Hayley Chewins is an author of magical, feminist middle grade fiction. Her debut, The Turnaway Girls, was a Kirkus Best Book of 2018, and her second book, The Sisters of Straygarden Place, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press this September and has already been called ‘superb, spooky and unforgettable’ in a Kirkus starred review.
Hayley lives in South Africa and also works as a writing coach.
IN THE INTRO
Announcement: The Worried Writer Podcast is pausing.
I love creating the podcast but have decided to take a break. After more than five years of creating the show, I feel in need of a short holiday and a bit of time to look inward and focus on my fiction. I will probably miss the podcast terribly and be back in a couple of months, but I also need a wee bit of time and distance in order to think about how I want the podcast to evolve. I am also keen to explore other ways of supporting authors and am considering an online course or mastermind group.
This podcast has helped to transform my writing life and I want to say a massive thank for your time and support.
The Worried Writer site will remain in place so you can still enjoy the backlist episodes of the show. I will also be adding new content as I work out my new focus/direction.
Finally, if you keep your podcast subscription in your app then, if I restart the show, you will automatically receive the new episodes.
I finished the rewrite of The Pearl King (Crow Investigations Book Four) and it’s up for pre-order (out June 25th).
If you like urban fantasy or paranormal mystery, please consider checking it out!
Also, my new Worried Writer book – Stop Worrying; Start Selling: The Introvert Author’s Guide To Marketing – is out next week.
It’s available for pre-order: www.books2read.com/StartSelling
It will be out on the 9th June in paperback and ebook, with the audiobook following later this year. Apologies for the delay in the audio – the pandemic sapped my energy and closed my sound engineer’s studio!
If you pick it up, I would love to know what you think!
IN THE INTERVIEW
The full transcript is copied below.
THANKS FOR LISTENING!
If you can spare a few minutes to leave the show a review on Apple Podcasts (or whichever podcast app you use) that would be really helpful. Ratings raise the visibility of the podcast and make it more likely to be discovered by new listeners and included in the charts.
[Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to rate a podcast on your device]
Sarah: Hayley Chewins is an author of magical, feminist, middle grade fiction. Her debut, The Turnaway Girls was a Kirkus best book of 2018 and her second book, The Sisters Of Straygarden Place is forthcoming from Candlewick Press this September, and it has already been called superb, spooky and unforgettable in a Kirkus starred review.
Hayley lives in South Africa and also works as a writing coach. Welcome to the show, Hayley, and thank you so much for joining me.
Hayley: Thank you for having me, I’m so excited to be here.
Sarah: I was wondering if you could just kick things off by telling us a wee bit more about your forthcoming book, The Sisters of Straygarden Place.
Hayley: Yeah, sure. Okay. So The Sisters of Straygarden Place is a middle grade fantasy book and it’s set in a magical mansion that’s surrounded by really tall silver grass. The grass is so tall that it covers the entire house. And it’s about three sisters who have been abandoned there and left in the care of this magical house.
Their parents have left and they’ve left them a note saying, don’t leave the house, wait until we come back. What happens is the eldest sister leaves the house. She does go walking into the grass one day and she returns and starts to get really, really sick and starts to turn silver and it’s up to the middle sister, whose name is Mayhap, to figure out what’s going on with the grass, why her sister is so sick, and when she starts doing that, she kind of starts to unravel all this other… all these other mysteries around her family, why her parents actually left, why the house is magical and everything kind of starts to unravel.
Sarah: Oh, that sounds absolutely wonderful. And that’s exactly my kind of book, so I’m very excited to read that. And that’s out in September this year? September, 2020?
Hayley: Yes. In America, it’ll be out in September, 2020. In the UK, it’s coming out, I think, in March next year.
Sarah: Wonderful. Well that’s very exciting. And I was going to say as well, I haven’t seen the cover for this one, but I saw the cover for your debut and it’s absolutely gorgeous. So is that a similar sort of genre, your first book?
Hayley: Yes. So they’re both kind of upper middle grade. They kind of fall into that 10 to 14 range and yeah, they’re middle grade fantasies, but they are kind of on the darker side and The Sisters of Straygarden Place even more so – it kind of walks the line between fantasy and horror. It is quite a bit on the spooky side of things.
Sarah: Wonderful. And what sort of led you into writing for that age group and in that genre? Did it… Was it just something that came naturally or something that you found difficult to choose?
Hayley: Uh, no I didn’t. When I, when I first started writing, I actually was writing kind of adult literary fiction. I was, uh, I dunno, I guess that was kind of mainly the kind of thing that I was reading at the time. I was in my early twenties. And I’ll just kind of tell you briefly what happened and how I came to realize that I wanted to write novels. I was studying, I did a bachelor of arts in Italian and English literature, and so I was always reading and writing, and I’ve always loved, I just always, always loved books and loved stories.
Um, and then after I did that, I did a law degree and it, so it was kind of the first time in my life that I didn’t have time to read fiction anymore or poetry. I didn’t have time to write. I was just reading so many cases and kind of legal articles and having to write legal essays. And like, lots of tests and things like that.
So it was, it was kind of the absence of literature from my life that made me realize how much it meant to me. And at the same time, I was kind of also uncovering the truth that I, I didn’t really want to be a lawyer. And so, yeah. So that’s kind of when I started, I just became really, driven to, to write.
So I was about 22. I loved writers like Ian McEwan and Arundhati Roy, um, and Angela Carter. And, um, yeah. So when I first started writing, I didn’t really have any ideas for books and I, and I certainly wasn’t thinking about writing children’s books. I was just kind of trying, trying to write like these writers that, that I really admired and I didn’t have a sense of what I wanted to say or kind of my own voice or anything like that.
I just felt like I just, I was kind of just very stubborn about it. Like I wanted to know, I really had no ideas and nothing to write about. But as I, as I just kind of kept writing, I kept noticing that children would just kind of appear in my stories all the time. So I would just, I just kept writing about children, even though technically I was writing books for adults or stories for adults.
And then I also at the same time, kind of started to read lots about publishing and sort of discovered children’s, the children’s world and started reading more widely and reading middle grade books, reading young adult books, and it was really writers like David Almond and Kate DiCamillo and Sarah Crossan who opened my eyes to how incredible middle grade books could be.
Um, I remember having this moment when I read Skellig by David Almond, and I have this feeling of, Oh, I want to write something like this. So, something that makes someone feel like this. Um, and so that’s when I started trying to write, middle grade books. But I was also kind of writing more books more on the literary side and more contemporary realistic books.
Um, and so yeah, it just took really lots and lots of writing the wrong thing for me to find what I was actually meant to write and what actually ended up feeling really alive and, and exciting for me to write. But it took a lot, a lot of persistence to find it.
Sarah: Oh, that’s fantastic. And that’s such an encouraging, account because I think, I mean, I can certainly empathize with that, that feeling of wanting to write, but not really being sure what.
And yeah, I think, I think that will resonate with a lot of people. That’s brilliant. And in terms of when you did write, you know, your first book that you thought, okay, this is middle grade, I often get questions about getting started in children’s fiction, which I know nothing about, so I’d love to hear about your path to publication.
Hayley: Ok, yeah. so I, like I said, I was just writing lots and lots of manuscripts and kind of having the feeling of… You know, I was writing things and finishing things cause I, I’d realized that in order to learn how to write a book, I actually had to write a book.
Sarah: So annoying, I know!
Hayley: Yeah. So I, I was kind of just on this drive to finish things, but at the same time, even though I was finishing manuscripts and revising them, I also kind of knew that they weren’t very good. And that I hadn’t really found like just something really interesting and really good and something that I really wanted to, that that really felt like me.
So it took, I mean, I actually kind of lost count of how many manuscripts I wrote, but it was many. And I think the middle grade ones, there were, there were at least four. And then eventually I got to a point where I wrote a novel in verse. It was a middle grade novel in verse that was kind of like, um, not really fantasy, it kind of blended the real with the unreal, sort of like contemporary, with a bit of magic. I finally felt like, okay, this is the kind of book that I want to write and, you know, and I felt like it was quite good and I could kind of write a pitch for it and send it out. So I did lots of research on how to write a pitch, how to write a query letter, and I Googled, um, lots of agents and kind of tried to find agents who represented the kind of thing that I’d written.
And I started querying. And yeah, I was lucky enough to get quite a few requests from that. And then I ended up getting, um, one agent asked me to revise the manuscript. He basically wanted to, he read the whole thing, really loved it, but also it felt like it needed a lot of work, which was very true.
And so he sent me lots of notes. And the, the notes resonated with me, so I agreed to do the revision for him. And what ended up happening was I took a couple of months to do that and sent it back to him and it, it didn’t end up kind of resulting in an offer of representation, but it was a really good experience for me because I learned how to revise and how to take notes, and I learned to… It just made me think about stories in, in a way that I hadn’t really thought about. It was really fantastic to get that feedback. Um, but I also didn’t really know, um, kind of how to make that manuscript any better than I had already made it. I didn’t know how to fix it. So I decided to set it aside and I started a new project, which actually ended up being The Turnaway Girls.
And what happened with The Turnaway Girls was that I entered one of these kinds of Twitter pitch competitions. And so it ended up being that… It wasn’t like a, like when you tweet a pitch and then agents like, or favorite your tweet, it was like someone, a writer who had arranged it and it was on her blog.
So they chose writers or stories that were interesting and then put the stories, the pitches, and I think it was like the first, I don’t know, five pages or something like that on the blog. And then. agents who went to the blog could request more material in the comments. And that’s how I ended up meeting my agent, because she kind of requested materials through that. And she also, it was a very similar experience because she read it very quickly. She loved it, but she also had lots of notes for how it could be made better. And she didn’t feel like she could make an offer of representation based on the state that the manuscript was in.
It had lots of plot problems. It had pacing problems. Um, and she gave me lots of notes and she gave me a list of books to read and she kind of asked me if I would be willing to revise it. And again, I was like, yes, I’m really persistent. All I want to do, like this is the only thing I want to do. I just want to make this book better.
And I was so, so grateful to have that feedback was really such a gift. So. I did the revisions and then, yeah, long story short, she ended up offering me representation based on the revisions, and that’s how I ended up getting an agent and yeah. And then. Uh, with my first book deal, it was like deja vu because we went out on sub with the manuscript and my editor loved the book and thought it needed, you know… And she sent me the most wonderful, she sent my agent rather, the most wonderful edit letter.
Um, and I did, I did the revisions and then we ended up getting an offer on the book. So, even though it has been a little bit of a circuitous path or not circuitous but I have had to, I did feel like I had to revise that book so many times before it actually became a book. Um, and then of course edits after, you know, Candlewick bought the book.
But I have learned so much as a writer through getting, you know, that kind of feedback. So I always say like if you get an offer to revise and resubmit, it’s such a compliment, from the agent or the editor because they, they’re taking time to read your work and to give you feedback on it. Um, even if they’re not offering you a book deal, or offering you representation, there’s a high chance that if you do the revisions that you know, it will end up going your way.
And even if it doesn’t, you just learn so much about your own writing. Yeah.
Sarah: No I think, I think that’s, I think that’s excellent advice. And it’s also, thank you for sharing this story. I think it was, uh, a very, um, very usual and very sort of typical story in the sense of, you know, we have to write a lot and like you say, finish books and then they’re not, they’re not really publishable, but then, you know, going through editorial feedback teaches us how to revise and how to write.
And I think. Again, hearing it again and again, it’s so important for people to know that it is a craft and it is perseverance. And I think you know, hats off to you for your attitude of being grateful for that learning experience. I think that’s, you know, I think that’s really encouraging and really good.
So in terms of giving people advice, I mean going through submission, it is really tough. It is really hard, and it can be heartbreaking. What do you think helped you to keep going?
Hayley: I think I just had… I always kind of… Basically from the moment I decided I wanted to write novels, I just knew that I was going to do it. I just knew that no matter what it took, I was going to kind of stay the course. And um, it’s also, I think it’s just having like a passion for the actual craft of writing.
Like I always, when I talk to writers, who have, um, kind of who worry that they don’t have what it takes, I always say. You know, if you, if you have a desire to do something, that’s an indication that you do have what it takes. You only have the dream to do something if you already have everything within you to, to have that thing and to do it.
So firstly that, and then also just if you’re very connected to why you are writing and why it’s important to you and your love for it, and your passion for it, then that’s kind of what keeps you going. So, um, yeah, because the thing is like even after you get published and even after you get a book deal, there’s still so much rejection. You can publish a book and then not sell your second book. You know? You can get really bad reviews. You can just, you know, someone can say something really horrible to you on goodreads, or horrible about your book on goodreads, and you just have to, you have to keep writing anyway, you know?
So I think that that’s kind of part and parcel of what it, what it means to be a professional writer. And share your writing with the world is to face the possibility that someone might not like it or that someone might say, we can’t sell this or this isn’t working, or anything like that. So I mean, it’s very, very difficult, but at the same time, it’s kind of just part of the package.
And so in order to continue, the stuff that I do is I just constantly remind myself, why am I doing this? It’s because I love language. I love stories, and I really feel like I was born to do this. Uh, so yeah, I’m going to keep doing it. You do need to have that persistence and that perseverance.
Sarah: That’s very true. And to go back to the sort of children’s fiction thing for a moment, having learnt to write for that age group, do you have any particular advice, for writing for that age group or for getting published in that, in that field, for listeners?
Hayley: Well, um, I guess the first thing, which kind of seems very basic, um, but is, but I think it’s very important and really helped me, was just reading, really widely in, in the genre that you want to write, and then also in the category. Um, so if you want to write fantasy and, you know, middle grade fantasy, then read lots and lots and lots of middle grade fantasy books. And also recently published one, so that you can see kind of what’s getting published, you know, in the past, I don’t know, three, four or five years.
So that’s the start. Um, the other thing is I think just remembering what it felt like to be a child and being really connected to how you felt when you were 12 or 13 or 10. Um, and really respecting the experience of childhood, which I think all great children’s writers do. They just have such a deep respect for children and how their, their experiences and how they feel, and they don’t kind of talk down to them or belittle them or, um, or kind of see their experiences as small and unimportant.
In fact, they kind of see it in the opposite way. Things have happened to you when you’re a child are so… They kind of get imprinted on you, and they’re these deep really important experiences. So yeah, I think, I think that if you can connect with how you felt as a child, that really goes a long way when you’re writing your child characters.
Sarah: That’s great advice. And, um, I’d love to now delve into the nitty gritty of your writing process, if that’s okay, because I’m still completely obsessed with how other writers do it. So, um, things like, do you write every day or do you keep business hours or, you know, do you aim for a particular word count and do you outline? All of that.
What’s your process?
Hayley: Ooh, ok. Yeah I also love reading about how other writers write, because I think we all kind of think that someone else has a secret that we don’t have.
Sarah: Yeah, definitely. I’m waiting for it. How to make it easy, please.
Hayley: I do find myself Googling how to write a book. Yeah. I don’t, I’m actually quite disorganized in my process and not in a bad way, but I don’t have… I’m not very strict with myself in terms of like writing every single day and like say writing… I know there are writers who write 2000 words every day of the year. I’m not really like that. Um, I have to kind of spend a lot of time dreaming about an idea before I start writing it. Um, so I have to kind of let it sit in the back of my mind and like kind of stew there and let it, I don’t know, like I, I need to…. It’s like a process of discovery, but it’s passive, not active. It’s kind of just like watching and waiting, um, for the way that this thing sits in your mind and how it grows and images that come up and things like that.
And then I’ll start to take notes and I’ll sometimes brainstorm. Brainstorming is really like fun for me, I love like putting on music and brainstorming. But I find, so I might get a few of the pieces of the story from that. Usually I do have like kind of a character maybe. The situation in the beginning of the story, a little bit of the world and what kind of world they live in. But in order to discover the story, I have to write many, many, many drafts.
So, because I work very intuitively, so I find that when I’m brainstorming or thinking about the story, um, before I write it, it’s a very valuable process to me and I enjoy it and it’s really fun, but it’s, it’s like a different part of my brain that’s working. Where when I’m actually in the story and I’m like in the voice of the character, in the language of the story, things just kind of happen serendipitously that are really magical and interesting and it changes everything.
So I might think that someone is in kind of a particular situation, I think I have an idea of what’s going on and why they’re in that situation. And then suddenly they’re having a conversation in a scene with another character and they say something and I’m like, Oh, that’s why you have this problem. Well, you know, that’s why you made this decision.
So I just write lots and lots and lots of drafts in order to kind of discover, you know, what the actual story is. And then between those drafts I might go back and forth between writing and outlining. And when I say outlining, it’s not, um, it’s very kind of broad strokes outlining. It’s kind of thinking about the broader mechanics of the story, not thinking really on like a nitty gritty or a scene level.
And yeah, and I often like sort of, write, and then get halfway through the scene and then feel really stuck. Like I don’t actually know what’s going to happen next or, or as I’m writing, I’m feeling like, Oh, this is wrong. Like this is, this is the right thing that’s supposed to happen, but it’s not supposed to happen this way or something isn’t clicking.
And then what I’ll do is I’ll take a break and I’ll step away and I’ll brainstorm a little bit about how I actually want the scene to be and then go back to writing. So it’s very intuitive and very organic, and it takes, it just takes lots of disorganized messiness.
Sarah: I’m just nodding away in understanding since I’m also an intuitive, write loads and loads and loads of drafts before I work out what the story is, kind of a writer. So it’s always a relief to me when I meet another one.
Hayley: Yeah. I have tried outlining in detail before, but then. So firstly, I don’t get really, I don’t get the same kinds of interesting ideas that I get when I’m actually in the scene.
And then the other thing is that I get kind of tired of the story before I’ve even written it. Yeah. I just find like the most interesting things happen when I’m just in the language and I’m playing and it is, it’s more akin to dreaming than it is to like figuring out, figuring something out or problem solving or like coming up with something.
It’s not a logical process. It’s you kind of have to, well, I have to kind of just swim in this language and free associate and just have images come up and have things not make any sense so that I can kind of go back and go, okay, yeah, that’s really interesting. I’m going to keep that, maybe toss that out cause that that doesn’t work.
Sarah: And this obviously is the worried writer, so I’m going to press you for more creative difficulties, I’m afraid. You, you just mentioned, you know, stepping away, if you get stuck in a scene or maybe doing some free writing or something, um, is there a particular part of the process when you’re most likely to get blocked or does fear strike at any point in the process?
Hayley: That’s areally interesting question. You know, I always find I get stuck… So I really love writing like the beginning of a book, the opening and then kind of catalyst moment when something happens and everything changes for the main character. And then once I’m kind of getting into the second act, I start to get really scared.
I always kind of start to feel like, you know, does this, um, does this idea have enough of an engine to actually carry through over the length of an entire story or an entire novel. And you know, what’s going to happen next? I always kind of get a little bit stuck on that point. And, and yeah, that’s when I kind of returned to stepping away and free writing or brainstorming or even just not thinking about it and doing something else, like going and exercising, and going for a walk, um, cooking a meal, um, even cleaning – actually doing the cleaning that I’ve been putting off for 3 days.
Yeah. That, that really helps to kind of just let my brain figure out the problem on its own. And then usually a solution will kind of pop up, you know, not, not always immediately. And you, you can’t, that’s the annoying thing is you can’t control it.
But that, you know, within probably a day or two, some kind of solution will pop up and I’ll have an idea of how to move ahead. Because often I have a plan, like a vague plan for how I think it should go, but when I get to the scene, and so I’ve got it written down, I’ve got like, Oh yeah, they need to go to a party in the scene, lets say, and then when I’m actually in the scene, I’m feeling like, no, that’s, that’s not gonna work. It’s just not the right thing to happen now. So yeah. It’s a very, um, I get stuck a lot. I get stuck like multiple times a day. I just, I think I just don’t let it bother me anymore. Like I just kind of feel like it’s part of my process.
It’s part of how I write a book. So if I get stuck, I know that I’ll always get unstuck. Like it’s not a permanent state. And I think that’s what you used to really scare me was, I kind of felt like, Oh, I’m stuck and I’ll always be stuck and I’ll never get out of this when actually stuck is just, it’s just like, Oh, I need to solve a problem, like what’s going to happen next, but I can, I can solve it.
I’ve solved a million of these problems before so I can do it again.
Sarah: That’s a really good way of putting it. And like you said, that experience really does help, doesn’t it? You think, well, I felt like this before and it’s been fine. Yeah. That’s really good. And I know you, um, you mentioned that you, you work as a writing coach, and I wondered whether that helps you with your own creative process.
Hayley: It really does because I think, um, I think when you write kind of full time or you’re writing kind of writing a lot, there’s, you, you become very inward focused, um, which is, you know, a good thing that’s a necessary thing when you’re writing a story. Um, but you can kind of become very stuck in your own head.
And the really lovely thing, I mean, I just love talking, and I think I have a feeling you have the same thing, but I love talking to writers about writing. I love talking to writers about how they write, and it’s always so much easier also to have perspective on someone else’s kind of a feeling of, of doubt or feeling of fear, than it is to have perspective of your own feeling. And so when you talk to other writers, you realize we’re actually all in this together. We all have very similar problems and very similar blocks. Um, and it just, it really gives me, it really feeds me and it gives me so much energy to have a bit more of an outward focus.
Like sometimes to not be so focused on my own, um, my own psyche and my own writing and my own stuff. Yeah, and you kind of notice when you start to talk to writers that everyone, if it’s like the same kind of issues, they might manifest kind of differently, but the same kind of issues come up. And then also it’s across the spectrum of, you know, people who are just really beginners and they’re trying to write for the first time, and they haven’t even maybe finished a manuscript all the way through to writers who have published multiple books and won awards and you know, got amazing reviews and things like that.
Everyone has the same kind of fears, and those fears don’t really ever go away. Um, in fact, sometimes they can get worse when you get published because you have more of a sense of an audience or more of a sense of, you know, there are people who are definitely going to read your work and you know, and they’re going to judge it or say about it.
So, I don’t know. I don’t, I don’t think it ever really goes away. I think you just, you find ways of dealing with it and coping with it, and you find ways of working in spite of those fears and in spite of those doubts.
Sarah: Absolutely. And I think that’s, that’s certainly something that I found through doing this podcast.
As you say, regardless of the stage of the writer’s career, the same kind of fears come up and, and that’s weirdly comforting. But also, I mean, I also wanted to ask you, how did you find going, you know, getting published obviously it’s something you wanted for a long time. You worked very hard, and then like you just alluded to the fears growing or changing and not just disappearing when you got, when you get published, how, how did you find that experience, your debut and so on?
Hayley: I mean, I was very anxious about it, I was very excited, but also very anxious about publishing my first. Um, and I really had this feeling that I wanted it to be perfect. Um, and I drove my editor a little bit crazy because I would just, like I wanted to make changes very close to the, you know, to the end of the process, I was still making little tweaks and little changes to the language.
And, um, I’ve learned, I learned with my second book to be a lot more gentle with myself. And I think that was something that I needed to learn was to not be so… I was very hard on myself with my first book. I was very, like I said, I had this idea that I wanted it to be perfect, which firstly doesn’t exist, like a perfect book it just doesn’t exist, because books are so subjective and something that’s perfect to one person is going to be imperfect to another person. Um. But I had these, I just had, I had a sense of wanting to control it and not really wanting to let go and I had to. Yeah. I think that’s the thing with your first book maybe, is that it’s the first time that you really have to let go.
You have to kind of hand it over. It’s going, it’s going to become a book in this state. You can’t make it any better. It is, you know, it’s, it is what it is. You’ve done everything. You’ve done everything you can and, and you have to just let it go and see how people react. And I think rationally I knew that of course some people would would like it and some people wouldn’t.
And I was like, kind of trying to prepare myself for that, but on an emotional level, um, it was different. It was, it was, it was harder to kind of wrap my head around, like, you’re putting this thing out into the world and what if people don’t like it and it’s, you know…
Sarah: Yeah, it’s scary. It’s properly scary.
Sarah: Yeah, definitely. So have you found that you’ve kind of got used to it a wee bit now that the book’s been out for a while? How are you feeling about your second book coming out?
Hayley: Yeah, I feel, I feel very different and much better about it. It is the experience and time and realizing that yes, you can, people can not like your book and also you don’t stop writing because of that and you don’t implode as a person, and then you don’t stop being yourself. I don’t know. It’s just, it’s not actually as damaging as, as you kind of think that it’s going to be. Um, but yeah, I did have a moment with Straygarden, um, when we were getting close to the end, it was kind of like second pass pages. It was the last time I could read it over.
Um, or even first pass pages and I did have this instinct to suddenly make all these changes, like it felt like every sentence was wrong, every comma had to be moved and things like that. Um, but I, I. I was able to kind of recognize that that was happening again. And I think that’s only something that really happens with perspective and with experience, is that you can kind of recognize, Oh, okay, yeah, this is how I feel around this stage. It’s very normal. It’s okay.
And yeah, and I. I kind of went, um, I’m really lucky that I have an agent who’s very supportive and very kind. And um, I told her that I was really worried about it and I kind of sent her the list of changes I wanted to make. She actually helped me narrow them down. She actually helped me make the list shorter because I, at the end of the day, I didn’t want to just be moving things around just for the sake of moving things around. I’ll get to that stage where you’re not actually making the book better with things that don’t need to be changed.
Sarah: Yeah, definitely. There’s always a stage in the edits, isn’t there when you realize that you’ve spent all day changing things and then the next day you change them back or you’ve changed some, a lot, a lot of them back and you think, yeah, no, I’m done now.
Hayley: And, and I think that is, and I’m sure as, as I publish, I don’t know if I get the opportunity to do some more books that I will probably feel more and more comfortable with that… Um, because I do think it’s just like an experience thing. But yeah, so it was Straygarden, I did, I, I made a conscious choice to be more gentle with myself.
I made this choice to go, okay, I’m actually, this book is, is good. I’m proud of it. I’ve done all that I can. I’ve worked really, really hard on it and now I’m going to let it go and let it be what it is.
Sarah: Good. Oh, that’s brilliant. And speaking of, um, sort of moving on and things, what are you working on at the moment, or what’s next for you?
Hayley: So I’m working on another middle grade fantasy book. I always joke that I write books about magical girls with secrets. So yeah, it’s another kind of magical book about a girl with a secret. Um, and yeah, I don’t, uh, like I said about my writing process, it’s really messy and discombobulated and it takes a long time for me to figure out what a book is actually about.
So I can’t say what it’s about because I don’t really know, and it would probably change like three times before it actually has finished. So, um, but it is, it’s middle grade fantasy and I’m really excited about it. I really love it. It’s a bit of a bigger world than I normally write. And my first two books have both been quite, quite sort of claustrophobic in a cool way. Like, like smaller, like kind of, yeah, just smaller worlds. Um, and this world feels a bit more expansive, so it does feel a bit scarier cause it feels like something that I haven’t done before and I’m kind of pushing myself as a writer, but at the same time, I like that feeling of pushing myself.
I feel like I’m challenging myself and doing something that I haven’t done before.
Sarah: No, that sounds really, really positive and like you say we need to keep challenging. I think we need to keep challenging ourselves. I think that’s really exciting. So where can people find out more about you and your books online?
Hayley: Okay. So my website is HayleyChewins.com. And it’s Hayley, H A Y L E Y Chewins C H E W I N S .com. I have a newsletter that I send out every month, which is usually very personal, and it’s like things that I don’t share anywhere, anywhere else. So if people are interested in my kind of behind the scenes writing lives, um, they can go sign up for that.
And the only social media I’m doing at the moment is Twitter. So I’m @hayley_chewins. Um, and that’s about it.
Sarah: That’s wonderful. Well, I’ll put all the links in the show notes. But that was wonderful. Thank you so much for that.
Hayley: Cool. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been lovely talking to you.