Serial killers think if it all goes south and they finally get caught that their swan song is a day in court, making the families relive the agony while they get off on that delicious pain, all over again.
Not happening. Not anymore. We’re not making celebrities out of monsters. We’re not giving them a stage to strut on.
Now they get an audience of two.
One to Handle the problem, one to Witness it.
I’m a Witness. I trained for six years to do my duty, to manage my contracted killer, and to watch justice be done.
I knew it would be hard, the first time, to watch the eye for an eye moment.
I expected to feel a lot of things – fear, disgust, guilt.
I didn’t expect to feel turned on.
And I didn’t expect my contracted killer to look quite so pretty with blood on his hands.
HANDLED is a dark gay romance with themes of justice, retribution, and unsuitable love. It is not for the faint of heart and contains graphic scenes intended for an adult audience.
Release Date: October 29, 2020
Genre: Dark M/M Romance
Themes: justice, retribution, and unsuitable love
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 175 pages
Trigger warning: violence, mentions of suicide, and torture.
It's also a happy for now not a happy ever after
as there are two further books in the series.
Buy Links - Available on Kindle Unlimited
Tell us a little about yourself and your writing goals.
Hi, I’m Romilly King, I write gay fiction, normally with a romantic slant (because underneath it all I am soppy!) and usually with a kink component. My books tend to be intimate looks into the character and relationships of a small number of people – I don’t do big casts – and I’m fascinated in how the diversity of sexuality is coming to be accepted and understood by society.
Which makes me sound verrrryyy worthy.
I’m actually kinky as all hell myself and really happy to be able to write about it!
Congratulations on your new release. Please tell us a little bit about it. What’s your favorite aspect or part of the story? Do you have a favorite character? Who/Why?
My new book is called Handled and it’s the first in a series of three dark romances. It’s set in an alternate universe that is pretty much the same as our own other than there psychopaths are trained and employed by the criminal justice system to investigate serial killers and execute them. These people are called Handlers and the whole process is overseen by a Witness whose role is to see justice being done.
The book is about the relationship that forms between a notoriously difficult and dangerous Handler, Gray, and his new, younger Witness, Nathan. Nathan is a reluctant witness, mainly taking the job so he can be close to his brother Indigo, a Handler in training and Gray is reluctant to have a new Witness having been with the same one his entire career. The novel covers how they change from knowing each other and establish a working relationship and more over the course of their first cases together.
I love my psychopathic Handler, Gray, I love writing him, I love being in his head. I love his confusion as he tries to recognize and label feelings – at one point he thinks he might be hungry but the reader knows he is feeling grief. I find it fascinating to explore his mind and gently nudge him, through circumstance, to come to understand he might be more than he thinks he is. He’s horrifically damaged and he is a monster, but he’s also a hero.
Are you a planner or a pantser? How much do you know about your story before you start writing? How often does your plan change? Why does this work best for you?
I’m in between. I spend a lot of time appearing to do nothing as I work, which is annoying for the people around me who think I am just lazy. I write a lot in my head but I can only do that because I have a fairly clear idea of where I am going. I normally know the end result if not the exact details of it.
I plan out the main plot points initially using a beat sheet because plot isn’t my strength but the further into a work I go the more they change, not so much in their place in the story, but in how they will happen. As the character voices become clearer in my head the route to the end game becomes obvious and impossible to be any other way.
Generally, at the very last minute, there will be a major change in how something happens and that’s the eureka moment for me, it’s when I know what it is that will allow the characterization and events to pan out as they need to. That’s always a lovely moment, and it always happens late in the game for me. I think that’s where a lot of writers get scared and flail around in panic knowing something isn’t right with their work and yet not knowing how to fix it. I try to sit quietly and trust it will come, trust my writer’s brain to work it out for me.
Do deadlines motivate you or block you? How do you deal with them?
I have to have deadlines. Without deadlines I am utterly useless, I’ll faff around forever researching and learning and getting sidetracked. And they have to be real deadlines, not promises I make to myself. The only way that works for me is to put a book up on pre-order and the minute someone pre-orders that book I’m all in. I have this annoying character trait that means I can’t let people down – someone paid for that book, it will be there on the date they expect it, come hell or high water (normally both).
At the end I may not be eating properly, I will be sleeping in three or four hours bursts and I may be working 16 hours a day, but I will get it done.
I would point out that this is an insane way to work. Normal people don’t do this!
I am saved by the fact that I write clean, I don’t need to edit for structure, only for typos, because so much of it has been done in my head. I also find that when I am up against a tough deadline (which, I would point out, I let myself get to) I descend into an almost trance like state and I am totally unaware of what is going on around me.
God, this makes me sound totally bonkers, but I would say there is a joy in this, in this writing state, and maybe I subconsciously drag my feet in the early stages so I get to experience this as the deadline approaches.
What was the most difficult part of writing this book? Why?
I find it difficult to do physically bad things to my characters. I can put them through all sorts of mental torture but physically torturing them is hard. I also found writing the execution scenes difficult because even though this universe insists upon them I don’t agree with them personally – which may be way Gray sometimes gives them a chance to escape, and it’s not that he’s just playing with them.
How do you develop a story idea? Do you always use the same method? Specifically, which do you develop first in your story building, the characters or the plot?
Most stories start from a premise, from me reading something random and then thinking about it, and I have my pet subjects and so some of these ideas have been wandering around my brain for years before something new gives them a stage to stand on. With the Delphic Agency Series I had spent a long time thinking about whether we are we all on a Kink spectrum similar to the Kinsey scale for sexuality, and how would we feel about ourselves if we could place ourselves on a scale. That idea got a place to play out when during the early days of the covid pandemic I considered how bad it could get and what people would need to do to survive and how a modern society would respond to that. That created the universe and the characters came later.
With Handled the series came out of an article I read on a film called Clemency, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2019, and which looks at the people who have to carry out the executions mandated by the state, and how often ill prepared they are for their role. It was just another aspect of the many things I find wrong about the death penalty so my brain tried to come up with another way if society was to insist on the ultimate punishment. Again the universe was created and the characters grew out of it.
What are your favorite genres when it comes to your own pleasure reading? Do you prefer to read ebooks or print?
I read mainly ebooks, purely because I go through so many and because I have often lived in places where getting print books was not always easy. I have a huge loft in my house and it is full of books – I’ve moved around the world a lot and I can’t part with my print books so they live there when I travel. Just knowing they are safe there makes me happy!
With poetry and non-fiction I tend to read print books because I write on them (I know, I’m a monster).
Some of my hardbacks I treasure like precious things though. I buy a signed copy of every Nail Gaiman book when it comes out and I have first editions of nearly every Terry Pratchett book.
I read pretty much anything. I’m not really fixed on genre, more on story. All reading is pleasure, I’m lucky that way.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Oh tricky question. It does both. I have to be careful not to let it exhaust me too much and my family tends to get a bit vocal with me about my deadlines. However, I suspect that is because meals and duty get thrown out the window during the last week of any writing stint and they may just be hungry and having attention tantrums.
All I know is it makes me happy. Sometimes I am buzzing with ideas and situations and characters and I want to talk about them (ha, fat chance!) and sometimes I just need to sleep and let my subconscious sort out plot points.
Either way, I’ll take it, rough with the smooth, exhausted or ebullient.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Bad vibes are my kryptonite, man.
I am a human tuning fork vibrating in response to those around me – excuse shit analogy. If the people around me are moaning for whatever reason I tend to struggle with writing and that’s when I have learned to say ‘Sorry, I need to lock myself away now because I have to work.’
When you don’t have what looks like a proper job people do tend to interrupt you a lot and learning to say I’m working please can we discuss this another time is a hard thing to do. However, once you learn to say it then it gets easier and the people around you learn to accept it.
(Thank you to the many years of therapy it took me to be able to say that)
What did you edit out of this book?
I edited a long and detailed sex scene out of this book – it’s going into the next one, it’s actually important from a character point of view (and also it’s hot and there is no way I am wasting that, I needed a cold shower after writing it).
I also edited out a lot of the detail of Gray’s back story because it forms the main narrative thrust of the next book in the series.
How do you select the names of your characters?
This is going to sound awful.
I have a list. I compiled it ages ago of names I like and which are a little bit different. It was like having a baby without having a baby! I think I have made some cock-ups in choosing names and then there are some I love. I love Birch and Brio from the Delphic Agency Series and I love Indigo from the new book.
I try to pick names that sound different from each other because there is nothing worse than flying through a story and having characters with similar sounding names and getting them mixed up. It pulls you out of the story.
What were your goals for this book? Did you achieve them?
I wanted to create a dark character that was more than a killer and more than a victim of a horrible past and that had nuance and knew what he was but was still capable of evolution. That was important to me. I also didn’t want him to be a character that needed redeeming, because he isn’t wrong, he’s just different, and I think I achieved that in Gray.
I also think I did a logical job of the world building. There had to be a reason why this society had chosen to do this and those reasons are explained right at the start of the book and they make sense. I can’t actually write a book that doesn’t make logical sense to me, or has weak reasons for being the way it is, that would feel like cheating.
What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
Plots. Driving is my go to place for plotting, there must be something about the road ahead that makes my brain settle down and find the course. I can’t do it in the passenger seat, only when I am behind the wheel.
What were you like in high school?
Nerdy, big into animal rights and peace, read books nobody else read, terrible eye sight, really good at sport, horny as all hell.
What are the three best things about you?
I’m kind and I’m really super polite and I’m a really good cook. So I politely feed everyone.
What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
I don’t like ice cream, please don’t hate me, I think it’s the lack of real texture.
If you could time-travel, where would you go and when?
I could never pick just one time, I’d be bouncing up and down the timeline like a rubber ball. Time travel is one of those things that fascinates me, logically, scientifically, historically (my three favorite things apart from the obvious). When I was a kid I read a book by Robert Silverberg called Up the Line about the experts that escort time travelling tourists to various points in history - whistle-stop tour of the Byzantine empire, highlights of Athens golden age, the plague years in London – that’s my dream job (but without the tourists). I love that book, I must read it again soon, and it’s got an amazing ending, so logical. Anyway, that’s why I couldn’t just do it once; there is just so much to see.
I wake no less irritated than when I went to sleep. Frustration and arousal are rolling at a low level simmer in my brain and my body. I should have sought a release but I couldn’t make my mind up if I needed to hurt, or be hurt.
Normally I know exactly what I want.
Watching the kill turned me on, it always does, there was pain involved, and although I was fifteen feet away I could feel it, smell it, almost taste it as the wire of the garotte carved through the dirty skin of the neck.
It was the laziness of the killer that confused my arousal though. He was sloppy, his victim was random, there was no finesse anywhere, no evolution in technique, no learning or adapting.
The pain on the victim’s face had caused a jerk in my limbic system, my cock going half hard, my blood sluggishly stirring, but the lacklustre carry through from the killer snuffed my rising hormones.
I know I will be a lot harder when I kill him.
The pleasure will last a lot longer.
The best I can say about last night’s kill was that it was quick. Which was a blessing for the victim.
It was the second time I had seen this killer perform, and the previous operation had been no more inspiring than this one.
I roll out of bed, I have time for a shower before watching the congressional committee do their annual rehashing of old issues before failing to find a way out of their ethical conundrum.
It is essential viewing, it gives me insight into which way the wind is blowing on Capitol Hill with regard to my employment and more than that, my existence.
Chances are the wind will still be gusting in my direction. The public remains fascinated and frequently aroused by people like me, but reluctant to face the unpalatable truth that the human genome throws us up for a reason, and that reason is survival.
Apart from that it's always amusing to watch the Director deliver this year's version of his you can’t handle the truth monologue.
Under the warm water of the shower I feel again the urge to give into the sexual side of my issues but it’s not worth it. It won’t assuage the itch, and I still can’t decide, hurt me or hurt someone else.
Sometimes, when the disconnect is bad, I look down at my body and I am surprised, because it isn’t what I expect to see. I see smooth lean muscle and length when what I expect to see is skinny and short and dirty, with old blood on the backs of my legs, grime ground into too pale skin, and my ribs like a toast rack.
The curling arousal makes it worse. I need to kill or this vision of me becomes the more prevalent one, and that isn’t helpful, it takes the confidence away.
I don’t have bad memories per se, I just had my evolution forced, and so the real me, the me now, it sometimes regresses, and if I look in the mirror I see both of us, one standing inside the other. The grown Handler and the tortured child.
Once I get my new Witness and handle this killer it will be so much clearer, and then I can take my release with clarity and passion.
Rubbing my hair dry I walk naked into the bedroom and flick on the tv. The committee is coming to order, the Director adjusting his microphone smoothly on the desk in front of him - I honestly don’t know how he has the patience for this, but then we have different mentalities. His various assistants are congregated behind him looking like a row of funeral directors, which is essentially what they are - all dark shiny graduates of the Witness program.
It would be nice if one of them was assigned to me, preferably one that I won’t want to kill within the first half hour, and then we can get the show back on the road and I can finally let the curling, aching need in me find its path to completion.
Romilly is queer. Romilly wakes up every morning and decides which (witch) to be. Some days Romilly is an Imp, some days a Fairy, some days a Stoic, and some days a Gladiator. Romilly has a classical education, a filthy mouth and loves OTK spankings and strong Sirs who give love and punishment in equal measure.
Romilly is also very shy but makes every effort to engage with people from all walks of life and likes making friends and meeting fans on social media.