Photograph by Sarah-Louise de Villiers

Photograph by Sarah-Louise de Villiers


I’m so glad you’re here. It’s lovely to meet you.

My name is Hayley and I write books about magical girls with secrets.

My first book, THE TURNAWAY GIRLS, was chosen by Kirkus as one of the best books of 2018, and by the ALA as one of the best feminist books for young readers. It’s about an island called Blightsend, where girls are not allowed to make music and are forced to turn boys’ songs in gold. And it’s about one girl, Delphernia Undersea, who sings anyway.

Published across the English-speaking world by Candlewick and Walker Books, THE TURNAWAY GIRLS is also available in translation in Poland, Hungary, Argentina and Uruguay.

My next book, THE SISTERS OF STRAYGARDEN PLACE, is coming out with Candlewick Press in October 2020. It’s about three sisters who are cursed with insomnia and who live in a magical house surrounded by roof-high silver grass. When the eldest sister falls ill, middle sister Mayhap must find out the truth about her family before she loses her forever.

In case you’d like to know a little bit more about me, here’s my story:

I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, in a house so full of books that I learnt to read by accident.

(Not really. I mean, sort of. My mom is a lover of books and a lover of words, and she taught me to read when I was four, kind of by accident because what she was actually doing was giving my older sister extra phonics lessons, and I was fascinated by them and eavesdropped.)

From then on, I read and wrote all the time.

My mom recently found the first story I ever wrote and framed it. It ends with a girl who “cried for the rest of her life,” which I consider pretty on-brand for me.

I have always, always wanted to be a writer, but writing novels was something I thought I would do when I was old and wise, mostly because the thought of writing something so long terrified me.

I wrote songs, poems, and short stories, though, and wanted to be a singer-songwriter until I was eighteen and went to study music at university and had an identity crisis.

After that, I studied Italian and English Literature. Then I did a postgraduate degree in Law because I didn’t really know what else to do. Suddenly I was reading textbooks as heavy as baby elephants and cases with three-page-long footnotes and I didn’t have time for poems or stories anymore.

And that’s how I realised I wanted to be a writer.

I also realised that if I wanted to be a writer, I had to get serious about writing.

I wrote my first finished draft of a novel in 2011, when I was 23. It was terrible, and remains terrible, and I will never show it to anyone. But it taught me that I could finish something. And I haven’t stopped finishing things since.

In 2014, I queried for the first time.
In 2015, I signed with my amazing agent.
In 2016, we sold THE TURNAWAY GIRLS to Candlewick.
THE TURNAWAY GIRLS came out in 2018, just before my 30th birthday.

What else? I have three sisters, one husband, and a poodle. My parents are my heroes. I live in Johannesburg. I love Johannesburg. I especially like the summer thunderstorms.

My house is blue on the outside, and white on the inside. I love colourful everything. I also love black coffee, old movies—as well as new movies, sad movies, and movies in which very little happens but everything is Extremely Beautiful—and waking up before the sun comes up.

I love driving with the windows down and singing at the top of my lungs and rollerblading in empty parking lots before anyone’s awake.

I have too many favourite authors to name, but I think you might enjoy my books if you like Laini Taylor, Franny Billingsley, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, or Frances Hardinge.

I’m an INFP, a believer in signs, and a dreamer of dreams. I think hard work makes you lucky. I think we’re all here for a reason. I think stories remind us of that. My idea of heaven is a garden-meets-bookshop. (Yip, I’m a Ravenclaw.)

Anything else you want to know? Send me a message. I love hearing from readers and writers.