Last week, we announced the first-ever B + C Book Club with our pick of Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Have you snagged your copy yet? We’ve been reading furiously, giggling and swooning over Willowdean’s world. Today, we’re chatting with NYTimes best-selling author Julie Murphy about her captivating novel. Did you know Dumplin’ has already been optioned for a movie? You better believe we’re asking her all about it. We’re also sharing our first reviews of Dumplin’ — it’s no surprise that these reviews involve A LOT of exclamation points! Scroll on to get the lowdown on Julie’s writing process, her must-read books and more!
Julie Murphy Chats All Things Dumplin’
B+C: Willowdean often turns to Dolly Parton’s music for confidence. What are your go-to pick-me-ups, rituals, tunes and favorite quotes for reminding yourself how much of a bad a** you are?
JM: Dolly is a huge one for me, of course, but Beyonce, Mika, Lorde, Queen, The Polyphonic Spree and the soundtrack to Chicago always get me going. Sometimes, depending on the project a certain movie will really get me juiced. For Side Effects May Vary, it was actually Blue Valentine. And my WRITE LIKE A MOTHERF*CKER mug ($15) always gets me pretty pumped, too. Oh! And Ursula singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” I’m all over the place here, but I think you’ve just got find things that make your heart pound and then sit down at your laptop or drafting table or whatever it is and let that energy translate.
B+C: Dumplin’ is refreshingly sex-positive — though only one character is actually having sex, it’s something the characters talk about frequently, and there isn’t any stigma of shame attached to it. Was this a conscious decision on your part? How did this sex-positive message tie into the book’s larger message about body-positivity (if at all)?
JM: This was 100 percent on purpose and something that I am so thrilled readers are picking up on. It’s one thing to love your body, but it’s a whole other battle to love your body when someone else is touching you. Body positivity means learning to respect and love yourself — and that’s in regard to sex too! I could answer this question for days.
B+C: In the novel, Willowdean and Ellen experience a friend-break of sorts — did you draw inspiration from your own life for this plot line?
JM: I did! When I was in the early stages of drafting this book, my best friend and I went out for sushi and she dropped a bomb. She explained that she and her wonderful husband were ready to start a family. I immediately started bawling and asked, “But what about me??” I know that sounds insane and makes me sound like a horrible friend, but I really couldn’t fathom how I could possibly fit into this new life she was embarking on. It took a while for me to come around to the idea, but I got over myself and guess what? Her daughter is amazing and I love her as much as I love my best friend. But man, that was terrifying. Willowdean and Ellen have a couple different issues, but that alienation Willowdean felt was the initial driving force and it was something that felt familiar.
B+C: Tell us about three under-rated books our readers should check out.
Bonus adult nonfiction pick: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty.
B+C: Dumplin,’ The Movie: Can you give us any details?! Do you have a dream Willowdean or Bo in mind?
JM: I don’t have many details as of yet, but I do know that the hunt for a screenwriter is on! I’m so horribly boring in that these characters exist so fully in my head that I’ve had problems coming up with a dream cast. I would love for Willowdean to be an unknown, because there aren’t many current actresses out there who fit the bill. Though she’s too old, a younger Rebel Wilson might fit the bill. Because we see Bo through Willowdean’s eyes, it’s easy to think he’s a total dreamboat, but I think a slightly more normal looking guy like Dylan O’Brien could work.
Brit + Co Chats DUMPLIN’
What’s a book club without dishing about the characters, predicting story lines and even disagreeing over characters’ intentions and actions. With an adorable and supremely engaging novel like Dumplin’, it’s hard not to get riled up with thoughts. Scroll on to read our initial thoughts and reviews of the novel, and let us know if you agree or disagree in the comments below!
“I’m fat. It’s not a cuss word. It’s not an insult. At least not when I say it. So I always figure why not get it out of the way.” — Willowdean. Hello, body positivity! What are your thoughts when you read this? Would your teenage self have agreed with Willowdean?
Terri Hintz, Brand Partnerships: I love Willowdean’s attitude about her weight, and when she says it like that, it seems so simple and right! Duh! It’s not a cuss word, it’s not an insult. People made it into an insult. I tell my kids now (that they are hearing “swear words” from other kids) that words are just words. It’s more about the intention and the meaning behind it. I think so many people use the word “fat” in a mean way, but what she’s saying is so true. It’s not much different than saying she’s blonde. Or she’s tall/short. I think it’s in the delivery and the intent.
Jillienne, Account Executive: I appreciate Willowdean’s approach, but I don’t agree. Many people use it as an insult, a way to put ourselves or others down. She says her take is different, but a few characters seem to view weight in a really negative light. I was pretty chubby as a kid. Not fat, but not as slender as I’d have liked. As a teenager, I was super self-body critical. Fat may have been the worst cuss word out there. I’d have absolutely disagreed with Will’s view on it.
Camille, Manager Brit + Co Shop (SF): WHOOOOO HOOOOO! GO WILLOWDEAN!!! Bow down to the body positivity queen! This made me extremely happy. I started wishing that I had this strength in high school. I took everything as an insult or as criticism in my teenage years. I was never strong enough to go: “F** you, I am what I am.” Self acceptance should be a required class in high school and Willow-body-positivity-queen-dean should be the teacher.
For Willowdean, the Clover City beauty pageant represents all of the values that her town and her mom hold dear. Growing up, what was your version of the Clover City beauty pageant? Were you on the outside like Willowdean, or a full participant?
Jen, Director, Creative Brand Partnerships: I grew up in a salt-of-the-earth midwestern town that also had a beauty pageant, and cheerleaders, and football players and all that went along with it. Beauty queens and jocks alike fit in, and I fell into the jock category. So I guess you can say I was a full participant.
Erika, Product Manager: Like most high schools, cheerleaders ruled supreme in my high school. I always felt so far outside of what people considered cool, or even acceptable. I think it was because I was a runner and kinda enjoyed being tomboy-ish. I lived in my running shorts and tee shirts for four years straight. I didn’t enjoy dressing up, and like Willowdean, [I] hated that the girls inside that group made it clear I didn’t belong. It was really hurtful.
What are your thoughts on Bo? Do you think he’s bad news or good news?
Kelly, DIY Editor: What!! I think he is a good guy! He seems so sweet and innocent. He seems to care for Willowdean a lot and see who she really is inside. I like him — watch, he’s the one to kill her in the end. Haha just kidding — I don’t think anyone gets murdered in this book.
Jen: I’m having a similar reaction to Bo as I did to Edward Cullen in the Twilight series. As in not good. Seems like what “feels” the most like love to us as teenagers — that super angsty, lusty, dramatic kind of L.O.V.E. — ends up being a pretty weird power-struggle relationship that’s very unhealthy and blows up in flames. But then again, Bella ended up happy in Team Edward at the end of the day, so what do I know?!?
Camille: Bo!!! OMG Bo. He’s mysterious, dreamy and quiet. What high school girl wouldn’t swoon? High school me would be doodling his name in hearts all over my notebooks right now. He’s standing up for Will and there’s subtle actions that make me think he’s actually interested. I so badly want to believe he’s good news gorilla! Although… I might be reading too much into the small things going on around him, but he also sounds like bad news bears. All high school boys are bad news bears! For now, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I’M ROOTING FOR YOU, BO.
Stay tuned next week, when we tackle a tasty, Dumplin’-inspired DIY that you’ll want to serve at your own book club Until then, happy reading, y’all!
Have you started reading Dumplin’ yet? Do you agree or disagree with these answers? Let us know in the comments below!