Love Bytes says hello and welcome to author Wendy Rathbone today 🙂
I Write What I Want to Read by Wendy Rathbone
My new novel, “The Android and the Thief,” is just out from Dreamspinner. It takes place in the far future in a human colonized galaxy. In this story there are cloud cities, space prisons and flying cars. The book is a romance with some dark elements but has a lot of heart and two main characters who really came to life for me as I wrote.
I always write what I want to read, characters with darker backgrounds who are broken, or torn in loyalty, or not free to make decisions and live as they wish. I always know, going into to the writing, that my story will have some of those compelling elements. I love to explore how people overcome negative odds to get what they need and want, adding in the element of love to inspire them and spur them on.
In my newest book, both my characters, Khim and Trev, are held back in life by powers outside themselves they cannot control.
Khim is a vat-grown human born adult, and an indentured slave. His brain is programmed to be a soldier, a hard enough life, but when he is later sold, because of his vat-grown, perfected beauty, to a brothel, things go from bad to worse for him.
I had so much fun exploring the internal thought processes of Khim, how his resentments of being born “owned” turn to an awakening of the human heart and a breakthrough that leaves him broken but open to all possibility (including love) and a desire to risk his life to escape his past.
Though a killer by trade, readers will relate to Khim because he is someone who has been pushed to the limits of his all-too-human mind releasing the fury within, yet retains an innocent and, at times, naïve heart through it all. He is very damaged and hurt, but he is strong. Readers will relate to the injustices that have been done to Khim, and how he tries to overcome that.
Khim and Trev’s love story does not happen right off. First trust must be established, and Khim has very good reasons not to trust anyone. The bond of working together to escape their misfortunes slowly develops. One of my favorite “bond-development” scenes in the book is when Khim has attacked some very bad men in the prison, nearly losing his mind in the process, and alarms are going off. All prisoners are required to lie flat on their stomachs wherever they are while guards try to assess the situation. Khim is shaking beyond control, but Trev lies next to him on the common floor and presses his body lightly to him, saying, “Stay still, stay quiet, I’m here.” At that point they are not yet lovers, but it establishes the caring between them where trust is still something both men are learning about.
For me as both a reader and a writer, I like the bonds characters create with each other through adversity, and one way to help that connection grow is through showing vulnerability. That can be done with scenes of comfort and healing, shoring up another when their defenses are down, good dialog that shows rapport, and sympathy/empathy for another’s plight. A little physical attraction thrown in for measure doesn’t hurt, either.
Khim and Trev’s love story comes about quite naturally. When they finally realize they are in love, it is very exciting for them. Two guys who have had the worst, finally get a bit of reward.
Question for readers: Do you have a favorite character from any media—books, TV, movies—who is broken?
Thank you for reading!
Here is an excerpt from “The Android and the Thief”:
“Khim!” Trev ran forward, grabbed him by the arm, pulled him away from the moaning pile of men.
And the three dead ones.
Khim felt the touch on his arm, started to pull back, then realized Trev was afraid. Trev looked panicked.
“Run!” Trev said in a deep, desperate tone.
The voice, the depth, the command of it. He responded instantly, coming out of the rage and into an eerie after-storm light, following Trev’s lead, leaping over writhing bodies.
They made it out the entrance where Trev, obviously not wanting to bring attention to them, slowed to a walk, pulling Khim along an outer wall, pressing him hard against it, back to front, as a line of sentries rushed by, followed by half a dozen armed human guards.
Khim felt the press of Trev’s body against the very pulsings of his heart under his skin. He went very still.
An alarm began, at first far-off.
The alarm grew in pitch, its tone and color different from random lockdown. This level of emergency meant every man in the prison had to go down on the ground where he stood. Prone. Hands over the head. Legs six inches apart.
Trev dropped to his hands and knees. Khim followed, flattening himself down next to him, left hand still in a tight fist. The plaza was littered with gray-clad men spread out on their stomachs, trying to turn their heads, trying to see what was going on.
More sentries came from all directions like giant roaches skittering across the plaza floors, some taking the stairs to other levels, all weaving about the still men, checking to make sure no one moved, no one threatened.
“Stay still,” Trev’s whisper commanded. “Don’t move. Don’t say anything.”
Khim realized he had begun to breathe hard. His body had an automatic response to curl up, turn away, blank out.
“Keep hold of yourself,” Trev said. “Hang on.”
Khim was shaking now.
Trev moved toward him, brushing against him hip to hip, arm to arm. “You don’t want to bring attention. Focus. Ground yourself.”
A sentry stepped up. “No talking!” it said.
Trev pushed his arm against Khim’s; Khim took in the heat as a source of calm. With Trev next to him, grounding him, he closed his eyes, the other man pinpointed in his concentration. He heard Trev’s breathing, the shift of his body on the tile. Khim smelled the faintly soapy scent of him, the way his fear burned at the edges of that usual sweetness. He opened his eyes again, saw white tile, errant dark bangs, brown eyes holding his own as they lay facing each other; the alarms clanged, the chaos of sentries and more guards gathered in all directions.
Trev mouthed soundlessly, “Stay down.”
Khim must’ve shown some fear in his own eyes, or aggression. Or maybe outright madness. He blinked away tears before they fell, a new sensation he had not noticed before now.
Trev nodded at him. Saying nothing. Mouth firm. Eyes holding his.
Will love set them free—or seal their fate?
In the 67th century, Trev, a master thief and computer hacker, and Khim, a vat-grown human android, reluctantly share a cell in a floating space prison called Steering Star. Trev is there as part of an arrangement that might finally free him from his father’s control. Khim, formerly a combat android, snaps when he is sold into the pleasure trade and murders the man who sexually assaults him. At first they are at odds, but despite secrets and their dark pasts, they form a pact—first to survive the prison, and then to escape it.
But independence remains elusive, and falling in love comes with its own challenges. Trev’s father, Dante, a powerful underworld figure with sweeping influence throughout the galaxy, maintains control over their lives that seems stronger than any prison security system, and he seeks to keep them apart. Trev and Khim must plan another, more complex escape, and this time make sure they are well beyond the law as well as Dante’s reach.
Wendy Rathbone has been writing for years, but since 2012 her focus is mostly on m/m romance. She writes all genres but seems to prefer fantasy and sci fi. She is also an award-winning poet. She lives in Yucca Valley, California, USA.
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