How to totally indulge yourself when writing by Faith Ashlin:
I, like many others, have periods when writing is so blooming hard that I will do anything to get out of it. Yes, I can make myself sit at the keyboard but there’s always Google to look up that 90’s band whose name I can’t think of that I heard on the radio. Or a recipe for lamb tagine even though I don’t have a tagine and no one in the family likes lamb.
Yes, of course, I have to look them up right now and, no, of course it won’t wait.
If I turn off the internet and make everyone in the house promise to shoot me if I turn it back on – although, when I’m writing, there’s always a word that needs replacing using an online thesaurus – there are other distractions.
It’s amazing what you can get out of the keyboard when you poke round each letter with a cocktail stick. I’ve done it. Too many times to count. When writers block hits I have the cleanest keyboard in England.
So how to make myself write?
I wrote a list of things I love. Okay, so it was another diversion that delayed me actually writing but, for once, it helped.
Part of the list.
1. Beautiful young men
3. Beautiful young men falling in love
4. Closed, secretive, hidden worlds
5. Beautiful young men falling in love and having wild sex
7. Beautiful young men falling in love, having wild sex and being noble
That’s not a bad list. All I had to do was think of a story that involved all those things and it would be easy-peasy to write.
Gymnastics should have been easy to include. I *adore* gymnastics; the movement, the grace and, if it’s done well, the style and artistry. I’m equally passionate about both men’s and women’s gymnastics but at the moment there is no one – and never has been – like Kōhei Uchimura. The incredibly difficult done with incredible style. A true artist.
But there’s a problem. Adorable as he is with his floppy mop of hair and his hairy underarms he’s not my idea of a beautiful young man who could fall in love and have wild sex.
So how to get gymnastics in the story? No problem: make one of the beautiful young men a gymnastics coach! Sorted.
As for the rest of the list, most were also easy. Set the story behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy – I was thinking somewhere like North Korea only more secretive – and I could have all sorts of fun. Different circumstances: different rules that I could change and mold to my heart – and plot’s – content. Make one of the beautiful young men collect books and all I had to include was falling in love and wild sex.
I really, really, REALLY like writing about beautiful men falling in love and sex. Oh yes, I love writing about sex as well.
I had to be careful about one thing though. I know a lot about gymnastics and coaching so I had to make sure I didn’t overload the story with technical detail that only I’d appreciate. But, apart from that, the words flowed when I sat down to write. Mostly. I still have an extraordinarily clean keyboard but, hey, that has to be a good thing, right!
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.
With her face creased in concentration, the young gymnast landed well from the mid-air somersaults, her feet making solid contact with the mat. But rather than creating an elaborate show of her stability, she immediately arched backward, stretching her spine into a perfect curve. Her arm came up above her head, elbow soft, hand following the movement, as she looked backward along the line, making sure every finger was in the right place, delicate and gentle.
The extra gesture followed perfectly with the music, a quiet, haunting piece of heartbreaking intensity with only a single clear voice laid over the melody. She followed the sound with her hand, her arm, her whole body, faced creased with the feeling of the music, till the very last note.
Then she was still. Perfectly, completely still, caught in the moment and the magic. For a long second she kept the position, fixed in time, then the spell was
broken as she turned toward her coach, a sixteen year old girl once more. “Nicky?” she asked, her attention fixed on his face. “Was it good enough?”
Nicky took a slow breath as he pulled himself up from where he sat, just outside the floor area. “How did it feel to you?”
“It felt…” Adeline caught her lip between her teeth, uncertainty seeming to creep over her like a plague as she dipped her head, suddenly aware of everyone else in the gym.
“No,” he stopped her. “Doesn’t matter how anyone else reacts. How did it feel to you?”
Her focus was back on him again, as though he were the only important thing in the world. The only thing. “Like I’d become part of the music. L—like I could feel it in my tummy, like I was in it. It felt… I felt…” She stopped, shaking her head.
“Beautiful,” he said quietly. “You looked beautiful. You were beautiful. Beautiful—that’s the word you want. You and the music were beautiful.”