Issue 045 Author Interview: Hayli McClain and “Heaven-Bound”

Would you like another double helping of Issue 045 author interviews? We’re happy to deliver! Today we’re talking with Hayli McClain about her story “Heaven-Bound“.

LSQ:  Percy and Ann are unlikely lovers, and yet what they accomplish together creates a bond and opens the door to a relationship. What else draws them together and what do you see for their future?

Hayli: I think their unlikeliness is exactly what makes Percy and Ann perfect for each other. Ann might be the one looking up to the stars, but she’s also the more grounded and reasonable. Percy, even though she’s the “earth girl,” has the wild courage of old star-written legends. In each other’s eyes, they see proof of everything they ever dared to believe in. So I’m sure their future together will be one of constant discovery.

LSQ: Drawing down the moon is an amazing and transcendent concept. What was it that sparked the idea?

Hayli: Above all, “Heaven-Bound” is a story about love. Pulling the moon down from the night sky is impossible, but so is the idea that out of almost eight billion people, we could cross paths with the one person capable of knowing and loving us truly. I had the bare-bones concept for this story years ago, and I’m sure that, subconsciously, part of it came from George Bailey’s promise to “lasso the moon” in It’s a Wonderful Life! But the idea only found its heart through two of my close friends. Their love is pure and miraculous, like Ann and Percy’s, and it’s taught me to believe in the humble impossible.

LSQ: Ann wondered what Cassiopeia would do if she were free and then encounters Percy trying to lasso the moon. How does this close encounter with the moon change or enforce her ideas about the stars?

Hayli: Ann’s experience definitely reinforces her ideas about the stars. It affirms everything they made her feel over the years: passion, hope, and connection. Several stars and constellations are referenced in the story (my aunt worked in a planetarium, so I grew up on star lore myself) but Cassiopeia stood out as a natural favorite for Ann, representing both the feeling of imprisonment and the strained mother-daughter relationship she references in the story. The mythological queen initially tried to avoid punishment by sacrificing her daughter, Andromeda, from whom Ann gets her name. And who saved Andromeda? Perseus, of course!

LSQ: You have several references to singing and music in your story. What influence did the music in your life have on writing this piece?

Hayli: I always listen to music when I write. I rely on it for focus and clarity. What are my characters feeling that I can’t see with words in the way? How can I get this complicated idea across as simply and clearly as possible? I believe the truth in what Victor Hugo once said: “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” In a story about love–especially LGBTQ+ love–this concept felt important to touch on directly.