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Talking with Bill Surie

The unlikely author of ”Holly’s Inbox” on the book’s inspiration and channeling the opposite sex

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Holly’s Inbox, all 665 pages of it, is a peek into the mind of Holly Denham — a charming, unlucky-in-love British receptionist — through her e-mails. But beneath Holly?s very girly voice is… a man. Bill Surie initially created hollysinbox.com as a PR initiative for his recruitment agency. The ensuing book adaptation became a runaway best-seller in the U.K., where readers are so addicted, he’s already at work on a sequel.

Where did the idea come from?
One of our employees left, and we had to go through her e-mails to see what she had been working on. They were gripping. She hadn’t been doing any work. She’d just been e-mailing her mates and having affairs. And I thought, I wonder if you could have an inbox look just like this — e-mails would appear, but they would tell a story. So I just started writing.

How do you write from the female point of view?
Well, I don’t sit at my desk in a skirt, if that’s what you mean. You know, I just think I’ve always been more interested in women than in guys. [Their] sense of humor is more lovable.

Are people surprised when they find out the person behind Holly is a man?
Most ignore it. They don’t want to know. They want to keep the mystery going.

In the beginning, you constantly had to update the site to appease readers. Did it ever feel like it was taking over your life?
Yeah, my wife was like, ”Holly — I can’t stand that woman’s name! [She’s] the other woman in our life. Holly! I hate her!” She’d get really jealous.