Hayley is an award-winning author, mechanical engineer, Air Force Reserve officer, four-time All-American fencer, ex-ultramarathoner, avid traveler, book inhaler and super nerd with three older sisters who are way cooler than her.
Since beginning her writing journey, Hayley’s microfiction has won an honorable mention in the NYC Midnight Challenge and her books have won the 2020 YA Florida Author Project, a Reader’s Favorite silver medal, a Wishing Shelf Book Award bronze medal, a Literary Titan Gold Award, an indie BRAG medallion, and fifth place in the 2021 Book Blogger Novel of the Year awards.
Whimsical Publishing will be releasing her next book, Into the Fire, a YA sci-fi adventure in May,2024. Hayley currently lives in Florida with two small wild boys, her long-suffering husband, and her miniature ragehound. She is represented by Kristin Terrette of Martin Literary.
Let’s get started with a quick rapid fire.
Q1. If you could be transformed into one mythological creature, which one would you choose?
Does anyone not say Dragon!?!
Q2. What time do you usually go to bed at night?
I turn into a pumpkin at 10pm sharp. No one wants to see me sleep-deprived. It is not pretty.
Q3. What are the least-likely three words someone would use to describe you?
Elegant, Demure, Fragile, basically your classic D-i-D (Damsel in Distress)
Q4. Where did you go on your last vacation?
Backpacking in Japan!
Q5. Would you rather find your dream job or win the lottery? You can’t do both.
Eh, a dream job sounds overrated and underpaid, so I’ll take the lottery!
Q6. What is one thing you regret spending money on?
Ads. It’s like spending my money on black magic that everyone hates, and I can’t even figure out how to make them work.
Q7. What object do you misplace or lose the most?
My poor water bottles. I don’t even want to know how many I’ve sacrificed to the world.
Q8. If you were a spy, what would be your codename?
Codename: Waffle. A fantastic breakfast with an inside joke for those that know. Also, I think I just look like a great Waffle.
Q9. What secret about the universe would you most want to learn?
Um, what’s the grand plan, my dude? And I want to make sure it’s phrased just like that.
Q10. What never fails to make you laugh?
Venting sessions with my best friend. I’m fairly certain half the neighbourhood can hear us mock-rage as we walk around the block.
Q11. What was one “before” and “after” in your life?
Before I had a kid and after. Parenthood changes your life so fast I swear it gives you identity whiplash.
Q12. What do you think people misunderstand about you?
The people who see me online think I’m primarily an author, while the people I know in real life through my day job and my kids don’t even know I write. In fact, I’m still struggling to understand this weird author double-life.
It’s time for a more detailed conversation, Hayley.
You’ve answered our rapid fire so well, Hayley. Now, it’s time for our readers to know more about the person behind the book.
Q. Tell us about your journey.
Well, after I got out of college, I had a few months off before going active duty, so I took the time to write my first book, Odriel’s Heirs. It sat on my computer for eight years though before I finally mustered the courage to publish it in 2020. I thought it would be the only book I’d ever write. But after it won the YA Florida Author Project and got such amazing feedback from readers, I decided to finish the series. Then in 2022, Whimsical Publishing acquired three of my other YA manuscripts (Into the Churn, Into the Fire, and a YA title still TBA), and in the summer of 2023, I signed with my agent, Kristen Terrette of Martin Literary. My first YA contemporary romance is currently on sub, and I’m so excited to see where the journey takes me next.
Q. So, what books have you read more than once in your life?
Oh boy. Unpopular opinion here, but I’m not a big re-reader. I remember my favorite stories so well that I never really have the urge to pick them up again. However, I also have two small children, so I’ve read Corey Rosen Schwartz’s Ninja Fairytale picture books (The Three Ninja Pigs, Ninja Red Riding Hood, and Ninja Chicks), non-figuratively over a hundred times.
Q. Interesting. Who has been the biggest supporter of your writing?
This is probably an even tie between my parents and my husband, but my dad has been in my corner since the very first word. He’s actually the first one who advised me to create something in my free time, he was my very first alpha reader, and I think he was the first person who really thought that I could actually pull this thing off.
Q. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I wouldn’t call them ‘secrets’ per se, but there are definitely nods to my real life that only the people closest to me get. My best friend read Into the Churn, and she had so much fun picking out the homages to our college experiences. Writing stand-alones in a series was also fun though, because then I could pepper in book one easter eggs into book three that only readers of the entire series would understand.
Q. Now comes the most anticipated question that every author must answer. How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?
Oof. Negative reviews are tough, but I do have a process. First, I assess if I think there’s any constructive criticism in the review. Then I’ll usually go ask a writing friend if they think there’s anything constructive there. Then I go find one of my favorite books and read one of their most recent one-star reviews. And lastly, I read some of my favorite good reviews of my book to remind myself that everything is subjective before I move along.
Q. What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
The plot, every time. I think, in general, it’s because I’m such a plot-drawn person. Even as a reader, when I choosing a book to read, it’s all about the plot for me. Obviously I need to be able to connect with the characters to make it a good read, but I love a great premise. I love the feeling of *needing* to know what happens next. And if I fall in love with the characters along the way? Perfection. “The brave, burning with fire, harnessed the dragon’s rage. The cunning, veiled from the world, stole the shadow’s step. The gentle, blessed with life, healed like time itself.”Hayley Reese Chow, Odriel’s Heirs
“The brave, burning with fire, harnessed the dragon’s rage. The cunning, veiled from the world, stole the shadow’s step. The gentle, blessed with life, healed like time itself.”Hayley Reese Chow, Odriel’s Heirs
Q. How do you develop your plot and characters?
It usually happens that in the middle of writing a book, I’ll inevitably think of another plot/storyline/premise that I need to write at that *very* instant. So generally, if I can’t stop thinking about it, I’ll sketch out the beats using the Save the Cat outline structure so I can come back to it later. Right now, I think I have 4-5 outlines plotted out. When it’s actually time to start a new project, I’ll choose one and write a dialogue-only draft (or some people call it a zero draft.) It’s during that draft that I really come to understand and know the characters, so when I actually start the first draft, I have a solid handle on what the characters want and their struggles.
Q. You got 100 points. You need to divide them on the basis of how relevant and important they are to you as a reader and a writer for your book or someone else’s as a reader. Your options are Plot/Story, Book Cover, Marketing, and, Reviews.
Okay this one’s tough, because I feel like my reader brain and writer brain will have different point scales, but let’s start with my points breakdown as a reader.
Plot/Story: 35. (Like I said, I’m a plot-person first)
Dialogues: 30. (If the dialogue is stilted or unnatural, there’s no way I’m going to be able to get into it, and I’m a huge sucker for excellent banter.)
Reviews: 20 (In a world full of more books than I’ll ever get to read, I depend on reviews to help me identify the ones I’ll enjoy.)
Book Cover: 10. (While I enjoy a beautiful cover, it’s not necessary for me, especially since I mostly enjoy audiobooks.)
Marketing: 5 (I understand that this is necessary for the books to reach me, but as a reader, I don’t have much appreciation for it.)
As a writer, I think the point distribution would be more like 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, because I realize how critical each of these elements are to a successful book, although my preference will still be to lean toward the quality of the story over the marketing.
Q. So, now, about your book. Talk to us about it. No major spoilers.
Odriel’s Heirs is an YA epic fantasy about a girl who lives with a legendary power of fire in a time of peace, but is exiled by the people she’s supposed to protect. So, when an ancient necromancer’s horde of undead rises, she must team up with her childhood rival and learn to control her gift to protect the people who’ve always feared her.
Q. What part of the book did you enjoy the most while writing?
I loved exploring the slow growth of the relationship between two rivals, and wildly different people, as they’re experiencing, without a doubt, the worst moments of their lives. Watching their bond evolve as they learned to trust and depend on each other was so rewarding, and I love that readers say they’re two of their favorite characters I’ve written even six books later.
Q. What is your kryptonite as a writer?
Hello, pacing. Personally, I LOVE books that move fast. Slow books are not my jam, so when I’m writing, plots developments tend to happen quickly, and it can be hard for me to tell if it’s too fast or the pace is too uneven for the reader. But it’s something I think I’ve gotten better at with each book, and my beta readers are always on the lookout for it now.
Q. Would you and your main character get along in real life?
I definitely think so. All of my characters are flawed and experience a lot of growth throughout each book, but they all tend to be people who try their best and believe in what they’re doing. Of course, in the end, I think it’s always the side characters who are my favorite though. They always steal the show.
Q. What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?
I’ve become more of a plotter with each book and now I may even be considered a plotter to the extreme. I start off with a one-page outline with the save the cat beats. Then I move to a 10-15K “zero draft” which reads much like a screenplay, and it’s only then that I’ll move to writing the actual first draft.
Q. Let’s talk about the process of writing. Do you do research while writing a book to add more authenticity? What kind of research?
Since I mostly write YA fantasy and contemporary, I haven’t had to do a whole lot of research, but for my YA sci-fi, I did look into the origin and evolution of slang so I could create a vernacular that would feel authentic to their world. I also looked into the gravity on different planets and what habitable systems would look like. “Both sides always lost in war; one just lost more than the other.”Hayley Reese Chow, Time’s Orphan
“Both sides always lost in war; one just lost more than the other.”Hayley Reese Chow, Time’s Orphan
Q. What was your hardest scene to write?
There is a character in one of my books that does not survive, and their death scene was so hard to write that, even though I knew they were supposed to die from the first sentence, they actually survived the first draft! I had to go back in the second draft and change it so they died as they were supposed to, and I definitely teared up as a I did it.
Q. Well, this has been great. Now, before we wrap this up, do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
My best suggestion to become a better writer is to find honest critique partners and beta readers that you can trust. I’ve had some of my CPs and Betas for years, and I’ve learned so much from them, both in their critique of my work but also in critiquing theirs. It’s been so fun to grow together and have a friend in this journey; I definitely don’t think I would’ve made it without them. Thanks for having me for the interview, and good luck to all on your writing journeys!