How to Be a Movie Star: I Can't Believe This Is Real

Tj, will you write a sequel to How to Be a Normal Person?


You should write more about Gus and Casey and the We Three Queens!


Tj, are you going to write anything more about Abby, Oregon?

*singing*: Noooooo!

For over two years, I said I would never, ever, ever write a sequel to Normal Person. I love that book. When I finished it back in early 2015, I felt so damn happy. Gustavo Tiberius is my favorite character I’ve ever written. I don’t even know if I can even explain why, exactly. I just…Gus is life, to me. I love most of what I’ve written, but there’s only a few books that I’ve finished the first draft and thought: goddamn, this is something special. (Contrary to the belief of some, I am my own harshest critic and don’t think everything I write is perfect, or even good, at times.) Since Normal Person, I’ve written only two more books where I finished the first draft and didn’t want to change a damn thing about it. One is a book you’ll read in 2020, my big Tor debut The House in the Cerulean Sea.

The other?

How to Be a Movie Star.

Why does this story exist at all?

It’s because of my own ridiculous brain. I had an idea at the back of my mind for a long time, where I would write about this agoraphobic dude who never left his apartment, and made money by writing monster porn. HIs love interest would be a guy who delivered his groceries. Grocery dude was going to be demisexual. I was getting ready to consider plotting out that story when I had the most terribly wonderful thought.

Have I ever written a character who identifies as demisexual before?

My brain supplied the answer rather helpfully: Why, yes! Yes, you have! Josiah, one of the Three Ironic Amigos is demisexual? I wonder what he’s up to?

No. No, no, no, nononono—


So, yes. I am a liar, because in 32 days, you’ll get your sequel to How to Be a Normal Person, something I swore I’d never write.

And man, I tell you what: it was harder than I expected it to be for one simple reason: I, as a human being, am a sarcastic, acerbic asshole. And Josiah Erickson—Josy to his friends—is 100% pure sunshine, someone who is unfailingly optimistic, and doesn’t let anything get him down. Due to my own hang ups, people like that rub me the wrong way in real life. The world is doom and gloom! Everything is going to shit! We’re all going to die! I am not Josy in any way shape or form.

So imagine, if you will, me, as I am, writing a character such as Josy for an entire novel. Anytime I wanted to slip into my usual sarcasm with a pithy retort, I had to stop myself, questioning if this is something Josy would really do, or really say. He’s not Paul Auster. He’s not Sandy/Helena. He’s not Sam of Wilds. He’s not even Gus, but that’s kind of the point. He’s his own real person, and any attempt to sabotage that with something that I might have written for any of those other characters was like slamming into a brick wall.

And god, did I need that.

We curate what we want people to see of ourselves online, a glossy image that doesn’t always reveal the full truth. I announced rather publicly (and in a bit of a snit) in 2017 that I was getting uncomfortable with how certain…exuberant… readers were crossing lines and speaking on things I did and my appearance as if they had any right to, as if they knew me personally. It made me uncomfortable, and I made the decision to step back from posting anything personal on Facebook and the like, deciding to keep things, for the most part, only related to my books.

But I was having a rough go of it for a little while, something I didn’t talk about publicly. While the first half of 2018 brought the biggest news of my career in the form of two big book deals, I was wrestling with anxiety and depression, something I’ve done all my life, but reared its ugly heads with vengeance. When I made the decision to write How to Be a Movie Star, I needed it to be happy because I needed to be happy.

Therefore, in this book, there is no angst. There is no manufactured drama. There is a moment of miscommunication, but it’s resolved within pages. This story (and the one that will follow this summer, Corey/Kori in Why We Fight) is a celebration of life and happiness, of dreaming big and loving as hard as you possibly can. It was cathartic for me. I’m still going to be a sarcastic asshole, but Josy taught me that it’s okay to just…let it go. He made me smile. And I hope he’ll do the same for you. I’ve centered myself again, using tools (and medication) that medical professionals have given me. Self-care is important, and it’s a philosophy Josy lives by.

Over the next four weeks, I’ll be posting weekly blogs covering a few different things: mental health (and it’s relevance to this story), marijuana use (it’s absolutely not for everyone, but I won’t be shamed for including it), how the comedic beats in this series differs from Verania and the Tucson Crew, and if you’ll finally, finally get the answer to that question many of you had for a long, long time: are they sisters or are they in a polyamorous lesbian relationship?

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

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