With an engaging narrative full of themes relevant to young audiences, the novel “Contando Estrelas”, by renowned author Luciane Rangel , delves into issues such as overcoming, friendship and unlikely love. With a hint of magical realism, the work follows the journey of Elisa, a popular and self-centered teenager, who sees her life transformed when she is assigned to do voluntary work with Fábio, a peculiar new student who has the habit of creating origami in shape. of stars. As they get closer and share experiences at the city’s children’s hospital, Elisa discovers the true meaning of friendship and self-knowledge, breaking with stigmas of prejudice and superficiality. With more than 40 books published and a legion of fans, Luciane Rangel once again surprises by addressing topics such as grief, maturity and LGBTQIAPN+ representation in a sensitive and captivating way.
Counting Stars addresses deep themes such as overcoming, maturing and LGBTQIAPN+ representation. How do these elements intertwine in the story and what message do you hope to convey to readers?
At the time I started the first drafts of this story (around 2015 or 2016) I still really missed more stories that addressed these themes, especially for a younger audience. They already existed, of course, but I still felt that plots that limited the dilemmas of adolescence to more ‘simple’ issues were more common. Some of these themes were addressed in the story from a deeper perspective, but many were also added in a more subtle way.
The book explores the dynamics of Elisa and Fábio, initially as “enemies” and later as something more. How did you approach developing this relationship and why did you choose this “enemies to lovers” format?
As a romance reader, Enemies to Lovers has always been one of my favorite tropes (although I also really love a good Friends to Lovers). When Fábio and Elisa appeared in my mind, with all their differences in experiences and perceptions of the world, there would have been no way between them, in principle, anything different from a ‘cat and dog’ relationship. But the process in which the two get to know each other better and begin to fall in love involves coexistence, the process of getting to know each other beyond first appearances and, also, friendship.
The story involves volunteer work at a children’s hospital. How does this experience impact the characters and how important is this theme in the narrative?
The idea of volunteer work appears in the story as a requirement from a teacher, who wants the students, divided into pairs, to choose a cause or institution and carry out some type of voluntary work there weekly, for a period of two months. This is how Elisa and Fábio found themselves forced to live with each other beyond the school walls. For the boy, this imposition merely represents the continuity of something he already practiced. But for Elisa, it’s something completely new, which takes her out of her comfort zone and takes her to discover realities outside her bubble.
Star-shaped origamis play a significant role in the book. What is the symbolism behind these stars and how does this choice connect to the characters and plot?
There are several different legends about origami stars, called ‘Lucky stars’. From the steps to bending, in which the initial knot signifies life’s adversities, to the belief that they can make wishes come true. They also symbolize good luck when given to someone, as well as wishes for eternal love and friendship. Several of these different symbolisms were worked into the plot, connecting the characters in their different relationships, both in the love of the protagonist couple and in their connections to supporting characters.
Representativeness is an essential element in contemporary literature. How did you approach LGBTQIAPN+ representation in “Counting Stars” and what is the relevance of this aspect in the narrative?
Since my first book – published for the first time online in 2007 – I have sought to incorporate representation in my stories, even when almost no one was still talking about it. In Counting Stars we have two fundamental characters in the story who, in addition to working in the same hospital where part of the plot takes place, are connected to Fábio through a connection with his past (I won’t say what it is, to avoid spoilers for future readers).
The protagonist, Elisa, goes through a notable maturity throughout the story. How did you construct this character development arc and what do you hope readers take away from this journey?
Elisa is considered by many readers, at the beginning of the book, as ‘a boring and spoiled girl’. But the truth is that a closer look can see that she was never a bad person, she was just very closed in her own bubble – as many of us have been at some stage in our lives, especially when we are still in a process. of adolescence maturation. I’m very happy with the fact that most readers start reading hating Elisa, as the book goes on they gradually realize the changes that occurred during her journey in the story, and end up loving the character for who she became, or in this case , it turned out to be.
The Japanese legend of a thousand stars is incorporated into the plot. How did this legend influence the plot and why did you choose to integrate it into the story?
I started writing in my late teens, also as a hobby, creating anime and manga fanfics. So, when I started creating my own stories, I continued using many elements from Japanese culture. The element chosen for Counting Stars was one that was also part of my life, and also in a ‘healing’ process, just as it was for the characters in the story – although, of course, in very different contexts. Origami came into my life at a time when I was going through a severe bout of depression. I think I can say that discovering this new hobby and all the culture and legends behind it was something that helped a lot in my process of dealing with that turbulent phase. I fell in love with the legends surrounding the Lucky Star, and spent a few years with the desire to insert it into some story, and when the first ideas of the couple Elisa and Fábio came to my mind, I realized how much they connected to this symbology.
The book touches on sensitive topics such as grief and self-knowledge. How do these elements intertwine in the narrative and why did you consider them important to the story?
These are sensitive and difficult topics to deal with even when you are an adult. But they are part of our lives. In the context of the book, these are themes that mark situations that help to connect not only the two protagonists with each other, but also with themselves.
Volunteer work is a fundamental part of the plot. Could you talk a little about your own perspective on volunteering and how that inspired the inclusion of this topic in the book?
In the story, volunteering, from Elisa’s point of view, was something that expanded her view of inequalities, of the existence of realities different from hers, and I believe that this is also something that is reflected in real life. Especially at a time when time is one of the most precious – and disputed – resources we have, donating a part of it to somehow help any important cause, is something that, in addition to having its importance in the direct impact on society, also It is an enriching experience in the individual’s human development.
“Counting Stars” offers a reflection on not judging people and the importance of true love. What message do you hope readers take away with them after reading this book?
It is a story, primarily, of romantic love, but it also talks about other forms of love. About friendships, family relationships, about empathy and respect for others. About seeing others beyond first appearances and social labels. In the book, each folded star represents a life that, in some way, the characters managed to help, whether through a good deed, advice, or emotional support in a difficult time. I think that, more than a message, I hope that readers finish reading with a warm heart and that they also want to be, like Elisa and Fábio, ‘star tellers’.
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