Please welcome, YA fantasy, sci-fi, and horror author, Heather Hayden!
Intro: What’s your name, what do you write, where can readers find you on social media? And just for fun, if you could be any mythological being, what or who would you be?
If I could be any mythological being, I would probably pick dragon. I could fly, no one would bother me, and I would have a great excuse for hoarding books. (In fact, I tend to call myself a bookwyrm instead of a bookworm.)
- What made you want to become a writer?
I grew up reading every fantasy and science fiction book I could get my hands on. My sister and I would always make up stories when we played games. I think it’s only natural that I wound up becoming a writer!
- You wrote your first book at the age of 14, though it remains unpublished. What was that experience like and what can you tell us about that book? Do you think you’ll ever publish it?
Although I dabbled in writing stories as a kid, writing didn’t become a major part of my life until I was 14. That was the year my beloved dog, Lady, passed away. I needed a way to channel my grief, and writing provided that channel. I actually wrote my first book, Shadow Cats, for National Novel Writing Month.
Looking back at it now, Shadow Cats is quite the combination of clichés. The main character, Shadassa, is a mute orphan who inherits a huge mansion near the ocean. The only stipulation is she must live there for a year alone. The novel covers the first few weeks of her stay there, during which she discovers she’s not, in fact, alone—strange creatures known as shadow cats are living there, too. She befriends one of them and also discovers some truths about her past.
I doubt I will ever publish Shadow Cats, but I might revisit the story someday and see if I can salvage something from it. Being the first novel I ever wrote, it holds a special place in my heart, flaws and all.
- Augment is the first novel in your science fiction series. According to your website, it was published when you were only 21. How did your experience with that book compare to writing your first one?
By the time I wrote Augment, I had at least a dozen if not more novels under my belt. That experience really helped when it came to writing Augment, because I needed to write, edit, and publish the book in the space of six months.
Like every book I write, there were hurdles and writer’s block and other challenges along the way. Unlike Shadow Cats, I wasn’t writing a fantasy world—yes, Augment is set in a futuristic, alternative Earth-like world, but it is based around science which holds greater restrictions than magic. I did a lot of research (an entire summer’s worth!) for Augment before I even set pen to paper.
In some ways, though, it was easier to write, because I was accustomed at that point to writing a first draft within the space of a month. That left me plenty of time for editing, formatting, and proofing the book before the publication date.
- Through what platform did you decide to publish Augment and what was the most surprising thing you learned?
I published Augment through Amazon (Kindle and paperback) and Smashwords (a distributor that releases the ebook through other platforms such as Barnes and Noble).
The most surprising thing I learned was probably how expensive ISBNs are! My sister and I actually ran a small Kickstarter in order to fund purchasing a block of ISBNs, as well as some other costs necessary for starting a business (we created our own micropublishing company.)
- What inspired Augment?
Like Viki, I love to run. I also wanted to explore the possibilities of science fiction. Augments, upgrades, artificial intelligence—these are all present in our world, though not yet at the level you see in Augment. Once I started doing research, I became so excited for the story that it was hard to hold off on starting it (I actually did start it a bit earlier than I was meant to.)
- What scene was the hardest to write, why?
Honestly, I can’t think of a scene was particularly difficult to write. Maybe it’s because of how much time has passed since I wrote the novel. But the process of writing and editing actually went pretty smoothly for a novel.
- What are the characters like and why will readers love them?
Viki is a girl who loves to run, enjoys gaming with her friend Halle, and has a close relationship with her family. Readers will (hopefully) find her a sympathetic protagonist who they’ll root for as her story dashes along.
Halle is an artificial intelligence who has been living in hiding. It has a very strong moral code and it cares for Viki a lot. Halle risks its life to help Viki when her mobility—and life—is threatened. Readers will (hopefully) like its character and enjoy the fact that it chooses to appear as a cat that changes color depending on its mood.
- If you could spend time with a character from your book, who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I’d want to hang out with Halle! We could game all day and Halle could have the kitchen robot make cookies for when I get hungry.
- Favorite quote from Augment?
I have plenty of favorite quotes, but here’s one that’s not spoilery—it’s from the opening chapter.
My sneakers gripped the pavement and pushed off again, one after the other. Leg muscles and implants worked together to send me soaring down the sidewalk.
- In addition to Augment, you have written short stories for a variety of anthologies including a horror anthology and some fairy tale retelling anthologies. Of all of the short stories you’ve written and published, which one is your favorite and why?
I always chuckle when people ask me which of my stories I like the most. It’s like asking me which child I love the most! There’s no good answer to this. I love each one for different reasons.
- What do you love most about the writing process?
I love the moment when the story takes over and the words just flow onto the page like water.
- What’s your favorite writing-related memory?
When I was writing Beneath His Skin, I was struggling to start it. I took several long walks on the beach, and then finally something clicked. The entire 8,000+ story just appeared like magic, and my fingers couldn’t keep up with the words tumbling out of my mind.
- What’s a favorite moment you’ve had with a fan?
One of my fans arranged for me to give a talk at her high school. It was my first school appearance, and it was a lot of fun. I think the funniest moment was when she told me, “I thought you would be taller!” (I’m pretty short.) It was amazing to meet her in person, especially since she was so excited about Augment that she was telling everyone to read it. Nothing like having a superfan to give you the encouragement to keep writing!
- One fun fact most people don’t know about you?
Oooh, this is a hard one. Is playing an ocarina fun? I’m learning to play now on a friend’s ocarina—it’s a lovely instrument. I’ve wanted to learn ever since I played Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, so I’m glad I finally have the chance.