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.

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