May 2009


Holly's Inbox, which delves into the email trail of London front-of-house receptionist Holly Denham, is about to be released with a fresh cover in the US and the website on which the book is based reset to the beginning. Its author, Bill Hutton Surie, has come out from backroom operations to reveal the latest developments.

Return to interview list

  1. 1. How did the idea for Holly come about?

    The character Holly isn't based on anyone in particular, however I think a lot of her quirkiness has come from my wife - she's very quirky. The idea for the site came one day when we had to trawl through an ex-employee's work email account. The woman in question was single, extremely flirtatious and had always loved us to bits. We discovered she was married with four children, and couldn't stand the sight of us. The life she was leading was so full of mystery, intrigue, romance (and many many lies) that it made me wonder what it would be like to read a story told in this way.

  2. 2. What has been the response to people finding out that Holly's creator is actually a man?

    Nothing yet, it's a fairly new revelation - the book is about to be launched on June 1 in the USA - and at the last minute they decided they didn't mind everyone knowing I'd written it. So if any of your readers have read it and now want to comment - they'll be the first to let me know.... aaaaggh.

  3. 3. What would you say to people who claim that men can't write chick lit?

    Maybe they can't, or maybe Marian Keyes is a balding rugby player from Bath. I hope they can't - it makes me happier that I've achieved something then - I loved writing it - I think my sense of humour is much more in line with women's and I totally stink at writing like a man (I've been trying to get something published my whole life as a man and failed miserably).

  4. 4. Tell us about what is happening to the site to tie in with the book's US release.

    The site ( has been re-launched, the site also has pictures that you don't get in the books. It is fun seeing emails appearing in real time again. Because of the time difference in America though we're running it a lot later (from 18.30 GMT to around 21.30).

  5. 5. How do you think Holly's Inbox will go in America?

    This is a total feel-good bundle of fun - I think people everywhere could do with a lift, so I'm hoping it does well. Oh and then I'm hoping it becomes Jennifer Aniston's favourite book and she decides to make it into a series of films starring me and oh maybe Oprah Winfrey who then has me on her show, and that's about it I guess.

  6. 6. Is there going to be book No. 3 and if so where will it take Holly?

    Not sure, yet.

  7. 7. Holly became a lot more professionally savvy in the sequel Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City - will she run her own company one day?

    I like your idea - yes, we should have a brainstorming session Steph - I'll bring the wine - we'll take America together, yeah!!!

  8. 8. Tell us about the plans for a TV series.

    ITV have bought the option to make it into a series and they've had a truly fab pilot written that I love. The problem of course is that TV at the moment is suffering just like everything else, so it may have to wait a while.

March 2008

Holly Denham is a receptionist at a London investment banking firm who got her start with the help of recruitment company director Bill Hutton Surie and his wife Bonnie. You can read all her daily emails at The first book Holly's Inbox was out last year; the sequel Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City is out in June.

  1. 1. How would you explain your website to someone who knows nothing about it?

    You log on as soon as you put your computer on in the morning. You stay logged on during the day, with it open on your desktop if possible. Emails come and go throughout the day, creating fast-paced drama and intrigue on your desktop. In between the emails, only if you have time - there's a forum and then there's even a live chat room. Secrets are sometimes revealed in the live chat room, making it very interactive, ANNOUNCEMENT comes up and everyone waits with bated breath to find out something extra about the book or its characters. You can open the chat room on your desktop too, and join in the hilarious discussion with other readers/addicts. Ideas about the plot, the characters, where it's all going to end, and make new friends all round the world!

  2. 2. Where did the idea of turning your inbox into a website come from?

    Someone left the company unexpectedly and therefore someone had the unenviable task of trawling through their inbox in search of various clients' details. The person reading it became so addicted to the ex-employee's personal life, she nearly cried when she was told she had to stop reading it and get back to work.

  3. 3. How did the book deal come about?

    We had no money coming in from the site at all, and trying to run it with volunteers was getting more and more difficult. In the end I emailed some agents in the hope they'd like it for something, I didn't really imagine what for, just wanted an agent. One out of about 30 emails came back - and she was wonderful and interested and thought it would make a book. The publishers said never in the history of the company had a book been turned around for production so quickly. It was all very exciting, our fab editor worked evenings and weekends on it.

  4. 4. Tell us what's in store with the next chapter, Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City.

    Gossip, scandal, secrets, lies, and a few honest mistakes.

  5. 5. How did you go working with Shella on the annual results conference?

    It went really well, the company were very pleased with us, and surprsingly she gave me some of the credit.

  6. 6. Facebook or MySpace?

    I'm terrible at both, although I reply to everyone who mails me something.

  7. 7. How popular is your site?

    The opening day this time was as big as the height last time, which is about 4000 unique visitors a day.

  8. 8. How does it feel to have so many people interested in your inbox?

    Brilliant - can you imagine how proud my mother is? She is complete denial that she's even in the book.

  9. 9. What's the strangest fan message you've had?

    The readers are fabulous, I've made so many honest, genuine, sweet people through this, it's like a little community, we all know each other now, and welcome newbies warmly. They have been emailing the characters' real email addresses all kinds of questions about real life, and sometimes the characters reply for real. I think one of the best bits was when people on the forum were chatting and Holly used something they'd said in her conversation with Jason in real time. The girls on the forum spotted it, and the one who'd had her conversation appear in the story was so shocked she was saying 'I have to go outside and pinch myself!! Am I in a book, am I real, do I exist someone tell me?!?' She was hysterically funny.

  10. 10. If you could take a peek into anyone's inbox in the whole world, whose would it be?


  11. 11. Besides receptionist, what's your dream job?

    To be a writer.

  12. 12. What would you take with you to an desert island?

    London - with me in charge

  13. 13. If Holly's Inbox was made into a movie, who do you see playing you?

    Difficult one, there's a thread on the forum about this, I would have someone non-famous, I think they'd be more believable and 'real'.

  14. 14. Do you read chick lit? If so, who are your favourite authors?

    Jill Mansell.

  15. 15. What do you know about a guy called Bill who runs a firm providing receptionists?

    He owns Front Recruitment, London's number 1 agency for corporate reception positions.

Back to top