When author Robin Benway got locked out of her storage space, she was so frustrated that she couldn’t remember the combination, she turned to Google and started researching how to cracking the combination.
“It turns out that all you need is a pencil and paper and some time,” Robin told Cracking the Cover. “It was so easy, but I felt so sneaky and stealthy and I kept thinking about what it would be like to be a safecracker. I ended up sending my agent this huge rambling email about Maggie and her parents and what they do and she called me back immediately and said, ‘You have to write this!’”
And that’s just what Robin did. “Also Known As,” which comes out today, is the Robin’s third book. It’s the story of Maggie, a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies, whose life is turned upside down when she gets her first solo assignment.
Most of “Also Known As” came from Robin’s imagination, but she admits her book was infused by reading stories about corporate espionage and whistleblowers. “I liked the idea of a group of people going around the world and taking down white-collar criminals and busting international slavery ring,” she said. “They’re a weird sort of Robin Hood crew, but I highly doubt they exist. And if they do, I hope they contact me! I have questions!”
While the spy elements are fun throughout the book, it’s Maggie who takes center stage. When asked how Maggie developed, Robin says she truthfully doesn’t know.
“My characters just start talking to me,” she explained. “In the first chapter, you see her as she moves through the motions of her job, and I wrote that as if I was just following her. I’m sure a lot of her perfectionism and anxiety come from me (sorry, Maggie!) but it was fun to watch her become a normal teenager for a while. I liked setting her down into an unfamiliar scenario and seeing where she would land. Again, sorry, Maggie!”
Another thing that makes “Also Known As” work is its backstory. It’s fairly complicated, but adds much-needed depth. “The plot worked itself out as I wrote and edited,” Robin said. “When you write about sneaky, nefarious characters, sometimes they keep secrets from you, too!”
And if Robin could be one of those nefarious characters herself, she would definitely take part in corporate espionage like Maggie. “It sounds boring, but it seems like there’s so many hidden secrets in these global corporations. I’d love to find out what they are!”
Robin is currently working on a sequel to “Also Known As,” and she’s very excited. It’s the first time she’s written a sequel and she says it’s ended up being one of the most enjoyable experiences she’s had as a writer.
And while you may think Robin’s writing has evolved over the years, she says it’s more her writing style that has.
“I’m a lot more patient now,” she said. “I’ve learned that it’s okay to have a crappy first draft, or that it’s fine if you need to fix things in edits. I’ve become a better reader, as well. I can really appreciate the work that other authors put into their plot and characters, which makes me strive to do the same thing in my books.”
*Read the complete transcript of Robin Benway’s interview with Cracking the Cover.
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