It is the mind that makes the body rich. William Shakespeare

Ashe Barker Interview Published on: 12, Feb 2018

When did you move to West Yorkshire, or have you always lived there? If not, where did you grow up and what was your childhood home like?

I have always lived in West Yorkshire, though I grew up in an inner city area and only moved out to the windy wilds of Wuthering Heights country as an adult. My childhood home was a terrace house, and I had an older sister and a younger brother. Then, when I was a teenager, another sister was born but by then the oldest had left so there were only ever three of us at home. When I was a child I could name everyone who lived on my street, even the older people. My mum still lives there, but the neighbourhood is very different now and people hardly speak to each other at all.

What were your favourite subjects in school? Did you do well in English?

English was one of my favourite subjects and I did okay I suppose. I did English Literature for A level and passed it, along with French, History and General Studies. I think my favourite subject was history and that has never left me. I’m still a sucker for historical novels, documentaries, and visiting ancient sites.

What are some day jobs you held before becoming a writer? How do you think working at those jobs might have helped your writing ability?

I spent most of my career as a community development worker. I started out on a run-down housing estate running the local community centre, moved on over the next few years to specialise more in areas that interested me – community health work, environmental improvements, crime reduction. I became a trainer of other community workers, and a manager, of course. My final job was as Director of a regeneration company in Leeds, a major city in the north of England. During that time I met so many different sorts of people, worked in lots of different areas and got to know a little bit (or sometimes quite a lot) about a vast range of things. I didn’t start writing until I gave up that career, and by then I had a wealth of experience and anecdotes to draw on and weave stories around.

Who is your target audience? Have you ever made any sacrifices or compromised so that your readers are more pleased with the books you publish?

The vast majority of my readers are women, and I sell very many more books in the US than in the UK. Over the years I’ve become more aware of US English and although I tend to write about British characters and settings (which my readers do seem to appreciate) I will choose US vocabulary sometimes just to make my stories better understood. Publishers tend to ‘translate into US English anyway – much to my mother’s annoyance because she insists that’s just wrong.

Where is the oddest place that you've been struck with an idea for a book?

I was once in Kappadocia, in Turkey. For a reason I can’t now recall I found myself alone on the tour bus, all the other passengers had gone off somewhere. We were parked in a dusty siding next to an asphalt road, and surrounded by endless arid, dry landscape on all sides. Over the horizon came a woman sitting astride a donkey. She was swathed in a cloak, baskets hanging on either side of the donkey. The pair of them ambled along that road until they came alongside the bus. The woman glanced up at me, we made eye contact, nodded to one another, and she continued on. She looked as though she could have been an extra on Ben Hur, as though nothing had changed in her world for 2000 years. I was a modern woman, in shorts and a vest, and neither one of us was out of place or in the least surprised to see the other. So different, worlds apart, yet we could be in the same place at the same time.
I used that scene, almost exactly as it happened, as the opening for one of my books, Chameleon.
Here’s the blurb …
A chance meeting, two strangers whose paths cross—in the same place at the same time, yet a world apart.
When mining engineer Ethan Savage spots the cloaked, veiled woman riding a donkey in the Moroccan desert, he can be forgiven for thinking that in some respects nothing much has changed in two thousand years. She wouldn’t look out of place in Biblical times. They pass, nod, smile politely and go their separate ways, two strangers a world apart.
But when, moments later, she rescues him from his crashed car, the first words she utters make Ethan realize that appearances can be deceptive. His little Berber peasant is not what she seems.
Shifting effortlessly between her traditional roots in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and her professional life as the Totally Five Star hotel doctor, Fleur is a human chameleon, able to adapt and blend into any environment. At first irritated then amused by the handsome stranger, Fleur knows the assumptions he’s made about her. As their paths cross once more at the luxurious hotel, she realizes he, too, is not all he seems. This sexy Englishman holds the key to her most secret and sensual desires, dangerous yearnings she’s kept locked away for years. Now she has a choice to make.
Ethan is only in Marrakesh for a few days, then he’ll be gone and she’ll never see him again. No one will ever know, so surely it will do no harm? Can she pass up this opportunity? And once she’s trusted him with her body, experienced all he can offer, will she be able to return to her old life? Or will the sensual chameleon need to reinvent herself once again to fit into his world?

When did you start writing the Order of the Black Knights series? How close would you say Gideon Maybury is to the man of your dreams?

I was invited to contribute a story to the Order of the Black Knights series and mine ended up being the first one to be published though that wasn’t the original plan. Gideon was finished in the early part of 2016. He’s a complex character, not especially likeable, well, not at first, but very sexy and uber-dominant so to that extent he might be my ideal man.

Do you prefer writing series' or standalone books? Why?

I’m happy with either. I rarely start out intending a series, it’s more likely that I run with an idea thinking it’s a standalone and notice some way in that another character could merit their own story too. My Vikings series was exactly like that (Her Rogue Viking, Her Dark Viking, Her Celtic Captor) and I have a couple of other books which scream at me for more. Held to Ransom is an example, there’s at least one more story lurking there.

What is the significance behind the name "The Three Rs" and the story behind it? Out of all the books you've written, which one holds the deepest meaning to you?

The Three Rs is a term used in the UK, and maybe elsewhere too. It refers to the literacy skills we learn as youngsters – Reading, Writing and (A)rithmetic. My book, The Three Rs, is about a main female character whose early education was disrupted by illness. She never learnt to read, and the story explores the struggles that creates for her as well as matching her with a seriously sexy man who she wants to impress. I think all my books have something I love about them, but my personal favourite is Resurrection. That’s a time travel erotic romance with a sexy vampire and some seriously stunning twists in it.

What are some differences in the research and writing process between paranormal and sci-fi books?

I some ways they are very similar in that as an author you can build a world just as you want it. Anything is possible, nothing is too out there. When I write sci fi I like to inject at least some realism in it, some believable science. Even when I was writing about vampires in Resurrection I tried to explain some of their powers with the laws of physics as we understand them.

As you dabble in pole-dancing yourself, were any instances in "A Very Private Performance" taken from your own life?

The story is based on the experience of one of my friends who was rather better at pole dancing than I am. She was a scouting leader. She put pictures of her rocking a particularly challenging pose on her Facebook page and the powers that be in the Scouts insisted this was behaviour unbecoming a scout leader and instructed her to remove the pictures. I embellished that to create the story

Do you like to incorporate real life events and occurrences into your books or make it all up from your imagination?

I bit of both, though a lot of my stories draw on something that really happened. I’ve given a few examples already but there are many more. In my experience, real life is often more bizarre than fiction and I never seem to have to look far to find an idea.

What was the hardest thing you had to give up or get used to once you started working full time?

I’ve worked full time for the last forty years, but I do recall being a bit stunned at how much time it took up. I’d be at work, or on my way to work. Or on my way home or planning for tomorrow. When was I supposed to have a life?

What kind of advice would you like to impart on budding writers everywhere?

JFDI! You’re not a writer unless you write, so make some words.

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