Rich Heldenfels

Even when she was running a Hollywood boutique and appearing on reality-TV shows, Holly Durst identified herself as the author of children’s books.

Now she can add “published” to that description.

Durst, who was born in Akron and grew up in Suffield, will be at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Bath Township from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday to sign copies of Chocolate Socks, a brief, illustrated (by Brandon Fall) tale about a girl who gets “my two favorite things, made into one/Socks made of chocolate, oh how fun!”

“The whole storyline is to encourage children to go after their dreams,” Durst said by telephone from South Carolina, where she now lives. “Chocolate socks may seem silly to many people, but it’s what she wanted to do. It’s her dream.”

Durst, who has been on The Bachelor and Bachelor Pad 2, said she wrote the book about six years ago after someone gave her a gift of a box of chocolates and a pack of socks.

“I couldn’t have been happier,” she said. “I think I actually said ‘chocolate socks’ and a light bulb went off in my head, and I grabbed my laptop and wrote the story right then.”

But getting it published took a long time, and a lot of effort, which included doing reality TV. While Durst was also looking for romance (more about that in a moment), the shows gave her a chance to talk about the books and, in the case of Bachelor Pad, to win enough money to publish one herself.

She certainly got attention; at her book signings, she said. Children are interested in the book while parents want to ask about her TV experiences. And she found romance, more than once.

Durst was engaged to Michael Stagliano, a contestant on The Bachelorette; there’s a significant social network among the folks from the Bachelor franchise because, she said, “once you’re in a process like that, you bond with other people that have gone through it.” Although she and Stagliano split, they were partners on Bachelor Pad 2 and shared the $250,000 prize. And Durst got a bonus: a new fiance, Blake Julian, also out of the Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor Pad crowd. She moved to South Carolina to be with him, and they will marry there in June.

“I liked him from the moment we started talking,” she said. “I think I knew [they were a match] when we got to be alone together, without the cameras, and have these sort of really in-depth conversations. I knew right then that I wanted to be with him the rest of my life.”

But didn’t she think that with Stagliano?

“I never knew with Michael,” she said. “I mean, every night I went to bed and I kept saying, I know this isn’t right … I think when you marry someone, you need to 100 percent know this is someone you want to spend your life with. I didn’t know that with Michael. And I feel that every single day with Blake.”

Her connection with Julian also helped the publication of Chocolate Socks by Ambassador International, a self-described Christian publishing company based in Greenville, S.C., and Belfast, Northern Ireland.

“I was at a charity event with Blake in South Carolina and talking to a woman, and we started talking about my book,” Durst said. It turned out her husband was a publisher, Durst said; planning to self-publish Chocolate Socks, Durst sought advice from the man — who instead decided to put out her book.

The reaction so far has been “so positive,” she said. “I’ve gotten the most wonderful messages from parents and teachers. I could not be more happy with the outcome.”

Nor does she see her TV work as causing problems. “I felt like I represented myself fairly well,” she said. “I didn’t do anything outlandish. I stayed true to who I was and didn’t do things for cameras.”

Not that everyone on these shows comes across well. Courtney Robertson, who won Ben Flajnik’s heart on the latest season of The Bachelor, showed a mean streak that left many viewers hating her.

But not Durst.

“I’m happy for Ben. If he loves Courtney, then I’m happy that he stuck with his gut,” she said. “She was not the best person, but to each his own. People didn’t like Blake on the show but they didn’t get to see what I saw. So Ben might see a different side of Courtney that nobody gets to see.”

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and in the HeldenFiles Online blog at http://heldenfels.ohio.com. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.