Words surround Hayleigh Worgan. By day, the 2011 Roanoke College graduate can be found connecting young people to books in the Young Adult department of the South Roanoke County Library. She’s also the editorial director of Bella Magazine. And at 27, the writer and visual artist has a YA novel and a collection of poetry under her belt.
BOOK CITY ★Roanoke: How would you describe your novel The Huntsman?
Hayleigh Worgan: The Huntsman is fantasy—a retelling of the Red Riding Hood story. At least that’s where it starts. A mother recounts the tale to her teenage daughter, but it’s not the version Anna remembers hearing as a child. As the story progresses, the wolf begins to stalk the mother, and it becomes evident that the fairy tale may not be such a fantasy after all. In the end, both mother and daughter will have to decide if knowing the truth is worth the price.
BCR: Working with young people at the library must really help you write for that particular audience.
HM: It definitely keeps me in touch! I wrote The Huntsman because I wanted to use literature to reach young people in challenging situations.
BCR: Did your reading as a young person affected you in positive ways?
HM: Of course. Real life is messy, and a great fictional character will reflect that chaos somehow. So often, I think we forget that we are not in the shoes of other human beings. I know I’m guilty of it sometimes. A fictional character can challenge the reader: what’s beyond that face in a coffee shop or a library? It may even challenge them to think more compassionately about people they love.
BCR: I agree. Fiction helps us empathize. Each person has specific challenges, yet there’s a condition common to us all. What if we couldn’t see our own struggle in others?
HM: We’d certainly miss out on a lot. I’m fortunate. Both of my professional roles allow me to interact with the public on a regular basis. These people are my greatest inspiration.
BCR: They help you shape your characters?
HW: Yes. My goal is to create characters who are beautiful, and sometimes broken—humans simply trying to survive in a world that doesn’t always celebrate differences. Great fictional characters are complex. They’re not just heroes or fandom crushes; they’re models to inspire personal growth. I find that many readers are seeking fiction that represents a diverse range of circumstances. I’ve started working on The Prince, which is a sequel to The Huntsman. Without revealing too much, some of my characters are more complicated than any I’ve written before. Getting to know them has forced me to step outside of my familiar setting and begin to research different things in order to give them the voice they deserve.
BCR: Stepping outside of the familiar can cause a little discomfort. That’s how we grow. What else pushes your writing to the next level?
HW: I read or listen to an audiobook almost every day. Writers should be readers as well. This is not just for the individual writer’s benefit. It shows they are willing to be a supportive part of a community of people who write, but who may also work other jobs to put food on the table. Additionally, when you read the work of other writers, you get outside your own head and begin to understand that we are all just trying to tell a story that someone might want to hear.
BCR: Where’s your thoughtful spot? How do your ideas come to you?
HW: Driving really helps me develop ideas. Sometimes I dictate poetry into my phone while I drive. Bless the passengers who take out a pen so I don’t lose my ideas while focusing on the road.
BCR: Safety first. Good for them. And good for you.
Hayleigh Worgan will sell her young adult novel, The Huntsman, the poetry collection Missed Connections, and her poetry canvases at the City Market Makers Market on July 8 from 10 AM to 3 PM. Learn more about Hayleigh at www.hayleighworgan.com. ★