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Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone heat up the winter with erotic new series

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Sierra Simone and Julie Murphy — Photo by Danielle Nicole
Sierra Simone and Julie Murphy — Photo by Danielle Nicole

Julie Murphy, the famous author of Dumplin', has teamed up with Sierra Simone, the Queer author of the steamy American Prince and Sinner, to bring a little romance and a lot of heat to warm up the winter. Their new Christmas Notch series begins with A Merry Little Meet Cute and combines cozy winter vibes with tense moments of desire to kick off your 2024 reading list with a bang.

The release of A Merry Little Meet Cute came just in time for Murphy and Simone to celebrate their tenth friend anniversary. The two met in 2014 while debuting their respective first novels. "A friend of ours put together a little makeshift book tour in a minivan, and she invited both of us," Murphy and Simone said in a follow-up email after an interview with the SGN. "We like to say our friendship began with some great romance tropes: Forced proximity! There was only one bed!"

Collaborating on their new book was not challenging. Since their first tour together, Murphy and Simone have been inseparable. Not only do they critique each other's writing, but they also attend writing retreats and even family vacations together.

"Luckily, since we've been working side by side for so long and our friendship is so lived in, collaborating came naturally," they added. "It's been interesting to see how stress-free our collaborative projects are, compared to our solo work, and that comes down to the fact that we are each other's biggest fans."

Working with a friend has also helped Murphy and Simone learn how to treat themselves in stressful situations. They are more mindful of deadlines and offer each other kind words and grace when they come up against mistakes.

"It's forced us to be kinder to ourselves because neither of us would ever treat each other how we sometimes treat ourselves," they admitted.

Image courtesy of Avon  

Heat and whimsy
Murphy and Simone's inspiration for A Merry Little Meet Cute came to them on one of their writing retreats. Every year, they take a getaway to work on their craft around Christmas time. On one of their retreats, they were eating pie in bed and watching cheesy holiday romance movies when they realized that the production quality of a Lifetime or Hallmark film is not much different than adult films. Combining the heat of an adult erotic novel with the whimsy of a holiday romance got their gears turning, and ultimately became A Merry Little Meet Cute.

The book has a content warning that Murphy and Simone hope all readers catch before turning the first pages. While fans of Murphy may be looking for another book similar to Dumplin' and Puddin', this novel is specifically for readers 18 and up.

"It's been a leap, that's for sure," Murphy said about writing adult-only content. "On a personal level, I read so much romance, but transforming that into something I ... publish has been exciting."

Murphy is also grateful to the hardworking librarians and educators who dedicate their time to recommending and sometimes redirecting younger readers to more age-appropriate LGBTQ+ books. "It's made the messaging of this series much clearer," she said.

Simone also saw A Merry Little Meet Cute as a challenge to step away from what she usually does. "The series has really been a departure for both of us, and yet it still contains so many hallmarks of both our work," she said. "While it's not as spicy as my solo books, readers will be excited to see that we don't hold back." Simone was also happy to write a book with "way less angst" than her typical erotica.

Romance is for everyone
Murphy and Simone hope readers who visit Christmas Notch see that romance is for everyone. The characters in the series are more than picture-perfect, airbrushed images. They look and feel like real people — and like real people, they deserve love, pleasure, and romance.

"We want readers to see that a place like Christmas Notch doesn't just exist for people with flawless reputations and perfect bodies and perfectly packaged needs and desires," Simone and Murphy said in the follow-up email. "The characters in our series are kooky little misfits, but they're also complicated and contending with big life issues and choices. Those two things can coexist."

The Christmas Notch series centers on a different-sex Bisexual couple, which Simone and Murphy felt was integral to getting the heart of the book across to readers. "One of the most powerful things about Queerness is that it lends creativity and generosity to everything it touches, and as Bisexual people ourselves, we wanted to bring those things to the world of Christmas Notch," they added.

"Especially in a medium as typically heteronormative as the made-for-TV holiday movie industry, it was really important to us that our story didn't establish straightness as a default, and that the Queer lens of the protagonists — even in a relationship that a lot of the world would read as straight — would give Bee and Nolan more nuance and insight into things like sex work, consensual nonmonogamy, and body positivity."

Murphy and Simone have been hard at work. Their second book, A Holly Jolly Ever After, was released at the end of 2023. The final installment of the series will hit shelves in October 2024. In the meantime, readers can also check out a digital-only novella (set between books 1 and 2) called Snow Place Like Home.