1) Who was your favorite character to write in this novel?
I really loved Julia, but I have to say that Roger was a close second. At the beginning of the story, Julia is at a crossroads in her life—a place where the decisions she makes are really important. She really comes into her own, takes responsibility, and becomes an adult during the story. Julia finally realizes that there are consequences to her mistakes and that she is the only person who can change the way her life is headed. It was so fulfilling to watch her grow as the novel progressed.
Roger was such fun because he is Julia’s complete opposite—always perfect and put-together, always ready to say the right thing, do the right thing. He’s a great host and loves coming to the rescue for Julia. And although he appears to be happy, he really has a deep, secret longing to travel to New York, but hasn’t had the confidence to make the trip. Julia’s visit changes that for Roger.
2) How is this novel different from the competition?
There are many novels about a character excited about moving to a big city or traveling to Paris or London, but Dixie follows a big city girl who visits a very small town. At the outset, she doesn’t want to go—in fact, she throws a hissy fit about it! She’s really a fish out of water—the accents, the food, the mannerisms are all foreign to her.
I think we’re all somewhat guilty of having preconceived notions or ideas about people and places we haven’t visited. The fun of this storyline involves Julia discovering how wrong she was about the Deep South. It’s a life-changing experience for her. It’s my hope that readers feel that Dixie honors and celebrates cultural differences.
3) Share a secret (or two) about this book in its development.
I really panicked about the title. I was unsure that readers would like it and didn’t want anyone to think it was erotica. The members of a book club I visited changed my mind—I was there talking about my first novel, Stay Tuned, and everyone asked about my next book. When I shared the title, everyone exclaimed and got really excited, so I knew then that I had to keep the “Naked” in Dixie.
Also, I began with the idea that PD’s pastry creation was going to be the “something special” that made people want to ‘Dance Naked,’ but the story was really Julia’s.
After thinking about it, I added the “I’d rather dance naked” comment to her new boss—underscoring how upset she was about being sent to Eufaula. It also provided some nice romantic tension at the end between Julia and Shug!
4) Share one secret about yourself.
I am such a girly-girl. I love the color pink. My phone cover is pink. I have a pink purse. I have a pink coffee mug. I am drawn to books with pink covers. The cover for my Kindle is pink. I even like pink food—raspberries and strawberries! And yes, I like pink clothes.
Knowing that I have to draw the line somewhere, I do not drive a pink car, have a pink laptop, or have a pink house. My husband and two boys would never forgive me!!
5) Who is your inspiration?
My inspiration as an author is Sophie Kinsella. I love the way she tells a story—and I appreciate that her characters aren’t perfect. I adore that her writing makes me laugh out loud!
I’m also inspired by people who overcome life’s almost-insurmountable obstacles. I love everyday heroes. I’m inspired by bravery and courage—the firefighters in 9/11, our country’s soldiers, the men and women who make incredible sacrifices to save lives and protect our freedom.