Interview: Robin Benway
Current Mood: tired
Current Song: Sing Out by Celtic Woman
Robin Benway is a music aficionado. It's no wonder that her debut novel, Audrey, Wait!, tells the story of a song: After high school student Audrey ends her relationship with her boyfriend Evan, he writes a song about it - a song that becomes world-famous, making her famous by association. Though the author would rather be offstage than onstage, she has a deep appreciation for musicians performers. She, like me, surrounds herself with music, and is always on the lookout for a good new song.
If you were Audrey, would you have turned around when Evan asked you to wait?
ABSOLUTELY. Even when I wrote that scene, I was like, "Oh, Audrey, don't be a moron, just turn around!" But at the same time, I know why she didn't. Breaking up with people can be brutal and sometimes you just want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Sometimes I think I'd like to rewrite that scene and have Audrey turn around, just so I can figure out what Evan would say to her.
Did you hear "Hey There, Delilah" by The Plain White T's (and the behind-the-music story about the real-life girl) before or after you wrote your book?
I didn't hear "Hey There, Delilah" until I was almost done with the book, and even when I heard it, I didn't ever think about the parallels between that song and Audrey, Wait! I was just too deeply entrenched in writing the book, and it wasn't until I had a publisher and was editing the manuscript that I thought, "Oh, hey, this song sounds familiar." I do remember seeing the real-life Delilah being interviewed on the Today show, though, which I thought was amazing! That went beyond anything I could have imagined for Audrey. Life is crazier than fiction sometimes.
As you wrote scenes in which the Do-Gooders played and Evan sang, did you 'hear' them? If so, what musicians or singers did they sound like?
For me, I think the Do-Gooders sound like every teenage band that ever played in their parents' garage. One of the biggest inspirations for "Audrey" came when I was visiting my grandmother in Connecticut. There was a three-piece high school rock band practicing two doors down the street, and they played Oasis's "Don't Look Back in Anger" and Coldplay's "In My Place" over & over again. Even though they weren't spectacular, they had so much passion that it was exciting to listen to them. That's what the Do-Gooders sound like to me.
Bonus points for including Jimmy Eat World on the Audrey, Wait! playlist. Do you listen to music as you write?
I always have to listen to music as I write. For that Jimmy Eat World song "A Praise Chorus", I listened to it obsessively whenever I went to concerts, and so I listened to it while writing the scene when Audrey, Victoria, and Jonah go to the Lolitas concert. Music gets me into the mood of whatever scene I'm working on, which is how the "Audrey" playlist came into being. My favorite moment on the playlist, though, is the Stars song "Your Ex-Lover is Dead", when the guy & the girl sing to each other, "I'm not sorry I met you / I'm not sorry it's over / I'm not sorry there's nothing to say." For me, that's Audrey & Evan talking to each other, and it gives me chills every time I hear it.
What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?
"Black-Eyed Man" by the Cowboy Junkies. That was the first one I ever bought with my own money, and I still have it & love it, although I don't remember why I bought it in the first place. When I was younger, though, my parents bought me all my New Kids on the Block albums. :)
What or who is your newest musical find?
Fall & winter are my favorite times to discover new music, mostly because I love to walk around in the cold weather and listen to songs. For me, I'm listening to Amiina, an Icelandic band that used to tour with Sigur Ros. I've read that their music sounds like "the sound of snow falling" and that's the best way to sum it up. Beautiful stuff. Otherwise, these are my favorite 5 songs right now:
"I'll Be Satisfied" by Jackie Wilson
"Carolina Drama" by The Raconteurs
"I Still Care For You" by Ray LaMontagne
"It's the Life" by Grant Lee Buffalo
"Fascination" by Alphabeat (a huge guilty pleasure, I'll admit it)
I was once pulled on stage at the Hard Rock Cafe to sing. It was awesome. Have you ever had an unexpected rock star moment?
Well, I don't know how "rock star" it is to receive email, but it knocks me out every time someone writes to tell me that they enjoyed "Audrey"! You sound a lot braver than me, because if someone pulled me onstage to sing, I'd probably keep going until I was safely backstage.
I'm a singer and an actress, so I love being on stage! If someone wrote a song about you, what might it be called?
"Paperback Writer," but I think some band has already written that song.
True. Speaking of which, all of my favorite songs and songwriters tell stories. Which of your favorite songs would make a great book or movie?
"There is a Light That Never Goes Out" by the Smiths. I want to know more about that light! Who put it on? Who's in love with who & why? Why doesn't the singer have a home anymore? I've been listening to this song for years and both the lyrics and the melody are so cinematic. There's a longing there that always puts a lump in my throat.
What are your favorite books of all-time?
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Franny & Zooey by JD Salinger
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
maggie and millie and molly and may by ee cummings (poem)
Rock out with Robin at her website.
Visit the website for Audrey, Wait!
Read my full-length review of Audrey, Wait!
Read my review of Robin's second novel, The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June.
I included this book in Veg Out While Other People Cook, my Thanksgiving article for SparkNotes Literature.
Watch Robin's shoutout to readergirlz.