Away With Words– A Q&A with author Sophie Cameron

Posted in Author/Illustrator Posts on Thu, 23 March at 5.46 pm

A Q&A with Away With Words author Sophie Cameron.

Out May 2023.







What is your latest book, Away With Words about?

Away With Words is set in a version of our world where we can see and touch the words that people speak, as well as hear them. The story is about 11-year-old Gala, who has just moved from Spain to Scotland with her dad to live with his boyfriend, and her difficulties with learning English and adapting to her new home. She makes a friend at her new school named Natalie, who has selective mutism and collects other people’s old speech. The girls begin writing messages to their classmates with the discarded words, but something goes wrong and it gets them into trouble.

What was the inspiration behind Away With Words?

I really love learning languages – I think I’ve studied around 15 over the years, though unfortunately I’ve forgotten most of them too! I often find producing different sounds really difficult, though, so the idea of speech having a physical dimension came from feeling like words were literally stuck in my mouth and unable to come out. I was also inspired by children’s books that use language in interesting ways, such as Sophie Someone by Hayley Long and Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle.

Away With Words explores communication, did you do a lot of research for the novel?

I moved to Spain 7 years ago, and some parts of Gala’s story are based on my own experiences of living and working in Spanish and Catalan – the frustration of not being able to explain myself as well or as quickly as I’d like, or the thrill of realising that I’d made progress. But I chose to move abroad, whereas Gala is thrown into an environment where no one speaks her language and she has no say in the matter. I read up on ESL teaching and spoke to several people who had been similar situations – my wife moved from France to Scotland when she was 11, so her input helped a lot! I also did a lot of research on selective mutism for Natalie’s part of the story. We later had a sensitivity read done by a paediatric speech and language therapist, so it was really interesting to get their feedback.

What part of Away With Words are you most excited for young people to read?

I’m mostly excited for people to read about the concept and hopefully hear some of their own ideas about how communication would work in a world where speech was visible. Pip Johnson, the Senior Designer at Little Tiger who designed and illustrated the wonderful cover, has also done an amazing job getting creative with the layout of the text and it looks brilliant – so while I can’t take credit for that, I can’t wait to see what readers think of it!

How has Scotland and Spain influenced your writing?

Settings are really important for me, which is why all four of my published books so far take place in Scotland – it’s the place I know best, and being able to visualise the locations and include small, real-life details brings the story to life for me. Away With Words is set in Fortrose on the Black Isle, where I grew up, so it was really nice to be able to include some of my favourite places and weave them into Gala’s story. I’m finding that Spanish elements are cropping up in my writing more and more, though, and I have a few ideas for stories set here too.

What’s the best part about being a children’s author?

It’s always amazing to hear from readers, especially young ones, that they’ve enjoyed my books or that they’ve helped them in some way. Many of the books that have most influenced me are ones I read when I was young, so it’s a real privilege to think that someone could one day look back at one of my stories in a similar way.

Where and when do you do your best writing, and what are you working on at the moment?

I work best in cafes, preferably in the morning. Something about the noise and movement around me gives me a better focus on what I’m working on, and I’m far less likely to get distracted if I’m out of the house. Right now I’m hopping between a few projects: a contemporary MG novel, a YA fantasy, and what will hopefully be my first book for adults.

What does a ‘day off’ from writing look like for you?

I work for a communications agency and I have 3-year-old twins, so writing actually feels like a day off for me! When I’m not busy, I’m usually studying languages (right now I’m focusing on Korean, Italian and Gaelic), baking or watching TV.


Read more

Away With Words

Author: Sophie Cameron