Laurisa White Reyes is the author of sixteen books. Her middle grade novel THE STORYTELLERS won the 2015 Spark Award from The Society of Children’s Books Authors & Illustrators (SCBWI) and her young adult novel PETALS received the 2017 Spark Honor Award.
In addition to writing, Laurisa also is the founder and Senior Editor of Skyrocket Press, which publishes quality fiction and non-fiction for a variety of readers. She also teaches English composition at College of the Canyons in Southern California. To subscribe to Laurisa’s monthly newsletter, visit her website at www.LaurisaWhiteReyes.com
Tell us about Sand and Shadow.
Mission Specialist Adán Fuentes awakes from cryo-hybernation and discovers that he is one of seven survivors of the shuttle Carpathia’s crew. The shuttle’s been damaged, and they are on a distant planet, way off course from their intended destination and purpose. When they are attacked by some unseen creature, the crew must race against time to figure out where they are, how they got there, and how to defend themselves – if they can. Think The Martian meets Alien.
What inspired you to write Sand and Shadow?
When I was kid, one of my favorite movies was Forbidden Planet, about a scientist on a distant planet who somehow taps into the deepest recesses of his psyche and unleashes a monster. I watched the video over and over for years and have always been fascinated with the plot. I watched it a few months ago. The movie is very hokie by today’s standards, but the premise still holds up. I wanted to create a new story with new characters but based on a similar idea: that humans and the human mind are capable of both great good and profound evil.
Most of your books are either fantasy or contemporary young adult. What motivated you to delve into science fiction/horror?
I’m a sucker for horror fiction. Every summer, I read nothing but horror. I’ve read a lot of zombie and haunted house books over the years. Most of the short stories I’ve written are either horror or speculative in nature. Even a couple of my novels have elements of psychological suspense. So, I was destined to eventually write something seriously hard core like Sand and Shadow. I would love to write more in this genre. I’ve got some good ideas.
What was the writing process like for this book?
I began writing the first draft in 2012, the year my very first novel was published. By then, I’d already written a dozen other manuscripts, each of which has taken about eight years on average from start to publication. Writing is a long process for me. I muddle over details for years before I ever begin to write. I finished the first draft of Sand and Shadow in about a year, but then it sat on the back burner while I revised and published my other books. Eventually, I came back around to it. I spent all of 2020 revising and polishing it, and most of this year on everything else it takes to publish a book.
Besides writing, how do you spend your time?
Writing is on and off, depending on which project I’m working on. I just finished the first draft of a historical novel that I’ve been working on for about five years. So, I’m not writing anything new at the moment. I’m currently focused on promoting and marketing my backlist, which is like a part-time job. I own my own small press, and we’re actually publishing our second contest winner this fall, a memoir called A Sacred Duty: How a whistleblower took on the VA and won by Paula Pedene. So, I’m spending time editing and designing that book as well. When I’m not writing/editing/designing, I spend the rest of my time with my thirteen-year-old son (he’s my youngest of five kids – the others are all adults now). I homeschool him and transport him to his many activities: scouts, horseback riding, theater, piano, voice lessons. I volunteer with scouting and theater as well. Oh, and I also teach college composition part-time, take care of my home and family, and I read. A lot.
What sorts of books do you enjoy reading?
I’ve always been an avid reader. As a kid and teenager, my brothers would spend Saturday afternoons outdoors pulling weeds and doing yardwork for my dad. I’d be lying in bed devouring a book. I read between 30-50 books a year in a variety of genres. Summers are devoted to horror fiction, especially zombies and supernatural thrillers. But I also love historical non-fiction, young adult, suspense, and mysteries. The only genre I won’t touch is romance. Blech. I’ll read a book with some romance in it but never a straight up romance novel. Some of the best books I’ve ever read include:
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Lilies of the Field by William E. Barrett
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Most novelists can tell you that something magical happens while you’re writing a first draft. When you get really into the story, the real world seems to dissolve, and you’re transported into a world of your own making. My husband and kids joke that they can ask me anything while I’m writing, and I’ll just nod my head and have no recollection of what I’ve agreed to. And then somewhere along the line, it’s hard to explain, but the story takes on a life of its own. Like you’re not writing the story but it’s writing itself, and you as the author are the conduit rather than the creator. The characters become, in some sense, real beings, and the writer’s job is to be faithful to those characters and the story. That’s why I love writing first drafts. It’s the creative, magical experience that is so remarkable. But then later, the real work begins with editing and revising. It’s a completely different mental process, and I enjoy that too but in a different way. Editing, to me, is like shaping clay on a potter’s wheel, molding the material that is already there into something really beautiful.
What kind of research goes into your writing?
I love research. I’ve spent countless hours researching for each of my novels: reading non-fiction books, newspapers, magazines, online studies and websites, conducting interviews, and even on-location travel. For my novel Sand and Shadow, I had to learn about cryogenics, habitable planets, ESP, light speed calculations, and a bunch of other stuff. My dad was a computer programmer for Jet Propulsion Laboratories working on deep space craft like Voyager and Ulysses. He first introduced me to the idea of planetary colonization and deep space travel. What we’ve always considered science fiction is, in reality, within reach. I didn’t want the book to sound too futuristic but something that could happen within the next few years. The secret to good research for any book is for the information to be so smoothly incorporated into the story that the readers don’t notice it. Like the beams and bolts make up the structure of a building. It should be invisible to the naked eye.