Today, I welcome fellow NineStar Press author Jacqueline Rohrbach to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk bout asexual representation, balancing writing and mental health, and subverting the “special girl” trope in her upcoming release The Soulstealers, coming soon from NineStar Press.
Jacqueline Rohrbach is an asexual living in windy Central Washington with her husband, two dogs, and two cats. Writing has always been a passion of hers, and when she decided to pursue her dream, she wanted to tell stories of people who are often left out or relegated to secondary character status or put in the villain box. She likes unconventional, even absurd, stories, sweet romances, dark fantasy, and horror. Really, she’ll write and read pretty much anything.
Find Jacqueline online:
What is your writing origin story?
Although I was always an avid reader, I wouldn’t say I was a creative writer or even interested in it until high school. And then one of my teachers told me I was quite good. Cheesy as it sounds, that was the first time any teacher told me I was good at anything, and I sort of embraced that identity. Unfortunately, depression hit me pretty hard around that time, and I convinced myself I was only a good writer while manic. This created a lot of destructive habits around my process, and I had to abandon writing for the sake of my mental health. I only recently came back, but I’m glad I did.
Where do you usually write (share a picture if you’d like) and what are the top three things you usually have around you when you write?
I really only have a laptop and water. I know that’s pretty dull. Sorry.
What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?
For me, it helped me accept that I belonged to a group that I didn’t even know existed. I’ve never been interested in sex, but I always thought something was wrong with me and that I’d be cured after enough therapy. Then, after I wrote and published my first novel, The Worst Werewolf, I learned that other asexual people existed. It was very freeing and a huge turning point in my life in terms of accepting myself.
For that reason, I think representation matters in terms of seeing ourselves but also because it helps us see others. I learned a ton about other identities by reading diverse fiction and following diverse perspectives on Twitter. My lack of knowledge surprised and humbled me. For example, I didn’t know about the use of “they/them” as a pronoun for a single person before I met someone who used those pronouns. So, I’d say representation made me a better person and more responsive to the needs of others.
What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?
Friends to lovers and enemies to lovers have always been my favorite tropes. I especially have a soft spot for friends to lovers or books where friendships are equally important. I remember reading Novak’s Uprooted and falling in love with Kasia and Agnieszka. I adore books with long courtship periods or where the characters misunderstand the other’s motivations so they’re always dancing around their true feelings. I’ll also always have a soft spot for anti-heroes.
The only trope I actively seek to subvert is the notion of the “special girl” who isn’t like the “other” women. When I wrote The Soulstealers, I created a “special girl” character: Arnaka Skytree. Throughout her journey, Arnaka learns other women are wonderful, especially girly girls, and that she needs their help to save the world. I started spite writing it after reading a series (I can’t remember the name of it) where the female hero character is strong because she beats people up, hangs out with men, and spurns women for being “useless.” I was pretty much grrr typing the entire time.
What is your writing process?
I’ll get inspired by something I see, hear, or watch and I’ll put it in my “ideas” folder. Sometimes, an idea is so overwhelming that I’ll stop my other projects to work on it. Usually, however, I plan my projects and stick to my schedule.
Almost always, I know the end of the story before anything else. I’m a pantser, so I usually don’t even have a foggy outline for the story when I begin. I find this helps me take my stories to unexpected places. This usually means I have a lot to do when it’s time to edit, but I’m a person who enjoys the editing process as much as the writing process.
What is your best piece of writing advice?
Learn to filter out people who are giving you ego-based advice. Instead, listen to people who are giving you advice to help you realize your vision of your story. It’s often difficult to hear criticism, but it is an important part of the process and something most writers need. Finding people who want to help you rather than dictate what you should or shouldn’t do can sometimes be difficult. Generally speaking, I tend to avoid people who claim their process is right where every other is wrong and those who claim they are superior writers to every other writer, published or otherwise. To me, that sounds like ego talking rather than an honest drive to help others.
Also, be kind to yourself.
What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?
I am not the same writer when I’m manic, and I should prioritize my mental health and not force myself to work.
What do you hope readers will take away from your work?
That incredible feeling when you’ve read something fantastic and you just say, “Fuck yes!” Maybe I’m the only one who gets that after reading books.
What was your favorite character or scene you’ve written recently?
My favorite scene in recent memory comes from Just in Time, which is my Christmas novella for 2018. In the opening, The Ghosts of Future Past, Present, and Future fail to cure Evan Eazer of his misanthropy or convince him that he needs to make a change. It’s up to Phil (The Ghost of Imaginary Time) to take the lead and help Evan change his heart. I like this scene for its humor but also for Phil’s fragility and his earnest desire to be understood by people and to help them. When Phil tries to explain the concept of imaginary time to Evan, he fails, which leaves him open to ridicule and scorn. However, through his failure he teaches Evan the lesson he came to teach: the world is full of things that can’t be explained and that simple concepts, like the progression of time, are actually quite complex. Phil asks Evan to see beauty in that and he ultimately does.
What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?
Right now I’m working on a paranormal m/m romance. It’s a fun friends-to-lovers where a werewolf falls for his vampire bff. Afterward, I’m kicking around another f/f fantasy novel, which I’m really excited to start!
Arnaka Skytree grew up believing she was chosen to bring new magic to the world. As the heir to the cult of druids responsible for keeping their floating palace habitable for the wealthy aristocracy, she’s expected to wield her power as those before her did: by culling the souls of peasant women.
But when Arnaka learns more about the source of her magic, and that her best friend’s soul will be harvested, she embarks on a journey to end the barbarous practice and to restore a long-forgotten harmonious system of magic practiced by the original druids. Along the way, she discovers she’s not the only girl chosen to restore balance to their world—many others have powerful magic inside, and with them, she will tear the floating palace from the sky so everyone can live in the sun—out of the shadow of the eclipse.
Chelsea Geter is the artist who drew Arnaka for the cover of The Soulstealers, and I’d like to thank her for the amazing job. She really brought Arnaka to life, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her! If you’re interested in seeing more of her art, you can follow her on Instagram or DeviantArt: https://www.instagram.com/liquidxsin/ or https://www.deviantart.com/chelseageter.