How to Be a Movie Star: Humor, Smoking the Doobies, and Trigger Warnings

By the time How to Be a Movie Star comes out, it’ll have been almost a year since I released a comedy. My first book of 2018 was A Wish Upon the Stars, which, while still comedic, was the big, climactic finale of a much larger story about friends, family, and kicking ass and taking names.

But in terms of pure comedy, the last one would probably be Until You, the wedding of Paul and Vince Auster at the beginning of 2017 (more on them in the coming months, but be forewarned: they’re a gross married couple now and it’s amazing). Yes, there was the entire three book Destiny Fuck Yeah! Verania arc, but they came with a sharper edge than their predecessor, The Lightning Struck Heart.

(And now that I think about it, it could probably be said that if you don’t like a specific sub-genre I write in, all you have to do is wait until the next book I publish because it’ll probably something else entirely. Manic, manic, manic.)

It’s a good comparison, though: the Verania series, the At First Sight Series, and the How To Be books. In essence, all are comedies in one way shape or form.

But to me, there are some major differences. The Verania series is very…bombastic. It’s in your face, and absolutely not for everyone. The comedy in the At First Sight could be said to be along the same vein, though possibly dialed down a notch or two.

How to Be a Normal Person, and in turn, How to Be a Movie Star, are comedies of a different kind. While they still have their moments, the humor tends to be a bit more subdued. On a scale from one to ten, if Verania is a ten, I’d put At First Sight at around a seven, and the How to Be books at a five. And this is entirely intentional.

There’s a beat to comedy, a rhythm. If you’ve ever seen a comic live at a show, you could almost set a metronome by it. It hums along hitting specific beats. Writing comedy is similar. There’s a strange little dance one does with words while writing a scene filled with humor that I love. And there are times when I have to pull myself back when writing Normal Person or Movie Star, knowing that if I start banging on the drums too loudly, it’ll lose a bit of the magic that fits with these books. There’s a cadence to writing the How to Be books, and it’s a different beat than I normally dance to, but I dig it immensely.

If you’ve read Normal Person, you’ll know that Gus isn’t exactly the typical comedic hero. He’s grumpy, he’s very strict with his regimented daily life, and doesn’t like it when things go off the rails and out of his comfort zone. I had to be very careful when writing him, because I didn’t want it to seem like I was making fun of him.

The same goes with Josy. Josy is…well. At first glance, he’s a typical stoner dude bro. That was the draw of him, the attraction. We’ve all seen movies or TV shows with the stoner side character. When I made the decision to write this book, I wondered if I could sustain a side character like him throughout an entire novel without it seeming like I was being slightly…cruel? He’s not smart. He’ll be the first to tell you that. He’s like Vince Auster, at least a little bit. But there’s so much more beneath the surface of him (much like with Vince) and it’s important to me that it not read as if I was mocking him. It’s one thing to have the reader be in on the joke with the character. To lose that insight is something else entirely. He’s not real, I know, but man, do I hear his breaths and his beating heart. I can’t wait for you to meet him for real this time.

And speaking of stoner dude bros.

Look. These books are pro-marijuana. It’s not in your face about it, but these characters aren’t shamed for the choices they make about what they put into their bodies. The story is set a year after the events of Normal Person, which puts it in 2015 when marijuana for recreational use was just approved in Oregon and made for sale starting October 1, 2015. Everyone in the book who uses marijuana does so as an adult in a state where it’s legal to do so. (Granted, given when the story is set, California hadn’t quite caught up with the times, so the “legality” might stretch a little there toward the beginning of the book.)

Don’t smoke weed?

Great! That’s absolutely your choice.

Smoke weed?

Great! That’s absolutely your choice.

I understand that it’s not for everyone. I understand some people don’t like even reading about it. That’s okay. If that puts you off, then this book is not for you. But please, please don’t do what happened after Normal Person came out and send me messages/emails/tweets about how you wished the characters didn’t smoke/consume any marijuana-related product (“Drugs are bad and they shouldn’t do drugs and I don’t like it when they do and it ruins the book!”). I won’t be shamed by including this aspect of the story, and you’ll be just wasting your time. Cool?


One final weed-related caveat: Josy is white. Casey is white. They both smoke out. I, as the author of their story, 100% understand this comes from a place of privilege (within the confines of fiction), as it does for me as well (in reality). People of color have been prosecuted for decades for the very same things the characters in this book take for granted at the advent of the legal weed culture. I mention that in the book, at least peripherally. I wanted to address it more, but it started bordering on tokenism and frankly, sounding unintentionally sanctimonious on my part. Just because these characters exist in a bubble of sorts by no means meant to detract from the racial disparity of the so-called “war on drugs.”

Lastly, something I never do: a trigger warning. While I understand why some stories need them, I am always hesitant to include them because I think it can detract from the story. Some people weren’t happy I didn’t include a trigger warning with Olive Juice, and while I can respect their opinion, I will also respectfully disagree. I think the magic of a story is in the discovery of the journey.

It doesn’t help that the cutesy trigger warnings that some romance novels have now that drive me up the fucking wall. Be warned, this story contains rough-and-tumble Alphas with hearts of gold, and a vomiting cat that hangs from ceiling, har, har, har.

Stop. Doing. This.


Stop it.

(Yes, I am aware I just told you not to shame me for weed positivity and now I’m shaming people for something equally ridiculous—I contain terrible multitudes.)

That being said, I told myself a long time ago if I ever wrote a story containing/discussing/referencing two different types of events, I would warn for them. One of those events is in this book, at least in part.. Skip the next paragraph if you don’t want anything spoiled for you.

In Movie Star, there is a brief discussion of past suicidal ideation regarding Q-Bert/Quincy. It lasts a couple of paragraphs in a discussion with Josy, and the Q-Man talks about how he overcame the ideation with professional, medical and familial help. He didn’t harm himself, but he thought about it when he was in his teens.

And that’s it for this week! We are getting so close to our return to Abby, Oregon, where the residents are going to have stars in their eyes when a major Hollywood production*** comes to town to film. I can’t wait to show you what Gus and Casey and Lottie and the We Three Queens are up to now, and to show you how a demisexual stoner finds the love of his life with a neurotic writer of monster porn.

(***this is not a major production. it’s actually quite small and will probably fall apart quite easily.)

Next week, I’ll be discussing the mental health aspects of Movie Star, and why it was important for me to include this aspect, given my own history with anxiety and depression.

If you haven’t pre-ordered How to Be a Movie Star, what the hell are you waiting for? I’ll helpfully provide the links to do just that below.

Pre-Order How to Be a Movie Star today! It releases February 12th!

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