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Autonomous characters by Ash Penn

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By autonomous, I mean characters who refuse to conform. Whoever said you can’t choose your family, should have added ‘or your own fictional creations’ to the mix. My characters come to me most of the way fully-formed and usually with personalities that are entirely at odds with the genre I wish to place them in. Tall dark and handsome, not a problem. My characters have little say in the way they look. But when it comes personality? Well. They’re often too tenacious to mold into anything resembling a ‘traditional hero’.

I know that sounds odd. I mean, I’m their creator. My fingers are on the keyboard. But it’s not my voice that comes out onscreen. It’s Aiden’s voice. Or David’s voice. Or in this latest release of mine, Liam’s voice and Martin’s voice.

Rent Mate is my latest release from Pride Publishing. I started this book the same way as I do any other, which is to put two people together to see what happens. I don’t plot. I just write. And sometimes I manage to create a couple of characters who refuse to know each other, let alone like each other. Not a great start to a romance. 

Liam from Rent Mate decided he was already in love with his female best friend at the start of the book, which was inconvenient, to say the least. His potential love interest, Martin, informed me the only relationships was interested in were the of the five-minute variety that ended in a generous payment for services rendered. 

Neither man was interested in the kind of romance I’d envisioned for them. But I wasn’t about to write them off (the page). I was going to get these two together and convince them that a relationship was exactly what they both needed.  

To do that I had to think about what it was both characters wanted most out of life. Aside from money in Martin’s case and a dozen kids with his best friend in Liam’s. 

For Martin, it was someone who cared whether he lived or died. He’d never had anyone special in his life, never even been kissed. Not by anyone he’d choose to be kissed by, anyway. Liam also needed someone to love, someone who was capable of loving him back. In other words, what they both needed most was each other.

All I had to do was convince them. Not easy when Martin was quick to inform me he wasn’t prepared to fall into Liam’s arms, and Liam wasn’t about to offer those arms unless it was to shove Martin off the end of the world.

That’s where I had to do a bit of plotting to create something that would force them to let their guards down and see how their lives could be enriched by romance.

I decided on a stalker for Martin. It made sense, considering Martin’s line of work in the sex industry. A stalker would show his vulnerability as well as bring out the more protective aspect of Liam’s nature. A stalker would give the pair of them good reason to communicate, and get to know each other.

That’s how I managed to regain a level of control over these two headstrong characters, even it was a tad sneaky. As for the stalker, if you want to know more about him you’ll have to read the book.


Liam has principles, and sharing a home with a rent boy goes against every one of them. Even a rent boy as alluring as Martin.

Martin ‘Button’ Bailey is a twenty-one-year-old rent boy with an aversion to gay men. Liam West is his reluctant flatmate with an aversion to rent boys. Especially those who go by the name of Martin Bailey.

That suits Martin, because it means there’s no chance of Liam wanting anything more from him than the occasional argument. Sex is never going to be an issue between them because Liam is one hundred percent straight. He’s also in love with their third flatmate, Katie. Even if that love is painfully unrequited.

While it’s fair to say that Liam can’t stand Martin, he wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to the guy. So when Martin comes home one day covered in bruises, Liam can’t help but show concern. A concern that is quickly batted aside, until the next night when Martin shows up having been half-drowned in the river.

Reason enough to believe someone is out to get him.

As Liam becomes more embroiled in the mess that is Martin’s life, the two men find themselves drawing closer together. And other feelings begin to develop. Unexpected feelings that a budding friendship can’t quite cover.

Amazon US | Amazon UK


About the Author 

I’ve written stories about men loving men for as long as I can remember. In the days before computers and the internet, I used to hide my stories away convinced there was no market for women who wrote gay male fiction. Fast forward a few years (okay, quite a few years) and there’s not only a market, but a whole empire out there for writers like me. I’m thrilled to be able to contribute my stories and take pride in what I write.

Many of my characters enjoy making my life as difficult as possible by refusing to take the easy pathway to love. They prefer to swagger through the undergrowth and laugh at me as I point at my story outline and demand they get back on the route I painstakingly mapped out.

Lately I’ve discovered it’s far easier to let them dictate what happens and when, although I do get my revenge when it comes to giving them an undesirable trait or two to contend with. My characters are as flawed as their love lives, but they will usually find a kind of imperfect perfection in each other by the time I type ‘The End’.



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