Today I’m celebrating a debut from a talented author who has also become a good friend.
I “met” Julie Valerie back in 2013 when she kindly reviewed, and helped spread the word, about my first romantic comedy, Saving Saffron Sweeting. Since then, I’ve watched with admiration as she has finished her own novel, honed her craft, and read about a gazillion words of women’s fiction in support of other authors.
And I couldn’t be more excited that this week sees the official release of Julie’s debut, Holly Banks Full of Angst, published by Lake Union and already a Number 1 New Release on Amazon.
A laugh-out-loud debut novel for anyone who’s tried to live the perfect life—and learned the hard way there’s no such thing.
Julie’s caught up in a whirl of publicity this week, and she’s also working hard on the second in the series. So I’m super grateful she found a few minutes to chat with me:
1) Holly is a unique protagonist and Primm is a distinctive setting for the book. Which formed first in your mind: the character, or her fictional village?
The first to form in my mind was definitely a character, but it wasn’t the protagonist, Holly Banks, as you might have expected. It was the antagonist, Mary-Margaret St. James. She was speaking so clearly to me; I wrote an entire first draft of the novel in second-person POV with Mary-Margaret as the only “voice” speaking. This gave me the time and space to discover who she was, what motivated her, and to (hopefully) capture her in a way readers would enjoy. She spoke in volumes I had to quiet before placing her on the page, and it took many revisions to find out who she was and what she wanted from the first book. More than any other aspect of Holly Banks Full of Angst (Book One in the Village of Primm series), with the village itself as a close second, Mary-Margaret was my device for exploring, through satire, modern motherhood and the impossible standards and expectations we place on ourselves.
2) The minor characters in this novel were especially well developed, including the adorable canine! I’m dying to know, how much does Struggle resemble either of your own dogs?
Oh, Struggle is exactly like my chocolate English Labrador, Penny. Chloe, my yellow English Labrador, is a bit older and enjoys lounging around. But Penny? Oh, boy. She’s a rascal! Both are at my feet when I’m writing.
3) You’ve spent years working on your craft and your deal with a major publisher is well deserved. Have you made plans for celebrating now that your debut is released?
I have! At the encouragement (and insistence) of my husband, we will be gathering with family and friends for a launch party in my hometown. A chance to raise a glass and celebrate something I’ve spent years of my life building toward. I can’t wait!
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of Holly Banks Full of Angst. At first glance, this could strike you as a mom-novel about the tribulations moms face. But with a strikingly original voice and quirky humor, debut author Valerie offers a dizzying close-up of a highly relatable protagonist. I’m not a parent so I don’t generally gravitate to stressed-out family scenarios, but Holly is a memorable character who will resonate with any woman who’s ever agonized over not quite having her act together.
The novel takes place over just a few days and is packed with pithy encounters and plenty of heart. The energetic plot and zany dialog both throw down a gauntlet for the reader to keep up. True, there were a couple of characters I could cheerfully strangle, but the rest of the supporting cast was vividly endearing and will hopefully enjoy their own limelight in future Primm installments.
This book invites you to ponder the times when the very thing we’re striving for seems to elude us the most. And it’s impossible to read this without some regret for how women treat and judge each other in many walks of life. If you liked Bernadette Fox or Bridget Jones, be sure to give Holly Banks a try.
Holly Banks Full of Angst is out now as an ebook, paperback, and audiobook. Buy it here.
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