I was contacted by Hayley a few months ago to read and review her debut novel Odriel’s Heirs and I couldn’t resist accepting once I read the synopsis. I was blown away by the story, full of immense world building, wondrously fast paced, intriguing characters and some snarky and cute animal sidekicks. This book ticked so many boxes for me and so of course I had to contact her and ask if she would be available for an interview. Luckily she was, and I had so much fun choosing the questions and reading her answers, I hope you enjoy…
Hi Hayley! Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. To start off with tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi Rebecca! Thank you so much for having me!
Until this past summer, I’d mostly done a lot of things that have nothing at all to do with writing. I’m a mother, a wife, engineer, USAF veteran, reservist, four-time All American fencer, ex-ultramarathoner, triathlete, traveler, insatiable reader, and super nerd.
Then this past May, I finally got the courage to start putting my writing out there, and Teleport Magazine published my first short story, The Third Eye.
Since then, I’ve been totally sucked into the writing world and haven’t looked back since. Now, I have flash and short stories featured or upcoming in Lite Lit One, The Drabble, Bewildering Stories, Teleport Magazine, The Free Bundle, Rogue Blades Entertainment, and I’m self-publishing my debut novel on 1 March! Amazing what can happen in a year. 😊
Did you pull on any cultures folklore/mythology when coming up with the ideas for Odriel’s Heirs?
I come from a family of wanderers, so I was really fortunate in high school and college to get the opportunity to see a lot of different cultures. I got to travel France, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Slovakia, Italy, Greece, Turkey, England, Scotland, Ireland, China, Mexico, Belize, Panama, the Caribbean, Canada, and all over the US. And honestly, though I wrote Odriel’s Heirs when I was 22, I’d been collecting pieces of it for years. So, though I can directly tie pieces of the Okarria’s folklore to Celtic, Chinese, and Greek mythology, I like to think that Okarria lives in those shared crevices of the world’s oldest and most fantastical stories that we can all relate to.
What is your writing process? (Do you have it all planned out, write the ending first etc)
Once I have an idea, I usually let it percolate for at least a month or two before I ever start writing. I want the story to be practically bursting out of me before I put down the first word. Then I start with detailed character sketches and a very shoddy, undependable outline. For me, all of my stories are character-driven, so if I get to know the main character, they’ll tell me the story.
Next, I get the rough draft out, in all of its god-awful, unreadable glory. But then, I’ve got to let it rest for a few months before I get down to the real work of revising. I am a HEAVY reviser. In my first revision of OH, I added 15,000 words. In my second revision, I rewrote the second half. In my third revision, I cut 10,000 words. And in my fourth revision, I rewrote the first half. The bones are the same as in the first draft, but it’s evolved and grown so much more than I ever even hoped it could.
Do you see yourself, family or friends in any of the characters?
Absolutely! You can find little pieces of me or people I’ve met in nearly all the characters—be it mannerisms, ideas, relationships, or traits. None of them are a one-to-one match though. When I start crafting my characters, I start with a vague idea of the role I’m trying to create. With that in mind, I collect ideas from both my experiences and the fictional world. Then, I mash them together until I find that perfect balance I’m looking for.
And that’s just their starting point.
As I get to know them better, they develop their own unique voice, which is so cool to see. I think that character transformation may be one of my favourite parts of the writing process.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about yourself through writing?
How many stories I have to tell! I’ve always adored books, but when people asked me if I ever considered writing one, I always said, “But what would I write about?”
Then, when I first wrote Odriel’s Heirs, my goal was just to finish that ONE story and check that goal off my bucket list. I had no intention of publishing it or continuing writing. But when I picked it up again 5 years later and decided to revise, I realized I couldn’t just stop at one story! So, I started writing a middle grade novel that I imagined my infant son might want to read one day. From there, the ideas just flooded in.
Now, I have 3 stories in progress, 2 more in the planning stages, and still a list of a dozen other ideas. It really is true what Maya Angelou said about creativity, “The more you use, the more you have.”
What made you decided to self-publish? And do you have any advice for budding novelists out there?
I gave traditional publishing my best shot. I queried agents and then publishers, and got a handful of full requests that eventually (after many, many months of waiting) went nowhere. The writing community on social media really helped encourage me to self-publish. There is so much knowledge and talent in the indie author community, it is just incredible! I really thought moving toward self-publishing would feel like giving up, but it has been such an incredibly empowering experience, I will definitely be quicker to self-publish in the future.
My advice to budding novelists? I think this Banksy quote puts it better than I ever could:
“Learn to rest, not quit.”
Writing a novel can be a long, exhausting endeavor. Sometimes you will need to take a break and catch your breath. This is Not quitting… it’s just a part of the longer journey.
Rest, come back, keep going, and you will eventually get there.
Finally tell us a little bit about Odriel’s Heirs and any other works in progress you may have.
*Cue Odriel’s Heirs elevator pitch*
A demon necromancer looms, her healer is MIA, the handsome shadow-twister hates her, and even the cat is snarky. Kaia may be a bullied fire-wielder with rage issues, but this still won’t be easy.
Burn, Kaia, Burn.
Odriel’s Heirs is a fast-paced young adult fantasy that will appeal to fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Garth Nix’s Sabriel.
And here’s a few teasers for my other upcoming WIPS:
Codename: CNDRLA focuses on a young undercover operative as she struggles to redeem her parents’ legacy… and there may or may not be a handsome prince involved. 😉
The Gatekeeper’s Son is the story of 12-year-old Porter—an apprentice guardian of a portal to an alternate universe full of monsters and dangerous magic… but he’d much rather be playing football.
And lastly, Idriel’s Children… but this one is still a secret. 🤐
For future updates and releases, you can find me on twitter/instagram @hayleyreesechow or at HayleyReeseChow.com!
A well-trained bat (to eat mosquitos, of course)
Favourite movie/TV series?
The Expanse (at this very second)
Legends of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler (One of many favourite book series 😊)
Thanks so much to Hayley for agreeing to be interviewed! Be sure to give her a follow on social media and if you think Odriel’s Heirs is the book ( you can check out my review here) for you you can purchase it here!