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After the Success of Dumplin’, Arlington Author Makes Christmas Raunchy

Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ was a New York Times bestseller and a movie starring Jennifer Anniston scored by Dolly Parton. Now, Murphy and her co-author take on Christmas. Bonus: a podcast!
| |Photography by Danielle Jenkins
Julie Murphy
Shelf Love: Murphy and her co-author, Sierra Simone, split the book into two points of view, each not sure where the plot would lead. Danielle Jenkins

Julie Murphy is the most successful young-adult author working in Arlington. Her 2015 book Dumplin’ became a New York Times bestseller and the 2018 Jennifer Aniston movie of the same title. Now she has gone a bit more graphic with her latest novel, A Merry Little Meet Cute, about a plus-size porn star who is accidentally cast in a wholesome Christmas movie and falls in love with an old childhood crush who grew up to join a boy band and now needs to rehab his career.

My wife made me watch Dumplin’ and so I’m angry with you because I absolutely cried my eyes out. I guess that’s more of a statement than a question. I accept your statement.

Are you and Jennifer Aniston and Dolly Parton best friends now? We’re all best friends. We get together for a yearly vacation. Obviously Dolly and Jen foot the bill. No, they are wonderful and kind women, and I’m really thankful to them for letting me ride their coattails throughout that whole experience.

Dumplin’ was only your second book. Has its insane success afforded you more freedom as a writer, or has it saddled you with expectations? It’s definitely like a double-edged sword. I work with really fantastic people in the publishing side who don’t have otherworldly expectations of me. So any pressure that I might feel is definitely self-originated. At the same time, it has allowed me to say no to projects that I might have felt obligated to do previously. 

“We wanted to write something that was totally raunchy and Christmas-y.” 

A Merry Little Meet Cute is a stylistic departure for you. It comes with a warning that it’s “a VERY spicy adult romance.” How spicy? It’s rated R and maybe more. My best friend Sierra Simone and I were so excited to work on something together, but she writes really taboo romance. And so we wanted to create something that my readers would gravitate toward, which is definitely more of a rom-com, and her readers feel really satisfied and excited about. We wanted to write something that was totally raunchy, totally funny, and also like wholesome and Christmas-y. 

You’re a champion of body positivity. How does a plus-size sex scene differ from traditional fare? There are two answers. The first is, it doesn’t differ. People of all sizes fall in love. But at the same time, there are things that people who are plus size think and feel about their body. Their expectations, especially in the bedroom—nerves and things like that. 

What’s your favorite euphemism for the naughty bits? I think that “member” is really funny. It reminds me of old bodice rippers. There are words that wouldn’t work in a D Magazine interview.

Come on. Try us. There’s a lot of use of the word “taint.” I love using anatomically correct words, because for so long romance was all about using words like “her flower.” Using a combination of those two is the most modern way to go, to have a few euphemisms but also just call a thing what it is. 

As a former librarian, do you think this book should be banned? No one cares about banning a romance novel like this, but people actually genuinely care about banning my young adult novels, where there’s a boy who loves drag queens, or there’s a girl who thinks she might be queer. Books are a safe place for kids to explore scary situations, and wouldn’t you much rather have your kid get to rehearse those big, emotional moments in their life via a book? And if you’re banning books and you’re telling your kid what to read based on things that make you uncomfortable, then you’re probably also not talking to your kid about really harsh realities or, you know, simple important things like sex.

As an Arlington resident, what do you think of Zeke Elliott’s recent statement that he won’t drive to Arlington unless he has to? I am googling Zeke Elliott right now. [laughs, googles] Oh! He plays for the Cowboys and won’t drive to Arlington? My best defense of my hometown is I stay in Arlington because I want Arlington to be better. Our dining options are lacking. So are our cultural options. But the people that are here and the people who own small businesses are really what make Arlington, not those two giant stadiums, which I really can’t stand and have voted against at every opportunity. But I do love our small-business owners. 

Even though A Merry Little Meet Cute is not my genre, I have to read it now. You’ve got one sale right here. Oh, thank you. I’m so incredibly honored. And if you need a replacement word for “taint,” please just shoot me an email.

This story originally appeared in the December issue of D Magazine with the headline, “It’s Sexy Time.” Write to [email protected].


Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…

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