1. Mr. Strukul, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your thriller, THE BALLAD OF MILA, came out on February 25. Tell us a bit more about this book.
Well, first of all thank you Ethan for this interview. THE BALLAD OF MILA is a pulp novel that’s for sure, but at the same time is a western, a Spaghetti Western, like the Italian press said. We have Mila a beautiful woman with red dreadlocks and able to use every kind of firearm and blade and two different gangs: a Chinese Triad Gang and a local one. So, it’s a kind of Sergio Leone’s FOR A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS story and in some way I’m very happy to pay an homage to the Italian master. Anyway, I think that the novel is strongly influenced by movies and dark heroines like Beatrix Kiddo or Le Femme Nikita.
2. Where did the inspiration for this story come from, and how much of it is true and how much is fiction?
As I said, certainly comes from movie and also from those American pulp – crime novels like THE KILLER INSIDE ME by Jim Thompson or THE NIGHTRUNNERS by Joe R. Lansdale, and I want to mention also one of my master – who lives in Canada – “His Majesty” Linwood Barclay, and two Canadian crime novelists like John McFetridge and Mike Knowles (I really loved McFestridge’s DIRTY SWEET and EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE and Knowles’s DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE) and comes also from comic books like Garth Ennis’s THE PUNISHER or Jason Aaron’s SCALPED, specially thinking to that kind of attitude you know what I mean? But, as you mentioned, there’s something real – more than something indeed – about Chinese Mafia in the Northeast of Italy, there’s an entire criminal empire in the underbelly of our towns in the Venetia territory.
3. How is THE BALLAD OF MILA different from an avalanche of books with a strong female character?
Well, first of all, Mila is an Italian girl, and it seems to me that Italian authors and characters are not so common in Canada and North America, ha ha. But, more than this, Mila is sexy and lethal, like the most part of female characters, but at the same time she is completely different: she’s not so strong, she feels like damaged goods, she is a broken soul and can’t accept what happened to her, many years ago. At the same time, she is a girl, a regular one, you know what I mean? She is fragile and needs to be loved and she tries desperately to put together all the pieces of her broken world… without success. In some way she reminds me a wonderful female character that I really loved in the last months, I’m thinking to Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black, main character of novels like BLACKBIRDS or THE CORMORANT. So, she is full of contradictions and that’s the reason why Italian readers love her, I hope Canadian readers would like to give her a chance
4. What are your writing habits? Outline or not?
It depends. With Mila is impossible. I just have an idea and start to write. She leads the story and I just have to write, you know what I mean? That’s the reason why her stories sound fresh and unpredictable to me. I want to follow her, it’s very important to keep the character’s integrity. But, recently, with my new novel, a gaslamp-historical novel, set in the late 19th Century, obviously I have written a long synopsis and outlines and after researches a more detailed text before start to write.
5. What is the single most important thing you have learned during the writing process of crafting a novel?
Courage and integrity: you don’t have to please the readers, you have to write what you really love, that kind of book that you have never read and that you want to write. And if you will be honest with yourself you will be honest also with your readers and 99% they will love the story you have written.
6. A word of advice for new writers?
Stay focused. Don’t waste your time. You have to be obsessed by your story, think to your story and characters every time you can, maybe always.
7. What are your thoughts on the latest publishing industry developments, mainly the rise of the self-publishing? Did you ever consider it or might you consider it in the future?
Well, I don’t know, I know that self-publishing is very popular in Canada and USA, I know the story of Hugh Howie’s WOOL for instance… I don’t think I will consider it in my next future, I’m very satisfied with my Italian and English/American publisher.
8. What are your favorite pastimes?
Oh man, I like so much to play tennis, I love rock’n’roll music (The Black Crowes, Rival Sons, Buckcherry, Led Zep, Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams) I adore to watch Ice Hockey Matches, I’m a big fan of Montreal Canadiens and my Italian favorite team is Asiago Hockey 1935 … believable or not Ice Hockey is very popular in the North of Italy. This passion is probably because I lived two years in Canada when I was a child, and my father was professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. I really loved and love today Canada, is probably my favorite country in the world together with Italy. Please say it ha ha! I hope that Canadian readers would like to be so generous to read Mila and if someone would like to invite me to some Festival or Con…man I’m here ha ha. Hey Canadian Journalists and bloggers…where are you?
9. How do you connect with you fans?
10. What is your next book going to be about?
Well my upcoming novel in Italy is an historical thriller set in the late 19th Century, published by Mondadori and strongly influenced by Caleb Carr’s “The Alienist”, my next book that will be published in Canada and US will be “Black Queen”, the sequel to “The Ballad of Mila” by Exhibit A. Finally, I want to thank you Ethan for your generosity and please spread the word in the name of MILA across Canada.