Friday, January 3, 2014


Who is your biggest crush from history? Kelly Murphy, in her first book, Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes from Cleopatra to Camus on sale this month from Zest Books, explores 50 figures from history and how their "hotness" may have contributed to their impact on history.  Murphy, who has written for Brokelyn, Brooklyn Based, Chic Today, Keep This Bag Away from the Children and Thought Catalog, is also a "friend of Colby" and agreed to sit down with the folks at Big Shoe Diaries for an interview about the book.  As the publisher says, each entry describes the period in which the heartthrob lived and includes essential stats, hilarious sidebars, and, of course, a “crushability” ranking: a measurement of how crush-worthy these people really are, based on their relative levels of heroism (or villainy).  Murphy gave us some insight into her writing (and crushing) process.

BSD: This is your first book, right?  How did the project come about?

It is! This origin story is pretty unromantic - I was called by an editor at a small West Coast publisher who was referred to me by a mutual friend I've written for in the past. He said, "Would you be interested in writing a YA book for us?" I said, "Yeah, probably." Literally, that's what I said. It didn't hit me until our second call that he actually meant, write a book. Like a whole one.

BSD: The intended audience is young adult.  What can older readers expect?

This is a cheeky nonfiction book that takes the boring out of history and leaves the good stuff - the trysts, the scandals, and the most important facts. Historical Heartthrobs is exactly the type of educational text I still want to read at 25.

BSD: Tell us more about the hotness rating (I don't have my copy so if that's the wrong phrase, please correct).  What formula did you use to rate the different historical figures?

The Heat Factor is, necessarily, pretty subjective. Each heartthrob is ranked on a scale of 1-5 based on character and moral fiber. Take Roberto Clemente--beautiful, super accomplished, and committed to making the world a better place so he's a scorcher with a score of five. Points are docked for things like infidelity and murder.

BSD: Of all those included, who is your favorite historical hottie?

Even though he may have shot a prostitute, I can't stop thinking about Huey Newton, cofounder of the Black Panthers. I think it's the Bad Boy with Big Ideas syndrome and also this mug shot. Honorable mention goes to George Sand, who had an unabashedly fluid sense of her sexuality.

BSD: The intersection of physical attraction and intellectual/emotional attraction is one we like to talk about a lot on Big Shoe Diaries.  How do you think these differing types of attraction have interacted and evolved throughout history?

Hmm, good question. I think we've gotten really shy about our sexuality in the past few decades, and physical attraction has gained a taboo that both heightens and hinders its success. I love that Azealia Banks quote: "I have all these interviews that ask, 'How are you so comfortable talking about sex?' And it's like, 'How are you so uncomfortable?'" Emotional attraction, on the other hand, is having a serious nerd love moment. I think progress has been made in that we're even discussing intellectual attraction as an entity that's worthwhile and viable in its own right. Whereas the margins of societally accepted physical attraction are slowly broadening, and that's the best. Thank god for Andrej Pejic. Thank god for Ronaldinho. Thank god for Sarah Jessica Parker!

BSD: If your publisher asks you to write a revised edition in 40 years including some figures from now, what 5 people do you think have already sealed themselves in history to be included?

Don't roll your eyes--Kanye West. Troy Polamalu. Michelle Obama. Steve Jobs. Meryl Streep.


Murphy hosts a book launch featuring Big Shoe Diaries favorite and contributor, Brian Moylan, at Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn on Tuesday, January 14th at 7:00 p.m. For more information, check out their website.


  1. Really great interview, Karl! Now I have to read this book...I'm so curious about the ranking system. Just awesome...

  2. Tsar Nicholas II...

  3. Oooh, this looks interesting. And my historical heartthrob -- Lewis Carroll.