Interview with Author Julie Whitney

Julie Whitney

I am thrilled to have interviewed author Julie Whitney, who shared with us details of her writing life, her book ‘Astra In Hollywood‘, which was released on 4th March 2024, and answered a few fun questions. This post contains affiliate links.


Julie Whitney is a public relations professional with forty years of experience in public relations and marketing, having worked on both the agency and client side as well as in the television industry. Her company, Phillippi-Whitney Communications, LLC, founded in 2000, represents both large and small clients in a wide variety of industries.

She has promoted dozens of authors throughout her career, often supplementing the efforts of the internal PR teams of their publishers. She also works as on-camera talent, appearing in both television commercials and video podcasts. She even appeared as an extra in the movie Grease, which was shot on location in the summer of 1977 in Los Angeles. Astra In Hollywood is the second book in the Astra The Lonely Airplane series.

She lives in Cincinnati with her husband Dan, a corporate pilot, (Captain Dan in the book), who as a naval aviator and USNA grad, flew the P-3 Orion, and then flew a Gulfstream G100 (Astra) for 13 years. With four grown children, they are now empty nesters, and love spending time with their Black Lab Brody, and also enjoy traveling, boating, golfing, and all types of physical fitness.

interview picture 2023


1) Where did the inspiration for your book come from?

My husband Dan, a formal naval aviator lost his job as the Chief Corporate Pilot of a beautiful G100 Gulfstream Jet that he had flown for over 13 years quite unexpectedly on May 5, 2020 due to the pandemic. His company decided to eliminate the corporate flight department and sell the plane. I went with him to say goodbye to the plane and clean out his stuff from the hangar that evening and asked if I could sit in her interior and I began sobbing. I was emotionally distraught not just over his job loss, but for this beautiful plane who would be sitting all alone in a cold, dark hangar day after day, wondering why she wasn’t flying and where Captain Dan was.

I literally went home that night and started writing the first book!, entitled Astra The Lonely Airplane. But I couldn’t stop writing, and the ideas keep on flowing, so the second book, Astra In Hollywood was released on March 4, 2024! A third book is also in the works.

2) How did you plan out the plot?

I saw the situation from the plane’s perspective, and tried to personify exactly how she was feeling. The book is therefore written entirely from her point of view. I then got out my laptop and started writing.

I have always been very good at writing poems for my friends for every occasion, and so I started writing in rhyming couplets, which came quite easy to me.

3) When did you choose the title for your book?

The original G100 Gulfstream 100 jet was manufactured in Israel, and it was called the Astra. So I decided to make the airplane female and call her Astra. Then I pictured her sitting all alone in a cold, dark hangar without Captain Dan, and that is how the Lonely part came about.

The first book ends when Astra lands in her new home in Hollywood, so it was easy to name the second book Astra In Hollywood.

4) How did you come up with the names for your characters?

Astra The Lonely Airplane Characters:

Captain Dan, (Astra’s Pilot) is named after my husband Captain Dan.

Stu, Astra’s new owner, just seemed like a solid name to me, and it rhymes with very many words, including new, view and flew, which is key!

Astra In Hollywood Characters:

Learjets are very sleek and I wanted the look of the character to be sexy, since she transports movie stars, so I chose the name Lana, as to me it seems like a good name for a movie star. I also wanted the alliteration of the two L’s with Lana and Learjet.

Hank the Cargo Plane is huge – nearly 10x Astra’s size. Hank rhymes with Tank and I think of him as “Hank The Tank “– large and burly.

Helen the Helicopter is rather dizzy and frazzled. I also went with the alliteration for this character of the two H’s, and Helen is the first part of the word “Hel” icopter.

5) How did you go about researching the content for your book?

Since Astra The Lonely Airplane was based very loosely on a real-life event, it was relatively easy to think of the basic plot. She loses her job, is all alone, and eventually finds a new home and owner. I relied on my husband, (good ole Captain Dan), to help me with the technical details about Astra’s characteristics and capabilities such as airspeed and wingspan, both the book and its accompanying two-page glossary.

As for the second book, Astra In Hollywood, I researched Learjets, Cargo Planes and Helicopters to find out what their various skills and uses are, and provided the illustrator with numerous photos and also art direction on how I wanted them to be represented, personified and proportioned.

6) What made you choose this genre?

An airplane that can communicate, (albeit through facial expressions and actions), and react emotionally to different situations by crying or becoming angry is highly entertaining to children. They love it when inanimate objects can communicate.

7) How long did it take you to complete your book?

It happened rather quickly. I started writing in May, 2020 and submitting to publishers and literary agent in June, 2020. I sent out tons of queries, and got a fair amount of rejection, many automated responses and also some positive feedback that kept me going! I signed with my publisher in August, 2020. The first book, Astra The Lonely Airplane was released on March 2, 2022. The second book was already written before the first book was even published, and a third book has been written also.

8) Can you describe your book in three words?

The Astra The Lonely Airplane series – compelling, amusing, heartfelt

9) What’s the hardest part of being a writer?

For me it’s balancing my primary job as the owner of a public relations consulting business, with the children’s author job. I have to work on book-related matters when I am not working on a tight deadline for one of my PR clients, and therefore cannot devote the amount of time I truly need to the book.

10) Why should our readers pick your book up?

The first book, Astra In Hollywood will engage children ages 3-10. It’s perfect for the younger kids who can memorize its rhyming verse long before they can read. Elementary age children will be able to learn to read or read on their own. The book teaches valuable life lessons such as adapting to big changes in one’s life, such as a move to a new location, dealing with difficult people and having hope. It also teaches a bit of math and geography and all about airplanes and aviation. It comes with a two-page educational glossary and also a 3-minute video of Captain Dan giving kids a tour of the real Astra! There are free activity and coloring sheets for all ages on my website at

The second book picks up where the first book ends, as Astra wakes up in her new hangar in Hollywood! She meets a colorful new cast of friends that are all quite different from her. This book teaches children about moving to a new place and making new friends that may be quite different from them. It also teaches them that although their friends may have skills that they do not, they can still contribute in their own special way. Although Astra is not the newest, glitziest or largest plane in her hangar, she realizes that by using her clever brain, she can help them and problem-solve when they are struggling! She learns that being a good friend and helping others is the most important skill of all.

Astra in Hollywood by Julie Whitney

Astra In Hollywood

Author – Julie Whitney
Illustrator – Michelle Simpson
Publisher – Belle Isle Books
Pages – 36
Release Date – 4th March 2024
ISBN 13 – 978-1962416153
Format – ebook, paperback, hardcover


Astra the lonely airplane never has to be lonely again! Her new hangar in sunny LA is home to three amazing new friends: Lana, a sleek, beautiful Learjet; a giant cargo plane named Hank; and Helen the crime-fighting helicopter.

In fact, they’re all so cool that Astra soon starts to wonder if she’s cut out for life in Hollywood! But when Lana, Hank, and Helen are each faced with unexpected problems, Astra discovers that you don’t need to be the fastest, the strongest, or the bravest to be important. It’s being a good friend that makes you a star!

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Fun Questions

Talking Owl Interview Pic 2023

1) Do you have a writing buddy?

Yes, my black Labrador Retriever Brody snores soundly beside me on his “couch” that I gave him as I work in my home office. I couldn’t do this without him! Of course, he has to get up to bark ferociously at the front door when the mail carrier, Amazon, FedEx or UPS delivery person arrives.

Julie Whitneys dog

2) Do you have any writing quirks?

I am definitely a morning person. I usually write first thing with my black cup of coffee, in my home office before heading to the gym. In the spring and summer, I find that the back patio or screened porch is a lovely place to write. And for some reason, the shower or hot tub are where I tend to really clear my head and get some great ideas!

3) Where do you write?

I write primarily in my home office, surrounded by photos of family and friends.

where julie whitney writes

4) Your book has been made into a movie, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what will you be doing?

I will be hiring either John Travolta or Tom Cruise, both experienced pilots, to play Captain Dan.

I will be hiring Denzel Washington, who also played a pilot, although a not so good one, (LOL) to play Stu, Astra’s new owner.

I will be playing the famous movie star who has a crush on Captain Dan who flies around in Lana the Learjet. After all, I was an extra in the movie “Grease” many moons ago, and I still do have a crush on Captain Dan!

It is actually my dream to turn my books into a streaming children’s animated television series. I certainly have enough ideas to do so!

5) A talking owl has just finished reading your book, what’s the first thing he says to you?

He says “I have an idea for your next Astra book, my dear Julie. Astra can rescue a family of owls who are losing their beloved home due to deforestation, and fly them safely to a new, secure area near her hangar in Hollywood, where she and her friends can keep an eye on them.”

Author links


A big thank you to Julie Whitney for sharing her writing life with us and for a wonderful interview.

The above links are affiliate links. I receive a very small percentage from each item you purchase via these link, which is at no extra cost to you. If you are thinking about purchasing the book, please think about using one of the links above. Thank you.

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