“A son! A child! How? Why? Fuck! Phil! You can’t have! And does this sperm-child want to see you?”
Abandonment, trust, suspicion and compromise—integral parts of a mystery that involves industrial espionage, sperm donation and coming to terms with oneself and the truth.
Sperm donors know that now, under UK law, offspring who reach eighteen have the right to learn a donor’s identity and last known address, but Phil Roberts donated before the law was changed. He is shocked and dismayed to learn that he has a son called Lewis who intends to visit. Phil’s husband, Raith, is furious—and very scared.
What does Lewis Lennon really want? The man he has always called ‘dad’ is dead. Was his death suicide or was he murdered? Lewis wants Phil to find out. So, Phil, Raith, Mike and Ross, the County Durham Quad, plus their special friend, Nick, are embroiled in another investigation, but, as always, their relationships come under scrutiny too.
Title: A Right To Know
Series: County Durham Quad 7
Author: Jude Tresswell
Release Date: 31st July 2021
Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex
Pairing: Male/Male Menage
Genre: Mystery, asexual/sexual relationship, family drama/biological father, polyamorous relationship
When did you write your first story and what was the inspiration for it?
I wrote a 60,000+ word fan fic in 2015. It was based on a detective series by the British author, Reginald Hill. I was fascinated by one of the secondary characters, a gay detective. I wrote the story around him and gave him a choice: be loyal to his job or to his lover. I knew I couldn’t publish: I’d have been arrested for copyright infringements! I liked the idea, though, so I altered the characters totally and turned the plot on its head to suit them, not Reginald Hill’s original ones. My main guy was Mike Angells and the book became Badge of Loyalty, my first published novel.
Do you have a writing schedule or do you just write when you can find the time?
I’m definitely a morning person. In fact, I’m writing this at seven am. I write or do research most mornings. However, whenever thoughts come, no matter how rough they are, I’ll write them down and if that means getting out of bed at midnight, I’ll get out.
Briefly describe the writing process. Do you create an outline first? Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music? Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?
No outline. No inspirational music etc. The springboard is nearly always something on the news. Once I have something that interests me, the plot develops automatically. That’s because I know how my characters will react to events. We’re talking four polyamorous men, though, plus a fifth one somewhere on the sidelines. So, although non-dialogue words come fairly easily, I do have to think at times about the words and language they use. Easy to distinguish Mike and Raith. Phil, too, because he’s always so worried and careful. Ross and Nick, though…similar backgrounds and education. Harder. I’ve become much better at giving each of the men a unique voice. I can definitely see an improvement over the series.
Where did the desire to write LGBT romance come from?
I appreciate that people can be aromantic (non-romantic).
I don’t write heavy romance, but I do write about care and concern and the willingness to sacrifice yourself for the people who mean most to you. To me, that’s love and it’s at the heart of the Quad’s polyamorous relationships. Everything represented by the Infinity Heart tattoos they have. (The infinity heart is also my logo.) Nick and Mike’s relationship is also based on love. Nick is asexual. Mike isn’t. Exploring and developing their relationship is very important to me because it’s a means of voicing some ace rep. Sex and love are different. You can be asexual and romantic. Like Nick, and like me too.
How much research do you do when writing a story and what are the best sources you’ve found for giving an authentic voice to your characters?
I certainly research the facts. Both Mike and Nick are cops who become ex-cops as the series develops, so, as I write mysteries where crime is prime, I have to ensure that the two of them sound knowledgeable. Luckily, I enjoy reading factual stuff – reports etc. It probably shows in my writing, which is very stripped down and non-descriptive. I read a lot of UK government legal stuff on the internet. For example, for Polyamory on Trial, I researched laws and procedures relating to asylum applications. For A Share in a Secret, I read up on sentencing guidelines so’s I’d know what Raith could expect when he stood trial for assault. From then on, it’s anything that will make my characters sound as though they know what they’re talking about. Phil’s a surgeon. He often uses his professional knowledge. Ross is an art dealer. His background knowledge is crucial in Ace in the Picture. Searching the net on key words usually gives me the website of a useful specialist organisation. For example, searching on ’sperm donor’ for A Right To Know gave me the HFEA (Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority).
What’s harder, naming your characters, creating the title for your book or the cover design process?
I’ve posts on my polyallsorts blog about my covers and the characters’ names, but I’ve never written about the titles. That’s strange because the titles are the hardest in a way. I always want there to be more than one level of meaning. Badge of Loyalty – which badge? Mike’s professional police badge or the infinity heart tattoo that represents his personal relationships? Ace in the Picture – the picture, literally, is a forged painting, but the story introduces Nick, who is asexual, so he is the ace in the picture. A Share in a Secret – yes, Nick learns of an old secret’s contents, but will doing so bind him to the Quad irrevocably? Almost like having a share in a business or a property. And the new tale, A Right To Know – a right to know your parents, a right to know how your dad died, freedom of information… lots of ways of applying the title. The others, Polyamory on Trial, Body Parts and Mind Games, Fast Free and Flying…they all have more than one meaning. Definitely a future blog post there!
“How do you answer the question “Oh, you’re an author…what do you write?”
I used to be very coy about saying what I do. Not now. I say that I write gay mysteries. Responses vary, but the most common one is shock! Not necessarily shock horror (though I have been asked, ‘What do you do that for?’) More just surprise at not getting the expected response. I’m assuming that the expected response would be historical novels or mysteries without the ‘gay’ bit. Something less niche, anyway and more appropriate for a none-too-young, long-married-to-a-man lady!
Do you have any advice for all the aspiring writers out there?
For aspiring writers who don’t have many personal or professional contacts, yes, one thing anyway. I think you have to ask yourself why you are writing. If it’s for fame and fortune, then you are probably going to have to spend a lot of time and money achieving your goal. If you write mainly for your own enjoyment though, then you can budget your PR (if any) accordingly. It’s something to think about.
We’ve all got a little voyeurism in us right? If you could be a fly on the wall during an intimate encounter between two characters, not your own, who would they be?
One of my favourite books is Jack Dickson’s Some Kind of Love. Similar genre to my own, but more brutal but, actually, no, I wouldn’t want to watch Jas and Stevie, the protagonists, doing anything in real life. I love reading about their relationship, but, watch them? No! Never. I’m asking myself why not. I haven’t come up with an answer. Don’t think it’s connected with being asexual, tho’ maybe it is: I like the fantasy but not the real thing. Ugh! No! Not even Jas and Stevie. (So I’m not voyeuristic.)
If I were snooping around your kitchen and looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?
I’ll go and look… Actually, very little. It’s been an odd couple of years with Corona Virus altering the way we do things and shopping is one of the changes. I wait until I’ve run out of everything before I venture to the supermarket. I’ll have to go soon. The only things in the fridge are eggs, cheese and yoghurt in the main part, a wrinkled pepper and some limp-looking celery in the veg compartment and some frozen raspberries and green veg in the freezer bit. I wish I were a more creative cook!
If you could trade places with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Any of the Quad. That is, Mike or Ross or Raith or Phil. Not Nick. Reason – the first four like partnered sex. Like Nick, I’m ace. That’s not necessarily a problem, but there are times when I think that it would be good to experience the sorts of intense sexual experiences the Quad have. (Experiences that are rarely explicitly there on the page. The books have a low flame count.) On further thought, I’d discount Phil too. He’s too much of a worrier. And on even further thought, I’d discount Raith. He’s a total one-off and much misunderstood. Not Mike either! He’s too emotionally intense. Sooner or later, he’s going to get into a spot that he can’t wriggle out of. That leaves Ross. Okay, Ross.
If you could sequester yourself for a week somewhere and just focus on your writing, where would you go and what would the environment be like?
Definitely Upper Weardale in County Durham, northeast England. It’s the setting of the stories. It’s remote. It’s harsh and bleak on the moors. It’s green and pastoral in the valleys. The only problem would be that internet connections are somewhat hit and miss. I might have to do everything on paper. If you would like to see what it looks like, I’ve a series of videos on YouTube where I read story extracts over drone and road footage shot by a local guy, Andy Ditchfield. There’s a shortened version of one of the vids on my Amazon page. If you like bikes, you might like it.
What’s the one thing, you can’t live without?
Mental one thing: fantasizing. Imagining stuff keeps me sane. It’s a great escape.
Physical one thing: English-style tea. Leaves not bag.
What internet site do you surf to the most?
YouTube. I don’t have a TV and nor do I have access to streaming but I look at a heck of a lot of YouTube. That’s especially so in the evenings when I’m too knackered to do much else. (Knackered = worn out/tired) I’ll watch anything to do with British industrial history, lots of stuff on geology… loads of things really. I subscribe to quite a few channels: Foxes Afloat is one.
When you got your very first manuscript acceptance letter, what was your initial reaction and who was the first person you told?
I’m self-published so it’s not something that has happened to me. However, I used to write occasionally for a national sports magazine and I can recall my delight when they accepted the first article I wrote. I phoned my husband, who was equally delighted. The thing was, they paid me!
Phil sat at the big kitchen table. His beard, neatly trimmed as always, failed to hide the lack of colour in his face. He looked shocked. He was holding a letter.
“You alright, Phil?” Mike was puzzled and concerned. “Bad news?”
“Not ‘bad’ exactly. Unexpected. Very.” He sighed. “I’ve an eighteen-year-old son. Sperm donation.”
Raith, Phil’s husband, dropped the glass of juice he was drinking. It rolled off the table and smashed as it hit the floor.
“A son! A child! How? Why? Fuck! Phil! You can’t have! And does this sperm-child want to see you?” Raith snatched the letter from Phil’s hands. “I can’t read this fucking stuff; it’s in joined-up. Why didn’t he type it?”
“He probably felt that this was more personal,” Mike suggested, retrieving the letter from the floor where Raith had slung it in disgust and shaking it free of orange juice.
“It’s fucking personal alright. You always said they couldn’t identify you, Phil. What the fuck’s gone wrong?”
“It looks as though we might find out,” said Ross, the fourth member of the quad. He was reading the letter over Mike’s shoulder. “He intends to visit. I think we need to talk.”
I’m a long-married, asexual, cis-gender female who lives in southeast England. I’m from northern England though, and the north is the setting of all my stories. You can see the setting on my Youtube channel. This isn’t a #ownvoice tale, though there’s certainly some ace-rep in it. Part of the motivation was my dismay at receiving, unasked for, the results of an ancestry test earlier this year. A different situation from Phil in the story, but I felt for him! A TW: parental suicide. Again, it’s something I have experience of. I hope I have dealt with it sensitively.