Holly James holds a PhD in psychology and has worked in both academia and the tech industry. She loves telling stories with big hearts and a touch of magic. She currently lives in Southern California with her husband and dog. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.
In this post, Holly discusses going from a thriller writer to comedy and romance, leading to her new novel, Nothing But The Truth, and more!
Name: Holly James
Literary agent: Melissa Edwards
Book title: Nothing But The Truth
Release date: July 12, 2022
Genre/category: Women’s Fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: On the eve of her 30th birthday and a big promotion, a Hollywood publicist makes a wish that leaves her unable to lie. She spends the next day honestly and hilariously confronting all the mistruths women have to face just to get by in everyday life.
What prompted you to write this book?
I got the idea for this book in the late summer of 2020 when I’d been working from home for about five months. I distinctly recall lying on my bed one day thinking about how much happier I was not going through the routine of doing my hair and makeup to get ready to go into my office. Not to mention, spending the day working from home in much more comfortable clothes. That realization made me wonder why I had ever gone through that process in the first place. Where did those expectations come from? What would happen if I stopped complying?
Around that same time, my husband was one day randomly watching the Jim Carrey movie Liar Liar, and it struck me how different that story would be if it was about a woman and all the lies that she couldn’t tell in daily life. The two ideas merged, and a story was born about a woman unable to lie to herself or anyone else about all the societal expectations women put up with just to get by in life.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I got the idea for this book in late summer of 2020 and wrote it in about eight weeks. Part of that speed was thanks to me going stir crazy in pandemic lockdown and needing an escape! My agent sent it out on submission in January of 2021, and we had offers within two weeks. It sold at auction in early February 2021 and will be out on shelves July 2022. The core idea stayed the same from start to finish. The only changes were around the logic of the magic in the story and how certain scenes played out.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
I originally signed with my agent as a thriller writer. My first book didn’t sell, and when the pandemic hit, something in my brain shifted to wanting to write comedy and romance. This book really was an experiment! After my fist book (thriller) didn’t sell while on submission for several months, I was pleasantly surprised, if not shocked, that Nothing But the Truth sold at auction in only a few weeks! It was a whirlwind by comparison and a big learning moment for me that I can write in this genre.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
Similar to the above response, I was surprised I could even write in this genre. Up until the summer of 2020 when I started drafting this story, I’d only been working on thrillers. I honestly didn’t know I had comedy in me! After the first few chapters, I sent it to my most trusted and reliable beta reader to safely check if it was any good, and I got immediate demand for the rest of the book. Since writing this book, I’ve sold another in the same genre and am onto my third. I feel like it was a gateway to the genre I was meant to write all along. So, yes, the whole process was a big and very welcome surprise!
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope that readers will connect with Lucy and her story in a way that impacts their own life. If this book helps anyone realize they don’t have to follow the status quo set for women for anything as trivial as wearing uncomfortable underwear all the way up to speaking up about mistreatment at work or in any aspect of life, I will count myself extraordinarily fortunate. I also hope they laugh along the way.
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
Allow yourself that bad first draft. I used to put so much pressure on the first draft coming out perfect. Once I gave myself the freedom of just letting the story flow and knowing I could come back and improve it later, my writing process (and the quality of my work!) got so much better. I love the sentiment that the first draft is you telling yourself the story. Keeping that in mind really allows me to relax and follow it where it goes instead of worrying about getting every word right from the start.