This week Ashe Barker has been kind enough to send Freya Stone from The Hardest Word over for a visit.
Thank you for inviting me here to your blog, Tori. It’s not often I get the chance to do my own talking, so to speak so this is a welcome change. I’m looking forward to answering your questions and setting the record straight on a few things.
You’re very welcome, Freya. So, first things first, what do you hope reader’s take away from this retelling of your story?
The main thing I suppose is that readers should not judge people with disabilities, me or anyone else, based on what they perceive we can or can’t do. Right from the beginning Nick found ways for me to explore my nature, safe ways, just like anyone else. I suppose I knew he would, that was one of the reasons I was so desperate to have him train me.
What is one thing Ashe got right?
Ashe didn’t portray me as some sort of victim. I’m not. I’m clear what I want from my life and single-minded about going after it. With hindsight – which is of course a wonderful thing – Nick never stood a chance, although I was not so certain at the beginning
If you could have changed one of your actions – just one – what would it be, and why? The obvious answer would be that I didn’t offer Nick money to train me. At the time though that seemed like such an obvious route for me, and I never considered for a moment how it would appear to him. Again though, with hindsight, it all turned out right so maybe it’s a good thing I can’t go back and change it.
What is a quote you live by? Apart from Nick, the person who has perhaps influenced me most in life is Margaret, my foster mother. She looked after me from being twelve, and helped me get through my grief when my gran died. I honestly don’t know how I would have coped without her and I’m so tremendously lucky that she was the only emergency foster carer in Cumbria with a spare bed at the time I needed it. Margaret has lots of little sayings and was always fond of reciting them for me. One of her favourites was that life is not a rehearsal. This is the real thing, we only get one crack at it so we should make it count. Margaret hasn’t met Nick yet, but I think she’ll like him.
What event in your life would make a wonderful short-story addition to your story?
I think perhaps my next foray into the world of horse racing would make for a good story. I intend to buy another horse and hopefully do well. I also want to learn to ride myself. Nick doesn’t like horses much but maybe I can win him round. The story could be about Pat, my friend the racing trainer, and Maddie, the groom at his stables who understands British Sign Language and interpreted for me the time I visited there. I’m sure I detected some chemistry there so who knows?
Were you reluctant to have your story told? No, not in the least. I love to be the centre of attention, though I don’t usually get to be.
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? Well, not the obvious. My aphonia is part of what makes me me and I’m happy with myself in that respect. One thing I would have liked would be more talent, perhaps to make me a musician or an artist. Or maybe I could be wonderful at sport. I’d love to win an Olympic gold medal, perhaps for athletics or swimming. The only thing I’m really good at is sewing, quilting to be exact, and that’s not a hobby likely to gain me much in the way of accolades, though the pieces I produce seem lovely to me.
Ashe told some pretty embarrassing tales about you. Is there any secrets you’d like to share about them?
Well, readers might be interested to know about Ashe’s massive collection of condoms. Not used ones. I hasten to add. She used to work for an HIV project spreading the word about safe sex, and over the years acquired lots of condoms of varying colours, types and flavours. She filled her desk drawer with them but eventually it wouldn’t close any more so she made a huge display with them which filled one wall in her office.
That’s awesome! I never would have guessed.
Your story is being made into a musical. What’s the name of your song? My song would definitely be Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, by Elton John as this is the theme to my story. Come to think of it, Elton could write the rest of the soundtrack too. Maybe he could give me a Lion King moment.
Oh, that would be amazing! I love Elton John.
What is your favorite chapter of your story?
That’s an easy one. My favourite chapter, without a shadow of doubt is in A Hard Bargain where Nick invites me to spend the evening in the dungeon at the Collared and Tied Club with him. All my Christmases came at once then, I couldn’t believe he actually wanted to spend more time with me, especially when we got off to such a bad start. I thought it might be nice to slip in an excerpt from that chapter…
At the door to the dungeon he stops, turns to me, tips my chin up with his finger. “You okay? Still happy to come in here with me?”
I smile and nod.
Happy? This is all my Christmases and birthdays come at once. I never could have imagined this, never could have expected to be here, and as someone’s sub. And not just anyone’s sub. Nicholas Hardisty’s. Wow! I often spend my time at the Collar down here, most of the unattached subs do. But usually, invariably, I’m just watching—the pleasure vicarious at best—a passive audience to the sensual joys and dramas of others. Other subs with regular Doms, perhaps, or the really attractive, popular, better trained subs who are always in demand, can always rely on being invited to join a scene. But I’m inexperienced, and I know I’m hard work. My lack of vocal clues and responses makes me a less rewarding prospect than most other subs. The more responsible Doms are uncertain of my consent because I can’t tell them what I want and don’t want, and the less responsible ones just scare me. So I usually sit on the edge and settle for watching from the sidelines. But not tonight. Tonight, I could get to play too. If I want to.
We enter the dungeon, Nicholas Hardisty’s arm still looped around my shoulders. I catch a ripple of movement from a group of subs just inside the door, over to my right, and I know they’ve seen, they’re speculating about how I came to land this fish. I manage not to look their way, keep my attention focused on my Dom for the evening, remembering my manners. Good manners are essential to a sub, the alternative is to be corrected, punished. And I’ve taken enough punishment for one night. So now, I’m on my best behaviour.
“Would you like a drink? Water? Pepsi? Juice?” Nicholas is smiling at me, obviously pleased with my attitude so far.
I’d very much like an orange juice, but I’m starting to get flustered, wondering how to tell him what I want. He notices, and goes through the options again, but this time holding up the fingers on his left hand, and using his right index finger to point to each one as he names my choices. I smile, delighted, and tap his left index finger, the juice finger.
He nods, holds up two fingers. “Orange, or apple?”
Again he points to indicate the selections, and I tap his finger to indicate orange. Then we go through the same procedure to establish ice or no ice, before Nicholas strolls off to the bar in the corner. He comes back a minute or two later with a tall glass of iced orange juice for me and a glass of what looks to be sparkling water for himself. He hands me my glass, then laces his fingers through mine to lead me farther into the dungeon. I tighten my grip on his hand as I follow him over to an empty couch more or less in the middle of the huge room.
The spot is dark and secluded, but with a good view all around us. He taps his glass against mine, the cheery clink reinforcing his easy, relaxed, undemanding attitude. Gone now is the harsh Dom I had to contend with upstairs, the one who reduced me to tears just with his words, then went on to beat the living daylights out of me. In fairness, in retrospect, it wasn’t all bad. He also gave me tools and tricks to help me communicate, to give me choice and a way to protect myself. He took the time and trouble to listen to what I had to say, he answered my questions, helped me to understand this lifestyle choice of ours better than I ever have before. He helped me to see where I’d gone wrong, and he also managed to instill in me the confidence and courage to get me through the worst, most painful discipline I have ever faced. So yes, I have no complaints so far.
That Dom was then, now I have a friendly, warm companion, ready to show me a good time. And I intend to enjoy myself.
If price was no consequence, what gift would you buy Nick? Well, price is no consequence to me. I think the thing Nick loves most, apart from me of course, is his motor bike so probably something to do with bikes. Perhaps VIP tickets to the Motorcycle Grand Prix at Silverstone in the UK, or maybe we could go to one of the other tracks, perhaps Indianapolis, or Phillip Island in Australia
What first attracted you to your love interest? That’s easy – Nick’s the sexiest, most handsome man I have ever seen. I watched him for weeks, hoping he might notice me, before I took my rather desperate steps to attract his attention. I suppose I also realised he was just the sort of Dom I wanted too, someone hard and strict who wouldn’t let me off the hook. And that’s exactly what I got. Yummy.
I’d be delighted to know what you think of me, and of Nick, and of our story. I’m sure Ashe would too – we all know that authors thrive on feedback. Ashe can be found on her blog, and on the Totally Bound site. She’s on Facebook, and twitter and she’s on Pinterest too, and Goodreads
Here’s the blurb from the series:
The Hardest Wordcharts the sensual journey of Freya North and Nick Hardisty. Unable to speak since early childhood Freya’s fortunes change dramatically when she finds herself holding the winning Euromillions Lottery ticket. Over forty million pounds richer, she still can’t buy the one thing she really wants—a skilled Master to train her in the fine art of submission.
Her first ill-fated approach to Nick Hardisty, a Dom who comes highly recommended, earns her a punishment spanking at his BDSM club. From the outset Nick is able to find ways around and beyond Freya’s communication issues to release her innermost submissive instincts. Fascinated, intrigued, and hopelessly attracted to Freya, Nick does agree to train her, but on his terms not hers.
Freya moves into his home for one month. The deal is total obedience, and absolute submission. But while her body, and her emotions, are an open book, she doesn’t reveal to him the true extent of her wealth.
As their relationship develops and deepens, how long can Freya keep her secret from the powerful Dom who insists on total honesty from her in every respect? As her two separate lives threaten to collide, Freya is torn between the stern Master she has come to adore, and the opportunities her wealth provides, to grow into the strong, independent woman she longs to become.
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 an avid reader of fiction for many years, erotic and other genres, and I still love reading historical and contemporary romances – the hotter the better. But now I have a good excuse for my guilty pleasure – research.
In my own writing I tend to draw on settings and anecdotes from my own experience to lend colour, detail and realism to my plots and characters. 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.
When not writing – which is not very often these days – 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.
I write for Totally Bound and now have eleven titles on general release, with several more in the pipeline. I’ve completed a fourth trilogy in the Black Combe ‘family’ which is due for release later this year. I also have a ‘May to September’ style novella out and a short story in the Paramour collection. As well as a stand-alone novel in the ‘What’s Her secret?’ imprint. Another short story in the Jolly Rogered anthology is due for publication in July 2014.
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.