Friday, February 6, 2015

A visit with Ashe Barker, author of Red Skye At Night

Today I'd like to welcome the fabulous Ashe Barker to talk about the inspiration that helped her create Red Skye At Night. Don't forget to enter Totally Bound's February competition to win an eBook of your choice. Link is at the bottom of the post. Without further ado...

Take it away, Ashe!

Writers are often asked about what inspired a particular story of character. Sometimes it’s nothing in particular, but in the case of Red Skye at Night there were a couple of things.

In the summer of 2013 myself and my husband found ourselves alone for a fortnight. Our daughter was off at Scout camp in Belgium, or what it Luxembourg? Whatever, we had time on our hands and decided to go on holiday ourselves, on a trip she would have hated. We drove from our home in England right to the northernmost point in Scotland, John o’ Groats. From there we took a ferry across to Orkney. We spent a few days exploring the Highlands before driving all the way back down to England again.

Throughout that trip I knew I had a book in the making. There was so much about the Scottish landscape and traditions that fascinated me, not least the ruined crofts which were everywhere. These are described in the book, often tumble-down roofless structures crumbling away in the shadows of new bungalows and farmhouses, as though the previous crofting families decided they’d had enough of roughing it and bethought themselves to build a nice, modern home but sort of forgot to clear away the old.

At first my story was to be all about crofting. I even originally called it Crofting For Beginners (having reluctantly discarded Crofting for Dummies). However as the story unfolded I realised this tale was much more about the growing bond between the main characters, and their tenuous hold on a future together. The eventual title suggests more to me about optimism and opportunity, and I thought it suited the story better. The other major inspiration came from another book of mine, Rich Tapestry. In that story, the heroine, Summer Jones, wants to escape from the chaos she sees her life descending into. She gets into a taxi and askes the driver to take her home. The journey will take her from Lancaster to Kendal in Cumbria, a distance of perhaps twenty miles or so. However as they approach the motorway, she suddenly has another idea, an off the wall notion. She asks the taxi driver to head south instead of north, announcing that she wants to go to Bristol, over 200 miles in the opposite direction. It’s impulsive, unplanned, and the driver takes some persuading. Of course he charges a hefty fare, but she gets him to agree.

From there the idea was born. What if someone was to get in a taxi, ask to be taken somewhere, then just change their mind and want to go somewhere else, somewhere totally outrageous? Would the driver agree? How would they be persuaded? What would it take to get them to do it? And what would happen next? This, coupled with my itching to write about the crofts I’d seen in the Highlands, had the makings of a great story in my mind. I hope readers agree.

Red Skye At Night
Ashe Barker
February 4, 2015
Totally Bound

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Two strangers, one outrageous proposal, and the journey of a lifetime.

How far would you go? To Skye and back?

A random accident as a teenager wrecked Hope Shepherd’s aspirations to be an international athlete. Now working as a taxi driver, Hope is unsettled by a sexy Canadian she picks up at the airport. With his good looks and easy charm, he’s just the sort of man she can do without. But can she afford to turn down his offer?

He offers her a small fortune to drive him to Scotland, where he hopes to discover his ancestral roots. And not just anywhere in Scotland. Harry McLeod wants to go to the Highlands, to the Isle of Skye.

He is persistent, and Hope needs the cash. But what are the real terms of this outrageous deal?

Harry McLeod desires Hope, and the attraction is shared. If he can get her in his bed—or better still, tied to it—will she allow him to peel away her protective layers to release her inner submissive? Harry is stern, uncompromising, outrageously sexy and utterly irresistible. How will Hope respond to his dark brand of sensuality? Does he offer more than a generous fare and a few erotic encounters?

When they reach Skye, a feud spanning four generations challenges all that Hope thought she was coming to know about submission. Will it be enough to convince her that this could be a relationship to stand the test of time?

Red Skye At Night
© 2015 Ashe Barker

To my relief the Liverpool fans clamber into the back of the taxi in front. I’m next. The rear door of my car is opened and I turn just in time to see Mr Smart and Sexy Dusseldorf easing his long frame into my back seat.

“Excuse me…” I start to form some sort of protest. There’s a queue. It’s not his turn. Can’t be. There were people in front of him.

“Queens Hotel please. Leeds.”

He has a trans-Atlantic drawl, and I’m stunned to note that he is considerably more devastating up close than he was on the airport forecourt. Who would have thought that was even possible? His accent is as sexy as his hair, which is just starting to flop over his forehead. He swipes it back with his hand as he hauls the small case onto the seat alongside him. He opens the lid with a decisive snap and pulls out a sheaf of papers.

I don’t move. I stare at him, transfixed. What? What did he say? Where…?

“Is there a problem? Do you know the Queens Hotel? Just head for Leeds and follow signs for the station.” He glances at me under his brows, just a fleeting suggestion of eye contact before he returns his attention to the papers in his hand.

“I know where it is.” I don’t go out of my way to snap at my customers, not usually. It’s not good for repeat trade.

A raised eyebrow signals that he caught my waspish tone. He makes no comment, though, just offers me the merest hint of a nod before gazing out of the window at the now almost deserted airport frontage.

The lack of other potential fares decides the matter for me. Business is business. I turn my back on him and put my nearly new Ford Focus into gear. The sooner I can get Mr Dusseldorf to Leeds and dump him on the steps of the Queens Hotel, the better I’ll like it.

I punch my car into first gear with perhaps slightly more force than strictly necessary and pull out into the now thin stream of traffic heading for the exit. Despite my annoyance at my passenger, I do enjoy the drive from Leeds Bradford airport to central Leeds. It’s early evening, the afternoon rush of traffic has cleared, the weather is pleasant, and my new car is performing beautifully. I stretched my financial limits to buy it, and I do realise a Ford Focus is not everyone’s dream machine, but it suits me fine. It represents the start of my business empire.

Now all I need to do is deliver Mr Dusseldorf safely to the Queens Hotel, then I can get back to the airport and collect my next punter.

The journey takes around forty minutes, and Mr Dusseldorf makes no attempt at conversation. I don’t mind chatting with fares on occasions, but today I’m glad of the silence from the rear seat. I concentrate on the late afternoon traffic, threading my way easily through the city streets and gliding smoothly to a stop in the drop-off zone at the bottom of the steps leading to the hotel main entrance. I notice the red carpet, the sure signal that this evening will see some visiting dignitary arriving or a high-end dinner event. The Queens is one of the top venues in Leeds for such dos, a favourite haunt for the rich and privileged as they do their sparkly bit for charity.

I turn to my passenger. “Queens Hotel. That’ll be twenty-seven pounds, please.”

Mr Dusseldorf nods and reaches into his jacket. His phone buzzes and he grabs that before his wallet, glancing at the screen.

“Fuck.” The one word is delivered in a deep drawl. He frowns, glances back at me. “Excuse me.”

I’m not sure if he’s apologising for swearing, or if he wants me to wait a moment. I settle for waiting, but I hope he won’t take too long. I want to get back to work. He punches a reply into his phone then re-checks his papers. He glances at me again. “Sorry about this. I won’t be a minute.”

I nod. “Will you be needing a receipt?”

“What? Oh, no, that’s fine.” But my hint has worked and he’s again digging for his wallet. I reason that he might as well wait for his reply in the hotel foyer as in my taxi. Some of us have work to do.

He pulls thirty quid from his wallet, all in crisp new ten pound notes, fresh from the airport cash machine, I daresay. With any luck he’ll not be bothered about his change so that’s three pounds extra for my limo fund. I reach to relieve him of the cash just as his phone buzzes again.

Mr Dusseldorf’s attention is back on his phone, his payment of his fare temporarily forgotten. I clear my throat meaningfully. He ignores me.

“Do you need any help with your luggage?” Another hint—it usually works.

“I’ve changed my mind.”

Not this time apparently. “Excuse me?”

“I’ve changed my mind. I want you to take me somewhere else, please.”

“Are you sure? The Queens is one of the best hotels in Leeds.”

“I don’t need to be in Leeds after all. My meetings tomorrow are cancelled.” He shoves his papers back into his suitcase and turns back to me. At last I have his full attention.

“Oh, right. Is it back to the airport then?” Double fare. Bingo!

“No. Kilmuir. I fancy a little detour.”

I turn to fish in the little tray beside my gear lever for the remote control that operates my satnav. I don’t have much need for it. I grew up in Leeds and I know my way around. It comes in handy occasionally, though, and was fitted as standard when I bought the car. “Do you have an address, please? Or a postcode?”

“Neither. Sorry.”

“How are you spelling it?”

“K-I-L-M-U-I-R. It’s in Scotland.”

Now he has my undivided attention. “Did you say Scotland?”

“I did. Skye. It’s an island off the west coast.”

My patience is already stretched thin. It’s close to snapping now. “This is a taxi, not a boat. I don’t do islands. And I don’t do bloody Scotland. Have you any idea how far that is?”

“Not exactly. I expect you can find out from the satnav, though. And there’s a bridge.”

“A bridge?”

“A bridge over to Skye. You won’t get your tyres wet.”

“I’m not driving you to bloody Scotland. Or Skye. Sorry.

Until 2010 I was a director of a regeneration company in Leeds, in the UK, before becoming convinced there must be more to life. So I left, and at last I’ve been able to realise my dream of writing erotic romance. I’ve been writing seriously for about two years but I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, erotic and other genres. I love reading historical and contemporary romances in all pairings – the hotter the better. But now I have a good excuse for my guilty pleasure – research.

In my own writing I draw on settings and anecdotes from my own experience to lend colour, detail and realism to my plots and characters. My stories are often set in the north of England where I live but I draw inspiration from all over. An incident here, a chance remark there, a bizarre event or quirky character, any of these can spark a story idea. But ultimately my tales of love, challenge, resilience and compassion are the conjurings of my own lurid and smutty imagination.

On the rare occasions I’m not writing 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 most recently a very grumpy cockatiel. I’m a rural parish councillor, and I’m passionate about evolving rural traditions and values to suit twenty first century lifestyles. My other titles include the ‘Black Combe’ trilogies, The Dark Side, Sure Mastery, The Hardest Word and A Richness of Swallows, all set in the atmospheric moorland of West Yorkshire or Cumbria and with a strong BDSM theme. The Three Rs, part of Totally Bound’s What’s Her Secret? imprint is a stand-alone novel set in Berwick in the Scottish border. I’ve also written a couple of short stories, Re-Awakening, and a raunchy pirate tale, Right of Salvage, as well as a novella, Carrot and Coriander.

I have a pile of story ideas still to work through, and keep thinking of new ones at the most unlikely moments, so you can expect to see a lot more from me. I love to hear from readers. You can find me on my blog, and I’m on Facebook, and twitter too. And more recently on Tsu.

Totally Bound is giving away one eBook of the winner's choice. To enter their February contest, please visit the link posted below!

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