Author Hayley Stone on Being Published, Romance in Sci Fi, and Feedback from Readers

I’m thrilled to share with you a fun Q&A with the talented writer who was my critique partner for INCONCEIVABLE. Hayley Stone’s debut novel, MACHINATIONS, is on fire, and knowing how awesome this story is, I’m not the least bit surprised! After all, it’s got a strong woman as the main character, plenty of action, and a touch of romance. Thanks to Hayley for taking the time to talk to me about life since the release of MACHINATIONS.

Wren: What’s been the most surprising aspect of being a published author?

Stone: The unpredictable cycle of highs and lows. One day, you feel as though no one will ever read your book and why didn’t you listen to your parents and get a real job and oh god you’re going to die poor—and the next day you get an email from your publisher about attending San Diego Comic-Con and joining NYT bestselling authors at an afterparty.

For a while, everything is cloud nine and surreal and wonderful, but then you gently—or sometimes not so gently—float back down to earth and the cycle starts over. You start worrying again. Something goes wrong, while something else goes right, and nothing’s happening, and everything’s happening, and so on and so forth.

Being a published author isn’t about coasting through non-stop success. It’s about finding your rhythm in a club where the music is constantly changing, and sometimes you can’t find the right beat.

It’s madness. Wonderful, terrifying madness.

Wren: Tell us about some of the feedback you’ve received from readers.

Stone: A lot of readers seem to really connect with Rhona, and enjoy her brand of snark, while also acknowledging her impulsiveness and fallibility as the story’s heroine. I’m glad that both her strengths and flaws appear to be coming across, because that’s the purpose of her character: I wanted to portray a realistic woman dealing with horrible circumstances far beyond the pale of normal human experience. Sometimes she does a good job; other times she sucks. Just like most of us.

Readers also seem to adore one of the secondary characters, Rhona’s best friend, Samuel Lewis. This comes as no great surprise as Samuel is a precious cinnamon roll, too good for this world, too pure. Except, as we come to find out in book two, he’s more than capable of making some tough, and questionably ethical, decisions, too. I think Samuel fans will be especially interested to learn more about his past in the upcoming sequel, Counterpart. *teaser!*

Wren: I love the fact that your book has a romantic storyline included in the narrative. Why did you decide to include that in a sci fi novel?

Stone: I set out to explore humanity and identity in Machinations, and relationships play an understandably large role in people’s lives. One of the things the sci-fi genre does best is take a relatable experience (like being in love) and position it inside a unique “What if?” scenario. In the case of Machinations, that turned out to be a troubled romance between the main character, Rhona—a clone who inherits all of these memories and emotions—and her progenitor’s lover. It asks the questions: could you love someone who looked and behaved identical to the person you’d lost? Should you?

Wren: Writing a book is one thing. Selling it is another. What have you done to get the word out about MACHINATIONS?

Stone: I’ve done quite a few interviews like this one! My favorite, by far, has been this post I wrote for Chuck Wendig’s blog about the five things I learned writing Machinations. I also attended San Diego Comic-Con as an author and had my very first book signing there, which was pretty awesome and hopefully got Machinations some nice publicity!

I’m also fortunate to be a part of a great reading and writing community on Twitter and Facebook, so I reached out to my friends there and they’ve helped me spread the word. At this point, an author really can only hope their work is connecting with some people and that they’re telling others to read it, too!

Wren: What have you learned through your journey to publication that you want to share with other writers who are still querying?

Stone: One rule: It takes as long as it takes.

In our driven world, it’s advice that seems easier said than done, but it holds especially true for this industry. Professional deadlines and personal goals notwithstanding, don’t try and put a timer on your success. Querying takes times, submission takes time, edits take time. What might happen quickly for one person could take a year for another; it’s not a sign of failure and it’s almost never a reflection of the quality of the work either. Comparison is the thief of joy. Keep your eyes on your own paper, keep writing and putting your work out there, and you’ll be fine.

Additionally, learn to recognize the signs of burnout, and take care of yourself. Seriously. You’re important. So relax once in a while.

Wren: What projects do you have in the works?

Stone: Currently, I’m working on a short story that takes a more generous view of artificial intelligence. It’s a nice break from novel-writing. Sometimes you just need a change of pace, you know?

And in terms of long-form work, I’m developing ideas for book 3 of the Machinations series, and have begun tinkering around with an epic fantasy as well. Lots of exciting things in the pipeline!

You can buy MACHINATIONS at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

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