Robin Benway is the author of the fantastic Audrey, Wait!. I’m lucky enough to have gotten the chance to interview her, and here are her awesome answers! I hope you all enjoy it.
Can you tell me a little about your road to publication?
I had always wanted to be a writer, but I had been too afraid to actually attempt it. Finally, I hit a point where I just said, “You know what? I don’t care. I’m gonna do it.” I took a class at UCLA Extension (basically an adult ed program) in YA writing, and met Rachel Cohn. She read the first chapter of what was to become “Audrey”, loved it, and introduced me to my now-agent.
It took about 14 months between starting the book and selling it, only because I’m such a slow writer and it takes me a long time to figure out how the words fit on the page. The best way I can describe is that before I write, I put all the ideas and sentences together in my head, like a giant puzzle, and when I sit down to get the words on the page, I just describe the way the completed scene looks. Weird, I know! But it works for me.
Aside from Audrey, a great main character, there are lots of interesting, three-dimensional secondary characters in Audrey, Wait!. Who was your favorite character to write, who was the hardest, and which one do you most relate to?
I think Victoria was my favorite to write because she just does not care what anyone says or thinks about her. When you write a character like that, there’s no boundaries and she can do or say whatever she wants. Also, I based the best parts of Victoria on my best friend Adri, so it always made me think of Adri and smile whenever I wrote Victoria (a lot of Victoria and Jonah’s lines are stolen directly from my friend, just because she always makes me laugh.)
The hardest character was Sharon Eggleston by far. She’s a difficult brat, yes, but I also wanted to show how much sadness there was in her. Sometimes I see these girls that are so young and so mean at the same time, and I just think, “Wow, why are you so sad? What happened to you?” But on the other hand, Audrey’s character isn’t sympathetic to Sharon at all, so it was hard to write from Audrey’s perspective and still show the empathy I had for Sharon. I hope it worked!
I would say that aside from Audrey, I really related to James and understood where he was coming from. I think everyone feels like an awkward wallflower from time to time, and it’s difficult to admire someone from afar and be too scared to act on it, the way James does with Audrey.
Music is a big part of your novel! What are five songs that you’re really loving right now?
I LOVE these kinds of questions! I could talk about music all day!
1) “Sweet Black Angel,” Rolling Stones. I’ve been making a lot of mixes for friends lately, and this song is on all of them.
2) “Now That I Know,” Devendra Banhart. I was so intimidated by this music and by Devendra for a long time, but I recently bought “Cripple Crow” and I was surprised by how much I loved it. It’s very warm music, comforting, beautiful stuff.
3) “I’m Only Sleeping,” The Beatles. Lately I’ve been in the habit of getting up early in the morning and taking long walks around my neighborhood while listening to “Revolver”. Every time I hear the lyric, “Keeping an eye on the world going by my window,” I always want to do a little dancing pirouette because it makes me feel so happy. (I don’t do the pirouette, of course, but I really want to.)
4) “Hey Hey What Can I Do,” Led Zeppelin. I know very, very little about The Zep, but I love this song. My friend Kathleen knows all the words, and she’s the one who first played it for me. A great song to play when you’re driving in Hollywood.
5) “The Mending of the Gown,” Sunset Rubdown. This is my current driving-on-the-freeway-when-there’s-no-traffic song. It’s just infectious, I can’t get enough of it.
What are five of your all-time favorite songs?
1) “Boots of Spanish Leather,” Bob Dylan. I was late to the Bob Dylan party, but this song got me there.
2) “Plainsong,” The Cure. The way the song explodes into sound right at the beginning is one of my favorite musical moments. Such an awesome way to start an album.
3) “God Only Knows,” The Beach Boys. My #1 favorite song. I’m a sucker for harmonies and the way the chorus swirls around in the end is so perfect.
4) “You Turn Me On (I’m a Radio),” Joni Mitchell. “’Cause you don’t like weak women, you get bored so quick / And you don’t like strong women ‘cause they’re hip to your tricks…” How amazing is that lyric?! Joni’s the best.
5) “Untitled #1,” Sigur Ros. This song got me through a very difficult period in my life and I’ll always be grateful for it. If music can carry a person, then this song carried me.
Audrey is overwhelmed by her newfound celebrity status. Would you ever want to experience the level of fame that Audrey does?
GOOD LORD, NO. I think it’s so invasive and terrible and just no. No no no. To me, there’s nothing fun about having cameras in your face, having rumors spread about you, not being able to live your life without constant intrusion, etc. Scary stuff. “Audrey” definitely covers the humorous side of being so famous, but I think there’s an ugly side to it.
What inspired you to write Audrey, Wait!?
I was listening to music one morning and I heard a song that was so mean to the ex-girlfriend and all I could think was, “Wow, I bet that girl has an entirely different perspective on what went on in their relationship.” And right at that moment, the voice of Audrey popped into my head and was like, “Hi! Listen up!” And then Victoria and Jonah and James and Evan appeared and it snowballed from there. It took me completely by surprise and I’m so glad it did.
What are you writing now?
Eek! I’m working on a second YA novel that will hopefully be done in the next few months. I can’t say too much about it because I don’t want to jinx it, but I will say that it has 4 main characters, two boys and two girls, and I’m completely in love with all of them.
If your novel were to be made into a movie, who would like to see cast in the leading roles?
I have no idea! Honestly, whoever those people would be, I don’t think they’re actors or actresses yet. I think they’re just normal kids hanging out that have yet to be “discovered”. When I think about “Audrey, Wait!” as a movie, I’m more concerned about how the concert scenes would look! That always bugs me in movies, how fake concerts look and how un-fun they seem.
Audrey, Wait! is a young adult novel. Why did you decide to write for this particular audience? Do you or would you like to write for other audiences?
I chose YA because the voices came so easily to me and I loved translating a teenager’s opinion into words. Most of the teenagers I know are just the coolest, funniest, most interesting people, and I wanted to put those kids on the page. As for writing for other audiences, sure! Mostly I just love to write and if people want to read it, then that’s fantastic. That’s all I could hope for as an author. Who those people are, I don’t care. I just want whoever reads my stuff to enjoy it.
Audrey, Wait! is realistic fiction (well, kind of–not many people ever get famous because their ex-boyfriend writes at chart-topping song about their breakup!). Would you like to or do you write any other genres?
Unfortunately, I think I would be terrible at writing other genres! Right now, realistic fiction (good phrase, by the way) is my favorite and it’s what I enjoy doing, so I’ll stick with that for right now. If it changes, then yay! If not, that’s fine, too.
What are the best, the worst, and the most unexpected parts of being a soon-to-be published author?
Well, the best is just the satisfaction I get from loving what I do. The fact that I can get up every morning, go for a walk, get coffee, and then sit down and create a whole world of imaginary people just blows me away.
The worst is probably the pressure I feel to always write a really great scene, an amazing paragraph, a perfect sentence, etc. Sometimes I’ll start to psych myself out and that’s when I know it’s time to step away from the computer and get some fresh air or socialize with actual people. The best writing moments are when the words start coming and I have no idea where they’re coming from, so I try to just be patient if a scene’s not happening the way I want it to happen.
Unexpected? The way these characters have minds of their own! So many times Audrey or Victoria would say something and I’d be like, “What?! Where did THAT come from? You just changed the whole plot!” It taught me how to be more relaxed with my writing and just let the story unfold, rather than be uptight about each little plot point.
And now that “Audrey” will soon be out and people are reading it, I’ve been surprised by the way that they—especially girls—have responded to my book. Writing is such a solitary act that to have people suddenly appreciate what I’ve done is incredible, and I didn’t think their responses would move me as much as they have.
Is there anything else you wish I’d asked you, or anything you’d like to add?
These were fantastic questions, so nope! And thanks again for being so supportive of the book!
Thank you for doing this, Robin! And remember, everyone, to pick up a copy of Audrey, Wait! this April.