In Their Words: Julia Holden

Last year, I read two amazing books by Julia Holden. She was kind enough to grant me an interview when I contacted her to tell her how much I enjoyed her work, and I’ve just come up for air after writing a bunch of articles about term life insurance, so I thought it was time to post it. Because the name “Julia Holden” is a pseudonym, there’s no picture of the author, so instead, I offer pictures of the two books she penned under this name:

* * * * *
Julia’s Bio (in her words):
I have spend considerable portions of my life in Indiana, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, California, and Paris (France, not Texas), although not necessarily in that order. For seven years, I served as an executive for a major motion picture studio in Los Angeles, and I continue to work in and around the entertainment industry. My family and I are in the process of moving from Southern California to glorious, gorgeous Hawaii. For complicated reasons, personal and professional, “Julia Holden” is, alas, a pseudonym.The first, and only, creative writing class I ever took was in high school. My teacher was a nice man who wrote college recommendations for me (I went) and encouraged me to pursue a career in journalism (I didn’t). The teacher’s name was Mr. McCourt. Frank (Angela’s Ashes) McCourt. Who knew?

One Dance in Paris is my second novel, following A Dangerous Dress.

Like Linda Stone, the heroine of One Dance in Paris, I believe deeply in our capacity to reinvent ourselves in fabulous ways, and if that involves jetting off to fabulous places, all the better. Also like Linda (and like Jane Stuart, the heroine of A Dangerous Dress), I am deeply devoted to travel, fashion, and drinking lovely wines and cocktails in exotic locations. I satisfy those cravings in Paris and New York – and now, in my new home of Hawaii – as often as I possibly can. Unlike Linda in One Dance in Paris, I have never danced scandalously on the stage of the Folies Bergère. And, unlike Jane in A Dangerous Dress, I have not met Giorgio Armani.


* * * * *
Julia Holden’s most recent novel is One Dance in Paris. She can be found on the web at
* * * * *

In Their Words: Julia Holden (Part 1)


What question are you never, or rarely, asked in interviews, that you really wish people would ask? How would you answer it?
Considering that both my novels are set principally in Paris, I’m surprised nobody’s ever asked me for travel advice. I’ve got a lot of opinions – and if somebody wanted restaurant suggestions, or to know, for instance, where exactly that magical vintage clothing shop on the Left Bank really is, I’d tell them.

Conversely, what question are you often asked, that you really don’t like to answer? What don’t you like about that question (no, you don’t have to answer it)?
People want to know, what’s with the pseudonym? And I just have to say to them, sorry, I really can’t tell you, next question. I think my mistake was acknowledging publicly that it’s a pseudonym. Most readers would be amazed at how many of their favorite writers are … well, somebody else.

Who in your life was/is the greatest influence – good or bad – on your writing?
I took Frank McCourt’s creative writing class in the eleventh grade. That was decades before Angela’s Ashes, so nobody had any idea that he would someday be this amazing success. But I remember, he taught us that if you want to be a writer, you have to write. That sounds obvious, but it’s not. Writers can’t sit around and wait for inspiration. It’s a lot of work, and it requires enormous discipline. And the only way to get better is by doing it a lot. So I learned that from him – and then much later, when he became a huge phenom, that set a pretty inspiring example that it’s possible to make it even if you never managed to be a twenty-something wunderkind.

Do you write in longhand first, or do you compose at the keyboard? Tell us about your preferred pens, ink, paper, or platform and program.
Sometimes I’ll use pen and paper to outline, or make notes – but when it comes to the actual writing of prose, it’s all on the keyboard. Thank you, Hewlett-Packard, and also Microsoft for the ergonomic keyboard I need when I’m cranking under deadline. But if that sounds too much like a commercial, I’ll counteract it by saying that I use Word, but it’s an evil buggy program and I hate it.

What do you consider a “full day’s work” of writing? Do you measure by number of hours, or number of words? Do you spend time doing mundane chores so that you don’t have to write?
I still have a day job, so my “full day’s work” of writing is typically late at night, and, if I’m under serious deadline pressure, on the weekends. I wrote One Dance in Paris literally in just two months to get it in on time – that’s at least five pages a day, every day. And if I skipped a day, I had to make it up the next day, or on the weekend. So I didn’t have the luxury of distracting myself, with mundane chores or anything else, for that matter. Even just remembering, I get exhausted.

* * * * *
Julia Holden’s most recent novel is One Dance in Paris. She can be found on the web at
* * * * *


In Their Words: Julia Holden (Part 2)


What are you reading these days? Or, what types of things do you like to read when you have time?
I just read Patricia Wood’s Lottery, and I’m in the middle of Allegra Goodman’s Kaaterskill Falls. Very, very different books, but both quite wonderful.

Got tunes? What’s flowing from your headphones or speakers while you write?
Nothing. Silence. Total quiet. Sssshhhhhhhhhhh.

How do you start a project? Do you begin with a random idea or an urge to cover a topic, or does research inform your choices? Once you’ve got an idea, do you outline, or just write what comes?
That depends; so far, every project has been different. One Dance came about by kicking ideas around with my editor. Once we had the idea, I wrote a short synopsis – maybe five pages – and I pretty much wrote the book straight from that, without any formal outline. I did have to do some research, though, including reading a very informative but surprisingly dull book on the history of the Folies Bergère. And thank goodness for the Internet, which gives writers instant access to pretty much all the facts we might need.

By contrast, I just finished a screenplay; it took me only a couple of months to write, but before that, I had been cooking the idea for a full two years. And for what I think is going to be my next book project, I’m doing some serious outlining. I can’t tell you why each one is different; it just turns out that way.

Describe your ideal book signing. Is it in a large chain bookstore, or a smaller independent one? Is there a café? Do they have food and drinks that tie in with your book? What is the audience like?
As a pseudonymous author, my ideal book signing would be one that I could actually attend. The ideal audience would be large, enthusiastic, and in possession of substantial amounts of disposable income with which they intended to buy books. Specifically, mine.

Seriously, I would love to do book signings. Maybe someday. Maybe soon. (See answer to next question.)

Tell us a bit about your current project. What’s it about? When is it coming out? Is it drastically different from your last work, or continuing a similar theme? What do you want prospective readers to know?
Right now, I’m going in a very different direction for what I hope will be my next book. I can’t say much, except that it’s about ballet. And I’d like to publish it under my own name. I’ll probably be talking to my editor and publisher about it in the next few weeks … so wish me luck.

And what would I say to my readers? That’s easy: Thank you. Sincerely.

* * * * *
Julia Holden’s most recent novel is One Dance in Paris. She can be found on the web at
* * * * *


The Amber Spyglass

by Philip Pullman

There are books that you can read while laying flat on a mattress, and there are books you have to sit up to read. The Amber Spyglass, the final installment in the His Dark Materials trilogy is one of the latter. Despite the fact that I was nursing the cold that wouldn’t die while reading it, I was completely upright, reading about Lyra and Will, and their final journey through the world of the dead, and back to their own separate universes, finding love, and maturity, along the way.

Is it wrong of me to wish that my Zorro-dog was really a daemon like Pantalaimon, not for the shape-changing feature (which goes away once you reach a certain level of maturity anyway) but for the ability to communicate? As I was reading about Lyra and Pan I was often distracted by their relationship, wishing I could explain to Zorro why he’s taking all these pills.

Even so, it was a satisfying end to the story, and I’m probably going to pick up Lyra’s Oxford as well.