Please welcome Hayley Stone to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Machinations is published on July 26th by Hydra. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Hayley a Happy Publication Day!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Hayley: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. It’s at the core of who I am. I don’t remember a time before, or a reason why, to be honest. I started writing from such a young age—about as soon as I learned how to put words together. My earliest stories were done on an old Windows 95, through a program called Paint, Write, and Play. I’m sure my mom still has the print-outs somewhere, haha! From there, I transitioned into writing fanfiction, starting with Jonny Quest and eventually moving on to Legend of Zelda and Star Wars.
Actually, now that I think about it, the reason why I started writing was a love of characters: it was the literary equivalent of creating imaginary friends. In the case of fanfiction, I didn’t want those stories I loved to stop, so I began to make up my own.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Hayley: I’m a panster at heart. I liken it to jumping out of an airplane and figuring out how to open your parachute on the way down. Beyond the thrill of encountering new characters and unexpected twists, I feel pantsing allows for a more natural story progression, and permits the characters to drive the story instead of the other way around. I also love discovering what scenes and relationships grow out of the story organically.
This isn’t to knock plotting, of course! With my sequel, Counterpart, I did write a synopsis about a third of the way through to give myself a kind of road map. And generally speaking, I usually hold an idea in my head of where I’m trying to get to. Still, the journey itself is often a mystery before it’s down on the page. I like it that way.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does being a poet influence or not your prose writing?
Hayley: This probably goes hand-in-hand with the previous question, but plotting. Ugh.
Being a pantser, I don’t outline if I can help it, which means I tend to hold a lot of scenes in my head at any one time. It can be a challenge to get them down on the page in the right order, and as a consequence, I always run the risk of following the wrong plot bunny down the wrong hole. I’m very particular about pacing, which makes it frustrating to end up with an unnecessary, tangential scene. There have been times when I’ve had to arm-wrestle my plots to get the story to read the way I want it to read.
Being a poet has improved my prose writing tenfold. In fact, one of the things I recommend to writers who are struggling to define their voice or liven up their writing style is to study poetry. Good prose, like good poetry, has a rhythm to it. A musicality. It paints clear and vivid images in the reader’s mind—or should, when done right. Adopting some of these poetic techniques solves a lot of pacing issues within a scene, too, as you learn when to draw out a description and when to cut it short.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Hayley: Oh, geez. All sorts of things, really!
Books, obviously. I read voraciously, and oftentimes outside of my genre, hoping to gleam some inspiration from totally unrelated subject matter. Movies and video games are another; the latter is a medium that can do tremendously cool things with story. Take a look at any BioWare game, for an example of what I mean.
More than that, though, I’d have to say history informs a lot of my writing. You can learn so much about people, places, and the nature of conflict from the past.
TQ: Describe Machinations in 140 characters or less.
Hayley: A clone competes with the legacy of her dead progenitor to lead the resistance against machines intent on wiping out humanity.
TQ: Tell us something about Machinations that is not found in the book description.
Hayley: The story takes place in Alaska!
TQ: What inspired you to write Machinations? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?
Hayley: Thinking back, I believe it was a combination of the Doctor Who episode, “The Almost People,” and the anime Girl With the Third Eye. Both deal with clones or doppelgangers who believe they’re the real thing—or that they could be. This idea floated around my brain for some time until finally coalescing in a dream where I was watching another version of myself be with the people I loved…and with my blessing!
When I woke up, I immediately began to wonder about the circumstances around something like that happening, and Machinations was born. The machines were actually a bit of an afterthought; they showed up in the first paragraph, and I went with it.
Science fiction, to me, is a vehicle to explore human struggles. It’s taking a cool concept like killer robots or FTL travel or aliens, and asking, “What about the people? What are the people doing? How are they surviving or taking advantage of this situation?” Science fiction offers both an escape and a grounding of sort; it lifts a person out of their mundane life—but, amidst all the craziness, also points out flaws in a contemporary system, or offers a solution to a present-day problem. I love its versatility.
TQ: Do you deal with Asimov's Laws of Robotics in Machinations?
Hayley: Not explicitly. Countless films and books have already shown that those laws can be overruled or broken, so I didn’t feel the need to go into detail about how they it happened in Machinations world.
Suffice to say, Machinations follows the current trajectory of present-day robotics, with autonomous weapons on the battlefield and a booming technological arms race ultimately leading to the creation of both benevolent and harmful artificial intelligences. I think this fellow has also shown with his thought experiment that at the end of the day, Asimov’s Laws are—to quote Captain Barbossa of Pirates of the Caribbean fame—“more of what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.”
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Machinations?
Hayley: I researched Alaskan geography and weather, its pipelines, autonomous weaponry, bunker busters, electromagnetism—all sorts of stuff! Writing a book is always an adventure, in that respect. You can prepare ahead of time all you want, but even if you’re an expert in the subject, you’ll still run into something you don’t know and have to pause to look it up. It’s a constant learning process.
TQ: In Machinations who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Hayley: It’ll probably come as no surprise that the easiest character to write was the main character, Rhona. We have a similar stubbornness in the face of opposition, and the same gallows humor.
The hardest… hmm. Probably Rhona’s former lover, Camus. Whereas Rhona wears her heart on her sleeve, Camus tends to keep his locked inside a vault. As a more methodical and calculating personality type, it was sometimes a challenge to indicate what he was thinking, especially from Rhona’s outside perspective. His body language, consequently, provides the most vital clues to his feelings.
TQ: Which question about Machinations do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Question: What books would Machinations feel most at home sitting beside on a shelf?
Answer: The Confluence series by Jennifer Foehner Wells. Also, while they’re not science fiction, I think Machinations and Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series would strike up some delightful banter. Their protagonists would get along.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Machinations.
Something’s punctured his side, judging by the way he’s hunched over, but I can’t tell how bad the injury is because his dark jacket is soaking up most of the blood. “Go. I will distract them. I will cover your escape.”
A terrible, nameless feeling grips me. I search his eyes for the goodbye he isn’t saying. “And who will cover yours?”
I stare, wide-eyed and dry-mouthed, as light and shadow fall over the machine’s still, metal face. It’s even more disturbing up close for its carnivorous look. A cool, raptor glare, designed to inspire fear, with optics red as the eyes of a monster. They are frozen in their last adjustment, half-extended toward me like a camera’s zoom lens. Everything being recorded, analyzed, and sent back to the higher echelon—the intelligence that rules the machines.
The optics click, and I feel the movement like a foot in the gut. Back online.
TQ: What's next?
Hayley: Right now I’m finishing copyedits for the sequel to Machinations, Counterpart, which comes out October 11th this year. So if you’re a fan of the first book, you won’t have to wait long to read the second! I’m also working on an epic fantasy that I can’t talk about just yet.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Hayley: Thanks so much for having me!
Hydra, July 26, 2016
eBook, 374 pages
Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.
The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.
A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.
Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.
Hydra, October 11, 2016
The high-intensity sci-fi thriller series that began with Machinations continues as reincarnated insurgent Rhona Long faces off against the one enemy she can’t outwit: her own clone.
The machines believed their extermination of the human race would be over as quickly as it began. They were wrong. As the war against extinction intensifies, people are beginning to gain the upper hand.
Commander Rhona Long understands survival better than most. Killed in combat, she was brought back to life using her DNA, and she’s forged a new, even more powerful identity. Now the leader of the resistance, she’s determined to ensure the machines are shut down for good.
But victory is elusive. The machines have a new technology designed to overcome humanity’s most advanced weaponry. Despite Rhona’s peacekeeping efforts, former nations are feuding over resources as old power struggles resurface. Worse, someone inside the resistance is sabotaging the human cause—someone who, from all appearances, seems to be Rhona . . . or her exact replica.
Hayley (H. N.) Stone is a writer who lives in Rocklin, California. She recently graduated from California State University, Sacramento with a Bachelor’s degree in history—a subject she believes offers a wealth of story inspiration as well as a powerful look into what makes us human.
While at CSUS, she had the pleasure of studying under award-winning poet, Joshua McKinney, who introduced her to a love of poetry, and taught her the value of precise language. Her blank verse poem, “Cinderella Comes Out of Egypt,” was published in the 2014 Calaveras Station Literary Journal, and her free verse poem, “On the Reservation,” appeared in the 2015 edition.
Her debut adult sci-fi, Machinations, releases from Hydra/Random House on July 26th, 2016. Its sequel, Counterpart, is also coming later in the year.
With an eye for detail and a passion for storytelling, Hayley has contributed to manuscripts such as The Paper Magician series (47North) by Charlie N. Holmberg, and Inconceivable (Curiosity Quills) by Tegan Wren. She served as a judge for the 2015 and 2016 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, and is currently an acquiring editor for the Romance imprint of Anaiah Press.