November Creative Spotlight: Actress And Writer Ashley V. Robinson On Her Projects And Process
November is the first month of a brand new feature here at A Red Arrow - a creative spotlight! This is going to be a monthly series that includes a short interview with a creative person that I admire — selfishly, it is a chance for me to get to talk to people that I look up to, and gush about them on my blog.
It might be a cliché but one of the best parts of living in Los Angeles is how many creative people also live here. The entertainment industry is still such a big part of the city in and of itself that it draws different creatives here from everywhere. Everyone, with different talents and different dreams, drawn to this city because it’s been able to make those dreams come true for others.
Ashley and I met in 2013 or 2014 (I honestly don’t think I can remember anymore) at a trivia night at a pizza place in North Hollywood. I had hoped then that we would become good friends, and now I am so lucky that she is one of my best friends. We can talk about anything, I have learned so much from her, and she pushes me in a lot of ways to be a better creative. Honestly, I look up to her a lot and her ability to make things happen. I very much want to grow up to be her, and we're about the same age.
She’s a Canadian actress, writer, podcast host - all around creative joy. She and her partner Jason Inman have worked on countless projects together including their podcast Geek History Lesson, the upcoming second volume of their Jupiter Jet series, Jupiter Jet and the Forgotten Radio, and are currently gearing up to host their annual Comic Charity Drive for Service Members — virtually this year, for the first time ever.
I am so excited that Ashley agreed to be the first person to feature in this new monthly series, and I get to pick her brain about her projects and processes to make those things happen.
A Red Arrow: You’ve got two big projects happening this month - on top of all the other stuff you're probably working on but can't talk about. Jupiter Jet and the Forgotten Radio comes out later this month, and you and Jason are moving your annual comic book charity drive virtual. Tell me a little about Jacky's adventures upcoming and the plans for the charity drive!
Ashley V. Robinson: Jupiter Jet and the Forgotten Radio is set one year after the first volume (Jupiter Jet!), but it's now almost three years since Jacky's stories were first published. As writers Jason and I have grown by leaps and bounds - and as people too! We get to mirror that growth in Jupiter Jet and the Forgotten Radio except Jacky is a superhero, so her version is way more fun! In this new volume we go from planet-driven science fiction to a space driven adventure. If you love Men in Black then Jupiter Jet and the Forgotten Radio is going to be very much your vibe. Jacky faces female opposition in this story, rather than the moustache-twirling male villain from her first adventure, and they are rife with Star Trek references.
(Dear Reader, if you don't know me I'm a huge Trekkie! Check out my parody webseries The Red Shirt Diaries and you'll even see a cameo from Jordan!) (ARA: It's true!)
On top of book promotion, as you mention, this is Year 6 for the Jawiin Charity Drive for Service Members! Each year we raise comic books to donate to Operation Gratitude and be sent to service members deployed all over the world, wounded warriors in military hospitals, and families back stateside. It is one of the things I am most passionate about doing annually. This year we are pivoting strictly to fundraising offerings on behalf of OG. For years Jason and I have dreamed of bringing the Jawiin Charity Drive to bigger things. This year we're doing a 5 hour comic-con style livestream with a plethora of geeky guests!
Like Tech? We have Brian Tong, Emma Fyffe, and Tom Merritt!
Like Comedy? We have Jay Washington!
Like Storytelling? We have DJ Wooldridge, Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Doc Shaner!
Like Superheroes? We have Susan Eisenberg!
Plus ... our headliner who is someone Jason and I have been hoping to collaborate with for years. (ARA: If you missed the announcement, it's KEVIN SMITH!)
When such incredible talent is willing to come out for service members it makes the planning and dry runs we've been doing since June worth it!
Pssst! Plus, we're giving away prizes to whoever donates the highest amount each hour including Super Soldiers by: Jason Inman and some super star comic book artists.
To make sure you don't miss anything of the drive info all the deets (& full schedule), are available here: https://www.charitydriveforservicemembers.com
ARA: You’re honestly one of the most creative and productive people I know, and your ability to be consistently creative is pretty aspirational to me. How do you stay consistent with your work?
AVR: This might seem petty, but it's really so true, I feel like I'm always running after Jason. He is the hardest working person I know and has made so many incredible things happen under his own steam. He taught me that I can do the same thing. When we're able to harness our powers together that definitely takes the load off.
I highly recommend working with a collaborator when you find a good one!
I can also recommend a crippling fear of failure to keep you producing. The healthier answer is to throw away your doubt. What's the worst that will happen? Someone won't like it? Who cares! We're women on the internet! People already don't like us!
Lastly, if any coffee company wants to sponsor my work I don't sleep very well. Please, send help.
ARA: What are your favorite story themes to explore, as a writer? Are there any that you're dying to dig into?
AVR: A theme which is not necessary my favourite, although it appears across my work is the death of fathers. My dad passed when I was 16 and I've spent every day since then working through it. This isn't meant as a woe-is-me answer, it's just the truth of it. The more I return to this type of story through the lens of young female characters (Ensign Williams in The Red Shirt Diaries, Jacky Johnson in Jupiter Jet, Tamsin Kuhn Trakroo in Science! the Elements of Dark Energy), the more I feel at piece with this shadow.
Something I really love are smarty pants. Any surprising character with a real sense of what is going on or a better sense of scope than the ruling paradigm is super my jam! If I could write a period drama starring all the witty servants from Shakespeare's canon I would be at my happiest.
ARA: What do you like to do to replenish that creative well? What stories help you in that regard? Do you have to take a step back and focus on something that isn't related to whatever story you are currently working on?
AVR: I’m so glad you used the phrase "well" because creativity is exactly that! It can run dry and refilling the cup isn't always the easiest thing. Particularly this year I've felt robbed from the usual things I turn to for inspiration (travel, television, live drag shows, concerts, et al), although some of them are slowly coming back in safe ways.
Self-care has become a very active practice for me, but ultimately it circles around the theme of rest. I'm a triple Aries and incapable of patience, so burn out is something I am incredibly familiar with. Vibrating at an 11 isn't going to do me, my work, or anyone consuming it any good. I will literally have to walk away from what I'm doing and actively carve out time to sleep, or do yoga, or meditate. The older I get the more I understand we are simply house plants with complicated emotions and I am continually adjusting my routines to accommodate this.
If I'm having a real struggle with something like Writer's Block (which, incidentally, I don't believe in), then I will try to work out, move my body, or go for a walk. The brain is a muscle like anything else and stimulating other muscles always helps. When in doubt I'll go to something I mentioned earlier - drag. It is one of the only art forms I consume and I don't work in, so I can return to drag over and over and over again (even shows or performances I've seen several times), and the magick of what those artists do washes over me and always overflows my cup.
I defy you to watch this performance by LA queen, Meatball, and tell me it's not the greatest thing you've ever witnessed: https://www.instagram.com/p/BkI4ED7Fk2v/?hl=en
ARA: What do you find more fulfilling - acting or writing? Are they too different?
AVR: Acting! Sans doute.
Acting is my favourite thing in the world. To quote The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it makes me feel "infinite".
Writing is something I'm very passionate about and has afforded me so much, but it always comes back to acting for me.
ARA: What are some of your creative goals?
AVR: My ultimate goal is to EP a show I star in. I would like to tell you it's the pilot I'm currently working on - and if that turns out to be the case I'll be back on this blog to break the news!
In the more immediately future my podcast, Geek History Lesson, is about to turn 7 years old! For her Saturn Return I'm working to onboard bigger and better guests (and we've already had really incredible talent!), and did I mention I was looking for a coffee sponsor? We could really use a coffee sponsor at the Mind University!
I'm very interested in breaking into more business-driven aspects of my creativity than traditionally creative. I made a stab at this a couple years ago and it was a bit beyond me. It was really hard, to be honest. I've spent the last couple years learning more about branding and presentation and I'm looking forward to exploring how these ideas could slot into the work I'm already doing regularly.
ARA: What’s the best advice you can give to someone working on their own creative endeavors?
AVR: Probably the same unsatisfying advice everyone gives: JUST DO IT!
I hated getting that advice for a long time, but there's a reason it's a truism.
Also, dream big. Reach out for big help from big mentors. Look at who is helping with the Jawiin Charity Drive. We've collaborated with Nicola Scott (Black Magick, Wonder Woman), and Jonboy Meyers (Teen Titans, Spawn), on Jupiter Jet and the Forgotten Radio and it was all through the power of asking politely with a carefully aimed email.
Never forget, Reader, I believe in you.
ARA: It's true, she does.
You can find Ashley at her Twitter and Instagram, every week on Geek History Lesson, and this weekend in particular hosting the Charity Drive for Service Members with Jason Inman. Jupiter Jet and the Forgotten Radio will be in your local comic book shop on November 25th!