Interview with Max Milano, Author of Hollywood Expats

16 Feb 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, Hollywood Expats?

I wanted to write a novel that read like a real-life travelogue written by American expats in Europe. A bit of an homage to “Tender is The Night” and “The Last Tycoon,” where I combined the Hollywood insider theme of “The Last Tycoon” with the Americans in Paris theme of “Tender is the Night.” It’s a tribute to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway but dragged kicking and screaming to the 21st century.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

My mom is a writer, and I started writing quite young. I wrote a novel in high school, but the manuscript is lost to history!

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

I’m a huge John le Carré fan, and my favorite book of his is “The Honorable Schoolboy.” I try to re-read it every couple of years. I’m also a huge Graham Greene fan, and I think his novel “The End Of The Affair” is a modern classic. “The Razor’s Edge” by W. Somerset Maugham has influenced my writing style the most (perhaps not for the best!) and made me a big fan of the unreliable narrator, or at least made me reject the idea of an omnipresent, all-knowing narrator.

Rounding up the list of my top 5 favorite books is 1984 by George Orwell (should be required reading at schools). For fifth place, it’s a toss-up between “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad (an unblinking view into the horrors of colonialism in the Belgian Congo), “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville, for his love of whales (one of my favorite animals), and “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov, for some of the best prose ever written in the English language and the most unreliable of unreliable narrators.

Interestingly, both Conrad and Nabokov weren’t native English speakers but ended up writing some of the most exquisite prose in the English Language. This is something that I take to heart as a non-native English writer who only writes in English (I’m from Venezuela originally).

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

Since my most favorite authors are all gone, I’d have to be someone like Bret Easton Ellis for his great prose (even if his themes seem vacuous at first glance). I’d ask him if he thinks that his books represent the progression (or really, regression) of the American WASP male as F. Scott Fitzgerald idealized it, through a downward spiral that begins with “Less Than Zero” and culminates with “American Psycho” and “Imperial Bedrooms” as a reflection of America’s decline by the corruption of its ruling class. Kind of like the fall of the Roman Empire due to the deterioration of its ruling class.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Low budgets. If you want your character to drive a Ferrari and have a house on Mulholland drive, you can make it happen. And for free! Also, to preserve moments in time that can be read hundreds of years in the future and produce an emotional connection with a reader over the ages. That’s how I feel when I read Dickens or Conan Doyle. It’s an emotional connection across time, and there’s something magical about that.

What is a typical day like for you?

I haven’t really left the house since March 2020 due to Covid, so I’ve switched from dedicating time to my photography and filmmaking to focus more on writing and editing. I try to do some writing or editing every day when I’m working on a book.

I’ve also put a treadmill and a spin bike next to our balcony to workout with views of the Hollywood Hills as I watch a Netflix show in French or Italian to keep my mind busy learning something new every day.

What scene from Hollywood Expats was your favorite to write?

The scene where the French gangbangers show up was fun to write about because it was based on a real-life incident that wasn’t much fun to live through! Also, the Eurostar scene was the catalyst to begin writing the book due to another real-life incident on the Eurostar train between Paris and London (won’t give away any spoilers, you’ll have to read the book!)

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

It has to be carpe diem if Covid has taught us anything. Fortunately, it was my motto before Covid as well.

Max Milano is the author of the new book Hollywood Expats.

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