Wednesday 23 January 2019

Interview with Hayley Stone (and giveaway)

We welcome to the TFF Press blog novelist and poet Hayley Stone (whose poems “Daphne’s Grove” and “Results of Your Quiz: Which Survivor of the Trojan War Are You?” appeared in TFF last year, and we will publish one more later in 2019), whose Weird West novel Make Me No Grave was released a few weeks ago. She answers a few of our questions about her writing. Make sure to stick around to the end for a chance to win one of three signed copies of the novel!

Hayley Stone is a writer, editor, and poet from California. She is best known for her adult sci-fi novel, Machinations, which was chosen as one of Amazon’s Best Sci-fi & Fantasy Books for 2016, and her cult hit, Make Me No Grave, a weird western. Her short fiction has appeared in Fireside Fiction, Apex Magazine, Flash Fiction Online, and various anthologies, while her speculative poetry is widely available online. Hayley loves to hear from readers and writers. Find her at and on Twitter @hayley_stone.

Make Me No Grave

Marshal Apostle Richardson faces off against bloodthirsty outlaws, flesh witches, ruthless vigilantes, and more in this gritty, magical re-imagining of the Old West.

Almena Guillory, better known as the Grizzly Queen of the West, has done plenty to warrant the noose, but US Marshal Apostle Richardson enforces the law, he doesn’t decide it. When a posse tries to lynch Almena ahead of her trial, Apostle refuses their form of expedited justice—and receives a bullet for his trouble. Almena spares him through the use of dangerous flesh magic but escapes soon after saving him.

Weeks later, Apostle fears the outlaw queen has returned to her old ways when she’s spotted terrorizing Kansas with a new gang in tow. When cornered, however, Almena makes a convincing case for her innocence and proposes a plan to take the real bandits down. Working with a known killer opens Apostle up to all sorts of trouble, not the least being his own growing attraction toward the roguish woman. Turning Almena away from vengeance may be out of the question, but if he doesn’t try, she’ll wind up right where the law wants her: at the end of a rope.

And if Apostle isn’t careful, he’ll end up joining her.

If you like Red Dead Redemption and Lila Bowen’s Wake of Vultures, you'll love this gun-blazing weird western.


TFF: It strikes me that the trope of Almena in Make Me No Grave brings together seventeenth century witch-hunts with modern lynchings, especially of minorities. Is this intersectionality deliberate in the novel, and if so what other axes does it work on?

Hayley Stone: Absolutely.

Throughout the novel, as more of Almena’s background comes to light, we see in her personal friendships and associations that she feels most comfortable among those likewise considered to be “outsiders” in society. In much of Western fiction, there is the theme of civilization (i.e. society) versus the individual (i.e. the lone gunfighter, the outlaw, etc.). Almena’s experience of not only being a woman in a nontraditional role, but one with magic specifically addresses feminist issues such as the persecution of the nonfeminine and the frequent unease surrounding female power. For as much as she is feted as the Grizzly Queen of the West and celebrated for her violence, she is also feared and mistrusted for the same.

Of course, there may be more axes than that, depending on which theory is applied to the reading, but I leave that up to my audience! It’s always fun when a reader makes a connection I myself didn’t necessarily intend.

What was your first love, poetry or prose? And how often do you move from one form to the other?

HS: Definitely prose. I only began writing poetry in earnest a couple years ago, near the end of college. However, now the two are intricately connected, at least in my own mind, frequently informing one another. I often draw on poetic technique for my prose, especially for description or to set the mood of a scene. Verbs rule in poetry, and they provide spectacular energy to prose as well. In the past, I’ve also deconstructed story ideas and turned them into poems when they refused to work as short fiction.

Some of your poems seems to draw inspiration from female characters in old mythologies, Classical as well as Nordic. What fascinates you about these ancient women?

HS: For me, it is two things. First, I feel a strong sense of solidarity with these women. When you strip away the magic and mythos, their lives are not much different from our own; they experience passion and hope, while also suffering from many of the same fears and insecurities. They are lovers, fighters, and everything in between.

Second, in many instances, theirs is the story I most relate to and actually want to read! Historically, the male perspective has been the dominant one, so for me it is interesting to look at the same event from a less obvious point-of-view.

The covers of your novels seem to emphasize the figure of the lone hero. Are strong characters (and especially female ones) doomed to be alone?

HS: There is a special irony there since I’m actually not a big proponent of the lone hero narrative! I even think there is something a little toxic about the idea of solving all your problems on your own, rather than reaching out for help.

One of the themes I explore in both of my series is how easy it is to become isolated by a sense of personal responsibility or past failure. Rhona Long (Machinations) and Almena Guillory (Make Me No Grave) are very different personalities, but both women end up strengthened by their relationships to others, not weakened by them. If anything, the covers represent their initial feelings of loneliness, not their ultimate reality.

With whom, alive or dead, would you most like to collaborate, and on what?

HS: Let’s just say that if J.R.R. Tolkien wanted to invent some languages for an epic fantasy of mine, I would not say no! Otherwise, I would love to co-write a story with Margaret Atwood or Kameron Hurley, as they are two of my favorite writers alive today.


Enter to win a signed copy of Make Me No Grave!

To enter the contest, comment below by midnight, February 6, 2019, with your own Weird West story or poem in 280 characters or less. Stories and poems must incorporate tropes of the Western genre, while also including a speculative element (i.e. fantasy, sci-fi, or horror). They need not take place in America, or even on Earth.

Up to three entries will be chosen by Hayley, and the winners will receive a signed paperback and bookmark. You may also post your stories to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or your blog—just remember to post the link below (and make sure we have a way of getting in touch with you)!