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Please join me in welcoming author Estella Mirai to my blog. Estella is here today to celebrate the release of her new novel, The Stars May Rise and Fall. She’s graciously taken the time to answer a few questions about herself and her writing process!
Teru came to Tokyo with dreams of making it big in the glam-metalvisual kei scene, but three years later, all he has to show for it is a head of hot pink hair and some skill with an eyeliner pencil. He may look the part, bu the doesn’t sound it, and constant bickering among his bandmates has him worried about his future. When he finds a mysterious business card in his bag, he’s willing to take any help he can get.
Help comes in the form of Rei, a crippled, disfigured composer whose own career was ended by an accident before it had really begun. With Teru’s voice and looks, and Rei’s money and songwriting skills, both of their dreams seem about to come true – but a forbidden kiss and a late-night confession threaten to tear it all apart. Now Teru, who has spent most of his life denying his attraction to men, and Rei, who vowed long ago never to love again, must reconcile their feelings with their careers – and with their carefully constructed ideas of themselves.
THE STARS MAY RISE AND FALL is an M/M retelling of Phantom of the Opera, set in Tokyo at the turn of the millennium. It comes with a healthy dose of angst and a dollop of nostalgia, as well as an age-difference romance, a physically disabled love interest, and memorable characters who will stay with you long after the pages are closed.
I can help you. Call me.
Teru ran his finger around the edge of the card. Maybe it had been a mistake. Should he call, and let whoever had left it know?
He opened the window and lit a cigarette. The smoke floated out
into the muggy Tokyo night.
“This is stupid,” he said aloud. “It’s one in the morning. Whoever it is, they’re asleep.”
But Teru wasn’t asleep. His bandmates probably weren’t asleep either. If it was a musician who had left the card, one in the morning was better than one in the afternoon.
I can help you. Call me.
He picked up his phone and dialed.
It rang once, twice—and Teru cut the connection. This is stupid. But he didn’t feel stupid. He felt guilty, like he’d been doing something he shouldn’t.
He stubbed out the cigarette and walked across the room to the refrigerator. Nothing but a pack of noodles and a flat Diet Coke. Even though he’d already had a couple with the guys after the show, what Teru really needed was a beer.
On the other side of the room, the phone rang.
The floor was littered with clothes and magazines and Playstation controllers. Teru almost tripped as he lunged for the phone, and then only crouched there, watching it, with his nerves wrapped around his voice box like a snake. There was no name with the number, but Teru knew it by heart. He’d only been staring at it for the past hour.
The ringing stopped. An engine rumbled outside Teru’s window, and a train clattered over distant tracks. Upstairs, slippered feet padded across a tatami floor. The air was thick with an anticipation far from silence—but just as easily shattered by the trill of a different ring.
Teru’s fingers fumbled to open the text.
I heard you sing.
He stared, waiting for the words to sink in. They didn’t, though.
They made no sense.
It had only been a mistake after all.
You’ve got the wrong number, he replied. This is Teru, the drummer for La Rose Verboten. I don’t sing.
And then: You should.
The phone rang again.
“You have a beautiful voice.”
It wasn’t Yasu. It wasn’t anyone he knew.
“Hello?” Teru repeated. “Who is this?”
“A friend.” The voice was male, deep and effortlessly sensual in a
way that Seika would have envied. It made Teru distinctly uncomfortable.
“Look,” Teru said. “I think you want Bara. I’m not the singer. I’m the drummer. The one with pink hair?”
“I heard you,” the man pressed. “In the dressing room. I can help you.”
In the dressing room? There’d been no one else in there.
“Is this some kind of joke?”
“Not at all.”
“What do you want?” Teru whispered.
“To teach you. To help you. Will you meet with me?”
Teru’s palms were sweaty, his face flushed. It was partly exhaustion, partly a lingering buzz… but it was more than that. He felt dirty. This was worse than what he felt with Seika—and it was just a voice on the goddamn phone.
“There’s a studio in Koenji,” he heard himself say.
“No!” the man snapped, and he took a sharp, hissing breath. “No studios. You may come to my apartment.”
“Please. It is… difficult, for me to go out.”
“Um… okay.” What the hell did that mean?
“I live in Meguro,” the man said. “Near the live house. I can send you the address. If you’ll come.” There was a plea in his voice, a quiet desperation. Teru swallowed, hard.
“You want to give me singing lessons?”
This was insane. “When?”
“Whenever you are free.” Teru glanced at his calendar. June, 2000. Three years, almost to the day, since he had stepped off the night bus from Niigata. After all that time, he didn’t even have anything to lose.
☆ Interview ☆
Congratulations on your new release. Please tell us a little bit about it. What’s your favorite aspect or part of the story? Do you have a favorite character? Who/Why?
Thank you! The Stars May Rise and Fall is a loose retelling of Phantom of the Opera set in Tokyo in the early 2000s. That said, you don’t really need to be a big Phantom fan or know anything about Japan or Japanese music to enjoy it!
My favorite part of the story is probably the setting. This story is set around the time I was in Tokyo as a student, skipping class to go to concerts more often than not, and it was so much fun to recreate the city as it was at the time. There are lots of little nods to real places (some of which don’t exist anymore, or have changed significantly), and I hope my readers will have fun taking a trip to a different place and time.
My favorite character is definitely Rei, who is the “Phantom” character in this version. It would be easy to say that’s just because I like writing angst and intricate backstories (and oh, I do!), but it’s also because he’s a lot like me in some ways, including some not-necessarily-positive ones, and was just overall a very cathartic character to write.
Are you a planner or a pantser? How much do you know about your story before you start writing? How often does your plan change? Why does this work best for you?
Oh, pantser to the max! I’m trying to change that, though, because I’m such a slow drafter… but I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those writers who plans everything out on intricately detailed post-it’s!
I do usually start with a few scenes in mind, and I’m usually pretty visual in what I imagine, so it might be more an aesthetic than a specific plot point. But I have things I want to include, and then sort of connect the dots as I go to make them all fit together.
I don’t usually change those main scenes, but everything in between is fair game! I like to get to know the characters organically and let them drive the plot in certain ways. If I plot something out in too much detail, I’ll usually get to a point where the characters have developed into people who wouldn’t react in the way I originally planned… so I’ll probably never be a real planner, even though I’m trying to get better at it.
What are your favorite genres when it comes to your own pleasure reading? Do you prefer to read ebooks or print?
I read just about everything! I do read a lot of M/M, but also a lot of young adult fiction, science fiction, and psychological thrillers. I used to be a die-hard print reader, but since I live in Japan, it’s easier to get English books, at least, digitally. I also commute by train, so I’ve pretty much converted completely to ebooks!
What is the best money you ever spent as an author?
That would absolutely be my gorgeous cover art. My characters are pretty unusual-looking… it’s hard enough to find a stock photo of an Asian man with long hair, much less in the colors I had in mind, and I wasn’t honestly very optimistic that I’d like any cover that was in my budget. I almost cried when I saw this cover, though. It was absolutely perfect, and made me feel for the first time that this was Really A Real Book.
What did you edit out of this book?
Well, close to 50,000 words for a start! The first draft was about 140,000 words long, and a lot of what got cut was filler. But there are two scenes in particular I remember cutting. One was a scene where my characters gave each other glittery glam rock manicures! It was kind of sweet, but didn’t really do anything to advance the plot. The other was a scene where Teru, the main character, finds a magazine with photos of Rei from before the accident that left him scarred and disabled. I guess it’s not really a consent issue per se, since it was a published magazine, but that felt like something that should be shared willingly, rather than something Teru should just go and seek out on his own, so I ended up replacing that with a different scene that provided some of the same backstory.
How do you select the names of your characters?
All of my characters’ names have meanings! For this book, Teru means “shine,” and Rei can mean “ghost,” “zero,” “beauty,” “thanks,” and several other things, so I loved that I could name him all of those things at once! One of my favorite minor character names is Chizuru, which means “a thousand cranes.” I try to choose names that either fit their personality or role in the story… although that means that naming characters takes a long time! And don’t even ask how long it took to come up with my pen name!
If you could time-travel, where/when would you go?
Do I have to pick only one place and time? I’d definitely go back to see one of my favorite bands or artists when they were in their prime. I’d love to see X Japan’s Violence in Jealousy tour, or Meat Loaf on the original Bat Out of Hell tour, or maybe head to Broadway and see Patti LuPone in Evita.
What’s your most useless talent?
I can memorize just about anything if you set it to music, and apparently I never forget, even if I haven’t listened to it in years. If you ever need someone to sing the entire score of Jesus Christ Superstar or something, I’m your girl?
Meet the Author
Estella Mirai lives just outside of Tokyo with her human family and a very spoiled lap cat. When she isn’t reading or writing, she works in editing and translation—which means that 99% percent of her day is usually words. In her minimal free time, she enjoys watching musicals, cooking (badly), and slaughtering power ballads at karaoke.
Facebook | Twitter (@EstellaMirai)
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