Robbie Cordwood was incarcerated for killing the three men who attacked his wife. That was fine by him. Justice served. But one day the world changed, and The Puppets came from the stars. Then THEY started taking over peoples bodies, crawling in through the mouth. The prison doors were open, and no one knew what to do next....
I wrote the first draft of When They Come For You, on a laptop in the medic office in Iraq, way back in 2009. It was a biproduct of the b movie science fiction education I received as a kid, having watched invasion of the body snatchers dozens of times with my mom. There's this running idea of things falling apart all around them, but the center holds. So, the idea that's always in the back of my head, even to this day, is to be the center that holds, even when everything around you is going to pieces. Be the glue that keeps it all going.
The characters in the piece form that glue. Robbie Cordwood stumbles his way into leadership during the initial alien takeover of the planet, when he's just looking for his wife. Along the way they pick up a man of God. Then the resistance to the aliens forms around the three of them. As the United States retreats further and further south into the warmer parts of North America, Robbie leads the refugee evacuation effort to escort humans to friendly lines. And eventually, the U.S. Army retreats so far south, that Robbie is on his own.
A lot of this came from the third season of Battlestar Galactica, where the humans are leading a resistance movement on the ground against the Cylons while the military has retreated off world.
I also liked the idea of a married couple running a resistance movement, and being the center of a war story, much like on Battlestar. I don't think I'd even had a serious relationship at that point, so their marriage was based off of observation and fantasy than any real-life experience. But the part where the man of God walks into a married couple's bedroom and catches them in a bsdm moment always makes me laugh. So, the question I was posing was, "If you're married, how bad can handcuffs and whips and chains be if it's under the sight of God?" To be clear, my own personal life was not nearly that adventurous, as I was several years away from dating regularly. I think I was trying to marry two ideas in my head. The sort of working class mid-west Baptist teachings of propriety along with the dark hedonistic nihilism of the wartime Army.
This is summed up in the end of the book, where the resistance makes a final attack on the aliens and the closing words are the Lord's Prayer. Because there's a certain darkness under Christianity that demands a sacrifice. It makes sense, since God so loved the world, he gave his only son. At the end of the book, one of the characters follows in the Lord's footsteps and makes the ultimate sacrifice for what he loves the most. In the wartime Army I spent my early 20's in, there was no greater honor.