Q&A With Sierra Simone & Julie Murphy

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Q&A With Sierra Simone & Julie Murphy 

I was delighted when John Cusick connected me with not just one but two authors Sierra Simone & Julie Murphy. Both ladies have co-written A Merry Little Meet Cute, Snow Place Like LA, & their recent release A Holly Jolly Ever After.  Sierra and Julie have written many great books by themselves as well as together. Some of Sierra Simone’s books are The New Camelot Series, The London Lovers Series, & The Priest Series. Some of Julie’s many books are If The Shoe Fits, Dumplin, Puddin & Pumpkin. Julie has been featured by Good Morning America, Teen Vogue, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and more. Sierra has been featured in Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, Entertainment Weekly, Marie Claire, and Library Journal with a starred review.

Q: Sierra & Julie, would you two lovely ladies like to tell the readers of the blog and me about your recent release A Holly Jolly Ever After? 

A: We would love to!  A Holly Jolly Ever After is the story of Winnie Baker—a classic good girl who’s followed all the good girl rules only to find herself betrayed, divorced, and the center of lots of scandalous rumors.  Fed up with playing by the rules, she decides to reinvent herself on her own terms, and she takes the role as a young Mrs. Claus in a sexy Santa Claus biopic called Santa, Baby.

There’s only one problem—she gets to set, ready to film all these intimate love scenes, and realizes she’s not very proficient at faking lovemaking for the camera, because all her experience with sex has been with her now-ex-husband, and he was not so great at bed stuff.

Enter Winnie’s co-star, Kallum Lieberman, a former boy band star, and present-day Midwest pizza chain mogul.  Kallum knows a thing or two about spice, and offers—from the goodness of his heart—to teach Winnie Baker about good sex.  For the sake of the movie, of course!

But what starts as practice quickly becomes very real, and very, very perfect…

Q: How did you two meet one another and what made you both decide to write together?

A: We met when Sierra was writing young adult novels under a different name, and we joined another group of authors going on a self-funded bookstore tour slash road trip.  To save money, we were trying to fit as many people into a hotel room as possible, and when we arrived at our first hotel, there was only one bed!  Just like in the books!  We became best friends after that and never looked back.  That was ten years ago now, and after years of being besties and critique partners, writing something together just happened completely organically.  The right idea came to us on a Christmas writing retreat in 2020, and we knew it was fate.

Q: What is your writing process writing together vs writing alone? Does Sierra write one chapter and then Julie writes another chapter?

A:Yes, that’s it!  We spend a few days together mapping out the overarching plot of the book, and then we divide and conquer by character POV.  It’s convenient, because we usually pick the character that we feel most called to write and then it’s a really easy way to keep the character’s voice consistent.

Julie, when she writes alone, likes to have a nice roadmap for a story, but Sierra is a pure (and chaotic) pantser.

Q: What is your advice to anyone wanting to write a book with a family member or friend?

A:We would always say to put the relationship first.  If your relationship is full of respect and playfulness, that will invariably spill out into the book!  And we would also say not to take any project too seriously—no book, however fun or meaningful, is worth damaging a connection that makes your life fuller and richer.

Q: Are you ladies both working on writing more books together and solo? If it’s not too early, would you like to talk about them?

A:We are working on the final book in the Christmas Notch series now!  And after that…well, it might not be holiday themed, but we are hoping to serve up more dirty, silly small town goodness.

Julie is working on a solo romance (that she can’t say much about yet, but will feature a senior living facility full of retired actors…and lots of hilarity and mayhem).  Sierra is working on the final book of the Lyonesse trilogy, which is a contemporary retelling of the Mark, Tristan and Isolde legend.

Q: Sierra, what’s it like having your books listed on the USA Today Bestsellers list and being featured in Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, Entertainment Weekly, Marie Claire, and Library Journal Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan? Julie, what’s it like being featured in Good Morning America, Teen Vogue, The New York Times, Vanity Fair? It all sounds so impressive! 

A:We both feel so blessed to have been working as professional writers for the last decade, and have had so many incredible things happen.  We’ve also had a lot of privilege play a role in our success and visibility.  Even in 2024, BIPOC and queer romances are still not afforded the same platforms, marketing, budgets, and then placements as white and straight romances.  We really hope this will change as we roll into a new year.

Q: What advice would you give to new and aspiring authors on how to deal with negative criticism whether it’s from reviews, online trolls & family and friends who may not support their writing goals?

A: As for online criticism, we think the most important thing you can do is know yourself and your own limits.  One of us is a lot more comfortable reading negative reviews and looking for ways to improve her storytelling; another one of us gets paralyzed by negative reviews and then has a lot of trouble finding creative equilibrium again.  (If you are more like the latter, we recommend having a trusted friend go through negative/critical reviews to see if there are any common themes, and then let you know those common themes in a gentle way.)

As for friends and family not supporting writing goals, unfortunately, we see a lot of this in romance, which is still fighting a popular perception that it’s an inferior or purely lewd genre.  Our advice is just to remember that you only get one life—keeping everyone else happy while you deny yourself a chance to try something you love will only lead to regret.

Q: So, Julie, I know your book Dumplin’ was made into a movie for Netflix. Does Hollywood have the rights to the rest of your work, Julie, and do they have the rights to Sierra’s solo work as well as the books you two co-wrote together? The entertainment industry needs new content again. 

A: I feel so lucky to have had the experience of Dumplin’ being made into a movie; everyone involved with the film was so talented and passionate and on board with the message of the story.  Currently, there are a couple irons in the adaptation fire, but adapting a book into film, TV or a stage work is a long and winding process, and nothing is ever certain.

And Sierra here: nothing of mine is currently in production, but Julie and I certainly have hopes that someone will want to see the Christmas Notch series on the screen.  Dirty, flirty holiday movies! Who wouldn’t want that?