Written by Erin Hamilton
The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley is a stunning middle grade book set in the Stone Age. There is so much positivity surrounding this debut author and her wonderful book. I had the honour of putting together some questions for Sophie to answer- ones that I was curious about as a reader. Her answers did not disappoint- she answered amazingly!
Can you share your story in a sentence?
A wild adventure about courage, family and friendship that will plunge you back into the Stone Age… and then lead you home.
How much research did you feel you had to do to make the story authentic?
I absolutely loved doing research for the book. So much mystery surrounds the Stone Age and even though technologies like carbon-dating artefacts to a particular era can offer us some level of certainty, there are still enormous gaping uncertainties too. I feel like these uncertainties and gaps are really story-ful territory – so a lot of my research was finding out about interesting real artefacts… and imagining the stories that might be lurking behind them!
Take for example the ‘deer tooth’ that has great significance in The Wild Way Home. This is loosely based on these real deer teeth, found in necklace formation in the grave of a young woman in a Paleolithic burial site in France. I read about these deer teeth and started wondering about them… what was their significance to their Stone Age owner…? Coming up with plausible answers to all these mysterious questions is just the kind of research I like!
Charlie is escaping a strange and worrisome situation at home- heart wrenching to read- What kind of emotions are you feeling during the writing of such scenes?
Oh I utterly feel everything Charlie feels when I’m writing those scenes in the book, it’s hard not to. I kind of lose myself when I’m writing – it’s a bit like living a double life: when Charlie’s happy, I’m happy; when Charlie’s distraught, I’m distraught.
It maybe sounds silly but sometimes when I was in the thick of writing The Wild Way Home I’d pick my own kids up from school feeling absolutely bruised and exhausted after a day spent running about in the Stone Age forest being chased by lynx and wolves!
The title, The Wild Way Home, is perfect- was it always the title or did it evolve and change over time?
Thank you. I absolutely love the title too, but I can take no credit for it at all! My wonderful editor Lucy MacKay-Simm came up with The Wild Way Home. For a long time the book was called Hartboy, but at a certain point we realised that this was Charlie’s story too and the title needed to reflect that.
As a debut author, how important is social media to you?
I’m kind of a debut-social-media-er too. I only started dabbling in social media when I began writing more seriously, about three years ago… and now I love it. I feel a great sense of camaraderie within the Children’s Book community on Twitter especially – people who love kids’ books tend to be very lovely and supportive. I’ve developed a bunch of wonderful online friends – other authors; teacher readers; fab librarians; brilliant booksellers. I’m lucky – I’ve only really experienced the fun and friendly side of social media.
What do you hope readers will take away from your story?
For me, I really do write for child readers – and I think what children read really does matter. I want my reader to have an adventure, but also have a giggle, and also have a think, and also feel an emotional connection with the story. That’s it!!!
I actually had my first review (on Toppsta) from an actual real child the other day. Aubie (aged 7) said: “I loved The Wild Way Home because you travel to the stone age!! It is set in a forest and there are lots of adventures and you have to sing the spirit song to the animals to keep them away. I really liked the character Harby because he talks in stone age language and he knows how to sing a spirit song. Some bits of the book were sad and some bits were happy so it made me feel happy and sad. I also felt very excited as I wanted to find out what happened next!”
Oh my word! THIS is everything I ever could’ve hoped for!
What are you currently reading?
Ooooh! I’m so excited. I’ve just started reading The Dragonfly Pool. Eva Ibbotson is one of my absolute favourite authors and I have been rationing her books … only allowing myself to read one a year, verrrrry slowly and savouringly. I’m going to love every moment!
The Wild Way Home is published by Bloomsbury and is available to purchase from all good booksellers.
Any opinions expressed may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.