Today, I'm welcoming Loren Rhoads, author of Kill by Numbers. I always admire writers who can take on this high concept subject matter, and she's here to tell us about the Wake of the Templars trilogy.
Former assassin Raena Zacari thinks she's left the past behind. The Imperial torturer who trained her is dead, the human empire is disbanded, and she is finally free. But Raena is troubled by a series of nightmares that always ends with her killing an ex-lover. She needs to get her mind clear because there's a flaw in the most common starship drive -- and the band of media pirates she's fallen in with is at the heart of the trouble.
Raena walked through the rain toward the trees she could barely see on the other side of the landing field. The saturated ground under her feet was invisible below a shaggy carpet of weeds, but as she crossed it, it felt sodden and slick beneath her boots. Terrible footing for a fight.
She wasn’t exactly sure where she was or where Doc’s ship was headed after this, but it didn’t matter. Here she was, with the rain driving into her face, soaking through her cape. It was so cold that she couldn’t stop shivering. She almost turned back to the medical shuttle behind her. She could take it all back, ask them to drop her in a city someplace or, for that matter, anywhere warm and dry. She didn’t have the stomach to run right now, even to search for somewhere to sleep out of the weather. She felt so completely overwhelmed that she thought she might cry.
Then something moved amongst the trees, a shadow blacker than the night. Raena froze, but of course she must have been seen. The ship’s lights were behind her as she stood in the scrubland, no cover at all unless she flung herself flat on the spongy ground.
“Raena?” a male voice called. “Don’t be afraid. I’m not here to hurt you.”
“How do you know my name?” She suddenly felt so cold that even her shivering stopped. A quick reality check reminded her that her hands were beneath her cloak.
“I’m an old friend,” he said. His voice sounded strangely amused, as if he’d had this conversation before.
“I don’t have any old friends,” she said bitterly, inching her right hand down toward the new holster Skyler had given her.
“I’m an old friend of Ariel’s, too.” He stepped clear of the trees, coming toward her at a slow, non-threatening walk.
Keep coming, Raena thought. Make this easy. I don’t want to do anything hard tonight.
“How is Ariel?” Raena asked, keeping the conversation alive. “Is she safe?”
“She found her way back to the Coalition, if you consider that safe.”
Raena eased the new pistol free of its holster, angled the barrel toward the man. She couldn’t see him clearly at this distance and through the weather, but she was certain he was human. That made the Coalition a possibility, but the Empire much more likely.
She fired off six quick shots. One of them spun him around, took him off his feet. She ran toward him, rather than back to the med ship. Who had Doc told she was landing here? Either the Panacea had betrayed Raena or she’d just shot one of their Coalition friends. Either way, the Panacea’s crew didn’t want her showing back up on their doorstep.
The man was wheezing when she reached him. His hands were empty as he sprawled in the mud, but a pair of expensive guns hung from his belt.
“I’m here to help you,” he muttered as she rolled him over. He was an older man, old enough to be her father, with thinning hair and a beard that eclipsed the lower half of his face. Nothing about him looked the least bit familiar.
Raena shot him in the heart. Then she stole his guns and the belt that they hung from and ran into the woods.
Behind her, the med ship powered up for takeoff. Raena felt adrenaline course through her. She ran among the trees, looking for a deadfall or a cave or even a low-hanging branch. She had to find a defensible hiding place, in case they came after her.
Raena was left alone in the storm. The weight of her guns comforted her enough to raise a smile.
Raena blinked, refocusing her eyes on the screen in front of her. The curriculum vitae that Coni had prepared for her was still open.
What had just happened? Raena shook herself, stretched, trying to get the blood flowing into her stiff muscles. Had she really just hallucinated that she shot Gavin dead in the rain on Barraniche?
That hadn’t happened twenty-odd years ago. She hadn’t known Gavin then, hadn’t met him until the night on Nizarrh. That had been, what? Months, maybe as much as a year after she’d said goodbye to Kavanaugh and Doc and the Panacea.
What the hell was going on?
So, Loren, what is your background as a writer?
I have always told myself stories, but when I went to university, my parents thought I ought to pursue a career more stable than writing fiction. So I made a radical leap and studied journalism. When I graduated, I thought that all I had learned in that program was that I’d never work at a daily paper, on a tight deadline, calling up survivors of tragedies. And on that score, I was right.
However, I did work as a travel writer and personal essayist for years. The skills I learned in journalism school came in very useful. I’ve edited several books of nonfiction essays and created a magazine called Morbid Curiosity, which collected confessional first-person essays. It was all journalism in a different guise. That background led to the pirate journalists in Kill By Numbers.
Do you write full time? If not, what is your "other occupation?"
Yes. Since October 2014, I finished the three novels in this trilogy: The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes. The last, No More Heroes, had to be finished from first scene to final draft, in four months. That was brutal. I’m finishing a proposal for another series now, but I’m hoping I’ll have more than four months to finish each of the new books.
What are your writing inspirations?
Kill By Numbers was inspired by the novels of Philip K. Dick. I am fascinated by the phenomena of memory – how it can strengthen or change over time, how the same event can be remembered differently by everyone present, how memory creates us but changes as we change. My grandmother suffered from dementia and several of my closest friends have lost their parents to Alzheimer’s, so I wondered what a person might cling to if someone else attacked their memories.
How did you come to write this story?
I finished The Dangerous Type (the first book) in 2012 and was facing down NaNoWriMo, so I decided I’d play with writing a sequel. The first book explores persona, which I talked about that on Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog, so memory seemed like a perfectly logical follow-up.
I wondered too how you would protect your memories from a determined ex-boyfriend. What if he knew everything there was to know about your life, but only cared that you’d chosen not to be with him? What lengths would he go to in order to make what he considered a happy ending?
When Night Shade saw the first two books – the finished first book and the NaNo draft of the second one – my editor asked if I could write a third book. So when I signed the contract, I needed to come up with a subplot to fill out the word count of Kill By Numbers. My editor wanted me to write more about the mechanics of space travel in my galaxy – and in the real world, I drive a Toyota, which is always being recalled. So I wondered what would a star drive recall be like? How would that disrupt life in the galaxy?
Kill By Numbers, the second book in the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy, came out September 1. The Dangerous Type was published in July, and the third book, No More Heroes, comes out in November. The publisher called it the Netflix Effect: people want to devour the whole trilogy one book after another, rather than wait a year for each volume to come out. It was brutal to write to that schedule, so I’m curious to see if it will boost sales.
Even writing full time that is a hard timeline to conquer. Tell us a bit about the characters and who we will be meeting in the future.
Raena Zacari was an Imperial assassin, before she defected. Once she was hunted down and given a show trial, she was imprisoned for twenty years in a prison that kept her from aging. She looks twenty, but she’s much older in spirit. She’s left behind the man who rescued her from prison and she’s trying to live her own life now.
Thanks for coming by Loren. How can readers connect with you?
Here's the contact list: