Author, I Never: An Interview with Hayley Chewins

Hayley Chewins

author of The Turnaway Girls, out October 9, 2018

Author, I Never is a new segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I try to mix it up a little and ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never (kid friendly version) to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.

Question the first: Hayley, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I was one of those children who always had a journal with me. I wrote constantly. But I mostly wrote songs because a) I was obsessed with singing and b) writing a whole book was way too daunting. Writing a novel was always something I wanted to do someday, but it wasn’t until I was twenty-three and swamped with reading legal textbooks that I realised I needed fiction in my life in the same way that I needed oxygen. That’s when I wrote my first (terrible) draft of a novel.

Legal study had a similar effect on me. Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?

This is a small thing, but reading the jacket copy for THE TURNAWAY GIRLS was so wonderful. Not only did the words perfectly sum up my book, but I could picture them on the jacket. It gave me such a thrill.

Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?

All I want in life is for someone to tell me that my book gave them hope, or shaped their experience in some way. I’d be able to die happy if that ever happened.

That's such a beautiful thought. Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?

My agent, Patricia Nelson, offered me an R&R on the first version of THE TURNAWAY GIRLS I queried, and her notes were so brilliant that they changed my book—and my life—completely.

Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?

To be honest—no. Once I made the decision to write, I didn’t see giving up as an option. The rejections fuelled me.

Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?

I’ve never really experienced an inconvenient strike of inspiration.

Beware the shower. So I hear. And the car. Question the seventh: Can you give us a hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?

Here’s a random little thing: the clothes that the Masters wear were partly inspired by Björk’s bell dress, designed by Alexander McQueen for her ‘Who Is It?’ music video.

WHAT A GORGEOUS DRESS! Okay. I've composed myselfWhere do you look for inspiration?

Poems, films, music, nature, and the dictionary. (I often open it up and put odd words together, then see where they take me.)

Ooh. I like the dictionary idea. Who is your writing hero?

Franny Billingsley. If I ever got the chance to meet her, I would probably faint.

What do you love most about your most recent book?

What I love most about THE TURNAWAY GIRLS is my main character’s voice. She’s a musical girl who lives in a place where girls are banned from making music, so her way of speaking is very rhythmic and lyrical. I love the way she sees the world.

How did you go about picking your agent?

I chose to sign with Patricia based on her warmth, directness, ambition, and feminism—and her amazing editorial notes!

It sounds like a perfect match! And now, time for the...


I Never Round


The basic rules of I Never, the kid friendly version- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.

I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting.

THE TURNAWAY GIRLS has a large number of completely made up words that I have no intention of changing, turnaway being one of them. Also: cloisterwing, Childer-Queen, tongue-fruit. The list goes on and on!

Excellent! I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.

Guilty. But I try to force myself to write things down—I hate losing ideas!

I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.

Waking up, yes. And Delphernia looks into a mirror of polished gold in the first chapter of THE TURNAWAY GIRLS, but not for the reason you’d expect.

Ooh. Interesting. I never worked on two manuscripts at once.

Oh my gosh, I would love to be able to do this. But I can’t. I’m one of those obsessive, can-only-do-one-thing-at-a-time writers.

I never went several days or even weeks without writing.

I’ve done this plenty. Brains, like other muscles, need periodic rest. At least that’s my excuse.

I never wrote "for a long moment."

I don’t think I’ve done this? But honestly, I don’t have an issue with this phrase. Some moments are longer than others. Relativity and all that.

True. I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.


Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?


Thanks for having me, Dana! THE TURNAWAY GIRLS is forthcoming from Candlewick in October 9, 2018. You can find me in the following places

Twitter: @hayley_chewins

Instagram: hayleychewins (Mostly poodle pics, tbh)

Website: www.hayleychewins.com

Pinterest: hayleychewins

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31926862-the-turnaway-girls

Update: Preorder links can be found here: