NYT Best-selling author Julie Murphy and I are best friends. See?
See that hug? You only get that kind of hug from people who love you. We’re obviously besties.
Haha, I’m TOTALLY kidding (it’s a bit of an inside joke), but I did get to have a giggle-laden lunch with her and the bookclub ladies on Monday. I completely crashed the party because I’m a blogger and sometimes we can’t help ourselves, or our sweet friends actually do invite us with a bit of subtle hinting.
Which truly was the case, I was invited. Yes, I was. Honest. She invited me:
SO many selfies in the spirit of this momentous liquid + lunch. We
picked interrogated Julie’s creative mind to find out how she wrote, Dumplin’, and where she got her inspiration for the young adult characters and did she REALLY not grow up in Texas?
If you aren’t familiar, Dumplin’ is the coming of age tale of Willowdean Dickson, the confidently overweight daughter of a small town beauty queen with a pension for Dolly Parton songs. When she takes a job at the local burger joint, she finds herself working alongside handsome Private School Bo, of whom she is secretly smitten. Her self-image shatters however, when he inexplicably has a thing for her. All of a sudden, she finds her self-confidence wavering – and it’s poorly timed as she’s mourning of the loss of her favorite aunt Lucy who would most certainly help her make sense of these unfamiliar emotions. To make matters worse, she’s struggling with the unfamiliar distance growing between her and her best friend. Dang it if Willowdean doesn’t get a hair brained idea to reclaim her self-confidence by entering the town’s Miss Clover City beauty pageant – and to her shock, several “non-traditional” candidates follow suit.
Dumplin’ is a funny, tender, heartbreaking story that adults and teens can both relate to. The relationships that Julie weaves are multi-faceted and terribly real. She’s able to tap into the universal vulnerability that we all feel when we’re self-conscious about ourselves, and yet the logic to get outside of it and embrace our differences. I’ll admit that at one point, I almost had to walk away from the book because it flooded back waves of high school anxiety that even years of reunions can’t seem to erase. “At the end of the day, I wrote this for the girls,” Julie told us, but I’d like to think there are strong messages in this book that all young or old people can identify with and hopefully change the way they/we/me ultimately judge people.
You can imagine that we were bursting with questions about where all this delicious story bubbled up from. Let’s set the record straight, it’s true that Julie is an east coast Connecticut kind of gal, who like they say… “Wasn’t born in Texas but got here as fast as she could.” She never competed in a beauty pageant, but had plenty of friends who did (because that’s a little bit of religion around here). She actually did have an aunt Flo that Lucy is inspired from, and the relationship between Willowdean and Ellen is – as you might guess – modeled from her and her bestie, although not as obviously from the high school years but rather as married women as they reached the crossroads of parenthood.
She even brought her patient husband Ian — who also got a hug. (Mine was better, just sayin’.)
It’s no wonder people who meet author Julie Murphy leave thinking they are best friends. After bonding over this heartwarming book and chatting about life moments in such an authentic way, you do leave with a sense of connection that you reserve for dear friends. And while my “friendship” with Julie is completely one-sided, I’ll keep up the façade by following her on social media (below) reading her other NYT Bestseller, Side Effects May Vary and eagerly anticipating her many other projects in the works including Ramona Drowning due out 2016.
This post contains affiliate links to Julie’s books on Amazon.com.