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The Art of Love & the Love of Art
By The Editors
Michael Onofrey's novella Sightseeing (CLASH Books) focuses on two strangers and their lustful exploits amidst art in Paris. We wanted to learn more about the inspiration for Sightseeing and its sensual textures, which will appeal to romance and fine art aficionados alike. So we asked Onofrey, an ex-Californian who lives in Japan, a few questions about his second book. (His first novel, Bewilderment, was published by Tailwinds Press in 2017.) See our conversation below:
When people ask what Sightseeing is about, what do you say?
Paris, art, sex, romance, intrigue.
How does your appreciation for fine art, especially painting, inform the book's plot and ambiance?
I look at a painting and I feel something and imagine something. That “something” could be just about anything. So in the novella I gave the characters, a man and a woman, the “feeling something and imagining something” that goes with viewing art. The characters took this one step further by acting upon what they felt or thought.
Have you always loved fine art? Do you make art?
No to both. I started getting interested in art, paintings and painters, when I was about fifty, thus twenty-one years ago. Create art? No, not at all. Coincidentally, I began writing around the same time, nearing fifty, yet I don’t think there’s a connection, at least consciously.
What do you think are the narrative similarities between fine art and literature?
Both are modes of expression, and both can offer description and insight.
This book isn't just about art, but love. What connections do you see between art and love?
Both are multidimensional. They can embrace exhilaration or sadness, and everything in between, sometimes oscillating, sometimes seemingly simultaneously. A painting, for example, can contain so much, and so can a relationship.
When do you remember getting the idea for this book? And what inspired it?
I got the idea for the novella at the beginning of 2017. Reading and rereading the novels and novellas of Patrick Modiano, as well as the idea of no backstory, started the writing process, and in quick succession, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, in terms of art, naturally blended with the idea of Paris. The novella’s romance-slash-sexuality evolved from the characters, Diane and Wayne.
How long did it take to write the book?
Five months—first draft, rewrite, and rewrite again. Like most people who write, I can’t write full-time because I need to work; I'm an ESL teacher. When the manuscript entered its editing phase at CLASH Books, Christoph made suggestions, which I considered. This led to rewriting or cutting or rearranging. Some sections grew, others shrank. The manuscript lost several pages, which tightened the story. Naturally, the editing process meant more time invested in the novella.
What surprised you about the process of writing the book?
No backstory produced a sense of mystery. I suppose I should have anticipated this, but I hadn’t. So I was surprised.
Why did you think CLASH Books would be the right home for this title?
They take what they like and don’t balk.
What do you hope readers will feel when they read this book?
I hope they feel like rereading it. That’d be a high compliment. Compliments aside, I hope they feel the interaction between art and locale and passion, and how inner and outer realities formulate story. Also, if some of the scenes trigger hilarity, that’d be terrific.
Sightseeingis now available for pre-order. Pre-order it from CLASH Books until May 1st, the official release date. After that, the book will be available for regular order on the CLASH Books website and on Amazon.
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