Have you ever gotten out of a relationship and wondered if the other person had been in the same relationship? Or if he had a completely different relationship with you than the one you thought he had?
That was my premise when I started Kill By Numbers.
At the end of The Dangerous Type, the first book in my space opera trilogy, Raena Zacari is free of the Imperial torturer who trained her. She’s left the woman she’s loved most in the galaxy and the man who spent decades believing he loved Raena more than anyone. She’s ready to start a new life on her own.
Then the nightmares attack. They begin as if she’s reliving a memory, then spin off into new directions. Almost every dream ends with her ex-lover trying to save her – and every time, she doesn’t recognize him until after she’s killed him.
So many books are written about when the characters fell in love. I wanted to explore the end of a relationship: How do you recover? What do you owe someone after everything dissolves? What if the memories that mean so much to you meant something entirely different to your other half? What if someone was willing to risk everything to save you, whether you wanted to be rescued or not?
They weren’t questions I was used to seeing in science fiction. We’re all too familiar with the damsel who needs to be saved (I’m thinking of the original Sarah Connor) – or the strong leader who falls in love in the heat of the battle. (That’s you, Princess Leia.) So many stories end with the heroine surviving merely to settle down with the only person who understands what she’s been through. (I’m looking at you, Katniss.) I wanted to spin the tropes so that the protagonist never thought she needed rescuing and the “hero” wasn’t a nice guy.
One of the things that struck me as I was writing Kill By Numbers was the speculation that a nice guy does things not because he genuinely likes a girl and wants to help her, but because if he holds the door for her and makes her dinner and listens when she’s sad and treats her like a friend, she will reward him with sex. Friendship isn’t his goal. It’s a calculated means to an end.
That theory explained so many of the relationships I had when I was younger. It pointed up a fundamental schism in the definition of friendship between two people – and I don’t believe it breaks down simply along gender lines.
So while Kill By Numbers is about learning to fit in after all the rules have changed, and what would happen if the chief stardrive technology in the galaxy has a catastrophic flaw, and an exploration of the responsibilities and integrity of journalists, and what’s it like to recover from years of violence and manipulation to claim your survival as a triumph, it’s also a deconstruction of the end of love.
Because why jam your story into one simple box?
Loren Rhoads is the author of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes — the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy — all published by Night Shade Books in 2015. You can find out more at www.lorenrhoads.com.