"I felt like I would only have one shot to get the scene right." - An Interview With Robin Benway

Robin Benway
Credit: Lovato Images
Hi Robin! Congratulations on the success of your latest book, Far From The Tree. How did the idea for this one evolve?
The idea originally came from a Florence + the Machine song, of all things! I was sitting in the car when “Cosmic Love” started playing on the radio and it immediately made me think of familial love and all of the different ways that people can create their family.

The topic of adoption is fascinating to read about but must take a lot of thought and care. What kind of research did you do whilst writing the book?
I spoke to anyone that would speak to me about adoption and foster care: attorneys, adoptive parents, foster parents, adoptees, social workers. I was also fortunate to speak with several people who were kind enough to share some details of their lives with me. That really helped me discover more about Maya and Joaquin’s families, and how to best portray their individual struggles. Without the generosity of all of these people, Far From The Tree would not exist.

I loved reading about Grace’s struggle over her own adoption story and how much to tell her siblings. What inspires the way you write about family dynamics?
I love writing about families more than anything because they provide so much material for me – how they’re made, broken, and built again. Your family is an inherent part of you, so it’s fascinating to me to explore how different people accept and deal with that. For Grace, she’s struggling not only with the adoption of her daughter, but also how to present this news to Maya and Joaquin. She’s trying to put her best foot forward, but often times in families, things get complicated.

What was the most challenging scene for you to write and why?
There’s a scene in the book where Grace receives a handwritten letter from the adoptive parents of her daughter. In the days leading up to that scene, I was so nervous and cranky because I felt like I would only have one shot to get the scene right. Sometimes as a writer, you can overthink a scene to the point where it no longer feels natural when you put it down on the page. And other times, you can underthink it and then it’s sloppy and underserves the characters. I just wanted to make sure that I could write it well the first time, so I went to a local cafĂ©, sat in the back facing a wall, and typed out the letter while crying. That was the turning point of the book for me, and everything from that point on felt much more manageable.
As it all comes down to family, Far From The Tree is such a fantastic title for this book – is there a story behind it?
It’s from the saying “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” which means that children are like their parents. I don’t necessarily think that that’s true, but I liked the idea of all three siblings being united in this family, and yet so far away from each other, both physically and emotionally.

Refinishing furniture stage one
I’ve read a lot about your journey into becoming an author and I’m sure in many ways you’re living the dream. What are the best and worst parts of being an author?
The best part is being independent and not having to go into an office every day. I love being able to work from home, on my own schedule, and have the time to figure out my stories. The downside is that it’s not a particularly steady job and sometimes it can be stressful when an idea’s not working and your publisher or agent is asking when the next book will be ready. At the end of the day, you have to send your book out into the world and hope people will love it as much as you do.

I’ve seen your advice for writers being to really live life and have experiences to write about. When you’re not writing, what do you like to be doing?
Refinishing furniture stage two
One of my favourite hobbies is refinishing furniture! I love repainting dressers and polishing drawer pulls and hunting for used treasures. It’s a nice way to turn off my brain. I also love to go for walks and make playlists. More often than not, if I’m stuck on a particular scene, going for a walk will help unlock it.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? 
Quit my job and became a full-time writer. I still can’t quite believe that I did it.

What else do you want to achieve or do in your life? 
Refinishing furniture stage three, the final look
I want to go to Iceland and see the Northern Lights, I want to finally be able to do a headstand in yoga, I want to spend more time with my family, and I want to be able to keep writing books.

Lastly, what have you read recently that you’ve enjoyed?
Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. I read it in one fell swoop on a plane and loved it.

You can get Far From The Tree here.

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