Hayley Chewins writes books about magical girls with secrets. We read and loved her debut, The Turnaway Girls (one of our favorites from 2020), for its lyrical writing and vivid worldbuilding. Her second novel, The Sisters of Straygarden Place, will be released in September 2020. Her books are outstanding for their beautiful prose and interesting characters. We were thrilled to get the chance to interview her for this month’s post.
RapunzelReads: Who is your favorite character in The Turnaway Girls, and why?
Hayley Chewins: I adore Linna. She’s just so full of joy and light. And she’s kind. I like kind.
RR: The Turnaway Girls takes place in a vivid, detailed world—what inspired it?
HC: It was mostly inspired by language. What I mean by that is: I didn’t think up a place, and then find words to describe it. I wrote, and the world sprang up.
RR: What is your favorite part of the world of The Turnaway Girls?
HC: I love the cloister, even though it’s a dark, scary place. I just love the idea of a
RR: The Turnaway Girls has strong messages about speaking out and finding your voice--what inspired those elements of the story?
HC: It’s very much inspired by my own experience of being a girl. It took me a long time to find my voice. It took me a long time to be able to say how I felt, or ask for things, or admit my own desires. It took me a long time to know myself. And part of that had to do with my personality and experience, but I also think it’s very common for girls to feel that way—that the world isn’t interested in hearing what they have to say. I wanted to explore that.
RR: What books inspired you when you were growing up?
HC: I was especially inspired by poetry. When I was two, I could recite The Owl and the Pussycat! As a teenager, I loved ee cummings, Dorothy Parker, Robert Frost and Chris Mann. As for novels: Wuthering Heights, Atonement by Ian McEwan, and South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami.
RR: What was your favorite part of writing The Turnaway Girls?
HC: Delphernia’s voice. I love language. And writing in Delphernia’s voice allowed me to play with words in a way that was really satisfying.
RR: What are you planning on writing next?
HC: I’m working on a dark YA book at the moment, and I have a few other ideas waiting in the wings: a surreal picture book, a MG fantasy, and a weird, near-future adult book!
RR: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
HC: Let yourself make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. Allow yourself to be a beginner. Writing a book is like any other skill: you have to learn how. The only way you learn how to finish a book is to…finish a book. (Seems obvious, but it took me ages to realize this.) If you’re struggling to write the middle of your book, move the ending to the midpoint and see what happens!
RR: What was the hardest part of writing The Turnaway Girls?
HC: Finding the story. The first few drafts looked nothing like the final version—they weren’t even set in Blightsend! It usually takes me anywhere from three to ten drafts to find the right version of the story.