Asexual Awareness Week is here! I don’t usually do much during this time, but I’ve decided to spend the week talking about my ace characters and what it’s been like, writing them! I’m partway through writing the series and it’s very interesting to look back and discover how my process and priorities have evolved. I hope you enjoy too!
Henry Schmitt is the MC of Viral Airwaves and my first published ace character, but the path to getting his identity on the page wasn’t as straightforward as I would have liked it. When I put out the first edition in 2015, his identity wasn’t on the page. I had put a lot of time into thinking about every other queer identities, yet I had skimmed on Henry’s. Asexuality was new to me, especially as my ID rather than other people’s. But I knew–I didn’t market it that way, but Henry still never really talked about attraction, and even the way he approaches his romance is so understated… it had me written all over it. Henry was my first attempt writing an ace character and I kept it secret.
That, of course, bothered me a ton within a few months.
Friends and readers kept telling me they read Henry as ace, and while I could answer “because he is”, it felt wrong to claim the rep and market as such when there was so little confirmation in the text. It took only a few months after publication before I regretted not making it explicit. I was angry at myself for not being more affirming about it, but the truth was, I hadn’t been ready to be affirming. I hadn’t written Henry to be ace, he had just evolved that way.
At the end of summer 2016, I retrieved my rights to Viral Airwaves and had the chance to do a second edition—so of course I added all the ace rep where it should have been. The strangest was that I thought I would need to remove mentions of sexual attractions while around his love interest, but there was just … none. As I said, First Edition Henry was already ace, it just wasn’t stated. Finding out just how deeply ingrained his identity already was to the character was one of the most validating experience I’ve had, and delving a little deeper into how it’d affected his life was a ton of fun.
I tend to describe Henry as the Bilbo Baggins of his universe, and the truth is that to me, that encompasses more than his love for noodles and his initial unwillingness to go on adventures. It’s the aceness (and in Bilbo’s case, aroness) of it all, too. (No I don’t want to hear yet another take about how he is obviously in love with Thorin). Conceptualizing Henry as the same type of character led me down that path, and stating Henry’s aceness unequivocally was a great exercise in self-affirmation–a general one. I no longer need the general affirmation, but it’s become obvious that I seek validation in more precise aspects of my identity. So stay tuned!