'A Star Is Bored' Book Excerpt: Carrie Fisher's Former Assistant Pens Tale Inspired by Experience (Exclusive)

Henry Holt and Co.; NBC/Photofest
Carrie Fisher's former assistant Byron Lane pens his first fiction novel influenced in part by his three years working with the late 'Star Wars' actress.

In the new book, out July 28, Byron Lane delivers a hilarious story centered on protagonist Charlie Besson, who serves as an assistant for actress and bestselling author Kathi Kannon, known for her role as Priestess Talara in a successful blockbuster sci-fi film.

Carrie Fisher's former assistant Byron Lane is ready for his turn in the spotlight as he pens his first novel, A Star is Bored, a fictionalized tale influenced in part by his time assisting the late Star Wars actress. 

In A Star is Bored (Henry Holt and Co.), out July 28, Lane delivers a hilarious story centered on protagonist Charlie Besson, who serves as an assistant for actress and bestselling author Kathi Kannon, known for her role as Priestess Talara in a successful blockbuster sci-fi film (sound familiar?) The book chronicles Charlie and Kathi's three-year professional relationship turned friendship. But just as the two grow closer and become like family and less as colleagues, Charlie contemplates whether there's more to life than being a personal assistant. Can he forge his own path and take center stage as the star he was always meant to be from the help of the hero he never knew he needed?

Though the novel is fiction, Lane's three-year stint as Fisher's assistant serves in part as inspiration, as he writes a story filled with comical and touching moments between his characters Charlie and Kathi. Following Fisher's death in 2016, Lane penned a moving tribute to his former boss and friend, describing her as a "force" in his life and "every memory with her is bursting with color."  

Below, The Hollywood Reporter shares an excerpt. 

Dinner is a royal and gruesome affair.

Here at the Hoshinoya, the emperor’s chef heard that the Kathi Kannon wished to dine at the hotel, so he planned a special dinner for us in a private room off an enormous white-sand-and-stone garden raked to perfection. Kathi and I sit at a tiny table as two waitresses prepare the settings in front of us, each of them occasionally stealing a glance at my American celebrity boss and, every now and then, making eye contact with me, smiling as if to say, You’re so lucky to be eating here.

The waitresses bow and leave the room, and Kathi and I sit, visible boredom rising in her like a tide. "What the fuck is happening?" Kathi asks, brushing her hair out of her eyes. "I’m starving."

Before I can answer, the waitresses return with two plates of lobster sashimi, except these crustaceans, on both Kathi’s plate and mine, are still alive, their guts exposed, waving their antennae at us, begging us for mercy. Kathi and I stare with eyes the size of tennis balls.

The waitresses put the plates on the table in front of us and then look at us, awaiting our reaction. The room is immediately and eerily silent, like someone accidentally hit the mute button on a war film.

"Oh, goodie,” Kathi says. "I can’t wait."

"What?!" I whisper to her. 

She leans in to me. "Acting!" Kathi looks up from the plate, back to the waitresses. "Wow," she says, bowing. "Arigato gozaimasu."

I follow her lead. I bow. "Arigato gozaimasu," I say as the servers exit.

Kathi and I look at the living sushi, then at each other.

In my mind I hear only the voice of my father, screaming, EAT IT! That’s what he said when I was a child and I asked for spinach so I could be like Popeye. My sweet mother said I wouldn’t like it. She said spinach doesn’t taste good directly out of a can, how Popeye eats it. But she humored me, twisting, twisting, twisting the can opener, draining the water, lovingly putting a spoon of the spinach onto a plate. I had a taste; I didn’t like it.

"EAT IT!" my father shouted from across the table. "We don’t waste food in this family! She opened the can, now you open your mouth!” I grabbed my fork, a child’s fork, with a thick plastic casing and dulled prongs. I stabbed the mound of spinach and put a leaf or two in my mouth. "EAT IT!" I threw up on my plate, my insides spilling out, my inner world now bile and rage in a puddle in front of him. 

EAT IT!

The creatures on the plates before us stir; they won’t be ignored.

"We have to get rid of them!” Kathi says.

EAT IT!

I’m looking at the lobster’s little pained face.

EAT IT!

I’m looking at its splayed intestines.

EAT IT!

I'm looking at its antennae. 

EAT IT! EAT IT! EAT IT!

"Maybe we should eat it?" I ask.

"Are you fucking crazy?!"

"My dad always said to eat everything, kids are starving and stuff—"

"Your dad?" Kathi spits. "Who the fuck cares what your dad thinks? You’re an adult! Fuck him!"

And just like that, my dad’s screaming stops for a moment, a reprieve, my overbearing father reduced to breath from the mouth of Kathi Kannon, him suddenly powerless and emasculated, dying in that moment, squirming like our dinner before us.

"Okay," I say. "Fuck him!"

"Quick!" she says, grabbing her Hermès purse and plopping it on the table. She pulls out a bag of Weight Busters cereal, rips it open, grabs a handful of the lightly frosted whole-wheat O’s, and starts stuffing them into her mouth.

"What are you doing?" I ask.

"Eat some, hurry!” she orders, holding the cereal out for me. "We need the bag!"

I grab two handfuls and start chewing. It isn’t until she finishes the last of the cereal that I realize what she’s doing.

Kathi points to the flailing lobsters. “I’m not eating Laurel and Hardy, are you?”

"No," I say with a mouthful of dry oats.

"Then, quick! Get them in here!"

I grab chopsticks and plop the squirming guys into the empty Weight Busters bag. One critter and then the second.

"I’m so sorry," I whisper, as I lower them down.

Kathi puts the crackling cereal bag in her purse and closes it just moments before the servers arrive with the next course—something liquid, gray, and inelegant, with floating lumps, in two bowls, one for each of us.

"Wow," Kathi says, acting. We can hear the prior critters moving around in the cereal bag.

Crackle. Crackle. Crackle.

"Wow, thanks," Kathi says as the bowl is placed in front of her.

"Should we clear some plates," one of the servers asks, looking around the table, eyebrows furrowed. “Where are the shells?"

"Oh," Kathi says, mild panic in her eyes. "We were very hungry."

As the suspicious servers leave, Kathi exhales, then turns to the latest serving. She leans over and sniffs her bowl. "Fuck," she says. "I think it’s alcohol." Kathi picks up a chopstick and pokes one of the lumps, and a living shrimp spins around, glares at her, and tries to jump from the bowl. "FUCK! These shrimps are drunk!" she gasps. “They want us to eat these goddamn lit baby shrimps!"

Kathi grabs her purse and we quickly try to pluck each innocent being from their drunk destiny into the Weight Busters bag. We’re fast and stealthy but breaking a sweat. She stuffs the cellophane bag back in her purse.

The servers arrive with the next round. As they approach, I keep one eye trained on Kathi’s purse, fearing at any moment an innocent little life will come crawling out and drag itself across the floor, to everyone’s horror.

"Mmmmm," Kathi says, acting

I look down at a bowl of live octopi flipping us off with each of their tentacles.

The waitresses leave and Kathi dumps her new plate directly into her purse. "Gimme yours! Quick!"

"Eww. Your purse! Who’s gonna clean that?" I ask.

"The cereal bag is full," she grunts. Looking down into her purse, she says to the critters, "Hey, no pushing!"

The waitresses keep coming, the purse getting more and more full with the most exquisite delicacies in all of Japan, raw, squirming critters and beasts and something tarantula-like. I try to gently pluck each of them to safety with the chopsticks, but the servers are impossibly fast.

Kathi looks to the door. "Use your fucking fingers! There’s no time!"

I flick a couple of terrified crawfish off the plates, and Kathi whips the purse to her side as the next course arrives, a big smile on the face of the server.

"You sure are fast," Kathi says to them.

"For you, special guest, special dinner," the waitress says, putting down in front of us a plate with a little fish bending back and forth and gasping for air so desperately we can hear it.

"But do you have anything fresh?" Kathi asks, sarcasm as alive in her words as our latest course.

The servers look confused, dejected.

"Just kidding," Kathi says. She points to me and says, "By the way, this is my assistant, not my lover, just in case this is a hidden-camera show."

"Arigato gozaimasu," one of the waitresses replies, bewildered but polite.

My face twists with the awkwardness of it all, my fingers starting to feel numb from the jelly or whatever was on the last delicacy now in Kathi’s care.

Another course resembles the lower half of a seahorse. Another, like seaweed, except it keeps trying to stand. Yet another, unrecognizably flayed, its exposed heart still pitter-pattering.

Kathy says suggestively to the servers, "Maybe the next thing out will be Baskin Robbins Cookies ’N Cream ice cream?"

A polite giggle, and the waitress says, "Only five more courses."

"Only five more," Kathi says, her purse desperately twitching under her arm.

Later, I carry Kathi’s purse back to the room.

"I’m not touching it!" she says.

"I don’t want to touch it!" I yell back, but I know where I fit on the totem pole.

Once inside, I walk over to the sliding paper partition that separates our villa from the outside, the cool, fresh air hitting me, the sound of the river flowing below filling the room. I toss what has to be thousands of dollars of living, mutilated fish from the purse, out of our hotel room and into the river outside. I look back into her purse and, still clinging to life, clinging to the inside lining of that designer bag, is one of those critters my father’s voice was yelling at me to eat. He’s breathing heavy, his tentacles waving at me, praying I’m his savior. I also toss him over the rail and watch him splash into the river, not dead, perhaps life inside and ahead for him yet, free from me and my father’s barking orders.

I turn to find Kathi behind me.

She says, "I’m giving you the best shit to write about."

She says, "This will all be funny one day."

A Star is Bored will be published July 28. 

 

Excerpted from A STAR IS BORED by Byron Lane. Published by Henry Holt and Company. Copyright © 2020 by Byron Lane. All rights reserved.