Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Wendy Rathbone – Wendy Rathbone lives with a cat, three dogs, and her partner of 36 years, Della. She has been writing since the age of twelve. She lives in the high desert of southern California.
Thanks so much, Wendy, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Tell me about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
Wendy Rathbone: I will tell you two.
1. I do not watch television news ever…at all.
2. I own over 100 costume and sterling silver rings and keep buying more. Right now I am wearing 13 rings (many are doubled up or “knuckle” rings and I still have two fingers free.) The above number does not count my toe ring. Yes, I do type with my rings on. Easily.
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
WR: I was around 12 when I knew I wanted to write. I never thought I was much good, except at poetry, not even in college where I majored in writing. My stuff sucked in college though I got A’s. I was in my thirties when I became a bit more confident. But I was still rather terrible at marketing my work. I made the Writers of the Future contest one of my goals, and a convenient deadline for having a new story finished and ready to submit every three months. At age 32 I eventually placed second and it was at their writer’s workshop when I realized I was a fairly decent writer.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
WR: I read voraciously from first grade on. I credit this to my mother reading to me and my brother when we were but tiny tots. The first book I ever read all the way through by myself was a Dr. Seuss book. I think I had gotten the book for my sixth birthday. I don’t remember going through any day of my school years without a book in hand. I was about 13 when I got into some pretty hardcore scifi: Heinlein, Bradbury, Sturgeon, Asimov, etc. I also read “The Exorcist” at that young age. Standout favorites from my pre-scifi childhood that come instantly to mind are the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (amazing historicals) and the dark-edged books of Ruth M. Arthur that were always about troubled, haunted girls who didn’t fit in, or were recovering from trauma. The plots often had ghosts. The books had great titles like: The Autumn People, A Candle in Her Room, The Whistling Boy, and The Little Dark Thorn. I can still feel the vibration from where those books hit an edge on my soul I didn’t know I had.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
WR: Character-oriented. Philosophical. Poetic. Very focused on hearing and feeling my characters. I have a love affair with language.
My genre is usually scifi. Even my vampire fiction treats the vampires more like aliens than monsters, so I would call it scifi as well. Nearly all my stories/novels deal with the theme of the outsider, the downtrodden, or beings who lack basic rights, and most of my current books are m/m romance. I only have one contemporary m/m romance; it’s a trilogy.
JSC: What action would your name be if it were a verb?
WR: To wonder. To dream. To create.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
WR: My first professional sales were poems in the scifi/dark fantasy genre. The first story I sold to small press was “Vampire Weather”. My first pro short story sale was “The Augmented Man” to the Writers of the Future anthology after it had won second place in that contest. The story is about a half-flesh, half-metal created being who saves a little girl from a raid and assassination attempt on her parents. As with all my stories about created beings, vampires, etc., the theme is a focus on conscience and heart.
JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
WR: I never wanted to grow up. I fought it. The outside world terrified me. When I started writing a lot of poetry I thought I would like to someday be a great poet. But of course that is not really a vocation. I learned that poets were usually teachers. I did not want to teach. When I started writing stories I knew I wanted to be a fiction writer (and still a poet). I am both those things. Now I just wish I could be a full-time writer. But it doesn’t matter. I write anyway. Writing is what I do.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
WR: When I can, I write every day. When I am in the middle of a novel project I try to do 2000 words/day. It’s not hard if I just focus but sometimes I have to force myself to sit there until the words are done, like pulling teeth, and yet some of my best writing comes during those times when I am just getting the word count done. This means I can actually complete a novel draft in 4 to 6 weeks. But too often work interrupts and I have to set my projects aside for awhile. After that, it’s very hard sometimes to get back into the book. Such are the pitfalls of not being able to be a full-time writer.
Usually, I am a pantser. This means I work without an outline, completely trusting my muse. But sometimes I have notes or a very brief list of events, or even pages of entire out of context scenes. I make lists or write out of place scenes when my mind is moving too quickly and I don’t want to forget my ideas. But usually I write my stories linearly, as they unfold.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
WR: I attended Clairemont High School in San Diego which is the school “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is based on. Not only that, when the now-famous writer/director Cameron Crowe went undercover there to write his first book, he became good friends with my brother Andy who is, in fact, the main character Mark “the Rat” Ratner in that movie. My brother, however, is much more handsome and less nerdy than Mark. (And wow, does this story date me, right?).
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
WR: Right now I am working on a new series of books about mythical gods. The first is “Where the Gods Walk Garlanded: A Story of Ganymede” and details my own retelling of when Ganymede is abducted by Zeus and taken to Olympus for somewhat nefarious reasons. I start with the myth but make it my own by making Olympus an alien construct orbiting another world, and introducing, as background only, folds in space and time. So the series has me mucking about with Greek myths and making them my own while keeping some of the famous names like Zeus, Eros, Ganymede, Olympus, etc. I am considering publishing these books under my pen name, Natasha Solten, to delineate and “brand” them as their own thing. The first book is written. I won’t release it until the second is done…hopefully fall of 2017.
And now for Wendy’s new book: The Android and the Thief:
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.
Strangers bathed his body in lilac-scented water. They brushed him down, naked, with gold body powder. They rimmed his eyes with blue shadow and caressed his lips with a soft pink sheen.
Khim might have fought them off if, beforehand, they hadn’t made him breathe the curling zotic smoke from the pleasure wands the grooms waved all about his face and head. The smoke aroused him against his will, made him pliant, dizzy. Paralyzed his vocal cords—an invisible gag—and took away all aggression. Aggression under command orders for expert frontline fighting was his own past means of survival. Bereft of that, he had no sense of what to do as his body betrayed him by following every command of the grooms, every lead.
The grooms, three human boys who looked no more than nineteen, seemed pleased at his response. But mostly they seemed bored, applying all the makeup and powder as if they’d done it a hundred times before. Their touches were professional, gentle, not cruel. But except for that gentleness, they seemed uncaring about what he might be going through.
Created to obey, Khim had no words within him for a protest.
Brought onto a small lighted stage on a thin laser-leash by a fourth handsome groom, Khim could see nothing beyond the glow that contained him but shadows and darker man-shapes upon those shadows.
Knowing nothing of this new, nonmilitary world, he felt vulnerable and exposed, and fear fluttered through his stomach and into his chest. He knew what this was about—sex and its darker underpinnings. It couldn’t be otherwise, for he was naked, painted like a doll. He’d witnessed androids fucking without inhibition, but he’d never wanted it for himself. Never felt aroused by his own kind. Never had the sex drive some of the others seemed born with. If something was wrong with him, he never thought about it or cared. He got his pleasure from battle, from storming alien worlds and using his weapons to subvert, kill, destroy. It was enough for him.
But that was no longer his life.
This new thing was something so completely “other” to what he was trained for. He didn’t want it.
But his mind and body were like separate entities now. In this moment, upon this stage, as he tried again to find words to deny, to protest, to negate the proceedings, nothing happened but a few twitches in the sleek, round muscles beneath his henna skin. His voice was cramped down low in his throat, unwilling or unable to come out, and he was turned upon the dais as if he were a doll for all those out there in the shadows to ogle and critique and assess.
If there were conversations about his viability, his virility, his beauty, they were silent, through private systems and digital conveyances. He was privy to none of it, and Khim abhorred that even more.
The groom who’d led him into this dark area leaned away, put a hand up to his ear as if listening. Right after that, the groom made a motion and touched Khim on the wrist. He forced him to lift his right hand up and turn it, showing off the silver gleam of the metal that had replaced the flesh-and-bone hand he had lost in the explosion on Doom in Shadow.
It all took just under a minute. Then the grooms led Khim off by the glowing leash into a dark corridor beyond the little stage, where he was able to overhear just the barest of harsh whisperings.
Wendy Rathbone lives with a cat, three dogs, and her partner of 36 years, Della. She has been writing since the age of twelve. She lives in the high desert of southern California.
Male/male romance has been a passion of Wendy’s since before the signature “m/m” was even invented. She wrote a lot of slash fanfic in various fandoms to assuage that obsession but moved on to original writing in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror where she is published in many anthologies and magazines.
She is an award-winning poet, a graduate from UCSD, and runs her own retail business.
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