How Below the Threshold was written

When I was told  that I could write a third “V” novel I knew that the TV series was in trouble. Characters acted out of character. The tone varied from horrific to situation comic. The plots — those which I could bear to watch — were, I felt, poor and inconsistent. I know that many people enjoyed the series, but unfortunately, I was not one of them. And now I was afraid that the series would be canceled before I could submit a third book. If they bounced it, what would I do with it?

While I was talking about this with some people at a science fiction convention, I got the idea that, if I wrote a book that had little or nothing to do with the TV series, then if the show were canceled and the book rejected, I could just run a global search and replace, take out all the “V” references, and submit it somewhere else as a stand-alone. It wouldn’t have been that easy, I would really have to do a full edit, find something else to take the place of “V”, and make it all fit. But it could be done.

As it turned out, “V” finished the season, and Below the Threshold was accepted. But it, and other “V” books were published late, by TOR instead of Pinnacle Books. (I had, between Crivit and Threshold, written another novel, but that’s for next time.) Apparently the novels had their fans and readers aside from the TV show. After all, the books were written by (at that time) relatively well-known SF authors. Including me, for having written a “best seller.”

Having decided on my strategy, I still had to go ahead and write the book.

The Pursuit of Diana used the setting provided by the TV show. The Crivit Experiment was set in and near Chapel Hill, NC, because that was where I lived. The convention I was attending took place in Virginia Beach, so I created a fictitious Hampton Roads, with Freeport instead of Virginia Beach, and Northampton instead of Norfolk. People who knew the area might recognize the source of the setting, but that was okay. They might also recognize where I got some of the names for streets in both cities.

The idea of subliminal influence was, I believe, original with me. (If someone remembers it being in the TV show, please let me know.) Hence the title, below the threshold of consciousness. My protagonist, Dr. Jack Page, was a psychologist, who had been noticing a pattern among his patients. He was based in part on a character I had seen in a movie, played by a supporting actor who really had an artificial arm, which the character used in an interesting way near the end. (Again, if anybody remembers the movie and can tell me what it was, please do so.)

I enjoyed working on that book. I was free to do more or less whatever I wanted, without outside constraints, and without having worry about how it fit in with the TV show. My characters were somehow more real to me, and and were motivated by their own interests instead of being directed by the episodes of the series. And I have since been told that it is the best of my 3 “V” books. I can well believe it. Opinions may vary.

Of course, there would never be a fourth book.

In a way, that was the end of a resurgent career, but I was tired of “V”, and I wanted to move on. Though I disliked the mini-series, and the show, and my first “V” book, I’m glad I had the opportunity to work with them. I learned a lot. It gave my career a boost. I can still buy copies second hand on Amazon. And I get asked for autographs for all three.

But I also learned that the thing I hated most was having to work to deadline. Some writers say they need a deadline to motivate them. I don’t need that. My motivation, which drives me, is the story itself, which I very much want to tell. I avoided deadlines whenever I could, and never submitted a novel until it was finished, revised, corrected, and the best it could be.


You can read a sample here.