I know Hayley Stone because we both participated in a very cool writing mentorship program called PitchWars, in which aspiring writers are paired up with a more established writer to work on their novel manuscript and get it ready to submit to agents. Alas, my satirical science fiction novel,The Edge of the Universe, did not find an agent through this contest (in fact, I'm still working on ironing out the kinks my mentor helped me uncover), but Hayley did find an agent and a book deal. She's even paying it forward by volunteering as a PitchWars mentor in this year's program.
I had the chance to meet Hayley in person briefly at this year's San Diego Comic Con, where I secured a limited edition signed paperback copy of her robot apocalypse novel Machinations, available in ebook from Hydra, a digital-first imprint of Random House. Hayley was signing alongside Jason Hough, author of The Dire Earth Cycle. I'm sure that the publisher and event organizers thought pairing her up with an established author would increase Hayley's exposure. No doubt it did, but here's the thing: while I was waiting in line, I heard as many (if not more) people chattering about Hayley as about Jason. People weren't coming up and asking "Is this the line for Jason Hough?" They were asking "Is this the line for Hayley Stone?" True story.
Hayley was nice enough to answer a few interview questions for me. Check out her answers, and then go pick up her book!
SU: Even though your book is (currently) ebook only, your publisher printed up some bound galleys so you could do a signing at San Diego Comic Con. How awesome is that?! What was your experience giving a signing at such a big event?
HS: It was tremendously awesome! Seeing my book in print for the first time was a thrill, and I’m hoping the ebook does well enough to justify a print run in the future.
As for the signing itself, I was seated at the table the whole time, meeting with readers, but I was told after that the line for the signing was huge. Everyone at the Del Rey booth was supportive, and my editor helped keep things moving. I was also fortunate to get to sign alongside Jason Hough (The Darwin Elevator) who made me feel welcome and like I was already a member of the SFF authors crew.
The highlight of the signing, though, was definitely when a fan came through the line. She’d already read the book via NetGalley and was so enthusiastic about it! She even went as far as to recommend it to the other people standing in line. It felt like such an honor, and reminded me why I want to do this for a living. Having a reader make such an emotional connection to your story is wonderful.
SU: How was your Comic Con experience overall? What did you do when you weren't signing books?
HS: Attending Comic-Con for the first time—and as a published author, at that!—was one of the most surreal experiences of my life, and I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. As far as what I was doing the rest of the time: I walked around the convention a lot, inspecting all the cool merchandise, and talking with other exhibitors. I also bought some Legend of Zelda fanart because of course I did. Gotta remember my humble LoZ fanfiction origins.
I was also invited to a party for Penguin Random House authors and other industry professionals which was as awesome as it sounds. At the party, I met Terry Brooks, Andy Weir, Kevin Hearne, Chuck Wendig, Victoria Schwab, and Indra Das, among others. In case you’re wondering, they’re all just as cool as their books and online presences suggest! As an up-and-coming author, it was incredible to be able to speak with them and get their thoughts on the industry and their own writing.
SU: Do you have any other readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you?
HS: I’m considering attending New York Comic-Con in October, around the time my sequel releases, and quite possibly Emerald City Comicon next year. You can usually find me on Twitter (@hayley_stone), which is also where I’ll post any upcoming news in addition to my website, of course. And if Facebook is more your thing, I have an official author page here.
SU: What kinds of things did you learn from your PitchWars mentor when you were getting MACHINATIONS ready to query to agents?
HS: My mentor, Eden Plantz, provided great guidance on who to query, how to personalize, and how to respond to certain querying situations. With regards to the manuscript itself, I got into Pitch Wars as an alternate mentee, back when that was a thing, so we only did minor line edit touch-ups. I did learn that “There” is a vague/weak word to use when not referring to an actual physical location. It’s something I still keep in mind while writing.
SU: What books, authors, or films most influenced you in writing MACHINATIONS?
HS: Regarding books, if I recall correctly, I think I’d just finished Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins and was reading the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin (A Storm of Swords, to be specific). I love Collins’ crisp first person and Martin’s characterization, as well as his knack for narrative escalation. All were qualities I adapted and drew into my own writing.
Ironically, when I wrote the first draft of Machinations, I hadn’t actually seen any of the Terminator movies yet so it’s always funny to me when people compare the two. Instead, Doctor Who had more of an influence on me, in terms of humor and personal taste, which might explain why the book has a more jovial feel to it than The Terminator.
SU: We know there's at least one sequel to MACHINATIONS—will there be more?
HS: All I can say at the moment is that I do have plans for a third book to conclude the series; however, it will depend on how well the first two books perform. But yes, I hope to write at least one more!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.
Machinations is her debut novel from Hydra/Random House. Its sequel, Counterpart, releases October 11th, 2016.