The disappearances have been happening for months. They’ve stopped calling them missing. Instead their names are read each night during The Count. The world has grown to expect empty neighborhoods and abandoned children but what happens when they discover that was only Stage 1? No one is safe.
Today, I sat down with Val Day-Sanchez to discuss her novel ‘Threshold’. Val, can you kick us off with letting us know was the genesis for this book?
I was standing in my kitchen one afternoon when all of the sudden there was a feeling, almost like a memory or a dream. It wasn’t related to anything I was particularly doing, it just sort of occurred. The first thing that came to me was Lucas and Cameron, their friendship was what I felt and as I explored that I realized that it was going to be those two against the world. Somehow that turned into a Sci-Fi alien invasion novel.
So, once you had this image of Lucas and Cameron how did they and the other characters come to you?
Organically they appeared as needed. It was like I needed Lucas and Cameron to make the story begin and then suddenly I needed Ana and Rex for the story to continue. It was like one character would appear and they would need someone to stop them and explain something to them and give them some sort of perspective and none of the current players had that point of view so an new character would introduce themselves.
Did you have any characters that you wanted to stay with longer, or were your favourites to write?
I love Cameron. I think he’s so genuine and funny. He sort of says what we’re all thinking and I love that about him. He is just a true friend and I think that’s what makes him so easy to relate to.
Is there any character in your book that you would like to go and socialize with?
I wouldn’t mind going out with Ana. I think she’s very interesting and she seems so badass. I want to take her out and pick her brain. I bet she has some stories to tell. Plus we could humble brag about our kids together. She seems like a good time.
Did you plan to include any themes into your writing, or did you just let the characters like Ana drive the story?
I just listen to the character in my head and sometimes when I’m writing it, when it’s about finished I’ll go, “Oh that’s what this is about.”
That’s very interesting. With the characters really driving the story forward, do you feel the need to do research to support their journey? Or did you draw more on your own personal experiences?
One of my best friends is microbiology major and of course the book has references listed at the end as well. I know it’s fiction but I wanted it to be fathomable. I didn’t want people to be taken out of the story because it was too ludicrous.
I didn’t realize it but after my husband read it, he was like, “so you know what that part of the book was about right?” I just laughed, it’s impossible for an author to remove themselves from their work.
Once you became entangled with the story, how long did it take you to complete it?
Almost two years! That is insane for me, usually I start and complete a book in about four months. I know people read that and think, “four months her work is probably garbage” but it’s just how I work. Once I have an idea I need to have it on paper. That’s why I was so worried with Threshold. I just didn’t have time to dedicate to it so it sat in my mind and I was so scared I would lose it. That’s usually what motivates me to get the story on the page so quickly. I don’t want it to disappear.
What did you find the most rewarding thing about writing this book?
Finishing it. Seriously it took me nearly two years. I was in the middle of writing my Fantasy trilogy when Lucas and Cameron first appeared so I really didn’t let myself go there. I needed to complete the trilogy so there were times when I thought, “oh no, I waited too long, I’m never going to get it on paper”. Then of course it was my first try at sci-fi. I have never written anything sci-fi so I wasn’t very confident I could pull it off. Then one of my students, who is a bestselling sci-fi author told me, “You realize it’s still fiction, right?” And that sort of slapped me across the face and I quit crying and got to work.
I like that advice that it’s still fiction, it takes that edge of pressure off and makes it easier to work. Now, what are you working on next?
I’m editing the companion novel to Threshold. It’s called Peak. It is a novella and the characters are in a much different place than where we leave them in Threshold, which ends three months prior to where Peak begins.
Good luck with your editing. I’m sure our readers will be anxious to read the next instalment when it comes out. Next I’d like to get into your process for writing. What techniques do you use when you write?
I write wherever I’m comfortable. Home mostly, sometimes I’ll be the person in the coffee shop with their headphones. I write whenever I have a chunk of time because I like to write everything that’s on my mind. I’ll usually write late at night when the house is quiet but it depends on the book. I like to have lots of sugar around so I don’t have to take breaks to cook. I write a lot in spiral notebooks and then curse about how I have to try and read my handwriting and scribbles when it’s time to type it.
I used to type it but I find that it’s easier to trust my instincts when its’s in my own handwriting. It’s like, “no one will ever see this, it’s just your ten year old journal. So write all that weirdness down.”
Once you had all of that ‘weirdness down’ how do you go about editing? Do you mostly edit your work yourself?
I do like to edit myself. I don’t actually like it, but it’s better when I do it myself. I catch continuity errors better. I also drag my family into it and make them read it and tell me what they think. Their opinions make sure that I am writing everything down and not writing as though the reader also has access to my thoughts.
Do you have any tips for self-publishing for other authors?
Write and edit and publish, repeat. Don’t doubt yourself or listen to anyone else. Just get it out there. Don’t wait. Also for resources check out our website SXSW Books (Shameless plug).
How did you feel when you got your first book review?
My stomach sank. it doesn’t matter if it’s a good or bad review, the idea of someone reading my innermost thoughts and then critiquing just makes me want to hurl. I know that I should be over it, and that it happens or whatever but I don’t think you get used to that, or comfortable with it no matter what the reviews say. Plus you need the reviews to sell more copies so, it’s the worst.
Based on this need to get reviews to get traction self-publishing and putting marketing in the hands of the authors, what are your feelings about the future of reading/ writing and publishing?
I think this generation is reading more than the past two generations and I think that people that do read are extremely passionate about it. I don’t think books will ever go away no matter who is doing the publishing.
Who are your favourite authors, and do you believe that they have influenced your writing style?
Jodi Picoult, Aimee Bender, Stephen King, R.L. Stein, Courtney Summers, J.K. Rowling, all come to mind. I’m forgetting most of them. Each of these authors wrote something that I either changed the way I wrore or who made me write. Jodi Picoult’s The Pact is something I read that I have never been able to forget. That book was written so well and the story was one that I, as a sixteen year old, could relate to the angst and the emotionally charged choices the characters made. Aimee Bender write these weird tales that as you’re reading them become so real that you never question the fact the main character can taste the chef’s backstory. It’s brilliant. Every book I read shows me how much more I can grow and also how wonderfully diverse writing is.
What are you currently reading?
The Rule of Three by Eric Walters. My mom-in-law loaned it to me while we were on vacation. I’m halfway through the first one.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen. It’s about a high-schooler who ends up in an abusive relationship. It opened my twelve year old self up to how a person can be with someone that abuses them. I remember reading it and thinking, I want to write something one day where the reader feels everything my character is experiencing, because that happened while I was reading that book.
Who is your favourite literary character?
Skeeter from The Help. I just feel like she is so strong and adamant no matter who she is talking to even when she knows if she just acquiesced a little then everyone would be okay. They may not be happy or living up to their potential, but they’ll be okay. I she knows that’s not enough. She never settles, she knows what she wants, she knows how to get it, and she’s going after it.
Is there a book that you wish that you would have written?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I basically wanted to stop writing after I read it because I was like, I could never create something this amazing. Then I came to, why not? That book took me on an emotional roller coaster long after I finished reading it.
Do you have any philosophies that you live by, and what is your favourite quote?
Just say yes. As an introvert it is easy for me to decline every invitation and cancel all my plans and just stay home. I had to make a rule for myself that if invited, I had to say yes. It’s led to a lot more adventures.
And my favourite quote is “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King Jr.
And now I’d like to end today’s interview by asking a few quick fire questions, so just let us know what is the first thing that pops into your head, starting with question number one. If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
A panda bear and a giraffe. And I don’t think I need to explain why.
Can you stand on your hands unassisted?
Maybe…okay just tried and almost broke my neck so…maybe
If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
A perfectly restored 1969 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia with working AC
Which are cooler? Dinosaurs or Dragons?
Dragons, they breathe fire and fly. But Raptors are my favorite dinosaur, “Clever girl.”
What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across?
Larken, it was such a surprise that I named a character after them fifteen years later.
Thank you for giving us your time today, and I wish you the best of luck with your promotion of ‘Threshold’ and I hope to catch up with you again for your upcoming release of it’s companion ‘Peak’.
Want to find out more about Val? Contact her at the following locations: