Author Loren Rhoads is the writer of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes, the components of the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy. I am pleased to introduce her to you here on No Wasted Ink.
My name is Loren Rhoads. I’ve lived in San Francisco since 1988, long enough to survive a major earthquake, several tech booms (and busts), and to watch the city change and change and change. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
When and why did you begin writing?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t tell myself stories. My mom was a firm believer in naps and early bedtimes, so I had a lot of time to entertain myself quietly. Once I learned that people actually wrote stories, I asked for a typewriter for my birthday.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote notebooks full of stories, even saw some of them published, but I didn’t really consider myself a writer until I survived Clarion. That was in 1986, at Michigan State University. After six weeks of writing every single day, I knew I never wanted to do anything else.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
No More Heroes is the final part of my In the Wake of the Templars space opera trilogy. The first two books were published in July and September of this year. While The Dangerous Type plays with the tropes of a Hong Kong revenge story and Kill By Numbers is a Philip K. Dick mindwarp, No More Heroes starts as a courtroom drama before morphing into a time travel story. My goal was to stretch the boundaries of space opera beyond military fiction or westerns in space. I’m interested in the intersection of cultures and media, prejudice and family.
What inspired you to write this book?
Although I keep being called for jury duty in San Francisco, I’ve never been chosen for a jury. I’m fascinated by the theater of the courtroom, the personas the lawyers and judges assume as they perform for the jury. I also wanted to explore shades of guilt – both in the case of the defendant (my main character) and the mercantile government that brings the charges against her. What if you really are guilty of the crimes you’ve been charged with, but there are good and heroic reasons for the things you’ve done? What if you’ve done terrible things in the past that you’re terrified the court will uncover? What is the definition of a hero – and can other people define you as one, if you reject the label?
I also wanted to examine the concept of influence. The first book in the series looks at persona and how people construct it for each other. The second book explores memory and how each person remembers the same incident differently. In the end of No More Heroes, I wanted to see how the main character inspired each character in the cast to change.
Do you have a specific writing style?
For these books, I toned down the descriptiveness of my usual writing because this trilogy is so tightly focused on point of view. The characters are more interested in people than setting, so that’s where most of their attention goes. Each of them have blindspots and preconceptions, which limit what they see and how they react. I wanted to play inside those limitations.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
All the titles in the series came from songs I loved in high school. I like that they sound like noir titles; there’s that genre-blurring again. No More Heroes is the title of a song that was playing as I was writing in my favorite café one morning. It was originally meant as the title of the second book, but that story morphed in the writing and the title didn’t apply any more.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Love can save you, however you define it.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The relationship between Raena and her former owner/lover/adopted sister Ariel was inspired by my friendship with Martha Allard. Mart and I met in 8th grade social studies, but didn’t really get to be friends until 9th grade after we’d both seen Star Wars over the summer. The movie changed our lives. Mart has been with me through the deaths of my grandparents and younger brother; she sang at my wedding and made stuffed animals for my daughter. I could call her about anything. If I was in jail, she’d bail me out, no questions. If I were homeless, she’d take me in. And I would do the same for her. I’d be honored if she considered me her sister.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
Ray Bradbury is my chief influence. In fact, there’s a chapter in No More Heroes that’s an homage to The Martian Chronicles. My Templars lived on the desert planet of Kai before they were wiped out by a human-engineered plague, but their abandoned homes still remember them.
I love Bradbury’s implication that living on Mars turns humans into martians. Throughout my books, people comment on the physiological similarities between humans and the Templars, even though externally they could not appear more different. I think they are on a spectrum.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
Dana Fredsti, author of the Ashley Parker Plague World series, would probably laugh, but I consider her my role model. Dana showed me how you write a trilogy, how you interact with fans, how you continually push your comfort as an author. She is an inspiration.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Cody Tilson designed the covers of all three books. I really love what he did for the third book. I wanted to focus on the relationship between Raena and Haoun, the Na’ash pilot. They tell themselves that they aren’t in love with each other, but they have a fascination with each other and a deep affection. Haoun is bigger and probably stronger, but he’s a gamer, while she’s the warrior. I think Cody captured the dynamic between them perfectly. He was chosen by my publisher.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I keep a list of things to write about, so I’m never at a loss for subject matter, and I carry about a spiral-bound notebook, so I always have a place to write. In addition, I write in a café over breakfast every weekday. No matter what other crazy thing happens in my life that day, I know I’ve gotten some work done. I find it inspirational to know that I’m going to face the blank page every morning, so my imagination better get itself primed. Find whatever process works for you, then stick to it. Writing is a process of building a story day by day.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you. I really appreciate you bringing my characters to life with your imaginations.
San Francisco, California
No More Heroes