The Sound of Everything

Winner of the Everything with Words’ YA Competition 2019 judged by Patrice Lawrence, The Sound of Everything is a heart-felt coming of age story for all those who struggle to feel like they deserve love.

Betrayal, rejection, violence Kadie has known it all. She’s tough and prepared for everything. Everything except love.

Kadie has has just arrived in yet another foster home. She trusts no one and lives by the rules: don’t count on anyone, always act, be prepared to lose everything. She’s lost everything more times than she can count but then she meets Lips and learns that some things are even more important than survival. But she has secrets of which she must let go if she is to make a stab at friendship and love.

Everything With Words

I was immediately interested in reading this book when I saw that Patrice Lawrence had helped to choose it as the winner of the Everything With Words’ YA competition 2019, because she has good taste in stories and I wasn’t disappointed, I was gripped from start to finish by the events of Kadie’s life. I was also pleased to read a book by a fellow school librarian, although Rebecca hasn’t been in the role for very long, hopefully it will give her some ideas for a future story! After sending these questions through the publisher, I found out about Rebecca’s musical background, which really helps to explain how much music features in the book (though she is more classically trained on the violin), and that she’s been working on this story since she was the age of her main characters.

Did you decide to write about a girl in foster care and that turned into Kadie, or was it her character that started you writing this story? I believe I decided to write about foster care first, out of which came Kadie – but it’s been so long since I had the initial idea that I can’t really recall what the process was. Kadie herself took a long time to develop into the complex character that she is, but foster care was definitely always a large part of the story, I think because there was so much to explore within it, beginning with the daunting prospect of being dropped into a new environment in the middle of GCSE years. I think what really touched me when I was learning about the realities of foster care was the amount of pain that a lot of young people go through as they are shafted by the system. I quickly learned that it’s not as simple as just being put with a family and staying there.

Did you have to do much research before/while writing?
Yes! I did a lot of research. I knew next to nothing about foster care, so I researched and researched some more. I read real life stories, newspaper articles, blog posts; I watched videos, looked at film renditions, and found what I could in the library. I love the research side of things. I find it particularly important, once you think you have exhausted all your sources, to go back some time later and dig around for new stuff. There’s always a wealth of information out there.

Do you think there should be a trigger/content warning on the book for the self harm element? I think just to err on the side of caution I would add a trigger warning just in case, if it was up to me. I don’t think I was particularly explicit about the self-harm, but I always want readers to be prepared for sensitive topics the same way I would want to be prepared if I was reading a book that covered serious issues.

Who was your favourite character to write? Was there anything or anyone (without spoilers) that you found difficult to get onto paper?
That’s really hard. Really hard! In first place has to be Beverly. She’s just so huggable. She’s partially inspired by siblings (“I’m stuck. In boredom.” – one of my favourite lines.) Very, very close second would be Lips best, particularly when it came to fleshing out his character right down to the nitty gritty bits like his likes and dislikes, his fashion choices, his little quirks – I thoroughly enjoyed that. Lips is almost like one of those big mascots at sports events – big and clumsy, though perhaps not cuddly, although he might chase you for a hug.

In terms of getting things written down, I didn’t find any bits of the book hard to write, but quite a few of the scenes did undergo some serious overhauls that took a little brainstorming before I got them right. That said, I think Shadavia was a hard character to write and I’m actually a little bit not 100% happy with her. I’m not sure whether she’s a friend or an enemy, which is off-putting because I think I wanted her to be either or.

You won the Everything with Words 2019 YA competition, has the story changed much between your submission and the published book?
A lot has changed since the manuscript that I entered into the competition, but at the same time not much has. The bits that have changed are fundamental to the plot but not in a way that changes the direction of the story. Previously I had focused on Kadie’s issues and the things she was trying to hide, without expounding on the reasons for things, the complex background to why she thinks the way she does.

Also, a lot of my secondary characters were very flat in the original. I had a lot of great fun making them into real people. Readers will never know most of the details about Eisha or Josh or even Kelly, but I know them, and that’s the important thing, because it really makes a difference when the background characters have a full personality.

As you work in a school library, did you make the most of your access to teenagers and get them to read early drafts for feedback, or did you keep it to yourself? It may surprise you that I actually didn’t work in a secondary school at the time I wrote The Sound of Everything. I am just a word nerd, obsessed with London slang. I started studying it for a story some time back and became interested in the way it evolves and spreads out to the rest of the country (kids in Swindon often talk with what could be considered London slang, only with a Swindonish edge to it). I learned to imitate the language by listening to interviews and watching vlogs to see how young people talk in their comfort zones. I really, really enjoy the dialogue side of things, which you can probably tell.

Nobody really read early drafts before the competition. I don’t know that I would have had the confidence to convince a student to read the manuscript before it was published!

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to? I am currently reading Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatford and Harriet the Spy by Liz Fitzhugh. Ballet Shoes is a classic story about sisters and the struggle for money, and I think would appeal to little girls who like to read challenging. However, it would also still appeal to teenage girls too, if they like historical fiction.

Any plans for a 2nd novel?
Ooh . . . not at the moment. I have a lot going on, including scraps of other ideas, but nothing that could be called a plan for a second novel.  

THE SOUND OF EVERYTHING is out now! Huge thanks to Mikka at Everything With Words for sending me a review copy and organising the interview.

About Caroline Fielding

Chartered School Librarian, CILIP YLG London Chair, Bea-keeper

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