Interview with Hayley Reese Chow

Iseult: Welcome Hayley, thank you so much for speaking with me today. I loved Odriel’s Heirs last year and I was so excited to return to the world with Burning Shadows and Idriel’s Children.

When you wrote Odriel’s Heirs, did you already have plans for a sequel or series?

Hayley: When I started Odriel’s Heirs, I thought that would be the only book I would ever write. I wasn’t even sure I would show it to anyone (other than my parents), and I actually didn’t end up doing anything at all with it until five years after I finished the first draft. But even so, I was still rolling the story around in my head, and I couldn’t help fantasizing about possible sequels. I always knew that the sequels would be about the next generation of Heirs, the second book focusing on the Shadow Heir, and the third (and final) book focusing on the Time Heir. When I published book one, though, I was still on the fence about whether I would go through with the sequel. The encouragement from reviewers really gave me the push I needed to dive back into Okarria.

And Burning Shadows, the sequel novella, came as a complete surprise! I had absolutely thought Kaia and Klaus’ story was completely over! But when I got feedback from readers asking to see more of them, I realized I definitely wanted to explore more of their adventures too. I’m still toying with the idea of more novellas, but I haven’t quite decided yet.

Iseult: I’m so glad you did return to Okarria, and wrote more about Kaia and Klaus (not to mention my favorite – Kaia’s ragehound Gus). I loved Burning Shadows.

Idriel’s Children takes place 28 years after the first book. I found the time jump unexpected, but I really loved the new characters and changes in the world. What inspired you to take such a leap forward?

Hayley: This was almost completely inspired by The Sevenwaters Series by Juliet Marillier. I read the trilogy in high school, and the generation-hopping fantasy just always kind of stuck with me. I loved the idea of a trilogy spanning decades with each Heir getting their own semi stand-alone journey. I really think it adds to the epic feel of the conflict as it lets us see the far-reaching consequences of the first book and lets us see more of the world from a different perspective. Also, in general, I love to write characters in the falling in love stage (especially for YA). As a personal preference, it always gets on my nerves when a sequel manages to muck up what was a perfectly wonderful romance in book one!

Iseult: One of the aspects that I love best about your work are your animal characters. They are delightful, realistic and important to the story. Could you tell me a bit about the importance of animals to your writing?

Hayley: I love animals. I have always loved animals, and I think they were a big part of my books because they’ve been a big part of my life. There were actually five dogs in our house when I was writing Odriel’s Heirs, and Gus, Kaia’s ragehound, was inspired largely by the incredible bond I had with my childhood sheltie, Rosie. The intelligence of animals and the way they connect to people through emotion is an incredibly powerful thing. They connect us to the natural world around us, and show us how to love and be loved without words. I think animals enrich our world, and I hope that my writing can reflect that in some small way.

Iseult: Beautifully put. I love how you capture the personality of the animals in your books. I lost my own ragehound last year, and I shed a tear when I learned that Gus had also passed on in Idriel’s Children.

I absolutely love the Maldibor, which are like my dream combination of a werewolf and Beast from Beauty and the Beast. There are hints that their curse may be lifted in future books – can you please reassure me that this won’t happen?

Hayley: OOoo spoilers! All I can say is that the final book, Time’s Orphan, has yet to be written, so even I don’t know yet! I only think I know what’s going to happen until I start writing and then suddenly the story seems to take on a mind of its own. The possibilities are endless! But, the Maldibor are definitely near and dear to my heart, so if I do write another novella… you can be sure they will star heavily in it.

Iseult: Okay, now I want a Maldibor novella! Even more excited for your future books.

Your books remind me how much I love fantasy. Exciting plots, absorbing worlds, wonderful animals and multilayered characters. Which fantasy books caused you to fall in love with the genre?

Hayley: So many!!! Off the top of my head: Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy, Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series, Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters Series, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip, and Jeff Wheeler’s Legends of Muirwood series. I’m melting just thinking of them. So good!!!

Iseult: I love Garth Nix and I will check out those other books. I loving getting book recommendations, thank you.

Your magic system is so interesting, and I love how Odriel’s Heirs focused on the Dragon Heir, while in Idriel’s Children we learn more about the Shadow Heir. Any chance a future book will feature the Time Heir?

Hayley: You’ve nailed it! Time’s Orphan, the third and final book, will take place after a 13(ish) year time gap, and focus on the Time Heir. While it’s still in the planning phase at the moment, I can definitely say Okarria will have changed quite a lot when you see it next… Eek! Even just thinking about it makes me itch to jump in and start writing! After I wrap up my current science fiction WIP this month, I’m hoping to write the first draft of Time’s Orphan this fall and release Fall 2022!

Iseult: I can’t wait!

You are such a Renaissance woman. USAF veteran, champion fencer, incredible athlete. How have these experiences influenced your writing?

Hayley: My experiences in the military and as a athlete definitely filter into every book I write. Through those experiences, I learned so much about leadership, pressure, disappointment, fulfillment, rivalry, stress, bonding, people… I could go on. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity for some of those unique adventures, and I draw from them heavily in each one of my books. The pressure to succeed that Kaia feels as the Dragon Heir was directly lifted from my time as a scholarship athlete, while Aza’s callous mid-battle calculations were drawn from experiences and observations in my military training. Although I write fantasy, I try to draw on my real-world emotions and memories as much as I can to give it that authentic feel we can connect to. For me, finding catharsis in the fantastical is one of the best parts of writing.

Iseult: I think that’s one of the reasons that your writing is so strong.

Thank you so much, Hayley. It’s been wonderful chatting with you and I look forward to reading more of your books.

Click here to buy Idriel’s Children on Amazon now.

Click here to find out more about Hayley on her website. 

Click here to follow Hayley on Twitter. 

Click here to follow Hayley on Instagram.

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