Julia Michaels, the talented and prolific writer behind RioReal blog, is publishing a book in August about her life in Rio. Solteira no Rio de Janeiro comes out August 1, and will be available throughout Brazil. For those interested, the launch of the book takes place on August 5 in Rio.
I spoke to Julia about this autobiographical project, the process of writing the book, and the upcoming English version.
Why did you decide to write the book?
I happened to be lucky enough to publish Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love when I was working at a publishing house here, and, as I was editing the translation and working on the promotional materials it occurred to me that I also had some stories to tell. I'd been doing some online-induced dating, single after 25 years of marriage...
Briefly, what's the book about?
I originally wrote the book in English, for a foreign audience. My aim was to tell my funny dating stories and explain some cultural differences I'd come across. But when I was finished, I discovered I'd changed quite a bit--that I'd taken one of those silly "personal journeys"--and it seemed that my experience and reflections might be useful and entertaining for others. Also, on one of the last rewrites, I saw that my own transformation had paralleled the start of Rio's transformation, and that this was very interesting. So it is, as the subtitle indicates, the adventures of a gringa in the Cidade Maravilhosa, the marvelous city. Then a local editor, Hugo Gonçalves, of Editora Língua Geral, read the book. He saw something I'd never considered, that Brazilians would be interested--especially because Rio is so different now from when I began to write Solteira, in 2007 or so. In one of the revisions, I had to change verb tenses and explain that Rio used to be more dangerous than now, that people drank and drove, that not long ago you could smoke in restaurants and bars, etc. So the book is being published in Brazil first! Soon, I'm going to revise the English to reflect some of the very good changes that Hugo, as my editor, encouraged me to make. And then I hope to publish in the U.S. and Europe.
What do you hope to gain with the book?
I tried, for a while, to find a U.S. agent for the book, but found no success. One reason given for its rejection was that, unlike Eat, Pray, Love, there's no happy ending, no prince who shows up to make a perfect match for the woman who's done all her requisite soul-searching. That bothered me. I wanted a prince, too! But now I see that many women, of all ages, are dealing with the issues of their individuality versus being part of a couple. What are the tradeoffs and how much should or can you give in to the other person? How much to keep of your own self? And who are you, anyway, without a man? Also, women my age are dealing with the fact that there just aren't many available men. So I hope the book examines some existential questions and reassures readers (as well as myself!) that a life well-lived can be one lived on one's own.
What was your favorite part about writing the book?
My favorite part was writing with one hand and, with the other, throwing a ball for my dachshund Strudel, who was a puppy. He--and running--kept me sane in my early years of over-fifty singlehood.
What was the hardest thing about writing the book?
The hardest thing was being honest.