Five minutes with Ashe Barker.
When did you start writing?
I only really started writing fiction in September 2012, so just over a year ago now. I’d wanted to, kept on telling myself I should. I was always running snapshots of plots and stories through in my head, often when I was stuck in traffic as I commuted to work, so I wasn’t short of ideas. But I always found something more pressing to do. Then, towards the end of last year, I found myself with time on my hands. Add to that I’d spent a chunk of the summer devouring Fifty Shades, along with pretty much everyone else, and I felt sort of inspired to make an effort.
It took me three months to write The Dark Side. I set myself the deadline of completing the manuscript by Christmas, but had to really pull out all the stops to meet that target in the end. I actually finished it at quarter past nine in the evening, on Christmas Eve.
What do you love about writing?
I find it exhausting sometimes, but incredibly satisfying. I love creating characters I like, and care about, and whose stories I want to tell. I feel as though I actually know them by the time a story is completed. Maybe I’m a frustrated dictator because one of the things I love is the sense that I’m master, sorry, mistress, of their destinies. Their happy ending is in my hands so they’d better behave.
Biggest pet peeve about writing?
I have an office at home, but I usually prefer to write in the kitchen. When the house is empty that’s fine, but when the family are around I hate anyone looking over my shoulder. I’m happy for them to read my completed stories, but a work in progress is a private matter, between me and my editor.
Most hated word in the English language?
Although I use it a lot in my writing, I hate the word ‘cunt’. I use it because people do, it lends realism, but in real life, never.
Three most played songs on your iPod?
I’m a sucker for rock ballads, so…
Meat Loaf’s Left in The Dark
Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody
Bon Jovi’s Bed of Roses
Last movie you watched?
Life of Pi. I saw it at the film club in the community hall in my village. I’m a rural parish councilor, so I tend to go along to stuff. I loved the film though, especially the tiger.
You’re hosting a dinner party. Name the five people, alive or dead, you’d love to have at your table.
This is an interesting question. I’d invite Jon Bon Jovi, of course. A bit of eye candy is always welcome. And Professor Brian Cox – similar reason, but I’ll bet he’s really interesting to talk to as well, what with having a brain the size of a small planet. I’d also invite my mother’s mother, who died before I was born. I’m named after her and I’ve always wondered what she was like. I get the impression my mum didn’t get on that well with her, but I’d like the chance to form my own view. And I’d invite my baby son, who died the same day he was born seventeen years ago. It would be wonderful to know what he would have grown to be. And my fifth guest, probably my daughter, now aged fifteen, and by far my most impressive work in progress
Best advice you’ve ever been told?
Someone once suggested to me that I imagine a time, sixty years or so from now, when I’m long dead and my daughter is an elderly woman herself, talking to her grandchildren about me. What will she be saying? What do I want her to tell them? It’s a sobering thought that what I do now, here, today, will directly influence those obituaries. Need to get my shit in a pile.
Craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Accepting the offer of a camel ride, from the centre of Cairo up to the Pyramids. I swear that beast was the spawn of Satan, murderous intent with a hump to match. As soon as I got on, it shot out, across six lanes of traffic into the dual carriageway, prancing between the buses and coaches and articulated lorries with me bouncing around on the ridiculous little wooden seat perched on top. The handler ran alongside, yelling and swatting at the infernal creature with his stick. Lucky I couldn’t get my hands on any suitable implement – I’d probably still be languishing in an Egyptian jail for inflicting grievous bodily harm on a camel.
Place you’d love to visit?
The Great Wall of China. I understand this is the only man-made structure visible from the Moon. I’ve never been to the USA either, and I’d love to. I don’t especially yearn for Disneyland though, more ‘small town America’. My idea of heaven would be to tour from the east coast across to the west in a motor home.
Most famous person you’ve ever met?
Princess Diana. Some years ago I had a job managing an HIV prevention project. I worked for a national charity, and our CEO was invited to a conference on HIV and women which was to be attended by Princess Diana, who had a strong interest in that subject. He decided, since it was a women’s event, I ought to go instead. So I did. It was a small affair, only about 60 invited attendees, so we were all milling around together at lunchtime. I was tucking in to my smoked salmon thingummy’s when I realized someone very tall was standing alongside me. I turned, and it was Herself, also guzzling smoked salmon. She smiled, so did I. I asked her if she was enjoying the conference so far, she said she was, very interesting speakers. I asked if she’d be staying for the rest of the day, she said sadly not, she had another appointment. We exchanged a few more pleasantries, commented on how nice the salmon was, then drifted our separate ways.
From what/where do you find inspiration?
Because I didn’t actually start writing until recently, I have fifty odd years of experience to draw on. My characters and settings are based on people, places, situations I actually know. My favourite setting is the Yorkshire moors where I live, a stunning and atmospheric landscape. I defy anyone not to feel just a little bit inspired.
Favourite book of all time?
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. I was introduced to Hardy at school, and love all his books, though Jude does stand out
What’s next for you? Any current WIP’s we should know about?
I’ve just completed drafting a story for Totally Bound’s ‘What’s Her Secret’ series, and I’m thinking about a short story next. I have a pile of synopses to choose from, and more ideas in the pipeline. I want to round off the ‘Black Combe’ set with perhaps one more story
Tell us about your new release?
Unsure is the first book in Sure Mastery, a tie-in trilogy to The Dark Side. It reintroduces a number of favourite characters, but this story focuses on Tom Shore who was a supporting act in The Dark Side. Tom’s leading lady is Ashley McAllister, new to this series.
Here’s the blurb.
Desperate to escape her past and start over, Ashley McAllister cuts her ties with her old life and heads for the wild landscape of West Yorkshire, the perfect place to reinvent herself. And her carefully laid plans are working, until she encounters her nemesis—the one man she’d hoped never to see again. Tom Shore, the man she and a gang of thugs attacked and robbed, and who swore he’d make her pay. He owns the cottage she now lives in and adores, and now he wants his pound of flesh. So he takes it.
Intimidated, beaten and dismayed by her sexy and dominant landlord, and totally confused by her intense physical response to him, Ashley needs Tom to guard her secrets. But will he, and his enigmatic and terrifying friend Nathan Darke, allow her to leave her past behind and start again? Having survived her first explosive and humiliating encounter with Tom, Ashley struggles to get her new life back on track. But Tom wants her. His demanding, persuasive, sensual charm is almost irresistible, his mastery of her assured.
But—can she submit to Tom’s dominance? Should she? Ashley has escaped one violent and abusive relationship. Is she about to be sucked into an even more dark and dangerous liaison?
The Sure Mastery trilogy charts the sensual and emotional journey of petty thief turned photographer Ashley McAllister as she struggles to overcome personal tragedy, loss and grief to rebuild her life in the wild beauty of the West Yorkshire moorland.
Resilient and determined, independent and courageous, Ashley has no qualms about cutting her old ties and starting again. Intent on establishing her landscape photography business, she is horrified when her turbulent past comes crashing back to haunt her, threatening to overwhelm and destroy her fragile new beginning.
Alone, vulnerable, Ashley needs Tom to guard her secrets and allow her to stay. He just wants her. He wants her submission, her surrender, but he’s already destroyed her trust in him. Will his seductive charm and sure mastery be enough to rebuild her fragile faith? Can he teach her the difference between the violent abuse she’s experienced in the past and his much more exquisite approach to pain? And where does pain end and pleasure begin?
Intrigued and delighted by Ashley, Tom finds her passionate response to his touch totally enthralling. And she delights in his gentle but sure mastery as he allows her to explore her nature fully, guiding her into his world of pleasure, desire, trust and reward. His gifts to her are beyond price, the rewards of submission.
But will it be enough, and can the shadows of her dangerous and violent past be left behind them? Or will Ashley’s ghosts come back to destroy their fragile new life together? As violence once more explodes around Ashley she learns the true meaning of surrender, and of the precious gifts that life can offer.
Here’s an excerpt…
I pulled it off. Mary, Joseph and all the saints, I only fucking did it! Months of planning, sacrifice, sheer desperation and soul-deep tragedy have brought me here. So here’s where I am. At last. Free. Free to start over.
The monotonous asphalt of the M6 heading north rolls in front of me, miles and miles of it. And every mile taking me farther away from—before. Away from ‘Shaz’, away from poverty and violence and doing without, leaving behind my old life jam-packed with nothing much but drudgery, fear, humiliation.
Not that the future looks particularly certain. But at least there’s only me in it.
* * * *
I remember with absolute clarity the moment I knew I was going to be rid of Kenny. It was July thirteenth 2011 at nine sixteen p.m., the moment when the radiologist at Southmead Hospital’s maternity unit at last finished clicking away at her keyboard, swirling her chilly probe through the gunk on my abdomen, looking again at her monitor and once more for good measure before she finally turned to me. She had on her well-trained sad and sympathetic face as she calmly announced that my baby had no heartbeat. No heartbeat! How can a baby have no heartbeat? He’d be dead if he…
The maternity unit staff were kind, caring, but they couldn’t put it right. Nothing, no one could put this right. My baby was dead. Dead because my thug of a boyfriend couldn’t keep his fists to himself. One shove too many, one punch too many, one heavy fall too many, and it was done. My baby, gone. I sobbed. I screamed and kicked and refused to accept. Refused to accept a life lost, wasted through thoughtless cruelty and callousness.
It’s not as though Kenny had even meant to kill my baby. His baby. He just simply hadn’t cared one way or the other. But it was real, this was all real—really happening to me, and eventually my body took over and expelled my tiny, tiny baby son, out onto a cool, clean rubber sheet. Months too early. Dead before his life had even started. Before I’d even looked into his face to say ‘hello’ it was already too late to say ‘goodbye’. The midwife taking care of me—her name was Ann-Marie I think but it’s all something of a blur—scooped him up and out of the way while the young doctor dealt with the afterbirth, and other nurses cleaned me up, made me sanitary and ‘normal’ again.
Ann-Marie brought my baby back, beautifully laid out in a tiny basket, on a pale blue satin cushion. He was so small, his little limbs matchstick thin, and he was a very deep pink, like a little pixie. Not quite human, yet not quite anything else either. Even though I never asked her to—it never even occurred to me—Ann-Marie took a photo of him with a little digital pocket camera they must keep in the maternity unit for this sort of thing. She also took his tiny little handprints and footprints. And she put all those mementos into a little white memorial card that she gave to me.
I have it still. I’ll have it forever. That’s all there is left to show my baby was ever here.
Until 2010 I was a director of a regeneration company in Leeds, in the UK, before becoming convinced there must be more to life. I left to work as an independent consultant, and still do some of that though most of my time is now spent writing, as at last I’ve been able to realise my dream of writing erotic romance myself. I’ve been an avid reader of women’s fiction for many years, and I still love reading historical and contemporary romances – the hotter the better. But now I have a good excuse – research.
I usually draw on settings and anecdotes from my own experience to lend colour, detail and realism to my plots and characters, but my stories of love, challenge, resilience and compassion are the conjurings of my own lurid imagination.
When not writing – which is not very often – my time is divided between my role as resident taxi driver for my teenage daughter, and caring for a menagerie of dogs, rabbits, tortoises. And a cockatiel. I’m a rural parish councillor, and I’m passionate about evolving rural traditions and values to suit twenty first century lifestyles.
I’ve now completed my third trilogy in the Black Combe ‘family’ as well as a novella, another novel, and a short story. All are due for release over the next few months.
Unsure is available from Totally Bound