I recently had the privilege to meet fellow Chicago author Julie James. Her new book, Just the Sexiest Man Alive has been causing quite a buzz in the publishing world. I was delighted to learn that Julie is every bit as smart and savvy as her well-drawn characters. If you haven’t checked out Just the Sexiest Man Alive yet, I recommend it wholeheartedly. And great news–the lovely Julie is giving away a signed copy of Just the Sexiest Man Alive to one commenter on her interview, below. Good luck!
COOL. CALM. COLLECTED.
Nothing fazes Taylor Donovan. In the courtroom she never lets the opposition see her sweat. In her personal life, she never lets any man rattle her”“not even her cheating ex-fiancé. So when she’s assigned to coachPeople’s “Sexiest Man Alive” for his role in his next big legal thriller, she refuses to fall for the Hollywood heartthrob’s charms. Even if he is the Jason Andrews.
CONFIDENT. FAMOUS. IRRESISTIBLE.
Jason Andrews is used to having women fall at his feet. When Taylor Donovan gives him the cold shoulder, he’s thrown for a loop. She’s unlike any other woman he’s ever met: uninterested in the limelight, seemingly immune to his advances, and shockingly capable of saying no to him. She’s the perfect challenge. And the more she rejects him, the more he begins to realize that she may just be his perfect match. . .
Julie’s Interview Questions
B: Tell us a bit about yourself—both the person and the writer.
J: Thanks so much for having me! I guess the person and the writer are intertwined… Before I started writing, I practiced law at a large firm in Chicago specializing in employment discrimination defense (sexual harassment, race and gender discrimination, etc.). A few years into that, being a huge movie buff, I came up with what I thought was a good idea for a romantic comedy. I wrote the screenplay, and, knowing no one in Hollywood, had to do things the old-fashioned way: I queried agents and managers. There was some interest in my script, and I signed with an agent who optioned it to a big producer in Hollywood. That was my start into writing… As for me, the person, I still live in Chicago with my husband, son and golden retriever. Some random tidbits about me as an author: I love writing at night, although having a toddler isn’t exactly conducive to being a night-owl, so I’ve had to learn to be more productive during the daytime. And I drink lots of wine when writing a sex scene. ; )
B: Your debut novel Just the Sexiest Man Alive has really made readers and critics alike sit up and take notice. What would you want to tell a reader before they delved into your book?
J: I’ve been overwhelmed and thrilled by the response to the book! I guess what I’d tell readers is that I’m a fan of the older, dialogue-driven romantic comedies, films that are all about the back-and-forth banter between the female and male leads. So that’s the style I wanted to incorporate in this book– with a modern edge. I’m also all about a strong heroine, particularly in this case, where the hero, Jason Andrews, is one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood. With the not-at-all-subtle, cocky attitude he’s developed after years of getting everything he wants, I needed a heroine that could put him in his place– which she does, again and again. And that’s where the humor comes in (hopefully)– the man who could have any woman he wants finally meets the one he can’t get, and how this throws him completely for a loop.
B: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one book with you for entertainment and inspiration, what book would you chose?
J: Tough question, but I’d have to say Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice– because it both entertains and inspires me. Elizabeth Bennet, and the dynamic she has with Mr. Darcy, are the inspiration for much of my own writing.
B: Have you ever had an “˜impact’ event that had a significant effect on your writing career: meeting another author, reading a certain book, being accepted by a longed-for publisher…getting hit over the head?
J: Sure– a few of them. The first was several years ago, when I was still kicking around the idea for my first screenplay, always saying that I’d start writing “one day.” But shortly before his death, my grandfather told me that if there was anything I wanted to do with my life, I should just take the plunge and do it– because you never knew what tomorrow would bring. That was the kick in the pants I needed to start writing. Two other significant events would have to be signing with my film and literary agents. My film agent because he took a chance on me when I only had one script, and launched my writing career. And then later, when my literary agent came on board, she started this amazing journey writing novels for Berkley.
B: What’s the hardest part about being an author? The easiest?
J: Ooh… tough questions! For me, the hardest part is accepting that my writing process is my own. I sometimes start to get caught up in how fast other authors write, how many novels they publish in a year, etc.– and I then have to take a step back and realize that what works for them might not work for me. I have a 22 month-old son at home, and sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day! As for the easiest part of being an author… hmm… probably the fact that I don’t have to do my hair and makeup to go to work. : )
B: Tell us about the follow-up novel to Just the Sexiest Man Alive, Practice Makes Perfect.
J: Practice Makes Perfect takes place in Chicago and is about two lawyers, a man and a woman, who can’t stand each other and have to fight it out for the one partnership spot at their firm. It’s another romantic comedy, a battle-of-the-sexes story with a lot of humor and hijinks and a hero and heroine who think they’re totally wrong for each other.
B: You’re an attorney turned screenwriter and author. Tell us about the transformation.
J: One of the things that is/was most frustrating on the screenwriting side of things is that I write scripts with female leads. In Hollywood, it’s extremely difficult to get a movie made, but about ten times more so if the main character is a woman. Studios worry that “female-driven” movies don’t bring in as much at the box office. So it’s great to write in a medium where there are no such concerns. One other thing that’s nice is how much more character development you can include in a book– screenplays have to be kept to a certain length, so you need to be more narrow-focused in which scenes you include.
B: Your dialogue has been praised as witty, snappy and funny. What are your favorite examples of dialogue from movies, books or plays? Care to share a small snippet here?
J: OMG, seriously, there’s so much to choose from, I don’t think I could name favorites! But I guess I can mention one movie that really made an impression on me: An American President. There are so many scenes in that movie that I love… especially their first meeting, where she tells him off in the middle of the Oval Office. And I also love his reaction to their meeting, later when he’s talking to his chief of staff:
President Shepherd: We had a nice couple of minutes together. She threatened me, I patronized her. Didn’t have anything to eat, but I thought there was a connection… She didn’t say anything about me?
A.J.: No, but I could always pass her a note before study hall.
B: You live in the heart of the most fabulous city in the United States. (Course I’m a bit partial.) How much influence does Chicago have in Just the Sexiest Man Alive and Practice Makes Perfect? Any thoughts on how it has influenced you as a writer. Also—what’s your favorite Chicago food? J
J: Chicago the actual city doesn’t come up too much in Just the Sexiest Man Alive, because the entire book is set in Los Angeles. But because the heroine, Taylor, and her friends and family are all from Chicago, there are many references to the city. But the way I did work the city in was to impress that Taylor is a midwestern girl, and how the whole Hollywood scene, at times, seems a little bizarre and foreign to her. But Practice Makes Perfect takes place in Chicago, and I like to think the book captures the law firm environment of that city. As for my favorite Chicago food, I’d have to go with Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza.
B: And the most important questions for last: red wine or white? Dark or milk chocolate? Boxers or briefs?
J: Red wine and milk chocolate– definitely. Even better if it’s at the same time. And I actually prefer boxer-briefs– boxers are too baggy, briefs can have the whole tighty-whitey thing working against them, but boxer-briefs are just right. : )
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Julie!