Sinta Jimenez is interviewed by noir novelist, Aaron Philip Clark, about “Smoking in Rented Rooms.” Aaron, an old friend from the Otis College of Art and Design MFA program, had at one time been based in Philadelphia where this piece is set. Aaron and Sinta spent countless afternoons in art school labs together talking about writing, jazz, and being east coast transplants in the Southland.
Aaron Philip Clark: Hey Sinta, I dig the story. You really captured the city and the characters were vivid. I fashioned a few questions as I read…What inspired you to set the story in Philadelphia? How does the city relate to the characters and themes?
Sinta Jimenez: There are two sides to Philadelphia, the comfy Walnut Street, Ivy League enclave of pomp and privilege and the other, dark side of the street. I remember talking to you about that dark energy in Philadelphia, those cold winters in dark row houses that almost demands your intoxication, of love or some other drug.
APC: Do you believe some relationships are like addictions—harmful yet unable to
SJ: Yes, absolutely, I believe that there are some loves which, no matter how destructive and ultimately damaging, cannot be avoided. Wild horses couldn’t drag you away. I believe in reincarnation and much of the Vedantic and Buddhist beliefs on the nature of karma and rebirth. Sometimes, someone powerfully enters our life, and the pain is just our karma to burn.
APC: Do you often write about romantic relationships and love? And if so, what makes the subject compelling for you?
SJ: I have written about it often as the central theme to a story and even if it is a story which focuses on another kind of relationship, a backstory of some kind of romance is mentioned. In other forms of art, particularly film and television, I dislike and avoid romance and enjoy it only in literature, specifically, when it is dealt with honestly, viscerally, and has a primal sensibility. I think Bukowski, when he writes about love, is amazing. Duras, too. Going back to why I choose to write about it so often, it just comes out of me very naturally, inspired by many intense experiences which must be worked out.
APC: I was struck by the story’s ending, in which you describe the narrator’s cycle of past lovers: “All the trains, solo car rides, subway stations, taxies, buses, boats, and airplanes I’ve taken to reunite with past lovers are bittersweet memories when I really think about it.” Do you think some relationships are seasonal and not meant to last beyond a particular point?
SJ: I think almost all relationships are seasonal and have found few exceptions of people successfully taking a relationship into a lifetime of love. Even when people stay together, whatever was raw, honest and compelling, has been lost long ago. In a larger view, I don’t believe we are our bodies, or that we are this physical self, so it is all just a cycle until the next lifetime. And that traveling, from love to love, body to body, room to room, is exhausting, electric, but maybe more importantly, fated and unavoidable.
APC: Who are some writers that inspire you and your work?
SJ: Many of my favorite writers are the Beats and those related. Big fan of Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Diane di Prima, Amiri Baraka. Love Bukowski. Love Nabokov. But probably stylistically, I’ve taken my cues more from Marguerite Duras whose writing has been powerful enough to make me cry. My writing, which had been more verbose earlier, found austerity after I read Murakami. My dream is to write a story about siblings like Salinger’s Glassy family. I also am inspired by the films of Wes Anderson. I read a lot of Eastern religious texts and they definitely inspire my writing.
APC: Are the characters featured in the story recurring ones in other works?
SJ: The characters in this story don’t specifically recur in other works, in the sense that I’ve thought to myself, okay, here is the guy and here is his next chapter but this kind of lifestyle and these archetypes have been pillars in my writing for the past five years and I find myself still drawn to them as a life I had once known. As my writing evolves, so do these archetypes. What happens to them after? I am working on that now.
AARON PHILIP CLARK is a native of Los Angeles, CA. He currently works in international relations and as a writing consultant. He is the author of two novels: The Science of Paul and A Healthy Fear of Man. His is completing his third novel, The Furious Way.