“If The Shoe Fits” Interview with Julie Murphy

“Happily ever after can be for everyone no matter their shape or size. It’s up to us.”

Loosely inspired by Disney’s Cinderella, If The Shoe Fits introduces readers to Cindy Woods, a young woman who has just graduated with a degree in design and is wondering what comes next. Summoned back to live and work for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of reality TV show Before Midnight, Cindy grapples with facing aspects of her past and trying to plan for her future. When a spot on Before Midnight needs filing, Cindy takes a chance and volunteers herself for the position, thinking the exposure might kick off her long-awaited career in fashion.

Little does Cindy know that being the only plus-size woman on a reality dating competition takes the world (and the internet) by storm. Not only does she get the exposure she set out to achieve, she also finds inspiration and love in the process. Ultimately, if the shoe doesn’t fit, Cindy learns that perhaps it might be time to design your own.

If The Shoe Fits is filled with memorable quotes and valuable lessons (some of these are discussed in my review of the book). So, just as it was enjoyable to read the latest novel by NYT Best-Selling author Julie Murphy, it was equally delightful to chat to Julie about her book, prior projects, Cinderella and the pursuit of one’s own happily ever after.

Julie! Thanks for chatting with us. You were a New York Times Bestselling author before If The Shoe Fits so you are no stranger to writing. Tell us a little bit about your career to date and some of the things you have learned along the way.

I’ve been really lucky to be publishing since 2014 and have done everything from young adult to middle grade to screenwriting and now adult books. Dumplin’, my sophomore novel, came out in 2015 and was later adapted into a Netflix original, and I was really luck to be able to be a part of that with Jennifer Aniston and Dolly Parton. Currently, I live in Texas with my husband, our dog, and two cats. I write full time.

If The Shoe Fits was released on August 3rd. How have you been celebrating?

I used to really relish in book releases, and I still do celebrate with friends and family, but for me the real celebration is when I complete my deadlines. That’s the most exciting part on my end. Seeing the book in person and in stores is so special, of course, but the best part of writing any book is…well, writing it!

How would you describe this book?

If The Shoe Fits is a modern day rom-com retelling of Disney’s classic Cinderella. In this version, our main character is Cindy and she’s a young plus-size woman and recently graduated fashion student who finds herself as a contestant on a reality television dating show. It’s full of heart, humor, and a good slow burn romance. It’s definitely teen and adult friendly, so while I love a good juicy romance, this is definitely one you could shamelessly co-read with your mom.

Tell us a little bit about how you ended up working with Disney on this project.

Well, because this was a project that originated with the publisher (Disney), so they scouted for authors and I was lucky to be the first to sign on and have my pick of the princesses. I like to think of it as a ball, but for authors. Ha!

In writing If The Shoe Fits, you use a loose framework provided by the traditional Cinderella story but you ultimately build a retelling all your own. What do you consider some of the significant parts of the traditional Cinderella story that inspired or otherwise provided some guidance in the story you wanted to tell in If The Shoe Fits?

I love that at the heart of every classic Disney princess is kindness and bravery, so those two things were really my guiding lights. Other than that, the aspects of the original that I really connected with were the family dynamics, the shoes, and the fairy godmother as well as all the the little helpers (in the form of mice!) Cinderella encounters along the way.

What clear deviations from the traditional Cinderella story did you want to make and why?

I think the one readers will pick up on immediately is the way I’ve revamped Cindy’s step family. In this take, Cindy comes from a blended family that is complicated, realistic, and supportive even though they’re not perfect.

For me, one of the best parts about this story is that Cindy paves her own path. The fairytale doesn’t shimmer into existence around her. No fairy godmother appears to make it all better. Cindy creates her own opportunities and experiences and pushes herself to see just how far she can go when she believes in herself. What do you think are the key thematic takeaways, or what themes resonate most with you, from If The Shoe Fits and why?

In my own work, it is deeply important to me that my main characters have agency. I truly believe that while some things happen for a reason, at the end of the day, we are the designers of our own fate. Happily ever after can be for everyone no matter their shape or size. It’s up to us.

Was Cindy inspired by someone in particular or did you draw from numerous people or points of inspiration in creating her character?

As with any character I write, there’s never one specific inspiration. It’s always a smattering of experiences and moments.

Who is your favorite character in this story and why?

I would have to say that Bex is pretty close to my heart. I love anyone who can see there’s a problem with a machine (in this case Hollywood) and decides to change it from the inside.

Without giving too much away, what is your favorite scene or chapter in If The Shoe Fits and why?

Oooooh, I’m going to be sparse on details, but I would have to say the big NYC scene! Broadway, dumplings, and sneaking off for stolen moments!

What was the most rewarding part about writing this story? What was the most challenging part?

I think the most daunting thing was knowing that Cinderella's story is one that so many people know and treasure, so I wanted to honor the original while also creating something that was different and did things that the original couldn't or didn't do. It was all about learning to pay homage while creating something that was totally new and exciting. And I think the most rewarding aspect had to be getting to bring a plus size version of Cinderella to life. It was something I never thought I’d get to see—let alone do!

What is next for Julie Murphy?

I’ve got the second book in the Faith duology coming out November 2nd, and then next year I’ll be releasing Bee Merry, an adult holiday rom-com that I’m co-authoring with one of my best friends.

What do you ultimately hope readers get out of If The Shoe Fits?

I hope readers walk away with the truth that each and every one of us deserves our own happily ever after regardless of what society has led you to believe. Not only that, but we deserve to have stories that reflect that.