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Michael J. Gyulai Intervewed By AllTheseBooks Did you study the craft of writing or dive right into it?
Michael Gyulai: I majored in Communication Studies at UCLA so I had plenty of writing guidance and mentoring there.

BHB: What did you want to achieve by going to Rome?
MG: I wanted to learn Italian fluently. I wanted to live in a European capital. I wanted all the big city amenities: modern art, cinema, and nightlife; urban vibrancy: smog, pavement, buses, taxies. Rome rolled all those things into one gushing metropolis.

BHB: Lazio or Roma? (The two Roman soccer clubs)
MG: Io tifo per la Roma.

BHB: How often do you go back?
MG: I lived there for over two years but have not been back since I came to California to supporting Midnight in Rome about a year and a half ago. I do stay in constant communication with my friends in Rome. And this month I had a review published in The Roman Forum, a monthly newspaper based in Rome, so that generated a renewed connection with the city and those I know there. I may return to Rome to begin work on the next manuscript in fall, though that is still uncertain.

BHB: Did you visit any other cities or countries?
MG: I spent four months studying abroad in Siena while at UCLA and during that time I traveled all across Western Europe. Nothing, for me, however, compared to Rome’s combination of big city, rich culture, and beautiful language.

BHB: What are some key differences between Europe and the USA?
MG: Cities in the USA are, generally speaking, built for cars. European cities are built for people. This means more benches, outdoor cafes, parks, squares, walkable bridges, etc. It changes the way you experience a city and its people. There is more intermingling of generations. It changes the way you dress. You wouldn’t drive around Los Angeles with a busted headlight and dent in your door. And you wouldn’t take a passeggiata in Rome wearing an undershirt and old sneakers.

BHB: How does American pizza stack up to the original?
MG: In stereotypical American excess, our pizza is absolutely plastered with cheese. Italian pizza is thin crust and modestly garnished, emphasizing the quality of the wood-oven baked dough and various seasonings.

BHB: Did you experience culture shock? How long did it take you to get used to everything?
MG: I was prepared for the language barrier and cultural differences at first, and was looking forward to embracing and adopting them, so there was little to no shock when I first moved to Rome. The real problems came when I developed relationships with Italians in the city and found my developing Italian to be restricting to the growth of those relationships. That was when things got tough. They say actions speak louder than words, but if you can’t discuss an apparent depression or anxiety with someone, how can you be a friend and help that person?

BHB: What is the correct pronunciation of your name?
MG: Michael July, just like the month.

BHB: What do you think about the future of books with all the new technology coming out (like Kindle and foldable screens)?
MG: For the foreseeable future, I think people still want a physical book with a spine they can break in and pages that can resist bathwater and beach sand. But it seems everything eventually moves to the digital so it’s only a matter of time before the e-book takes over. I don’t plan on helping it rise to fashion, though.

BHB: How much of your own promotion do you do?
MG: A huge portion. In today’s market you need not only to be able to write something captivating, but also be able to promote and represent that work in a captivating manner. I went as far as designing my own website for my latest book:

BHB: Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
MG: Live before you write. Never let the morning slip away.

BHB: What are your future plans?
MG: We are going to continue to focus on Midnight in Rome through the spring and summer to be sure it reaches its greatest potential audience. By fall I plan to begin work on my next novel which is already developed and outlined.

BHB: How do you juggle writing with the rest of your life?
MG: Juggling promotion with the rest of my life is difficult. When I write, however, I try to focus exclusively on the creative process and therefore the rest of my life usually shuts down and people won’t see me for a few months.

BHB: Do you have any methods or rituals to your writing?
MG: I set my alarm for 8:00. I’m out of the shower and have had breakfast by quarter to 9. I change into some business casual wear and am at the keyboard by 9:30. I approach it like any other job—I have to show up to on time and be mentally rested. If I try too hard to let the writing come to me, I’ll find I’ve wasted three days listening to electronic music from my bed and lounging around in my pajamas.

BHB: How do you find inspiration?
MG: Inspiration seems to find me. I lived Midnight in Rome. I didn’t have to come up with any of the characters or events from scratch. I just had to put the truthful people and places into an engaging and relatable story arc for the outside reader.

BHB: Was there one certain event or happening that made you want to write a book?
MG: New Year’s Eve 2005 in Rome. I’d been living in Italy for three months. It was my first night ever working in Italy or behind a bar, and I was thrown alongside two Italian bartenders who spoke little or no English. It was utter madness. That was when I knew I had something truly memorable.

BHB: What do you do against writer’s block?
MG: Sit down and write. That’s the only way to get things done. Some mornings I get up and think my fingers are going to bounce off those keys gracefully and effortlessly, and I instead wind up rewriting the same paragraph over and over until noon. Other mornings I get up thinking I feel uninspired, and I end up writing great material all day and into the late evening. The only way to figure out what the day’s production could be is to sit down at that keyboard everyday and start typing.

BHB: Do you use an outline when writing? Do you stay linear or do you skip in time?
MG: I started Midnight in Rome while I was still living the story. So it was difficult to know what to include and what to omit without a proper roadmap of where or how I was going to conclude things. It led to a lot of rewrites and retrospective editing. I definitely skipped in time to scenes I felt particularly inspired to write. Focusing on the parts I knew would come out beautifully gave great quality and confidence to the manuscript early on, despite the lack of an outline.

BHB: How important is a good website and do you utilize blogging?
MG: I don’t like blogging. It does not fit with the style of what I do at all. I am a ‘big concept’ kind of creator, and I need time to build, reflect, and edit before I consider my work presentable. The age of the instantaneous blog post means people are not forced to reflect or edit their writing, and with the exception of a few great short story writers or newspaper columnists that exist normally in short format, blogs are almost always rambling and their points or creative statements buried deep under a film of non-editing.

BHB: What do you prefer and why: Mass-market paperback or hard cover for your debut novel?
MG: If I’m going to write a dedication in the book, hard cover for sure.

BHB: What are the most difficult and rewarding aspects of being a published writer?
MG: The most difficult is being at the mercy of the media with regard to how much readership you are going to receive. Even if a writer creates something that is brilliant as a book, the media will determine if the subject is newsworthy or not, and therefore how much exposure that work will receive. The most rewarding aspect is hearing people tell me I’ve put into words emotions they have felt but have not been able to articulate. I’m sure many writers feel the same as I consider that to be our job.

Thank you very much for this opportunity, and good luck with your career!

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