Sophie Cameron on Away With Words and the best books for tweens and early teens

Away With Words by Sophie Cameron. Book cover and author photo.
Our Macaw subscribers are travelling to Scotland via Spain this month with thought-provoking mystery Away With Words by Sophie Cameron. This poignant family drama is set in a world where words appear as physical objects, reflecting the speaker's thoughts and feelings. It's such a clever concept - a highly original story, beautifully told and with much for young readers to relate to. Here Sophie tells us about being inspired by her own experiences of learning a foreign language and her top book recommendations for tweens and early teens.

What inspired you to write Away With Words?

The idea came from my experience of learning languages. I often find pronouncing different sounds really tricky and it sometimes feels as if the words are actually stuck at the back of my throat, which gave me the idea of a world where words have a physical element. I was also inspired by picture books that use typography in interesting ways, such as A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston.

Are any of the characters or elements of the story based on real people or events?

I don’t usually base my characters on real people, but Eilidh C is actually loosely inspired by a girl I knew at school. This is the first book I’ve set in Fortrose, where I lived from the ages of three to twelve and then went to secondary school, so it brought me back to my own childhood a lot!

What do you hope young readers will take away from the story and how it unfolds?

I hope it makes them think about the impact of words and how challenging communication can be for some people, whether because they’re second-language learners or because of speech difficulties such as selective mutism, and encourage empathy for them.

Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Gala?

I think Gala would continue to build a happy life and new friendships in Scotland, and that she’d keep collecting words and using them in creative ways with Natalie – maybe she’d study creative writing, other languages or linguistics.

We love the idea of words as physical objects that reflect our personalities! What do you think your words would look like?

Great question! I’m generally quite a quiet, calm person, so I think my words would usually be in softer tones and smooth shapes. I’m also a bit of a mumbler, so they’d probably blur together quite a bit!

Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

I’ve always been a big reader, and there are so many books for this age group that inspired me to write: Skellig by David Almond, Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, to name just a few. 

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I don’t get the chance to do it very often but I love writing in cafés – something about being around other people helps me focus much better than I can at home.

Which other books for tweens and teens would you recommend our subscribers read next?

Recently I really enjoyed Jamie by L. D. Lapinski and Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One by Maggie Horne, and some of my favourites are Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

Copies of our Away With Words pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!


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