Thursday, December 07, 2006

Julia Holden, A Dangerous Dress

I knew I would like this book based on the cover and the premise. A woman named Jane Stuart receives her grandmother's dress from the 1920's. Not just any dress, but a spectacular beaded number that screams "Danger!" in a good way. A dress that inspires Jane to take chances and leave her small town for the bright lights of Paris.

I loved the way author Julia Holden wove in all the details about Paris, I could sit and read about that glorious, magical city all day. Jane leaves behind boring little Kirland, Indiana for the excitement of Paris. She is armed with a dress that is not only dangerous, but serves as an inspiration and a source of strength as Jane takes chances and lives beyond her comfort zone. It's amazing how a certain dress or pair of killer shoes can spike that confidence and allow us to act slightly different. For example, right now I am totally living la vida loca and purchased false eyelashes for fun. Daring, I know. But paired with my patent leather red platform shoes, who knows what I'll do?

Julia's book is entertaining and fun, a great debut novel. After I read the book, I actually dreamed that I owned such a dangerous dress!

Do you own a special garment, something that makes you feel dangerous? I would imagine I would feel dangerous in some Christian Louboutins or Jimmy Choos, it doesn't take much to make me happy.

Louboutins and Choos? Yikes. Let me confess: I can't wear high heels. Love them, but I'd kill myself. Bally flats are more my speed.Likewise, I don't own anything nearly as daring as the very dramatic 1920s "dangerous dress" in the novel. I do own a pretty fabulous blue suit that I bought at Armani Collezioni in Paris, which is my favorite store in the world. The suit is sexy AND powerful, which I like to think is a pretty dangerous combination.

Small towns like Kirland get a bad rap. We dream of escaping those stifling suburban places but then feel fondness for them later. Did you grow up in a small town or a big city?

I grew up in and around a big city, but since then I've lived in many places, and I've got very special connections to a small town in Indiana that's an awful lot like the fictional Kirland. Everywhere I've lived has had pluses and minuses; if I ever find the perfect place, I'll stay there forever!

If you had to leave your house suddenly in the middle of the night, what possessions would you grab on your way out the door?

Assuming my family (including my crazy dogs) was already safe outside, the first and most important thing I'd take would be my notebook computer -- not least because it's got the almost-finished manuscript of my next novel on it. After that, wedding pics and other family photos. Oh, and my first edition of "The Sun Also Rises," if I had time to dig it out.

What song on the radio always gets you pumped up and ready for the day? What song relaxes you? And what song makes you feel ten years old?

I'm not so sure about "ready for the day," but songs like Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker" and "Love Is a Battlefield," and Alanis Morisette's "You Oughta Know," really get me pumped. (Does that mean I have an angry side?) Early Elton John puts me in a really peaceful place -- classics like "Your Song," "Tiny Dancer" and "Candle in the Wind."

And ten years old? I'll be revealing my age, but "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies and "Honky Tonk Woman" by the Rolling Stones -- how's that for a weird combination?

Is there anything from this novel based on your own experiences? When you were growing up, where did you dream of living and what did you dream of doing?

There's certainly a lot of me, and people close to me, in Jane Stuart, the protagonist of the book. I've spent plenty of time in all the places Jane goes, from sleepy Indiana to fabulous Paris and New York. And some of the incidents were inspired by real events. For example, a woman really did walk out of the dressing room at Armani Collezioni wearing her dress backwards ... although the consequences in the book are much more dramatic than they were in real life.

Growing up, I had a pretty narrow frame of reference; I never dreamed I'd go to all the places I've actually been. But as corny as it sounds, I really did always dream of being a writer. And here I am. Wow.

You write with such detail about Paris, obviously you have spent a lot of time there. What do you love about the city? From the pastries to the cafes to the Seine and the vintage shops, it sounds like paradise. Just tell me when to pack my bags and I'll be there.

It's much easier to tell you what I DON'T love about Paris: the traffic and the cigarette smoke. Everything else, I love. It's an amazingly beautiful city, and one of the greatest places in the world just to walk around. Needless to say, the food, the wine, the shopping, the all-around style of the place, are all just incomparable.

When my family and I go, here's our itinerary: we walk, we shop, we eat, we drink, all in large quantities. No matter how much time I spend there, it's never enough. Maybe that's one of the reasons I love to write about it -- I get to visit even when I'm not there. Not surprisingly, Paris is the main setting of my second novel as well.

Would you like to see the book made into a movie? How does that process work?

Is this a trick question? I wouldn't like it, I'd LOVE it. And I guess I've got a little bit of a head start, first because my terrific agent, Bill Contardi, has done a lot of movie rights deals for many years, so he's very well connected, and second because I know a few people as well, from my years working in and around the industry. So that makes it sound easy, right?

Unfortunately, not so easy. There's a lot of luck involved. Timing, over which we authors have absolutely no control, can be a key factor. If your book comes out right after the most recent chick-lit book-to-film has flopped, nobody's buying. You've just got to hang in there, stay connected to people, and try to be in the right place at the right time with the right property. (Needless to say, I think it'd make a GREAT movie.)

What are you working on right this minute? What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?

Right this minute, I'm working desperately to finish the manuscript of my next novel. It's called ONE DANCE IN PARIS, and it's due out July 2007. It has a few things in common with the first book, including Paris -- but this is a sexier book with a very different heroine, and, for that matter, a very different side of Paris. I love it.

Ten years from now? I sure hope I'm still writing books. I'd better be, because I've got lots of stories to tell.


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