My name is Lyss, short for Elyssa. My biggest passions are writing and music and my life goals often revolve around creating, learning, and traveling. When I’m not at work as a nurse, I spend my average day reading both fiction and non-, reading, singing and playing piano, and playing with my cat. My post-COVID dream is to return to dancing in clubs, wandering museums, and haunting airports.
Misha Boone: Greetings! I am Misha! (Please imagine a bow with a flourish here.) I am an epicurean, or at least I aim to be: lover of cats and cozy afternoons reading, inhabiter of museums and historical intrigue, longing for the bite of the cold and the kiss of rain, and happiest sleeping in the middle.
Joyce Creed: My name is Joy. I'm Black, genderqueer and pansexual. My hobbies include writing, cooking, baking, and embroidery. But my favorite would have to be reading; I crave it more than anything in this world. It's my escape, and one of the biggest reasons why I started writing, but it also soothes my hunger for knowledge.
When did you start writing and what started you on your writing journey?
Romana: I’ve been writing ever since I was a child. I couldn’t tell you why I started, it just always felt natural to me. There have been times where I’ve stepped away from writing for various reasons, but I always come back to it. The reason I do is my need to be creative, to tell stories. Storytelling is something so instinctive to human nature and it is an essential part of human society. As someone who is marginalized and who wants to challenge injustices, I write because it’s one of the few ways I can make my voice heard.
Jaecyn: I started writing in middle school. I was obsessed with this book series, Gossip Girl, and I started writing a Gossip Girl spinoff story with myself as the main character. Around the same time, I got really into Inuyasha and wrote fan fiction for that!
Archer: I started writing pretty much as soon as I learned how to write. I was obsessed with stories, and wanted more than anything to be the person to be creating those stories. I published my first poem in the first grade, wrote my first book in the second grade, and then finally was able to publish my first short story in high school. Writing is something that I literally cannot be without—I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone a single day without writing or at least brainstorming for my writing projects. It’s as much a part of me as breathing.
Mo: My writing story started fairly early on, around 3rd grade, where I would scribble random ideas into notebooks. I actually started writing poetry. In that same grade, I was invited to read a poem I wrote for a poem writing competition. However, I soon moved on to prose. In high school, I joined a writing club and started on the first of what would be several unfinished novels and series, though I found one of my true loves in short stories.
Lyss: My writing journey began in second grade. A teacher invited me to the young author’s conference and in order to attend I needed to write a story. I wrote a wannabe Laura Ingalls story on an internet-free Windows 95 beneath my loft bed. On and off teachers invited me to do similar things, but writing of my own volition really took off at the age of thirteen with my RP and fanfic days when a friend told me she liked to write rather than play pretend. It was also at this age that my pile of long but unfinished novels began its climb.
Misha: I have been writing since I was very young, maybe 6 or 7 years old. I wrote because I was compelled to--not in an artistic way, but for school. The thing that stopped me for the longest time was the co-requisite illustrations for anything we wrote in school… I have no eye for proportion and no talent for drawing. Once I was freed of those limitations by about age 13, though, I started writing for me. My writing was atrocious and made me very happy, and I’ve only gotten better since then!
Joy: I started writing in middle school. My English teacher gave me an assignment where I had to write a fictional story and when I was done, she and the class loved it. Obviously, I ended up loving it, too, because I spent my free time after homework, and the days after that, typing up short stories on Microsoft Word.
At first, I was doing it just for fun, but then, I one day decided to take it more seriously; I wanted to be an actual writer. Like I said before, reading was one of the biggest reasons why I started writing. It offered me a type of escape that nothing else did. Every time I read a book, I became so immersed in the story that I could see and hear everything in it. Replicating that feeling in other readers became my motivation to continue writing.
What’s your favorite genre to write in and why?
Romana: It’s so difficult to pick just one genre because it is always so much more beautiful what multiple genres can do together. Fantasy and mystery or historical fiction and horror are probably my favorite combinations. I love to take the cliches of the genres and flip them on their heads or turn them into something new. A cliche in fantasy can be something entirely different in a historical fiction.
Jaecyn: My favorite genre to write is absolutely dark fantasy. I’m actually branching off into gothic fantasy now as well. Dark fantasy intrigued me because it’s all about worldbuilding, right? But it’s also able to touch on the dark aspects of life, the stuff that isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I don’t want people to be comfortable when they read my stories; I want them to be on the edge of their seat and slightly horrified.
Archer: I love mixing fantasy and realism together the most, seeing how magic can interact with the more mundane aspects of life. I also love putting characters through really awful situations and then letting them heal through it as a form of therapy.
Mo: My favorite genre to write in is a bit hard to pin down actually, but it’s a mix of historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. I’m a worldbuilder at heart, and love to create intricate worlds that also address issues of racism and prejudice, as well as take world defining historical moments and imagine them from the view of a common person. Currently I’m writing a group of short stories that genre wise is a strange mix of science fiction and historical fiction that focuses on Eldritch deities and immortal humans who have subtly and unsubtly made their mark on human history.
Lyss: My favorite genres are fantasy and its subgenres. I often feel as though I can’t help myself when it comes to world building. Very rarely do I manage to make my way through any story without an unplanned magic system, mythology, religion, government, or culture popping in and refusing to leave. I’m certainly always glad to let them stay.
Misha: I love historical fiction, urban fantasy, and what you might call historical fantasy, though it’s not based in geopolitical history so much as sociopolitical theory. The way that people interact with institutions and power fascinates me--how does an individual respond when confronted with an institution that is asking them to violate their beliefs? How does the larger society shape that conflict? Can just societies be built?
Joy: After taking some time to think, my favorite genre—at least, one of my favorites—would probably be mystery. Creating a case is my favorite part, right next to forming the sleuth that'd solve it. It's fun trying to think up clues or riddles. Sometimes, I get so caught up in it that I go overboard and it takes a life of its own.
You’re an editor for Limeoncello Literary Magazine, a publication that specializes in OwnVoices stories. Why is that important to you?
Romana: As I mentioned before, one of the major reasons I write in general is to share my voice, for those who are like me. OwnVoice stories are so valuable because they are so rare. There is no limit to the creative talent of marginalized individuals, but they have all been limited in platforms willing to publish their work. The publishing industry is still overwhelmingly white, cishet, male, able-bodied. Even when works are “diverse,” the writers usually are not, which ends up giving us inauthentic or poor representation. Misrepresentation can be just as harmful as none at all. We deserve to see ourselves written as the main characters of all types of stories in all types of genres.
Jaecyn: We started this magazine to uplift marginalized, persecuted, and underrepresented authors. This is so important to me because publishing, by and large, is run by white, allocishet, able bodied, neurotypical people, and when that’s not you, trying to enter this world is an excruciating uphill battle. I want to help change that. I wanted to create a space for people like me to have their voices and stories heard, without having to fight.
Archer: Ever since I started figuring out my identity and how my differences are strengths and not just reasons to get bullied, I wanted to write things that would’ve helped me when I was younger—things that I needed to see on shelves. I can’t imagine how different my life would be if I had grown up seeing bisexual, trans, disabled, Indonesian, etc. representation in the books that I loved. But I also understand that there are people who are writing those things who just can’t get them out to people, and that’s not their fault. That’s the fault of the publishing industry, and it needs to change. Even if this is just a small magazine, Limeoncello is going to be part of the movement that changes that. We’re providing a space where people don’t have to fight with the industry to get their stories out, where people can go to see their stories being told by people who are like them. That’s something worth fighting for.
Mo: OwnVoices to me is important because representation in the media we consume is so important. Too often those who need representation the most aren’t allowed to tell their own stories, or they have to fight to get them told. As both an Asian American from India and an adoptee, I have so rarely seen media that accurately represents me in either of those identities that is not cliched or borderline offensive, and that’s not even touching my queer identity or disabilities. Although there are a slowly growing number of asexual, nonbinary, and bisexual characters in media, oftentimes that representation still skews towards the harmful, especially for bisexuals and nonbinary people. Additionally, those with ADHD still don’t have a lot of concrete representation, often having to find or make our own, and characters who rely on braces for various joints or need canes to walk long distances and are still young are almost nowhere to be found. I remember a lot of discussions with friends who are similarly marginalized creators about the crumbs of representation we’ve been thrown that are written by people who don’t have our lived experiences and how it never quite seems enough: there’s always something off about it. Thus, representation is a huge factor in my support, as I want to see people like me get proper representation.
Lyss: Own Voices is extremely important to me as I know the power of representation both for myself and for others. A child of the 90s, I saw myself in nothing. I’m female, so that’s where it started: always playing a boy character as a child because girls were never written to be interesting or main characters. When I first watched Stranger Things I said how I wished that Eleven had been around when I was young. Katniss Everdeen being “unlikeable” by girl standards, brave, and practical was my very first exposure to any female main character like me and by that point I was already in college. I came from a time and generation where I had to unlearn internalized misogyny just to write interesting women. At times I even had to write them as men first until I learned. And though representation of women is growing, being gay as well as bipolar, I still never see my exact self in writing. Put simply, I know what it is like to feel alone because the world around me constantly implies that no one else like me exists: that I should be male to be bold, that I should be straight to love and to be loved, that I should either be perfectly functioning to be sane or entirely out of control and locked away to be acknowledged as mentally ill, that I can never just be me at the exact level that I am. Own Voices representation in particular is important because those who have been ignored cannot be understood. If the majority of people refused to listen to the under-represented, how are they going to know enough to represent those groups? Oftentimes, they do so so poorly that it is to speak over groups with what they like to imagine members of those groups feel and think. Own Voices can help ensure that under-represented narratives are controlled by the group, ensuring genuine and accurate representation and ensuring that those who truly need to be heard on a topic finally have the power to shout it from the rooftops.
Misha: I’m Queer—gender non-conforming, polyamorous, pansexual. I’ve been exploring and understanding my Neurodiversity, and learning that I’m not broken so much as trying to navigate a world not made for me.. I’m Fat, inhabiting a body that many have seen, and do see, as less-than, as unworthy of love, as devoid of sexuality.Mine is a voice that is marginalized, and I want to raise it to tell my own stories, but I can’t do that alone. Our voices as a collective are powerful, and those of us who exist on the margins and in liminal spaces must raise one another up if we’re going to be heard.
Joy: When privileged (read: cishet, white, able-bodied) authors finally write you into their story, there's a 20% chance of it going well and another 80% where it doesn't. It dives into the deep end of caricatures, of stereotypes, of essentially misrepresenting an integral part of who you are. It leads me to believe that some people don't understand—or they underestimate—the effects this ends up having on us.
Even OwnVoice stories can be hijacked, once again leaving us misrepresented, except it's on our own turf; it's our stories being told from a perspective that never had the right to tell it, but continues to do so regardless.
And what sucks even more is that this misrepresentation tends to take the most spotlight; it's now how most people view you, and how you struggle to not see yourself.
An authentic OwnVoice story gives you the type of validation that you can't find anywhere else. The type of recognition you get from it can be so refreshing, even moving, because it's different from what you're used to seeing about your identity. It's why it's so important to me, because as a dark-skinned Black person, donning the nickname “Gorilla” until middle school, I never had that. I wish I did. Now, I'm in a position that allows me to make sure no one else has that same wish.
Tell us about a writing project you’re particularly proud of.
Romana: My current writing project, which is also my goal for 2021, is a yet unnamed collection of interconnected short stories that features characters of color and explores the themes of aestheticism and decadence, femininity, and internalized bigotry through several genres such as fantasy, horror, and realism.
Jaecyn: I recently had a story picked up by Lost Boys Press for their Chimera anthology. It’s a short story about a mermaid and a pirate, and it’s the first story I ever wrote that is gothic horror. It’s probably the finest piece of literature I’ve ever written and it’s also the very first writing I will ever have published. It’s the story that made me an author, and I’m overjoyed by that!
Archer: Last year, I started a project called His Evening Star that was entirely just for fun. I wanted it to be a break from my more serious projects—something I could just mess around with. Something that was just for me and not anyone else. But I kept writing, and I kept writing, and then it was 100k words and only halfway done, and it had somehow turned into one of the best, most enjoyable writing experiences I’ve ever had. I printed that first half into paperback copies and sent them to my friends, and am so excited to write the second half and conclude what is not only a love story, but also a man’s villain origin story.
Mo: My favorite piece of writing is a short fluff piece I wrote with two of my immortal human characters, a married couple consisting of a trans man (he/him) who has an extensive history as a pirate and a masculine presenting nonbinary person (he/they/it) who has had visions of the future since the founding of Rome and knows about the fourth wall. It was short, but extremely sweet. It was also the first time my writing was compared to a Hozier song in terms of enjoyment and that is the highest compliment I could have ever received.
Lyss: Although it’s not a piece itself, I’ve always been particularly proud of my world building regarding how angels from my WIP The Highest Do Fall perceive time. They see time as a cycling spiral and are able to look both backward and toward adjacent strands of the spiral. A more detailed explanation can be found here.
Misha: One of the projects I’m proudest of, oddly enough, is one that completely failed and is currently composting, hopefully growing something new. I started a sort of urban fantasy that revolved around a young woman who burst into my brain fully-formed, a young Black woman named Dea. What began as a NaNoWriMo project taught me a lot about the limits of my abilities and solidified my understanding about why there is absolutely no substitute for OwnVoices. I struggled with Dea and her story for months before I decided that the novel, as it existed in my brain, was not mine to write. I’m proud of the work I did, I’m proud of the things I learned, and I’m proud of being able to put it down and walk away when it became clear I wasn’t the right one to tell that iteration of this story.
Joy: A project I'm proud of is a murder mystery novel that's been in the works since 2018. It's grown a lot since then, and I'm pretty happy with how it's turning out.
(Optional) Give us a snippet of your writing, up to 500 words.
Archer: From His Evening Star, Chapter One:
“For someone who is about to sign a year of his life away,” said a voice somewhere behind him, “you are awfully lost in thought.”
Khun turned around. Yates was standing in the kitchen holding a wok. He was wearing a black apron around his waist, and after he dished out his food—some kind of stir fry—he pulled off the apron and tossed it on the counter. Khun, for some reason, said the first thing that came to mind: “No bodyguards today?”
“Didn’t think I needed them. You aren’t stupid enough to try to hurt me.” He gestured to the food; he’d set out two plates and filled them both. “Have you eaten already?”
“I—yes. But, you know, I’m always hungry.” He paused, and Yates just looked at him. “Are you offering?”
“I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t. Go ahead and sit down.”
Khun carefully slid into one of the bar seats and accepted the pair of chopsticks Yates handed him. He really was ridiculously handsome. He was wearing the same kind of black shirt and black slacks combination he had on yesterday—no jacket this time—but it was even worse now that he was cooking.
“What’s with that expression?”
Khun blinked at Yates. “Did I make an expression?”
“You looked confused.” Yates pushed one of the plates toward him. “It’s just stir-fry. Never had stir-fry?”
“Of course I’ve had stir-fry,” Khun said. “It’s just…been a while since anyone’s cooked for me.”
Yates picked up his own chopsticks and put a piece of broccoli in his mouth. He chewed delicately, deliberately. Khun wasn’t sure if someone could be an expert in eating, but Yates sure looked like he was. Everything he did seemed so purposeful and controlled. Khun, even though he was barely doing anything to warrant feeling like an oaf, felt very much like an oaf. “That Sami doesn’t cook for you?”
“No. I’m pretty sure he has no idea how to cook.”
Yates raised an eyebrow.
“Didn’t think you would know how to cook either,” Khun admitted. “Being who you are and all. I figured you’d just get people to cook for you.”
“Being who I am,” Yates repeated. He put a piece of broccoli into his mouth, chewed through it, swallowed, and then said, “And what do you know about me, Dr. Khun?”
Aissi. “Just what Sami told me.”
Yates gave Khun that slow, sly smile. “You can’t just stop there. Come on. What did Sami tell you? He must have told you more after your meeting with me, right?”
Finally, Khun tried the stir-fry. He was doing the same thing as Sami, he knew—eating to avoid talking—but it was damn good. Of course Yates was good at cooking. Of course he was. “Just that you’re part of a mafia of some sort and that you’re high up. And also that you might be the leader, but Sami didn’t think you were.”
“And why’s that?”
Khun looked at Yates, trying to gauge what he was thinking, but his face was totally unreadable. Was he angry? “Because you let me live,” he said. “Because you’re willing to let me work off the bet.”
Mo: Icarus stirred softly. It was fairly late at night, and Gold had already fallen asleep at its back, one arm slung low over its hips, nose nestled in the small of its back. Icarus smiled softly at its partner. Its relationship with Gold was an odd one. The best term Icarus had found for it was a queer relationship, and Gold had taken to the term with his typical gusto and enthusiasm. Now though, he was quiet except for the occasional snuffle, black hair in a messy halo around his head. Icarus leaned down and whispered “Gold”. As predicted, there was no response except for a slight snuffle. Icarus slowly slid down until it was resting with its back to Gold’s chest, with Gold’s nose now buried in the nape of its neck and his arm around Icarus’s middle. Gold, for his part, let out a warm breath and tightened his grip momentarily in sleep, twining their legs together until it was hard to see where Icarus’s legs ended and Gold’s began. Icarus gently lifted one of Gold’s hands to its lips and whispered “I love you” before letting itself drift off to sleep. The next morning, Gold awoke with a yawn. He had apparently shifted overnight so that Icarus was now half resting on his chest, legs sprawled to the side. Gold gently ran his fingers through Icarus’s hair, trying not to wake his partner. Icarus often said that, because they were fictional, they didn’t need to sleep, and merely did so out of a sense of routine. So Gold getting to see his partner sleep was a rare but treasured sight. The sunlight just coming in through the porthole window turned Icarus’s normally mousy brown hair to a reddish gold, and illuminated the dust motes drifting lazily downward. It almost felt like a dream. Icarus murmured in their sleep, pressing into Gold’s hand. Gold smiled and leaned down to press a soft kiss into their hair. Icarus murmured again, tucking themselves tighter into Gold’s side. Gold smiled down at them. It wasn’t like either of them needed to be up early, the ship was a hardy old girl. It really wouldn’t hurt to let Icarus sleep in, and Gods only knew how much they needed that extra sleep. So that’s exactly what Gold planned to do: keep gently running his fingers through Icarus’s hair, lay back against the pillows, and watch the Sun turn his partner golden in its light.
Lyss: It isn’t for twenty years that the bridge comes again. It bursts into its place as any other time, a white hot vision on a horizon known as the end of the world. The surroundings have changed little: a path, a forest, a volcanic-black chasm, and a hill opposite a field that seems to mirror the bridge itself.
The guard glances around. Their own vision is far sharper than should be possible—it seeks horizons much farther. The sun is setting, but not in this place. A aerie of eagles is hatching, but not in this place.
In this place, or nearly, a boy is running, desperately panting, grasses whipping his skin, thorns ripping him raw. The guard nods to themself and glances at this place’s sun, which is very nearly to the very top of its turn around heaven. They have about an hour until the boy should have arrived, and about an hour besides until he actually does.
So, they light a pipe. It’s a foolish thing, to be sure, for humans whose lungs depend on the breath of fresh air, but the guard is of the people the humans took such an idea from. Breathing smoke and fire is little to them. Their pipe is much smaller—much shorter—than humans can tolerate and yet they breathe in the smoke quickly, as hot as can be. It warms them from the inside at least.
Earth is always far too cold, and so humans are made for frigidity. That must be why they trust a bridge made of light and cold marble rather than volcanic rock hot with life. Or perhaps they simply fear the fall.
These two explanations are hotly contested among the guard’s people.
As they wait, they watch a city on the other side of the world, burnished gold, bright as bird plumes, food sweetened with the finest honey in the world. The streets are bloodied and mottled as two groups battle over a coup.
Panting overtakes the guard’s careful contemplation of the intricate braiding carved into gold armor plates scattered over the market ground, and the guard looks away from the city and looks to this place where a boy is hustling over a hill.
The guard slips their pipe up their sleeve and prepares their ever-changing face with a smile.