You can read more about The Last 8 on Goodreads
She is the author of THE LAST 8 (Sourcebooks, 2019). When not writing, she likes reading science fiction and fantasy, and enjoys deep discussions about conspiracy theories and alien life. Learn more about her on her website (www.onlybylaura.com), and make sure to follow her on twitter, instagram, and pinterest.
Clover, the main character, is both bisexual and aromantic. The word is not used inside the book – Clover self-describes as someone who likes boys/girls/all genders, but has never felt that romantic connection of the spectrum before. This is a feeling she explores in the book and how it affects her personally and her relationships.
I think it became something natural. At first I wanted to write a story that had no romance to divert the plot, and slowly it became an exploration of some of my own feelings while identifying as aromantic and how it often affected my relationships with people. When I finally accepted that I, too, was on the aromantic spectrum, it felt a lot easier putting Clover’s struggles on the page because they were very similar to my own. It was embracing something that was clear from the start, I was just missing the right word to identify it.
3. What did you find most challenging and most rewarding about writing an aromantic character?
I think the biggest challenge is making people understand the implications of being on the aro spectrum and how we deal with feelings without necessarily being aloof. Clover self-describes as cold and relies often on logic more than feelings, which is something that a lot of aros can relate to – and people may even call it out as a stereotype or bad representation. At the same time, Clover’s experience is very much like my own, and I wrote her being aro when I was figuring that out, too, and it’s very rewarding to see other readers relate to the same experience.
4. It is much less common in fiction to see an aromantic character like Clover who is not also asexual. Were there any additional challenges in writing a bisexual aromantic character?
I think it depends on the aspect you’re trying to write. Clover’s journey is not so much about self discovery as it is about learning to survive her depression and PTSD. Her sexual orientation doesn’t play a huge part in the story, but being aromantic is discussed more on the page. I think it can be a challenge if it’s more present in the narrative, but it wasn’t a big deal for me. I identify as bisexual and aromantic, so for me it was much more about exploring Clover’s relationships with people around her than sexual attraction.
5. How did you identify the orientation of your character on the page? Did you use the term “aromantic” in the text and how did you come to that decision?
I don’t, not on this book. I’m hoping this is something I can address in book 2. The decision came because unfortunately, asexual and aromantic are not terms that we’re acquainted with unless we’re on the internet a lot and end up encountering other aces and aros. This can be a great way to build a community and learn more about yourself, but Clover is not a character who spends a lot of time on the internet or on tumblr, hahaha. This is why, although she discusses the difference between her sexual orientation and romantic attraction, she doesn’t actually use the terms “aromantic” or “bisexual” inside the text. It was a tough call to make for me, but it felt right to the character.
6. In writing an aromantic character, did you do research and consult sensitivity readers or did you rely on your own knowledge or experience?
I did both! Clover is, of course, very close to me in experience, and how she self-describes as cold. I was often described like that in high school because I wasn’t interested in romance, and always relied a lot more on logic than feelings. That didn’t mean I didn’t care deeply about my friends and family, but it’s funny how aros are often perceived as cold just because we aren’t interested in romance. I also had close friends who are both ace and aro read the book and help me portray it to the best of my abilities. I think it’s important to rely on feedback because even though something can relate your own experience doesn’t mean it can’t be problematic or harmful to some degree. I hope that The Last 8 has done justice in this aspect.
7. What was your first experience with seeing asexual or aromantic characters in fiction and media?
I honestly can’t remember, but I think it was recent. There are a lot of character still being called wrongly or not identifying themselves because there’s still a heavy stigma around ace and aro characters. I like that this is changing slowly in YA and we’re getting varied representation by several authors who are trying to include us in the narrative as well. Just as a comparison, I saw a bisexual character on TV before I knew I was bisexual, but only saw aromantic characters years later I’d identified myself.
Radio Silence by Alice Osman is soooo great. There are still so few examples, but I love Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee as well. I can’t wait for Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor to come out later this year.
I have a couple of ideas – and my current WIP features an aromantic character who finds herself in a romantic relationship with another girl. I was having some difficulty writing it at first because my MC’s relationship with her girlfriend was very different from what we usually see in fiction and I didn’t truly understand it, until I talked to another acearo friend, telling her my problems, and she was like, “Laura, that’s because your character is aromantic”. It was hilarious because I hadn’t realized this myself, but as soon as she said it, I knew it to be true. Figures that I’ll just keep adding more acearo characters to my books as time passes.
Thanks so much for the interview, and if you pick up The Last 8 for A-Spec April, I hope you love it!
The Last 8 content warnings: PTSD, depression, suicide attempt.