• Home
  • Guest Post
  • Guest Post: How to Repair a Mechanical Heart Musical with J.C. Lillis

Today I am so pleased to welcome J.C. Lillis to Joyfully Jay. J.C. has come to talk to us about the preview party for her novel turned musical, How to Repair a Mechanical Heart! Please join me in giving her a big welcome!


Don’t miss the PREVIEW PARTY for the How to Repair a Mechanical Heart Musical!

So here’s what happens when you write a roadtrip romance about two fandom geeks who are maybe possibly falling in love, and then eight years later a director guy sends you an email and asks you if the stage rights are available, because he wants to make it a musical.

First, you’re pretty sure he’s punking you, because stuff like that doesn’t really happen, does it? And when it does, it’s usually because someone wrote a super stage-ready book, not some niche nerdapalooza where your main couple is stuffed in an RV half the time and spends the other half picking fights with fanfic writers and wrestling inner demons. So you look this guy up, because surely this is a prank. You accidentally insulted someone on Twitter ten years ago and now they’re taking pseudonymous revenge. You ran over some dude’s foot that summer you were a tram driver at Hershey Park, and decades later he’s tormenting you with false opportunities.

But, I mean…this guy has credits, right? He seems legit?

So you write back. And you’re like, “um, sure, if you WANT to make a musical about sci-fi conventions and Catholic guilt…go ahead?” But actually that’s just what you tell people you said, because it makes for a better story. Really you’re full of awe and hope and wonder, even if you know things like this hardly ever work out and you’ll probably get ghosted, and then you’ll feel deeply foolish for getting excited in the first place.

You sign something and then a whole lot of time goes by. And you’re shy about stuff like this, so you don’t poke the bear or anything. You are reminded of the time you had an agent and spent months sitting on your hands and never once scraping up the courage to ask how submissions were going. You write another book, figuring that if this thing doesn’t work out, maybe someone will want to make a musical about an anxious superhero who can talk to cockroaches. (If anyone does, you should probably read YOU FIRST.) Trying to imagine an actual HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART musical taking shape is nearly impossible; the more you think about it, the more you fear it can’t actually be done, and that the next email you get from Mr. Director will be a sheepish “sorry, doll. Not sure what we were thinking here.”

But it turns out you’re wrong, and Mr. Director is dead serious about this, and he knows a brilliant composer and a razor-sharp lyricist, and during that quiet cocoon-y time they’ve been incubating this opening number called “Castaway Planet” that perfectly distills the entire first chapter of your book into an earworm of epic proportions. They text it to you one day and you sit on it for a couple hours before you listen, because you don’t really know these guys and what if it’s cheesy or bad and your anxiety swirls at the thought of having to pretend to like it (or worse, tell the truth). But it turns out all that anxiety was for nothing (a phrase which will go on your tombstone), because thirty seconds in you can tell it’s great, and this whole thing is gonna be great, and you’re in for a hell of a ride.

And that’s just what it is. Over the next year or so, while a pandemic rages and democracy teeters along with your sanity, you are welcomed into the fascinating and mercifully distracting process of adapting your first book baby into a whole-ass, ready-for-the-world musical. The guys want you to be part of it, and you feel like Eleven joining the Stranger Things gang, except with more hair and fewer waffles. You have long collaborative Zooms where you talk story and restructure acts together, and they leave you breathless with creative bliss. You let go of the surface details of your original story and watch something more streamlined and stage-appropriate take shape (it’s one fan convention now, not six, but you won’t miss the cross-country schlepping). You learn the importance of clearly defining fandom terminology for the 2 pm matinee crowd who might not know what “shipping” is. You feel so comfortable with the creative team that you send them exhaustive (and probably exhausting) brain dumps when we’re trying to iron out script issues, knowing they’ll find the gems twinkling in the dirt and toss out the rest of your nonsense. You learn a ton, you laugh and cry, you feel like you’ve made new friends, and you know the team has made something really special.

On Thursday, 12/30 at 8 pm EST, everyone is invited for a sneak peek at this project-in-progress. I (boy, am I tired of saying “you”) am so excited to announce that the mega-talented cast of HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART has recorded a concept album, and we want everyone to come and listen with us. You’ll get to hear the phenomenal work of Jay Falzone (lyricist), Trent Jeffords (composer), and a diverse dream cast, including Troy Iwata as Brandon, Chris Medlin as Abel, Maria Habeeb as Bec, and Lily Talevski as Miss Maxima. And someday, hopefully, we’ll get to launch a full stage show under the direction of the amazing Marc Erdahi, who first reached out to me about this project and has been shepherding it heroically ever since.

If you’ve read the book—or if you haven’t and just love the idea of a joyful, funny, romantic, geeky, and extremely queer musical—please join us for the Mechanical Heart Preview Party on December 30. (Book fans, there is a Brandon/Abel duet you do NOT want to miss!) And please help spread the word to any other theatre fans or m/m romance fans who are looking for a fun (and safe) way to spend a post-holiday evening!

SIGN UP for your free ticket: thebadkidsarehere.com/


how to repair a mechanical heart coverEighteen-year-old Castaway Planet fans Brandon and Abel hate bad fan fiction—especially when it pairs their number-one TV crushes of all time, dashing space captain Cadmus and dapper android Sim. As co-runners of the Internet’s third most popular Castaway Planet vlog, they love to spar with the “Cadsim” fangirls who think Cadmus will melt Sim’s mechanical heart by the Season 5 finale. This summer, Brandon and Abel have a mission: hit the road in an RV to follow the traveling Castaway Planet convention, interview the actors and showrunner, and uncover proof that a legit Cadsim romance will NEVER, EVER HAPPEN.

A Brandon and Abel romance: also not happening. Brandon’s sick of his struggle to make “gay and Catholic” compute, so it’s safer to love a TV android. Plus Abel’s got a hot new boyfriend with a phoenix tattoo, and how can Brandon compete with that? But when mysterious messages about them start popping up in the fan community, they make a shocking discovery that slowly forces their real feelings to the surface. Before they get to the last Castaway Planet convention, Brandon’s going to find out the truth: can a mechanical heart be reprogrammed, or will his first shot at love be a full system failure?

Buy Link: Amazon