Blurb for To Stand Close:
Can love grow and survive for two men on opposite sides of the deepest of chasms—slavery?
In this world, one country has cut itself off and is closed and mysterious to everyone else. What’s the secret it’s hiding? Magic? Monsters? No, just the cruel reality of slavery. But inside its borders life goes on as normal, and it competes with the rest of the world at sport just like everyone else, just to prove that it’s the best.
Nicky accepts that and is happy in his own small, simple life as a gymnastics coach. He accepts it because he’s never known anything else, but he stays as far away from the brutality of slavery as he can, until he’s given a present he doesn’t want and isn’t allowed to refuse.
As for love? Well, he loves his sport. Isn’t that enough?
Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of slavery.
Where is it meant to be set?
The old saying goes write what you know and it’s good advice. It is so much easier to write without having to keep checking details of the time or place. I really admire authors that can do that but I find it too hard – or maybe I’m just too lazy.
I set my book Pathfinder during World War 2, in the RAF, but that didn’t require much new research. I’ve had an odd passion for WW2 planes for years. Oh the details I could bore you with about Spitfires, Mosquitoes or Lancasters. But I won’t because that’s mind-numbingly dull to anyone but me!
Pathfinder was really a case of writing what I knew but I can’t set everything then.
I could set stories in the here and now but that’s limiting. To be honest anywhere concrete is a bit limiting. There was only one thing to do: make up my own place. But that can bring its own problems with it. When I’m writing the blurb or cover art request it’s normal to say where a book is set. It’s an obvious detail, one that shouldn’t be too hard to answer. But for me it can be.
I write stories set…. somewhere. Nowhere. Made up but not completely. I try to keep to the ‘write what you know’ advice so my places are very like here, with the same cultural references and general set up. They also all speak English because it would be way too difficult to write otherwise (I really am very lazy.)
In my book Knights and Butterscotch the world is like this one only there are still knights. They have tanks and machine guns instead of horses but they’re still brave and true. I had the best of both worlds writing that. I could write what I know, here and now, but change things so the possibilities are limitless.
I have written a few slave stories and they are also set in places like here but not quite – also not the same not-here place as each other. I took what I knew but added slavery, in different forms and realities.
My new book To Stand Close is a slave story. Again, they have the same language and culture as us but this time slavery is permitted by the very harsh government. I was thinking somewhere closed off from the rest of the world, with total state control like North Korea, only much, much worse. England under an evil regime.
But I didn’t want to write about the world, I wanted to focus on my two beautiful men finding each other. They would, of course, be affected by the world around them but it was their relationship that I was interested in. I wanted a dark exterior with a tiny, claustrophobic smudge of light where they were. I gave them a scruffy, cluttered flat to live in and a women’s gymnastics studio to work in.
My aim was to bring those two places alive and leave ‘outside’ shadowy, filled with danger and the unknown. I wanted the reader to feel the confinement of the walls, of the situation they are trapped in, to feel the pressure they are under without giving all the gory details of the world around them.
To Stand Close is out on now,. I hope you think I succeed in what I was trying to achieve.
Extract from To Stand Close:
For the first time the slave looked him straight in the face, hesitation and need warring in his eyes.
“Go on,” Nicky urged him, then turned away deliberately. It was silent for a long moment then there was the sound of the slave pouncing on the food and eating it with indigestion inducing speed. Nicky loaded the toaster again.
A wave of nausea suddenly hit him as he realized that this wasn’t allowed. The government would most certainly not approve of what he was doing. The slave was sitting at the table, while his owner cooked for him. No, there was no way that would be allowed. He could beat, rape and even kill his slave, but not do something for him. If some nosey-parker saw this and decided to report them… He pulled down the blind at the small window and went back to cooking.
When he’d filled the two plates, he put them on the table, along with mugs of coffee, and sat opposite the slave. The table was so small that the edges of their plates almost touched and their knees would have knocked underneath, if the slave hadn’t made way for Nicky. This time the slave didn’t start eating until Nicky did, and stopped when he did, so Nicky was careful to keep up a slow but continuous momentum.
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About Faith Ashlin:
When Faith was clearing out her attic many years ago, she found a book she’d written as a ten-year-old. On rereading it she realised that it was the love story of two boys. Over the years her fascination with the image of beautiful young men, coiled together as they fell head over heels in love, became a passion for her.
Since that first innocent book—written in purple sparkly pen—she has written many stories, set in varied worlds, but always with two men finding their way to happiness.
Still nothing much has changed because now she can be found in a daydream, wandering around the supermarket, or sitting in a meeting at work still dreaming up stories.