My Rating ~ Four & a Half Stars
RELEASE DATE: 8 July 2020
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont for having me on the blog tour for Stars Like Us!
From the winner of the Ampersand Prize comes this smart, swoony LGBTQ YA novel about a teenage band on the way to the top – so long as they can hold it together.
Liliana’s hitting all the wrong notes. She’s a sixteen-year-old exchange student with a secret crush on Carter, her new band’s smoking hot guitarist – but she’s also got a girlfriend back home.
So when she writes a song about him and it lands the band a record deal, she quickly realises she’s in hot water.
Soon, Liliana will have to choose – between an alluring boy and the girl she left behind, between love and lust, and between the fame that beckons and staying true to the music that’s in her heart.
With shades of hit TV series Nashville, the musical passion of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and the band drama of Fleetwood Mac, this brilliant own-voices YA debut is perfect for music lovers everywhere.
Thank you so much to Hardie Grant Egmont for providing me with a copy of Stars Like Us, in exchange for an honest review!
Liliana is so excited to have been accepted in to a music academy in the UK, even though she does have to leave her girlfriend, Ellie, behind in Australia. When she’s asked to audition for a band, she knows it could jeopardise her place at the academy, but the offer is just so tempting. When a song she writes suddenly rockets them to stardom, she finds fame isn’t all she dreamed of and between managers that want to change the way she dresses to strategical fake relationships, Liliana might be in over her head.
I devoured this book. The relationship between the characters held just the right amount of drama, friendship and secrets to make them entertaining. Liliana was no perfect angel and watching her realistic struggles made for a brilliant story. Carter is a fairly typical, charismatic bad boy – in the music game for the parties and as many groupies as he can find. Sam, Ritchie and Tish were also great characters and surprisingly three dimensional for side acts.
Stars Like Us is one of those books that will take you right out of a reading slump. It is so much fun and the story just has an effortless feel to it. It’s the type of book I feel will appeal to teenagers and adults alike. I loved the multiple musical references and quotes at the beginning of each chapter too. I’d absolutely recommend this one for lovers of music and fun, addictive contemporaries!
INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR FRANCES CHAPMAN!
Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you today. I’ve just finished Stars Like Us and what a ride! Could you tell us where your inspiration came from for this story? Did you draw from any parts of your own life or dreams?
Thank you! I’m so stoked you enjoyed it! The idea came from that Erica Jong quote: ‘Fame means millions of people have the wrong idea about who you are.’ I’ve always been really interested in celebrity culture and the way we treat the private lives of famous people like public property.
When I was growing up, there were a lot of famous teens – it was the time of Hanson and Britney Spears and Destiny’s Child and it felt like every band or singer in the public eye was under sixteen. I used to buy Smash Hits or watch Top of the Pops and dream of being a famous singer. I wanted to write a book about what that might really be like, because I’m actually a real introvert and I don’t really like it when everyone’s looking at me, so being famous is something I would actually hate. The dream was more appealing than I imagine the reality would be.
There were so many wonderful and diverse personalities included in your book. Who would you say you relate to most as a person?
Phoenix, Liliana’s best friend, is often the voice of reason and the person who says things which Liliana won’t admit to herself. The dynamic between the two of them is really similar to the dynamic between myself and my best friend from uni: unfiltered, supportive, honest but sometimes brutally so! I am quite direct and not great at censoring myself.
Have you ever had a touch with fame yourself, or met a celebrity?
I once sat behind Orlando Bloom in a cinema. It was about fifteen years ago and I still like to talk about it. He is devastatingly handsome in the flesh, even from the back.
At the back of Stars Like Us, there is mention of inspiration taken from a picture of Justin Bieber eating chicken! Can you tell us about that?
Just before I started writing the book, Justin Bieber came to Sydney on tour and there was a photo in the paper of him sitting in a chicken shop with his friends. It really struck a chord with me and I cut it out and had it above my desk while I was writing. In the photo, he’s chatting casually with his friends, and there’s a couple of bodyguards holding back a line of teenage girls who’d obviously come down to Sydney to track him down. It was the expressions on the girls’ faces which got me – they were all dressed up, one of them had brought a puppy, obviously they were hoping he would notice them and talk to them – but now that they were there, they all looked so uncomfortable, like they would rather be anywhere else. None of them seemed to be having a good time. And he was just eating his lunch with his friends and ignoring them as though he didn’t have that audience! It had a really weird energy and it got me thinking about what it might be like to live in that world.
When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an author. I’ve always been a big reader and I used to write highly derivative Enid Blyton-rip off stories when I was a kid. But I probably started pursuing it with more focus when I was working a horrible job as a receptionist at an advertising agency in Melbourne and I needed something creative to keep my mind from atrophying. That’s when I started work on the story which became my first manuscript.
Is Stars Like Us your first book? And does it fit into the genre you’d always imagined you’d write?
Stars Like Us is my third completed manuscript, although I have a whole bunch of others which never really got off the ground. I always knew I wanted to write about teenagers; that time in my life was so formative and the heightened emotion and romance of it, the way you’re forming your identity, really appealed to me. I tried really hard to get my first manuscript published and maybe I’ll come back and revisit it one day, but now that I’ve been through the process of actually turning a manuscript into a book and working with a publisher I can see why that one didn’t get published. It has a lot of problems. I was twenty-five when I wrote that manuscript so it was kind of in a weird place, it was too mature to be aimed directly at teenagers but there also wasn’t sufficient distance for it to be for adults looking back on their teenage years.
I’ve never written a book myself, but I imagine the process must be intense. How long did it take you to write Stars Like Us, and how long after that did you know it was going to be published?
It’s so intense! It took me about two and a half years to write – the first draft was done in a few months and then I rewrote significant chunks of it probably six times. I went backwards and forwards about whether the characters should be at school or a bit older. It went through a phase where it was really gritty and had a lot of drug use and it went through phases where Liliana was straight or at least her sexuality was much less explicit and where there was no love triangle element. Then when I was happy with it, I started trying to get an agent and I sent it out to a whole lot of people but no one wanted to represent me.
Then I entered the Ampersand Prize at Hardie Grant Egmont, which I really didn’t expect I would win because it’s so competitive and I’d also entered my first manuscript the year before, but hadn’t been shortlisted, so I didn’t expect this would be any different. I couldn’t believe that I won! I still can’t really believe it. And then we went through a couple more drafts once the publisher was on board, getting it to the stage where it was ready to publish.
Do you have any other books in the works that you can tell us about? What sort of story are you hoping to write next?
I’m actually working on a play right now which is nothing like Stars Like Us – it’s in the very early stages but it’s a very personal piece. The next novel I’m working on is a more simple, down-to-the-ground love story, much smaller in scope than Stars Like Us, set in Melbourne. I was really inspired after I read Holden Sheppard’s book Invisible Boys to write something more intimate and personal.
If Stars Like Us was made into a movie, who would you see playing Liliana, Carter, Sam, Richie, Tish and Addie?
God, if I was lucky enough to have a movie made of my book, I would give the producers free reign to find their own cast but if I were allowed to dream, I’d want Ncuti Gatwa for Sam. I absolutely love him.
What are some of the things you like to do when you’re not writing?
I just had a baby so I don’t have a heap of free time right now! I love spending time with him though, he’s a cheerful little soul and he brings a lot of joy everywhere he goes. If I had an afternoon to myself, I would go for a swim in the ocean pool or take Roscoe walking along the cliffs near my house.
And lastly, does Roscoe give you moral support when you’re writing, because he looks like the sweetest dog in your author photo!
He is the best. He has the softest ears and his feet smell like popcorn. He is a rescue so he’s a bit needy and has a lot of worries. I would say that we provide emotional support to each other.
Photo from my Instagram account