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Pitch Wars Interview with Brian O'Conor and his mentor, Hayley Stone

Thursday, 29 October 2015  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

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Welcome to the Pitch Wars Team Interviews by Marnise Nicole

Bringing you a closer look at each Pitch War Team and their project.

Be sure to comment with support, comments, and questions.


Meet Hayley Stone and Brian O’Conor


Hayley Headstone

Hayley (H.N.) Stone (Mentor), tell us a little about yourself.

I’m the type of person who considers Costco’s strategic value during a zombie apocalypse, which should tell you everything you need to know about me, really.



Here’s some other stuff then: I spent my formative years writing Star Wars fanfiction and developing a particularly strong affinity for character banter and tragedy. Link from Legend of Zelda was my original video game crush until unseated by Carth Onasi from Knights of the Old Republic (which I maintain is one of the best games ever). Much of what I learned about ensemble casts and storytelling, I learned from video games. BioWare has broken my heart numerous times, and I keep going back for more.

Brian O'OoooooBrian O’Conor (Mentee), tell us a little about yourself.

I basically owe all of my creative drive and storytelling abilities to one things: FINAL FANTASY VI, which I got for Christmas one year back in the mid ’90s. It completely changed the way I thought of narrative fiction. It had a sprawling cast of characters, each with unique personality traits and rich personal histories. The worldbuilding was beyond anything I had experienced before, and the prominent fusion of magic and technology has been part of all my stories since. And it’s was a story where the bad guy actually won and the heroes, scattered to the edges of the world, had to regroup and start again in ruined world. There’s been a myriad of books, comics, movies, whatever over the years that have influenced the way I tell stories, but FFVI was the real spark that ignited my creative fire.

Nowadays I enjoy reading SFF of most any flavor and have a TBR pile that extends from my Write Cave to the Moon (as pretty much every writer does). Recent faves include Brian Staveley’s THE EMPEROR’S BLADES, Max Gladstone’s THREE PARTS DEAD and Pitch Wars Mentor (and friend!) Emmie Mears’ STORM IN A TEACUP. My own writing style features a lot of dialogue and descriptions to flesh out the narrative. If there’s one thing I think I’m pretty good at, it’s writing snappy banter. If there’s one thing I really need to work on, cutting back on the flowery language and just getting to the point. I’m still working on that one (much to Hayley’s dismay, I’m sure :D).

Hayley, why did you decide to participate in Pitch Wars?

I was fortunate enough to be involved as an alternate mentee in last year’s Pitch Wars, and it literally changed my life. We writers tend to be neurotic, self-doubting creatures, and I was no exception. Being chosen as an alternate—and having someone believe in my work—provided a boost in confidence at just the moment I needed it.

Naturally, I was thrilled when Brenda informed me she had an open spot for an adult mentor as it meant I could jump into the editing trenches with another writer, providing them with the same encouragement and support I received. This industry can be brutal, and I think it’s super important to take advantage of opportunities to pay it forward when possible.

Plus, getting to interact with the Pitch Wars community on Twitter is always a great pleasure!

Brian, why did you decide to participate in Pitch Wars?

I’d already been in the Query Trenches with THE RADIANCE OF BLACK for about five months before the Pitch Wars submission window opened, and while I was getting a few requests here and there, I could tell something wasn’t quite clicking with the story. I thought if I could get advice and guidance from someone who had already been to the top of the mountain if you will, I might be able to fix whatever was wrong with the manuscript. And at the end of the day, what did I have to lose? It’s an amazing opportunity either way, so I decided to take the plunge!

On top of that, I’d seen the myriad of success stories coming from Pitch Wars past. Some truly talented writers have gotten their break in this contest and the camaraderie and community building stemming from it has been really awesome. I figured even if I didn’t get picked, I’d make a whole bunch of new Writer Buddies along the way (and even more now that I did get the nod!) I hope that if everything works out, I can come back and be a mentor myself next year. I’m a big believer in giving back to a community that’s given so much to you, so if I could be even half the mentor Hayley was to me for someone next year, it would be a great honor.

Hayley, what are you most excited for?

As someone who loves editing more than is probably healthy, I’ve been excited about every step of this process! From big picture changes to line edits, Brian’s been ready for anything and everything I’ve thrown at him, and that kind of flexibility is exactly what every writer should aspire to.

Right now, I’m most excited to see some of the changes he’s made to a few character-driven scenes, upping the romantic tension between one of his major and minor characters. I’m also looking forward to polishing his query letter some more, which I know is probably weird, but I love working on queries!*

*That is, when they’re not my own, hah!

Brian, what are you most excited for?

AHHHHHHHH it’s all been so exciting already! Well, if have to pick one thing, it’s probably the anticipation of Hayley’s thoughts on the new ending. Part of our revision was rewriting the entire ending (almost 30K words!!!), to add a climactic Big Final Battle rather than the more cliffhangery ending it originally had. This also meant delving further into the romantic relationship between two of the MCs than I had planned. Hayley’s reaction to those scenes have been just unbelievably amazing so far, I can’t wait to see what she thinks of the rest! Team Fish-Heart, y’all.

Hayley, describe your novel in 3 words.

Snark. Ghosts. Merfolk.

Brian, describe your mentee’s novel in 3 words.

Darkness. Chimera. Sass.


Check Us Out …

Brian O'Oooooo

Brian O’Conor, Mentee

Twitter | Website

Brian is an avid reader and has been greatly influenced by the works of such fantasy luminaries as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, China Mieville and Gene Wolfe. He is an MBA graduate and works his day job in public finance.


Hayley Headstone

Hayley (H.N.) Stone, Mentor

Twitter | Website | Facebook

Hayley has lived her entire life in sunny California where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with video game characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

She is represented by Marlene Stringer of Stringer Literary Agency.


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