Background information for Lord and Master

Where did you get the idea for that?
Is it a true story?
Any more stories about Mark and Steven?
Further reading

Where did you get the idea for that?

This started with a single scene. With something I'd read years ago, a brief paragraph of description in something else, about a senior manager whose morning routine was precisely laid out -- arrive in the office at 9:00, start reading his post at 9:05, have tea served at his desk at 10:00, wait until 10:05 for it to cool, drink tea until 10:15. Somewhere in there, at exactly the same every morning, was "enter Miss Smith", and two minutes later, "exit Miss Smith", Miss Smith being his secretary. Impersonal, unemotional, just a handy convenience provided by Miss Smith, like having the post brought to him at 9:05, and then a cup of tea at 10:00. Of course, from Miss Smith's perspective, it was an affair, a chance at attracting the boss's attention, the prelude to something more. Marriage, perhaps.

I flipped that around. What if it was a young gay man working as a PA for someone with enough clout to be openly gay and get away with it? Being a man, he might think of it as just convenient sex with someone he liked and admired, at least at first. He wouldn't have that dream about the boss marrying him if he was good enough in bed, because gay men can't get married. But he might still come to long for more than he had, and he would be all too aware that to his boss it was probably still just convenient sex.

That resulted in a short story. It's a rather melancholy little tale, and yet he does have almost everything he wants. A job he enjoys with a boss he hero-worships, and the knowledge that he is important to his boss. Just not in the way he wants to be.

As often happens, the story sat in slushpiles for a couple of years before finally being published at Clean Sheets. But in the time between it being written and it being published, the law changed in the UK. The Civil Partnership Bill went through, and now gay men can get married. And in the discussion about the story on my DreamWidth (originally my LiveJournal) on the day it was published, I said:

"Something that got lost in the final editing was the fact that Mark is a qualified scientist himself, so he's not kidding himself when he says that he's rather more than a secretary. Steven wanted a personal assistant who had a good enough grasp of the science to be an effective deputy for him in a small high-tech company, so he values Mark quite apart from the sexual relationship. But there wasn't any easy way to make that clear to non-scientist readers in such a short story without blatant info-dumping, and I had to cut it. The result was a bigger power gap in the final version.

"I probably shouldn't say this when my editor might be listening, but I could probably write a novella with the same basic plot..."

To which my editor replied:

"Your editor will pretend she heard nothing and will be suitably impressed and appreciative when the highly fleshed-out, extended version appears in her inbox."

And after that, the story and the characters wouldn't let go of me. I needed to know how they got into that situation, and what happened next. The long version is, of course, a tycoon/secretary romance with a classic HEA, and has a rather different tone to the short story -- not least because when I wrote the long version, I switched from the first person present tense the short was written in to the more usual third person past tense style. But it's not quite the usual tycoon/secretary, because these are two men, who being guys aren't going to willingly talk about their feelings. Shag like bunnies, yes; talk about it, no. And Steven has a secret to hide...

In the end it took them 30,000 words to even start talking to each other about whether it was just good sex between friends, and another 30,000 to deal with the issues that surfaced as a result of that. A 1500 word short turned into a 60,000 word novel when I answered the questions, "How did they get into that situation, and what happened next?"

This is one of the ways in which stories happen. There's a scene, with characters, and you watch what they do...

Is it a true story?

Definitely not. Obviously, I drew on my own experience of industrial science quite a bit; but with one exception the characters are fictional, as are the incidents in the book. (The exception is that I based the speech pattern and to some extent the personality of a minor character on one of my friends, simply so that I could get it sounding right.) Some aspects of Steven are based on real world experience, but as a person he's a figment of my imagination.

I've had comments that the scientific work wasn't very fleshed out -- I'm afraid that was quite deliberate, to avoid problems with real people seeing resemblances that may or may not have been intended. You'll note that exactly what field of chemical engineering they're involved in is never specified.

Besides, people outside science wouldn't believe some of the stuff that I've seen or heard about, such as the multi-generation vendetta between two research groups. (We won. Eventually.) Real life doesn't have to be believable; fiction does.

The series currently includes two novels, a novelette and a short story. More details on the series information page.

The current work-not-in-progress: a piece set around three years after their marriage, picking up a minor strand from the second novel. I've written the first two chapters, but I'm not promising anything about the rest of it getting written.

Further reading

I've had some questions about an issue in the story. Since the answer is a significant spoiler, I'm putting the information and links to help sites on a separate page.