The Assaulters! Returning Author Ann Knight of Ottawa, ON.
We are most fortunate to have Ann back again.
This is Ann’s third visit to the Scribbler. Her first visit in 2016, she shared her creative story – The Raft. GO HERE Her second visit in 2018, Ann chatted with us about writing and shared an excerpt from her novel – Nightshade. GO HERE.
This week, she has kindly agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from her latest work – The Assaulters.
Author of six books: Battlefield, The Rising, Midnight Peak, The Rubix, Nightshade, and The Assaulters; three screenplays: The Gold Dust Circle, The Assaulters, and Holiday Spice; and one short story The Raft. Early start in choreography and stage production.
4Q: Welcome back Ann. Lots of incredible things happening with your writing. Let’s dive right in and talk about The Assaulters. What can you tell us about it?
AK: Thank you for having me back on the Scribbler.
The Assaulters is a psychological drama about a social experiment that goes wrong after a member of an underground group defects—and focuses his need for violent revenge on the remaining members—taking ‘assault’ to a whole new level.
By day, psychologist Sam Blake helps assess and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders; but by night, he sends his followers out on the streets to carry out specific acts of violence. Tired of waiting for ‘ideal’ patients to walk through his door, he takes it upon himself to encourage setups that will ultimately lead to more opportunities—chance occasions that will allow him to delve into the mind post-trauma. Dr. Blake wants to get inside their heads and discover just how resilient their minds are. His goal is simple: shock the victim and study the pliability of human character after suffering has taken place. His underground club becomes an outlet for men filled with angst and overrun with testosterone—easy pawns to manipulate.
Meanwhile, Sam’s personal life is not without problems. His wife’s repeated miscarriages are cause for concern, and her obsession to have a child add insult to injury. The cracks in their seemingly ‘perfect’ marriage begin to deepen. Ed is Sam’s closest friend, and an anchor through it all—a wise advisor and loyal accomplice. He tags along as the journey takes them deep into the nature of relationships, trauma, and loss.
When Sam rejects an unstable young man from the club for taking an act of violence too far; he inadvertently becomes the object of a twisted game of revenge. A victim of the group’s attacks ends up in Sam’s office giving him the break he has been waiting for. But everyone who gets close to Sam becomes a target; his wife, his best friend, his club members, and his new client… No one is safe from the malicious criminal who has made it his mission to hurt that which has hurt him.
4Q: What inspired this story?
AK: The story evolved from the idea that sometimes human beings experience tremendous pain and suffering and still find a way to move forward and reinvent themselves against all odds. Post-traumatic growth versus post-traumatic stress. In the same way, some minds don’t bounce back after trauma and the antagonist helps bring that to light. The Assaulters was originally a screenplay. I decided to write the book a year later. The story explores many themes such as love, loyalty, friendship, betrayal, and revenge.
4Q: Please share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.
AK: I remember the moment I caught the writing bug; I was fifteen years old—and in my high school graduating year. I was the youngest admitted to the screenwriting program the next year, and I had worked hard to sharpen my skills as a scriptwriter… and then tragedy struck—and 39 scripts were gone in the blink of an eye. From that day forward, I believed that my writing career was over. Eight years passed before I considered returning to the craft. I had a recurring dream—it would not go away until I wrote it down. In doing that, I gave the story a voice. Battlefield (my first book) was the result of that dream. I am reminded of the quote by Nicole Reed, ‘Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us’.
4Q: On your previous visit, we enjoyed an Excerpt from Nightshade. One of the three books in The Rising Series. Can you tell us about the series?
AK: Imagine living in a world free of disease, obesity, poverty, and murder—a perfectly crafted world order led by one family. The cost—freedom of choice. Genetics decide your diet, career path, and compatible partner. Rebel alliances are formed, but those who oppose the new system of control are forced into hiding. Children begin their training at a young age—future soldiers to serve the new world leaders. If the rebels hope to overthrow the family in power and restore their rights, the youth are their only hope.
And the story begins with The Rising:
Being at a medium-security training center high up in the mountains means that there is a slight margin for things like… sneaking out of dorm rooms after lights out. That’s what Rachel does to go meet Leo, her annoying, yet devilishly handsome pain-in-the-rear friend. He makes her life difficult and enjoys every minute of it. Leo always manages to get under her skin, but it doesn’t matter because they are drawn to each other like a moth to a flame, and they love to push each other’s limits.
She has everyone fooled. It was the only way to get ‘inside’ and become part of the elite. She is the daughter of the resistance—their greatest threat. They raised her, trained her, and made her the best.Rachel knows that if her secret identity gets out it will endanger the lives of the people she cares about. This game of deceit takes its toll, but she has no choice other than to slam shut her emotional window and avoid attachments at all costs.
The rebels have people on the inside watching over Rachel. Getting through the finals, she spends a weekend with her supposed father—the Chief. During the visit, she meets Matt, a detective who captures not only her interest, but also her heart. Is a rebel supposed to fall in love? What will this mean to her mission? The internal conflict rages as she continues to deceive her peers.
To make matters far worse, Rachel attracts the interest of the youngest Rothwell heir; son of the world leader. Johnny is strong, powerful, and he represents an opportunity—an irresistible chance to sway the scales and help her family out of hiding. They made her smart, strong, and resilient. All she has to do is play a part, and she's already done that for most of her life. But little does Rachel realize that she is entering a web so thick and impenetrable; she may not be able to find her way out of it. Being on the arm of a Rothwell will come at a price—one that she is not entirely ready for...
The adventure continues with Midnight Peak:
On assignment under the watchful eye of her acting father, the Chief of law enforcement, Rachel continues to gather precious Intel for her family in hiding. When Johnny returns, so does the responsibility of playing an affectionate lover. Being with Johnny means she can’t be with Matt—the only man who has truly won her heart. Remaining focused on her mission proves impossible when a favor from the past suddenly comes back to hurt her. A rebel trades a secret for the release of his pregnant wife, endangering Rachel’s life, and complicating an already difficult situation.
With his father’s health deteriorating, Johnny is destined to become the new world leader. The young heir has a lust for power unlike any Rachel has ever encountered, and he’ll need to secure a wife if he hopes to rob his older brother of his birthright. A union with Johnny means that Rachel will never be free.
Rachel has to face all of her fears; she has to dig deep down and find the strength to persevere or they will crush her. Struggling to overcome everyone else’s expectations of her—what they want for her life—who they want her to be—the truth finally sinks in. She’s not just a rebel’s daughter. She’s not Johnny’s puppet. She’s a soldier. They can beat her to her knees, but she won’t stay there. She’s going to unravel the secrets and dismantle this system of control or die trying.
Nightshade is the third book in this series, and previously featured on the Scribbler.
4Q: Favorite authors? Novels?
AK: Tough question! I enjoy the way authors lure me into their worlds, and I fall for certain ‘baiting’ and techniques but… it is too difficult to choose one that I prefer over the rest.
My favorite books include: Love Anthony, by Lisa Genova; Charlie St. Cloud, by Ben Sherwood, and The Cuckoo’s Calling, by J.K. Rowling.
4Q: What’s next for Ann Knight, the author?
AK: I am entering uncharted territory with my newest project; a ghost story with an uncommon twist. An upcoming fourth installment to The Rising series is pending. A sequel for my first book, Battlefield, is in the initial stages of the writing process, and a prequel for The Rubix is also in consideration.
4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
AK: In addition to writing, I have been coaching first time authors since 2019 (writers can contact by email: email@example.com). Writers have great ideas but at times struggle with tone, flow, and other challenges. It is difficult to unearth answers when we dig alone. Sharing our answers can help others find theirs.
An Excerpt from The Assaulters.
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)
The dreaded morning commute wasn’t something most people enjoyed. The city bus was crowded, as usual. A man folded the newspaper he was reading and placed it on the empty seat next to him. The headline was bold and in all caps: ASSAULTERS ATTACK AGAIN, 2 MORE VICTIMS.
The man scratched at his shaggy beard, his bloodshot eyes warily taking in the other passengers. His pudgy cheeks were riddled with broken capillaries. His construction boots were unlaced, his pants worn at the knees, and the bottom hem of his plaid shirt was torn in a few places. He carried the burden of life on his shoulders. The bus stopped and the man followed the line of other exiting passengers to the door. Outside, he squinted against the bright light that affronted his vision. Busy bodies all went their separate ways. The stocky man stopped by the bus shelter and lit a smoke. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number.
“Hey it’s Troy,” he said after Rory picked up. “I’m here.” He looked across the street at the Asian Appetite. “Alright I’ll meet you there.” He ended the call and took another long drag. Rubbing out the fairly new cigarette on the aluminum shelter framing, he placed it back in his pocket and walked towards the restaurant with an air of distrust in his expression.
Troy waited for twenty minutes for Rory to show. Sitting at the small round table, he fiddled with the chopsticks until his wife’s younger cousin joined him.
“You look like crap,” Troy started, “like usual.”
“Buy me lunch man, I’m hungry.” Rory sat back in the chair, his dark eyes somehow becoming magnets of empathy.
“Sure,” Troy told him. They ordered and then skipped the small talk.
“So why did you get mixed up in all this?” Rory asked him.
“What do you mean?” Troy frowned.
“I mean, does my cousin know that you’ve enrolled in the criminal fists unit that has fun after dark?”
Troy picked out the sarcasm in Rory’s tone, but it still irritated him. “No—hey Rory I have four mouths to feed and another on the way. I don’t need you coming here and hassling me—”
“Whoa,” Rory stopped him, “hold on. Just you hold on a minute cousin. No one forced you to join the night crawlers.”
Troy exhaled. “What do you want?”
“Matt Mulligan,” Rory said. “Do you think that’s his real name?”
“I don’t know,” Troy answered. “All I know is I want out now.”
Rory leaned forward. “Not yet you don’t. I need you in there. I’m gonna take him down. I want him to lose everything he has—starting with his messed-up underground group.”
Troy slid his elbows across the small table, bridging the gap between them. He kept his voice hushed. “No. Just leave it alone. There’s too many of them Rory. It’s crazy. Let it go.”
“Let it go?” Rory’s face reddened. “Would you let it go? They kicked the crap out of me and dumped me in the middle of the highway.”
Troy’s palms came up. “Walk away from it. It’s easy.”
Rory’s fist came down on the table. “You’re not listening to me.”
They straightened in their seats as the server placed their orders on the table and left. Rory wasted no time digging in. He hadn’t eaten all day. He was between jobs and between places to crash.
“Where are you living these days?” Troy asked.
Rory didn’t look up from his food. “Nowhere.”
“Nowhere?” Troy’s brows scrunched together. “Are you homeless?”
“I’m not one of your kids. Mind your damn business,” Rory grated.
Troy looked down at the plate in front of him. Thai was his favorite, but he didn’t like to eat at restaurants. Today he was paying for two meals and his wife would wonder who he was meeting for lunch. She counted every dollar he made. Frowning, he took the fork and dug in without another word.
“Thanks for lunch.” Rory covered his mouth and stifled a belch.
Troy finished his last bite and looked around. Most of the tables were taken now. “I have to get back.”
“My car,” Rory said, his eyes darkening. “That’s where I’m living.” He stood and balanced his fist on the edge of the table. “I need you to give me the inside scoop on the meetings—on Matt.”
“You know I can’t,” Troy started.
“You should think it over, you know, for your kids. For my cousin. You don’t want them involved in this.”
Troy’s chest tightened at the words. He didn’t know how far Rory was willing to take this, but he could judge that it was pretty far. “Alright.”
Rory turned to leave. Troy picked up on the fact that Rory walked with a bit of a limp. He wondered what Matt’s group had done to the poor kid. He knew Mick and Andrei, the two men who acted as the club’s bouncers. They would have let Rory have it—they would have beaten him without mercy. Though his wife’s cousin deserved a good pounding, no one deserved to be outnumbered by two big fighters and then dumped on a highway like roadkill. Troy hung his head. What the hell had he done? He had four little kids and a good woman to go home to. Somewhere along the way it hadn’t been enough. Life lacked adventure, adrenaline rushes, and midnight escapes. The enticement of the secret group had been too good to pass up, and now he was in too deep to turn back.
Amanda folded her hands in her lap. She waited for Sam to review his notes from their last sessions. The leather chaise seemed less giving today and she felt stiff, uncomfortable.
“How are you feeling?” Sam asked.
“Umm,” Amanda inhaled. “Good, I guess.”
Sam looked up from his notes and read her body language. She wasn’t as relaxed as the last time. He wondered if it was due to the fact that they were meeting after hours, after everyone else in the building had gone home. Her shoulders were tight and a bit forward. She averted his gaze, and her hair was down, hiding most of her face.
“How many times did your mind replay the attack today?” he asked.
She swallowed and turned her hands over in her lap nervously. “Like a dozen times,” her voice was a barely louder than a whisper.
Sam nodded. “Is that pretty regular?”
Her eyes watered. He took that as a yes. “The reason I’m offering these late sessions, Amanda, is because I think that you are making great progress and I would hate for that to change.”
Her shoulders eased back into their natural place. It dawned on him then that she was suggestable. He knew how to manipulate a mind like that—to open it, shape it, sculpt it like clay and make it strong again.
“We’re going to find the key to your healing,” he said, “and you will use it to unlock your future.”
Her lips twitched; she almost smiled. The words healing and future in the same sentence were homey, reassuring. She was really starting to like this man in front of her. It was his approach. He didn’t talk at her like the other therapists had done. He talked with her. She felt like she still had one hand on the wheel when she was here. He stood and walked around the desk, telling her something, but she only heard a muffled sound. Her attention was on his features. Amanda couldn’t help but study him as though he were the subject, and she the researcher. His hair was dark blond with a tinge of red, and was getting a bit long on top. It naturally curled which would seem like nothing short of an annoyance for a man, but it did him well. Blue eyes were perfectly set beneath thick eyebrows and a straight nose. His skin looked like it tanned easily; there was a sun-kissed shade to it even now, this late into fall. She tilted her head, following the contour of his chin.
His throat cleared. “Amanda?”
She snapped back to reality, realizing to her embarrassment that her jaw had dropped open. “I didn’t hear the question,” she mumbled, regaining her composure. Her cheeks felt hot.
He smiled. “I didn’t ask a question.” He wondered what she had been thinking moments ago. “I want you to notice what it feels like in your body when the trauma emotions rise up. I don’t want you to suppress anything that wants to be felt.”
“But,” Amanda looked down at her hands. “Isn’t the whole point of this to make sure I don’t relive what happened?”
“The only way past trauma is to go through it not over it. Ignoring what took place won’t bring you out of it. It won’t empower you in any way to play victim.” In response to the desolate look on her face, he added, “I know you were a victim and I am not taking that away from you. I am only suggesting that you don’t have to be a victim for the rest of your life.”
She took a deep breath and sunk back into the cushions. She felt like making herself more comfortable. Sam watched the change in her demeanor, in her posture. The subtleties pleased him to no end. The way the mind triggered the body and vice versa. Amanda turned and placed her feet up on the chaise, leaning back into the headrest. “I hate what happened. I hate what they did to me. I don’t want to forget it happened. It makes me so angry inside that I couldn’t fight back.”
Sam listened. She was so different. “Trauma is complex. It rewires the brain. The good news is that we can change the wiring as many times as we want. It just takes work.”
Amanda pondered that. Her idea of life had certainly changed after the attack. The world had become so bleak, so negative. She needed a new outlook, a new way of thinking.
“If you can trust me,” Sam’s voice was level, as was his gaze. “We can do this work together. You won’t be doing this alone, I’m here to support you every step of the way. But you need to trust me.”
No other professional had spoken to her of trust. Not one. They expected her to be responsive, to be a robot, in a sense. They didn’t want to understand her or take the time needed to rebuild her. She glanced over at the notepad on the desk. Sam hadn’t taken any notes during their session. He had been more interested in her, and somehow this left an impression. The sessions with Dr. Blake started just a few weeks ago, and they were already making a world of difference. It was stupid to think that someone who was banking on her presence every week actually cared about her, but she could tell he did.
Thank you, Ann, for being our special guest this week. Wishing you continued success with your writing.
Much appreciated, and always a pleasure!
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