Interview: Author & Musician Rob Rufus

In his memoir, Die Young with Me, Rob Rufus tells the story of his battle with teenage cancer to his growth into a punk rock star. Today we get to share a Q&A with Rob Rufus and the trailer for his book:

rob-rufus-author-photoObviously Die Young With Me is a very personal book. What inspired you to share your story?

I think that deep down everyone wants their story to be told – to be able to retroactively give meaning to their lives.  But for me, it may have felt more pressing.  I knew that my life had been abnormal, and abnormal is always interesting, for better or for worse.  So I guess I reached a point where I realized that the only difference between wanting to write a book and trying to write a book was to do it.  So I did.

How would you describe Die Young With Me in 140 characters?

Ha!  Ok, I suck at twitter, but here it goes:  It’s a book about cancer, drugs, and rocknroll – a mix between The Fault In Our Stars and Almost Famous, if directed by Quentin Tarantino.

What did you find most challenging while writing? What did you find most enjoyable (or cathartic)? 

For me, the most challenging thing is brevity – its a battle to try and say what I want to say in a way that the reader won’t get bored as hell.  I’d say the most enjoying part of writing is coming up with a good line of self-deprecation.  Any writer who can’t joke on themself has their tweed jacket buttoned one button too tight.

How much of a role has music played in your journey? Are there any albums/artists/songs that have been vital to you?

Music is key to everything I do.  It has contributed to my love of words as much, or more, than literature.  It got me into the life of an artist and activated my creativity.  Too many artists and albums have been, and continue to be, vital for me.  Music is vital for everything.  I have three stereos and two turntables in my house, and my record collection is insured for more money than my car, ha-ha.  I’ll leave it at that.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading Die Young With Me?

I hope that, for readers affected by cancer and readers who grew up out of step, my book will serve as an act of solidarity, a validation of our shared experiences.  For everyone else, my hope is that DYWM helps readers understand the true nature of the cancer experience and gain more empathy.

Teenage cancer is all over popular culture, but it’s white-washed to be palatable for mainstream audiences.  I feel like “toning it down” is a disservice to the topic, and the reader as well.  My goal was to write about teenage cancer in a vivid, brutally honest way.  I wanted to write about teenage cancer in a way that was Rated R.  Because cancer isn’t family friendly, and a book about cancer shouldn’t be either.

die-young-with-me-hq-coverAbout the Book: 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 darkest days.

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 little town.

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.

While 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.

About the Author: Rob Rufus is a musician and writer living in Nashville. His band, Blacklist Royals, has released two full-length albums and played in sixteen countries over the past five years. Rob has written articles for Modern Drummer, Amp Magazine, Digital Tour Bus, and many music sites. Rob also works closely with the cancer community, including the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Stupid Cancer Podcast (the largest advocacy/support organization worldwide for teens with cancer), and Make-A-Wish Foundation. You can find him online at, on Twitter @rob_rufus, and Instagram @dieyoungwithme_official.

Lauren is a 20-year-old student living in Northern Virginia. She loves to read YA books and watch movies. Lauren is passionate about many things, but reading has always been a huge part of her life. Ever since she first learned to read, her parents have always had to pry books out of her hands when it’s time for other commitments. Lauren loves everything from The Hunger Games and Divergent, to Percy Jackson, mysteries like State of the Onion, and other YA books, like The Fault in Our Stars, and is always eager to try a new book, author, or series. She also loves music, public health, Harry Potter, and the Washington Capitals. Follow her on Twitter: @LWengrovitz.