Today on the blog I have Rob Rufus, author of the memoir Die Young with Me:
In the tradition of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
comes the incredibly moving true story of a teenager diagnosed with
cancer and how music was the one thing that helped him get through his
Punk’s not dead in rural West Virginia. In fact, it
blares constantly from the basement of Rob and Nat Rufus—identical twin
brothers with spiked hair, black leather jackets, and the most kick-ass
record collection in Appalachia. To them, school (and pretty much
everything else) sucks. But what can you expect when you’re the only
punks in town?
When the brothers start their own band, their
lives begin to change: they meet friends, they attract girls, and they
finally get invited to join a national tour and get out of their rat box
But their plans are cut short when Rob is diagnosed
with a rare form of cancer that has already progressed to Stage Four.
Not only are his dreams of punk rock stardom completely shredded, there
is a very real threat that this is one battle that can’t be won.
Rob suffers through nightmarish treatments and debilitating surgery,
Nat continues on their band’s road to success alone. But as Rob’s life
diverges from his brother’s, he learns to find strength within himself
and through his music. Die Young With Me is a raw, honest account of a brave teen’s fight with cancer and the many ways music helped him cope through his recovery.
Thanks for visiting the blog today Rob! Your book has been described as "perfect for fans of The Fault in Our Stars, but with a grittier edge." Besides the fact that your book is a memoir, how else does Die Young with Me differ from the typical "sick lit" books that pervade YA lit today?
Oh man, that phrase makes me cringe, ha-ha. The thing that irks me about the massive amount of cancer-themed movies and books in pop culture is that they only focus on the melodrama. Maybe that’s because their authors haven’t experienced cancer treatments for themselves…or maybe it’s because they just aren’t brave enough to be real about how devastating the disease is, especially for a teenager.
Of course it’s dramatic, so I get it. Cancer is the perfect plot twist for a heavy, romantic storyline. But that’s as far as they take it, you know? They don’t talk about the horror of treatments, the stress on the families, the strain it puts on your mind and body – they only go as far as saying Billy likes Susie, Susie gets cancer, everyone cries, the end.
So – hopefully – this book breaks that rose-tinted lense. I tried my best to be as candid as possible. The romance is there, sure, and the humor, and everything else you’d expect from a coming-of-age story. But I tried to write about my treatments, surgeries, and pain in a way to make the reader feel what it was really like – basically, if it doesn’t make you a little uncomfortable, I haven’t done my job.
Die Young with Me has a raw, confessional tone to it. Was writing it anything like the way you write music?
Writing music and writing lit are similar in the sense that they are both very isolating. Both are done alone, in my bedroom with the door locked and my fat dogs asleep on the floor. I have to be by myself to create, and to really vibe out what I want to say. Otherwise, it’s one big jumble of. Of course, with music, collaboration comes later, but in it’s essence they are both very lonely tasks for me. But I’d rather be alone writing than with coworkers digging ditches, so I can’t bitch too much.
Most people don't consider Appalachia a hotbed of punk rockers. Is that a fair assumption or a misconception? How can/does punk rock speak to the youth in Appalachia?
Oh it’s a fair assumption, all right. The sad truth is, Appalachia isn’t much of a hotbed of anything, besides having the most drug overdoses in the country. But I think, given the chance, punk rock can speak to young people anywhere! Punk rock is fast, pissed-off sounding music; and no one is more pissed off than teenagers. And there are lots of cusswords in punk rock songs – all teenagers love cusswords! Right? It is like a soundtrack to teenage angst, and I think it’s really therapeutic for kids in that way – at least, it was to me.
What song/album would readers be surprised is on your music player right now?
I have a huge record collection, so it’s always a gamble. Right now, on the turntable in my bedroom, I’m spinning Teatro, by Willie Nelson. There is a song on the album that I keep seeing on this car commercial about a dog that looks exactly like my dog, Bootsie. So I’ve been singing it to her a lot lately when I get bored. Talk about a captive audience.
Since my blog is about food, books and travel, I always end author interviews with this question: what is your favorite food, book, and place you've ever traveled?
Oh man! This is the hard! I’d have to say my favorite food is sushi. I eat it a disturbing amount. When my band is on tour, I’m always on the lookout, whether we’re in Albuquerque or Switzerland. It’s just simply the best invention ever.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many different cities, states, and countries. Berlin might be the coolest place I’ve been so far. The history is amazing, the girls are beautiful, and there is an endless amount of trouble to get into. What else can you ask for?
Unfortunately, favorite book is an impossible question to answer – it’s like asking what my favorite record is. So I’ll say the first thing that comes into my head – Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller. It validated a lot of the fucked up thoughts I have about existence, when I was in great need of philosophical corroboration.
YES! I love that you think Berlin is the coolest place you've ever been. That is by far my favorite city on earth. Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed today. Everyone check out Rob's new memoir, in stores today.
Die Young with Me by Rob Rufus
Published: September 20, 2016
Audience: Adults/Young Adults
Disclosure: ARC provided by publisher
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