Ann B. Ross concludes her Miss Julia series — maybe

LOCAL INSPIRATION: Ann B. Ross has used parts of her hometown of Hendersonville as a template for her books' fictional Abbotsville, which she describes as being closer to the Hendersonville of 1996. "I can show you where Julia’s house is, but a Realtor’s office is actually there. And to look for Sam’s old house four blocks away might get you lost," she says. "A Baptist church has been turned into a Presbyterian church, and all the street names have been changed." Author photo by Sarah Sneeden

Thanks to her son and daughter delivering groceries to her carport, Hendersonville-based author Ann B. Ross has remained well-fed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Otherwise, she identifies the cancellation of tours to promote last year’s Miss Julia Knows a Thing or Two and this year’s Miss Julia Happily Ever After (out Tuesday, April 6) as the biggest life alterations she’s had to endure. But the fact that both books have been or will be published on time, combined with her recent COVID-19 vaccination, has her optimistic — a mindset that she’s not sure her titular character would share if the pandemic hit the fictional town of Abbotsville.

“She would read a lot, spend a good deal of time talking with Lillian in the kitchen and on the phone with Hazel Marie, Mildred Allen and anybody else she can think of,” Ross says. “She would mightily miss visiting with Lloyd, but of course he would have to stay away. But mostly, she would resentfully miss her weekly trips to Velma’s Cut ’n’ Curl to have her hair done.”

Ross continues, “But come to think of it, the opportunity to express her opinions on presidents, governors, commentators, physicians with conflicting advice and politicians in general might have enlivened her life as well as mine — probably gotten me run out of town as well.”

The pandemic is not the focus of Miss Julia Happily Ever After, but there is an almost viral nature to the sudden influx of weddings being planned by the heroine’s friends, and the townwide disruptions caused by a mysterious streaker forms its own kind of public health crisis. Ross says no real-life encounters with fast-moving exhibitionists inspired the inclusion — just the fact that she’d yet to use one in a story, plus her general fondness for “anything that lends itself to off-the-wall humor.” However, personal reasons did lead to the bestselling series’ 22nd installment becoming its final one.

“As I wrote Happily Ever After, a series of changes in my personal and professional lives were converging in such a way that I began to feel that somebody was trying to tell me something,” she says. “Miss Julia and the ones she loves are in a good place right now, nothing that needs to be wrapped up is pending, most questions have been answered, no one is languishing in jail [and] everybody is home where they’re supposed to be, so it all felt like a good place to just let go.”

While approaching the end of her latest book, Ross realized that she was giving some conclusion to the main characters’ recent storylines, which she’d not consciously planned to do. And when she reached the last sentence, she says she almost added a more conclusive chapter.

“But then [I] decided, ‘No, this is a good stopping place. If Julia has something she just has to tell [her husband] Sam, she can do it in the morning,’” Ross says. “Yet, at the same time, without deliberate intent, I left the book open-ended enough to pick up on Julia’s life again if I’m so inclined. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 20-plus years of writing these books, it’s that I am a writer — not a great one, maybe not even an adequate one, but a writer nonetheless. So whatever the future holds, you may be sure that I will be tapping away at the computer on something.”

Whether or not readers have seen the last of Miss Julia in book form, it seems likely that the character will eventually make it to the screen, especially considering the recent rise in original programming from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Studios. Ross says there has been a fair amount of interest expressed by various entities over the years, but nothing has come to fruition.

“It started with Columbia Tri-Star Productions that took an option on the first book and went on to a number of independent producers whose plans ran from a feature film or a made-for-TV movie to a weekly TV series,” Ross says. “Reese Witherspoon has expressed a dab of interest in [Etta Mae’s Worst Bad-Luck Day], and Dolly Parton has said that she has to play Hazel Marie because, she said, ‘I look just like her.’”

An independent producer in Los Angeles and another in Nashville have also shown interest, Ross adds, along with two more whose previous features have been exclusively horror movies.

“All I can say is that movie people have exceptionally short attention spans — they flit from one exciting thing to another,” she says. “I was told early on not to count on anything until they actually turn on the cameras.” missjulia.com

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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7 thoughts on “Ann B. Ross concludes her Miss Julia series — maybe

  1. Dawn M Carlson

    Please don’t let them ruin your books with a series or a movie! There is rarely a good outcome. 💜

    • Debra

      That’s true! Unless you have a lot of say so and not divert from the original. And please don’t stop writing no, I want to know about Tonya and Luanne lol

  2. Barbara Hunt

    I so look forward to each new Miss Julia story and will miss them very much. Guess I will have to start back and reread each one again. Don’t completely close the door on Miss Julia. 😢

  3. Pamela Marston

    I just ordered the last book in the Miss Julia series, not knowing is was the last one. I am sad about this. In a way, it’s like losing wonderful friends. The books and special characters will be greatly missed. I have every colorful book on a book shelf in my living area and how I will appreciate each one going forward with the hope Miss Julia will once again return! Best wishes!

  4. sandra barrett

    thank you so much for the Miss Julia books ! they have seen me thru some hard times. Losing my son to cancer on Christmas day 2019 and having to support his wife and 6 mo. old baby thru the following quarantine was hard and your books were sometimes my only comfort. I can relate to so much in the books and the way you use people to demonstrate a truth is wonderful ! You have blessed us all for years and I hope that your life will be blessed too. Of course if you would feel led to write another book we would all shout halleluiah !! All the best to you,

  5. Donna Heath

    I found you and Miss Julia many years ago and she and her family became some of my best friends. Three years ago we moved to the area and I have begun the rereads with as much enjoyment and sense of entertainment as the first time. I hope Miss Julia continues despite this “final” book. Miss Julia has been an inspiration to many of us, made us laugh out loud when we thought there was little humorous in the world, and basically gave us a seat at the kitchen table where we could join in the fun and antics of of this southern family. Whatever you decide, know we have loved every minute and know Sam and Miss Julia could fill volumes yet!

  6. Kathy Smart

    Over the years, I’ve read every Miss Julia book, perhaps not in the order they should be read, but read nonetheless. In the past month I thought I would listen to them all on Audible…in order. I’ve just finished and am beside myself trying to find something to listen to! I know these books will never go down in history as masterpieces, but they make me smile, even laugh out loud often. They have me saying to friends “Miss Julia would be flabbergasted with you fir that!” They have brought me happiness in this awful time we are living in. Thank you Ms Ross, for bringing light into such darkness.

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