Sunday, March 22, 2009

Interview With Robin Benway

So, I was wrong when I said Susan Colasanti would be the next author on the blog, Robin Benway in fact is the next author to be interviewed for the blog. Robin Benway is the author of the popular teen novel Audrey! Wait. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions about her career and the book. (I loved her book, in fact it passed around my group of friends at school because I loved it so much!)

Me: What inspired Audrey! Wait?

Robin: "Audrey" was like a perfect storm of inspiration. I had recently quit my job with the vague idea of writing some sort of book, but I didn't know what it would be about. In lieu of having an actual job, I was listening to a lot of music, and I heard so many songs that referenced someone's ex-girlfriend. They all seemed a bit one-sided and I was curious what the ex-girlfriend would say about the lyrics. Also, I went to visit my grandmother and her neighbor's kids had a band in their garage and they kept playing these pop songs with such enthusiasm that it was hard not to enjoy it. That inspired the idea of Evan & his band, and everything just started to fall into place.

Me: Were any of the characters based off of people you know?

Robin: I think all of the characters are influenced by people I know, even if it's in subtle ways. Audrey & I share a love of music; Victoria is very much like my best friend, Adriana; Jonah has the same laid-back attitude as my brother; etc. I was a little nervous that people would recognize themselves and be pissed off that I used their personalities in a book, but it turns out that no one ever recognizes themselves in a book! I gave Adriana the first third of the manuscript to read and I was terrified that she would be upset at Victoria's character since they're so similar, but all she said was, "I love it! Am I gonna make an appearance anywhere?" She had no clue that she was all over the book! That still cracks me up and I still tease her about it.

Me: What is your favorite part of being a published author?

Robin: My favorite part is getting letters from people who've read "Audrey". I really can't tell you what a thrill it is. Readers, if you're ever wondering if you should send an email to an author to tell them that you enjoyed their book, do it! You have to understand that I spend most of my day sitting in front a laptop, so any time I get an email or comment, it makes my day and, in a way, inspires me. I want to write books that are worthy of the people that read them.
I also love that I've been able to support myself by writing. When I was sixteen, when I was going through a difficult time in high school & just wanted to graduate and get the heck out of there, I wrote in my journal that all I wanted to do was move to a big city, get an apartment, and become a writer, and it seems I've done just that. What a relief!

Me: What did you think about the success of the book?

Robin: Hmm. Well, the book seems to have been pretty successful, so I'm absolutely thrilled by that. I don't google myself, I don't read reviews, and I never go on Amazon to look at sales rankings because that just stresses me out SO MUCH. So I feel like I'm in a bit of a tunnel as far as knowing about the success of "Audrey". I tend to judge those things by emails and comments from readers, as well as how happy I am with the book I've produced, and "Audrey" has well surpassed my expectations in both those areas. I love the book and when I find out that readers enjoy it too, that's what makes me happy. Everything else is just a wonderful bonus.

Me: I know many people compare this to choosing a favorite child, but do you have a favorite character?

Robin: Wow. All of my characters have wonderful qualities, but when I went back and read "Audrey" all the way through, I was surprised at how much I loved Jonah. He's just so calm, so mellow, and the perfect antidote to Victoria's bossiness and Audrey's craziness. He's also sweet and so tolerant throughout the whole book. I'm pretty sure he & Victoria get married one day. Pretty sure.

Me: What do you suggest to people, especially teens, who want to be authors?

Robin: If you want to be a writer, you have to write. This is something I have to tell myself every single day, especially when I have no idea what to put down on the page. I've been writing professionally for a few years now, and I've finally figured out that if you just keep going forward, eventually the pieces start to fall into place. Don't be afraid to try out an idea. Sometimes the "backspace" button is your best friend. And more than anything else, be extremely kind to yourself. If you can't seem to finish an idea or a story, don't worry about it. You'll either figure it out or come up with something better. I speak from personal experience on this!
Also, don't worry about rejection or not being "good enough" or never getting published. Just be tenacious, take care of your characters, and write everything down. I mean, everything! Some great ideas have slipped away because I didn't jot them down, and I SO regret that now! Learn from my mistakes!

Me: How did you get started as a writer?
Me: Did you always know you wanted to write?
Me: Have you done anything else but write?

Robin: I was always writing things down, especially as a little kid. I never liked school, even though I got good grades, so it was always nice to come home and escape into these fantasy worlds I had created. I was always the kid who had to have the window seat in the car, so I could look out and daydream throughout the trip. I think I always thought I would just write on the side and then have a "normal" job, but as I got older, I realized that writing on the side wasn't enough anymore. I needed to start doing it full-time, and that's when I decided to take a year and try my hand at writing a book. That book was "Audrey", so I'm so glad I made that decision!
As far as doing something else besides being a writer? Well, I've been a babysitter, a smoothie-maker, a sales rep, a book publicist, a bookstore employee, and a PR director for Book Soup, which is a fabulous independent bookstore in West Hollywood. I always thought that if I worked around books and authors, it would be enough, but it wasn't. It just made me want to write more!

Me:Do you love music as much as Audrey does in the book?

Robin: Audrey got ALL her love of music from me! Right now, I'm listening to my "morning" playlist, which is actually called "Morning 3" because I already have "Morning 1" and "Morning 2" playlists. It's a bit obsessive, I know. It includes Cat Stevens, Neko Case, the Weepies, Laura Marling, and now Bon Iver because I woke up today and needed to hear "Re: Stacks". Music is probably my number one inspiration when I have to write. Or pay bills. Or cook dinner. Or go to bed. Like I said, it's obsessive.

Me: Are you working on any new books?

Robin: I am in fact working on a new book right now, and I'm so excited because I JUST figured out this weekend how it's going to end! I've been working on it for six months without having a clue about its conclusion and now that I know it, I can't wait to work on it. This is when my job gets really fun.

Me: As part of my blog I’ll give readers a topic to think about. Do you have a topic that you would like readers to think about? (It can be anything- current events to pop culture, anything that you would like others to think about.)

Robin: The thing that keeps coming back to mind is the idea of gossip websites, the paparazzi, & privacy issues. I know it relates to "Audrey" in a way, but I'm curious to see what other people think about this. Is it out of hand, or is this something that famous people have to deal with because of the professional they've chosen? How much is too much? I used to read a lot of gossip websites, but after a while, I realized they were depressing me. It just started to seem invasive and the commenters could be so cruel. I don't know, I'm just interested in seeing other people's opinions on the subject.

Thank you so much to Robin Benway and I can't wait for her new book! If you haven't read Audrey! Wait you should go find a copy of the book and read it as it is very good.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Ruth planned to wait out the last few months before she turned eighteen on her own until people discovered her mother was gone. But when it is discovered that her mother abandoned her, Ruth is sent to live with her sister who is ten years her senior and her sister's husband. Ruth hasn't seen her sister in ten years when she left for college. She is given a chance to start over, with new clothes, a new school and a new home. No one understands what she is going through, except for her neighbor, who happens to be the most popular guy at her new school, who may be hiding a pretty big secret himself.

Personally, I loved this book. It had the right balance of the serious topics of abuse and child abandonment and humor. The characters were easy to like, had depth and most importantly were believable. The plot, as mentioned dealt with some pretty serious issues, but still was very enjoyable and not overwhelming. With many teen novels being about trivial things that have no substance, it was nice to find one that had substance while still written for teens. Now don't get me wrong, I love these books about trivial things with no substance, especially during the school year when many of the books you read are depressing (Night by Elie Wiesel anyone?), but what I liked about this book was that it had substance but it wasn't overwhelming and depressing, as those topics are kind of depressing. This book gets five stars.