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Exclusive Interview: VALIANT Author Merrie Destefano

Merrie Destefano introduces an epic alien invasion story with VALIANT!

Valiant, the mission that was supposed to save Earth, has failed. Instead, it unleashed Earth’s worst fear– A full-fledged alien invasion. Since the invasion began Sara has had one goal: To save her little brother Gabe, who seems to be the invaders’ number one target. Sara has been stuck in a time loop since the invasion began, desperate to save her brother and her best friend Justin, but the task requires more than a little grit. Can Sara figure out how to change the fate of her family and perhaps the fate of the universe in the process?

We had the chance to chat with author Merrie Destefano about her inspirations for this wild alien invasion, her tough-as-nails main character, the alien stories that she thinks are out of this world, and more! Check it out below!

What were some of your initial inspirations for VALIANT and how did they develop?

I love classic science fiction, so I wanted to do a time travel story that included elements from some of my old favorite tales. I wanted to reintroduce today’s audience to a kind of story that they might not be familiar with. One of my favorites is the movie The Body Snatchers. I love the concept that your closest friend could be possessed by an alien, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. So, I created the Xua, a race of aliens that feed off other lifeforms. I also wanted to give them a unique ability to change shape, something based in science rather than fantasy. So, I gave them with an ability similar to water, which can change from liquid to gas to solid. The Xua can change from a solid shape to a gaseous shape and it’s while they’re in this vaporous shape that they’re the most dangerous. That’s when they can slip inside a human (through the mouth) and possess them.

This story features a time loop, which seemed like so much fun to write! Were there any iterations of events that you wanted to include but couldn’t squeeze in?

Yes, lots! This book went through many rounds of edits, so some things didn’t make it into the final version. In one version, readers got to see everything that happened to Gabe when he was pulled into the future. I’m hoping to make that into a novella giveaway, at some point. Also, there were also many scenes in their current time period that were cut, so you’d get to see what their daily life was like, etc. And there were scenes when Sara was both learning to travel through time and trying to figure what she had done wrong in previous lives. All of that was tightened up, so the reader begins the story when you’re in the midst of the problem.

Merrie Destefano

Sara is a gritty leading lady with an edge. Were there any characters or people that inspired her characterization?

Thank you! That’s a great way to describe her! I can’t really say that any other characters or people inspired her, but she is the kind of person that I would be willing to trust and to follow into battle. She cares deeply about saving the life of her younger brother. She also cares about each member of her team. I loved that she was so loyal.

Why was “best friends turned something more” the perfect way to approach Sara and Justin’s relationship?

Well, by doing it this way, readers got to see Sara and Justin actually falling in love for the first time. I had a version where they were already dating, but this version is much stronger. I also like the concept of being friends first because then you really know that person. You’re not jumping into something without thinking about it.

Who were some of your favorite secondary characters to write and why?

I just adored Natalie and Justin! To me, Natalie was the perfect best friend and the perfect person to help Sara reach her goal of saving the world. She’s strong in areas where Sara is weak. Natalie’s super smart, she’s outspoken, she’s a bit of a tomboy, and she can think fast in a difficult situation. Justin is one part dreamy, genetic superhero and one part tragic outcast, but he is always all-in whenever Sara needs him. I also loved that he had a light spirit. It would have been so easy for him to be dark and broody with the way everyone was down on Genetics.

What are some of your favorite alien invasion stories?

(Note: I’m including books, TV series and movies in my answer.)

I loved The Body Snatchers, The Fifth Wave (Yancey), Roswell, Star Wars, Star Trek, Red Planet (Heinlein), War of the Worlds (Wells), and Enders Game (Card.) Red Planet was more of a colonization story, but I read as a young teenager and I’ve always loved that book!

What’s your writing process like?

Sporadic. LOL. I don’t write every day, like some people say you should. I write when I’m working on a book and, once it’s done, I take a break. But, when I’m actually writing, I have a weird process. I must have music and it must be new music. So, sometimes I’ll spend way too long looking for the perfect soundtrack. I also should have a snack and drink, so add in preparation time there. Haha. Incense is sometimes required, but it depends on whether I’m stuck in the plot (must have incense!) or at a coffee shop (cannot have incense!) I also need a lap blanket of some sort, even during the hottest summers. I get cold when I write. It’s weird because I don’t get cold when I’m working or writing emails. Only when I’m writing.

Thank you so much for inviting me! I had a great time chatting with you!

Valiant hits bookshelves on December 4, 2018. You can preorder it now via…

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Indiebound | Kobo | Entangled Publishing

The Valiant was supposed to save us. Instead, it triggered the end of the world.

Earth is in shambles. Everyone, even the poorest among us, invested in the Valiant’s space mining mission in the hopes we’d be saved from ourselves. But the second the ship leaves Earth’s atmosphere, our fate is sealed. The alien invasion begins. They pour into cities around the world through time portals, possessing humans, forcing us to kill one another.

And for whatever reason, my brother is their number one target.

Now the fate of the world lies in the hands of me, a seventeen-year-old girl, but with the help of my best friend, Justin―who’s suddenly starting to feel like more―maybe if we save my brother, we can save us all…

By Kait

Kait is a New Englander, a YA book and adaptation lover, and a Slythindor, as well as a red velvet and red wine enthusiast. She likes to like things. Catch her on Twitter: @kaitmary

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