BookSmart – Interview with Sophie McKenzie

Posted: 30th April 2021

We are back for our third episode of BookSmart! If you haven’t seen our previous episodes you can watch them by clicking on the following links. We met with Sara Barnard in Episode 1 and Patrice Lawrence in Episode 2


In our last episode we gave one lucky watcher the chance to win a signed copy of Patrice Lawrence’s latest book; 8 Pieces of Silva. The winner was Harper DP!


YA author Sophie McKenzie joined us this week for another interview. Year 9 Mariia had the opportunity of interviewing her as she is a huge fan of Sophie’s. 


Sophie writes thrillers and romances with many of her books having won awards, her most famous novel being Girl, Missing. Her and Mariia talk about her favourite genres and meals as well as a little bit about her new book Hide and Secrets which is out in July! You can win a signed copy of one of Sophie’s books by leaving a comment on the video using #BookSmart.






We really enjoyed getting to know Sophie. You can follow Sophie on Twitter: Sophie McKenzie (@sophiemckenzie_) / Twitter Below you can read the transcript from the interview and see a selection of Sophie’s books.




Mariia: Hello, very nice to meet you Sophie. I’ve got some questions ready for you to answer. It would be lovely if you could answer them!


Sophie: Absolutely! 


Mariia: Was your first novel Girl, Missing inspired by any real life events?


Sophie: It was actually. I’d seen a TV programme about missing kids and I was just browsing afterwards and I found this missing children’s website and I was having a look at it and I saw the case of a little boy that I remembered having gone missing years before and there were two pictures side-by-side, a picture of him as a toddler when he went missing. Then next to it an age progressed picture of how he might look now at 14 and I looked at the pictures and I thought what if he was, you know the teenager, what if he’s still alive and comes across this picture, these pictures, this missing children’s poster, effectively on a missing children’s website? What if he thought: ‘that looks like me, maybe it is me.’ I imagined that scenario happening and then I thought what would he do? That was really the springboard for Girl, Missing. Obviously the main character’s a girl but it’s, what would you do if you thought you were a missing child? So that was a real life seed for an idea for that book. 


Mariia: That’s very cool. 


Sophie: Have you read Girl, Missing? Do you know that story?


Mariia: Yes, I read the two books. I haven’t managed to read the third one. 


Mariia: I was also wondering because your books are in thriller genre, has your life been quite thrilling as well?


Sophie: No. Not at all! My life’s really quite boring. I mean I’ve had an interesting life that I’ve been lucky to do jobs that I found interesting. I’ve worked as a journalist which is writing and then obviously as a fiction writer, writing books for children and books for adults as well. I also teach creative writing and I’ve really enjoyed all those books but I couldn’t really say they were action packed and thrilling experiences. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, particularly the writing, but no. Not a thrilling life!


Mariia: Also the title of your new book Hide and Secrets, is it a deliberate play on words? Suggesting a clue into the theme of the book?


Sophie: Absolutely it was deliberate. It wasn’t actually my idea. I worked with two editors on the book. The first one was a temporary person who was brought in and she was only there for a short period of time, she edited it and then we talked about it and then she left. So I had another editor that came in when we were about two thirds of the way through, she came in fresh when I didn’t really have a title. I mean I had a few options but nothing that was really working and she suggested it. Really good idea and it is a play on words but it wasn’t my play on words it was hers. 


Mariia: I mean it does sound like ‘Hide and Seek’. 


Sophie: Absolutely, you’re exactly right. It does echo the theme of the book. The book has got lots of action and lots of danger and it’s an exciting story. It is about people hiding and it is about keeping secrets and everything that’s associated with that. Really clever idea of hers. 


Mariia: I am looking forward to reading that book as well. 


Sophie: Yeah, I can’t wait. I’ve been working on it a long time now and I put the picture on social media as well, so that’s out. I can’t wait until it’s published and people get to read it. 


Mariia: Also, this is quite an interesting question I think, do you think any of your books have been underrated by the media? 


Sophie: Yeah that is a really interesting question, and it’s quite a hard one to answer because I don’t think I’m the most objective judge of my own books. It’s a bit like having children, writing books, in that you love all of them but they’re all very different and your relationship with each of them is a bit different, too. I enjoyed writing some of them more than others. I don’t know if I’m in the best position to say whether or not any of them have been underrated. One thing that is true, is that I know I’m known as a bit more of a thriller writer so books like Girl, Missing and Blood Ties and The Medusa Project those kind of books. I’ve also written some romance books for teenagers, the All About Eve series and River and Flynn series. I Think those books are actually just as good if not better than some of my thrillers. So I wouldn’t say any of my books are particularly underrated or overrated because I don’t know if I’m the best judge of that. But definitely, I know I’m known for a kind of book that I write, the thrillers, and I have actually written other books. That’s not being underrated it’s just not being known for those other types of books.


Mariia: Also, I was wondering because you write thriller books, what is actually your favourite genre to read when you’re relaxing with a book?


Sophie: Well, when I saw that question I thought that’s a really interesting one for me to think about because if you’d asked me before and I hadn’t had a chance to think about it, then I might well have said, which I have said before and I think is true, that I write the books I like to read. But when I stopped to think about the last few books that I’ve read, I realise that I read across all different kinds of genres. I actually wrote down the four last books that I read, so you can see what I mean, it shows that I don’t read a particular kind. So the last four books that I read were The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwait, Summer Water by Sarah Moss and Becoming which is Michelle Obama’s autobiography. 


Mariia: They seem quite different by the name, the genres of the books. 


Sophie: Yeah, they’re very diverse. You know, that’s an autobiography and Summer Waters is an observational novel where as The Thursday Murder Club is quite funny and light but it’s a murder mystery and then My Sister The Serial Killer is really well written and funny, so yeah they’re very different kinds of books. To answer your question in a very long winded way I realise I don’t really have a favourite genre. 


Mariia: So you just read everything? 


Sophie: I’m just open to a good story. That’s what I really like, a good story and something with really interesting characters. That’s what I’m always looking for.   


Mariia: I see. So what’s your favourite artist, or a band? Or do you make any Spotify playlists?


Sophie: For me there’s always been two areas of music. There’s the music I listen to when I’m writing and then the music we might have on in the background while we’re eating dinner. In terms of listening to music when I’m writing, I haven’t done that for a while. I used to do it about 10 years ago, I had playlists for every book and songs that I played that I associated with different characters and the last few years I’ve preferred to work in silence. In terms of music generally, I was thinking about this as well, it’s funny because we do listen to, when I say ‘we’ I’m talking about me and my husband and the reason I’m saying that because in normal times we would’ve been out a lot more we’re just obviously staying in every evening, and the truth is he tends to choose the music. We have very similar tastes so he tends to choose the music and he has Spotify playlists that he plays and I get to choose the TV. He’s in-charge of the Spotify playlists and I’m in-charge of the TV remote for when we’re watching Netflix. So as a result, I wouldn’t say I had particular bands or singers that I listen to particularly anymore. I do have old favourites but nobody that I’m listen to right at the moment. 


Mariia: So is there a specific type of music you like? Or specific artists?


Sophie: I really like singer-songwriters. I like one person singing with a guitar, in quite a folky sound. Not necessarily proper old style folk music but just that sound, I don’t like jazz, I don’t like really heavy rock sound.


Mariia: Sure, and do you have a copy of every one of your books at home? Do you have a collection?


Sophie: Yes I do. In fact they’re right above me. I’m sitting at my desk, this is where I work, where I write and all my books are up there on the shelf above my desk. The reason I keep them there, just one copy of each one, is to remind me whenever I’m working and I’m having one of those down moments, where I’m thinking this isn’t going very well, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not quite sure how to get out of the problem that I’ve got into with this particular book. It’s really nice, really encouraging to be able to just glance up, and it’s just at the back of my head, it reminds me you did all those books, you’ll be able to do this one. It’s an encouraging thought that I’ve written all those books before. So yes, I keep one copy of all the books I’ve written.


Mariia: You look at them for inspiration when you’re writing. 


Sophie: Well, it’s quite a lonely thing. Or isolated, I love it actually, I love being by myself and writing but it’s quite an isolating thing to do. And it’s very easy when you’re completely on your own for the little voice in your head that says ‘hmm this isn’t very good’ to kind of start taking over. One of the things to counteract that is just to remind yourself, well actually I’ve done this before, if I keep going and don’t give up and just take it one step at a time I’ll get through and I’ll come to a place where the story is working better again. That is generally what happens. 


Mariia: Would you use that as a tip for other writers? 


Sophie: Yeah, absolutely. I’d say if I was going to give a tip to anyone who wanted to write I’d say read a lot and I’d say keep writing. When you do feel down, remember that when you’re writing something quite often you have to go over it a few times. Writing a book is never, or maybe it is for some authors but I’ve never met one, it’s not really about sitting down and writing a story and then typing the last letter and then it’s done. It’s mostly about writing it and then going over it again and seeing ways you can maybe improve it or change bits. It’s during that process where you’re struggling to improve what you’ve done or keep working on it that it’s easy to get a bit despondent because you can get a bit lost in thinking ‘oh this isn’t working’ and all of those thoughts. I suppose in the sense of remembering that you need to take it one step at a time and keep going. I would offer that advice. Read a lot, write a lot, don’t give up. 


Mariia: Sure. What’s your favourite meal?


Sophie: My favourite meal, well i absolutely love my food. So that is a very very difficult question, probably the hardest one you’ve asked me. I’ve decided that my meal will cover all the things I love. It’s a bit of a cheat because it’s a far too big meal for anyone to possibly eat. I would start with my homemade vegetarian lasagne. I’m not vegetarian, I do eat meat but I eat a lot less meat than I used to, and I make this really great vegetarian lasagne though I say it myself it’s really good. I make the sauce, I don’t use flour and butter, I use cauliflower and almond milk and it’s really really nice but then I do put cheese on the top. That is part of it and I love that as a meal that’s my favourite homemade meal. If somebody else is cooking, if my husband is cooking, he’s a great cook too, I do love a roast dinner. A proper roast dinner with all the trimmings, that is also a favourite meal. Then thinking of dessert, I like cake. I love puddings generally and sweet food but I do really love cake. My mum who I haven’t seen for ages makes this fabulous victoria sponge with jam and cream in the middle and it’s just really delicious. All those meals, which is actually three separate dishes, but as a meal put together would make me explode if I ate it all, I would go for those things.


Mariia: Yeah, I agree. I also very like victoria sponge! 


Sophie: I also love a chocolate cake! Not so much chocolate by itself but chocolate cake is gorgeous. I love cake as I say, any kind of cake. 


Mariia: That was all my questions, thank you very much for answering them and it was very nice to see you. 


Sophie: You are very welcome, it’s been really nice, thank you for your lovely interview. 


Mariia: Thank you! 


Sophie: Thank you! 



Here are a selection of Sophie’s books. For a full list, head over to her website: Sophie McKenzie books home.


Girl, Missing


Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edtion: £2.99

Paperback: £5.70

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible




Sister, Missing


Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edition: £4.99

Paperback: £6.27

Hardcover: £14.91

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible



Missing Me


Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edition: £4.99 

Paperback: £6.27

Hardcover: £4.10

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible



Split Second


Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edition: £4.99

Paperback: £6.55

Hardcover: £12.00




Every Second Counts


Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edition: £4.99

Paperback: £6.55

Hardcover: £4.37




Falling Fast


Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edition: £4.99

Paperback: £3.98

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible




Here We Lie


Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edition: £4.99

Paperback: £8.19

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible




Becoming Jo


Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edition: £4.68

Paperback: £5.94






Hannah: Hello, I’m Hannah and I’m going to recommend to you one of my favourite books called This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada. This book has become more topical since it was written in 2017 as it follows the story of young girl named Cole as she travels through a dystopian world with a virus. I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a thriller and page turner. 


This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada


Buy from Amazon

Paperback: £4.23

Kindle Edition: £4.99

Hardcover: £7.26

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible



Sophie: Hi, my name is Sophie Beels and my book recommendation is Becoming by Michelle Obama. It’s an autobiography telling the story of her life and how she became the woman she is today. It’s a very inspiring read and I highly recommend it. 


Becoming by Michelle Obama


Buy from Amazon

Paperback: £9.09

Kindle Edition: £7.99

Hardcover: £17.85

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible



A: Today I’m going to be recommending you Shadow and Bone the whole trilogy written by Leigh Bardugo. The books contain brilliant characters and wonderful magic system and, on the plus side, an adaptation has been released on Netflix. Although it doesn’t follow the book strictly I still think it’s fun to watch. 


Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo


Buy from Amazon

Paperback: £6.49

Kindle Edition: £4.99

Hardcover: £12.56

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible



M: This month I’ll be recommending Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne. It’s a gripping, uplifting story about the powers of kindness and compassion. I love how she describes her characters in such a real and honest way. 


Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes by Holly Bourne


Buy from Amazon

Paperback: £6.55

Kindle Edition: £0.99