Known for her New York Times Bestselling book Dumplin’, Julie Murphy is stepping into the world of adult romance with her latest title, If The Shoe Fits, and it’s one fans won’t want to miss. A modern retelling of the Cinderella story, If The Shoe Fits follows recent fashion graduate Cindy as she volunteers to fill a last minute vacancy on her mother’s hugely successful reality dating show. Suddenly thrust into the national spotlight, Cindy quickly realizes she might find more than just a spot in the fashion industry, she might just find love. We had the pleasure of chatting with Julie about bringing Cindy’s story to life and the creativity it takes to modernize a tale as well known as Cinderella. Check out the interview below!
Nerds and Beyond: First off, congratulations on the book! It’s really a fantastic read, I fell in love with it instantly. Tell me a little about your research and creative process for writing If The Shoe Fits.
Julie Murphy: Thank you so much! I really dove into researching reality television dating shows and read any memoirs or books I could get my hands on. Of course, no research would be complete with some binge watching, so I dove into The Bachelor, of course, but also competitive shows like Project Runway and more sensationalized shows like Love Island.
Nerds and Beyond: You’ve proven how versatile and skilled you are at stepping into different realms of storytelling with contemporary middle-grade and YA, superheroes in Faith Takes Flight and now you’re venturing into adult romance with a fairytale twist. Did you find it challenging to shift into this genre or was it as effortless as it reads?
Julie Murphy: Crafting a book is never as effortless as (I hope) it looks, but this one definitely felt like a natural progression. I love romance and that’s at the core of this story. Getting to work in all of the fairytale nods was such a fun bonus, and doing it in a contemporary setting was definitely something I felt comfortable with. I’ve been wanting to move into the adult space for a while, and this book felt like a nice stepping stone to do that with. The content of the book itself is on the mild side for romance, so I really feel like YA readers can pick up this one and feel right at home while adult readers will still find some of their favorite tropes and hallmarks.
Nerds and Beyond: You’re well known for writing beautiful plus-sized characters already, was it important to continue that with Cindy and her experience in the world of fashion and reality tv?
Julie Murphy: The first thing I knew above all was that Cindy would be plus size. What’s so exciting about the Meant To Be line is the chance to reimagine the classic princess stories for a modern audience. The majority of women are a size sixteen and above. It made sense on a personal and global level that Cindy would be plus size. As for the fashion and the reality television…it was the perfect way to bring the gowns, the balls, and that infamous glass slipper to a 2021 audience.
Nerds and Beyond: Cindy is now definitely one of my favorite protagonists. She’s so relatable, do characters come to you fully formed or do their personalities fall into place as you write?
Julie Murphy: It’s really a discovery process for me as I write. Each draft peels back new layers as the characters slowly reveal themselves. That said, there are always certain goals and characteristics that I have in mind for each character long before I even open my file.
Nerds and Beyond: How did you decide what elements of the Cinderella tale to keep and what to alter?
Julie Murphy: I knew I wanted to do something more dimensional with Cindy’s step family. I love a good villain just as much–if not more so–than anyone else, but blended families are complicated. That fact, combined with Cindy’s insecurities and grief, was enough conflict without vilifying her stepmom and stepsisters. However, there’s still some of that original Tremaine energy. It just manifested in a different way. Of course, I had to indulge myself by writing in plenty of other easter eggs. A fairy godmother, three little mice, the pumpkin carriage, the clock striking midnight, and of course the glass slipper! The breadcrumbs are there!
Nerds and Beyond: Did you find it more or less challenging to work from the Cinderella tale and pull it into the modern day?
Julie Murphy: It was a really exciting challenger, and honestly some of the most fun I’ve had writing in a long time. I was able to do things like give Cindy ambition and even some more dimension to prince charming. The best part about retellings is having the opportunity to reexamine.
Nerds and Beyond: The story has a lot of light-hearted and romantic moments but it’s also laced with moments of grief and stress for Cindy. How did you strike that perfect balance between those different emotional elements?
Julie Murphy: That’s just life. It’s authentic and realistic. No single day or even moment is perfect. Our joy always exists with our grief, so it always feels like a very natural state for my novels to exist in.
Nerds and Beyond: I love Cindy’s passion for shoes and really all fashion. Are you a fashion lover yourself?
Julie Murphy: I’m a huge fashion fiend. When I graduated high school, my family experienced a financial crisis, but before that, I had been accepted to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in LA. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend, but that dead end led me to where I am today, so it all turned out okay if I do says so myself.
Nerds and Beyond: Cindy and Henry’s romance is truly a whirl-wind, sweep you off your feet kind of story. Did you have a favorite scene or moment to write for these two?
Julie Murphy: Ooooh! I love all their walkie-talkie chats and I think their time in NYC is pretty special too.
Nerds and Beyond: What do you hope readers will take away from If The Shoe Fits?
Nerds and Beyond: I always have two hopes for every book I write. First, I focus on plus size characters, because I am plus size and I never had the opportunity to see myself in stories. Especially stories like Cindy’s, so my first hope is that someone out there reads If The Shoe Fits or any of my books and realizes that each of us are worthy of being the main character or the love interest or the iconic princess. And my second hope is that my books widen the path for more books like this to come.
Nerds and Beyond: You’ve churned out two books already in 2021, what’s next for the amazing Julie Murphy?
Well, if you can believe it, I have a third 2021 book out in November. I’ll be releasing, Faith Greater Heights, the second book in the Faith Duology. And then next year, I’ve got a second adult book on deck. Exciting stuff!