Q&A With Jonathan Santlofer

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Q&A With Jonathan Santlofer

Today’s Q&A is with author and artist Jonathan Santlofer. Jonathan is the author of the novels The Last Mona Lisa, The Widowers Notebook, The Death Artist, Color Blind, The Killing Art, The Murder Notebook, Anatomy of Fear & his recent release The Last Van Gogh. 

Q: Jonathan, would you like to talk about your new novel The Last Van Gogh and where the idea came from to write a story where Van Gogh’s painting is part of the storyline?

A: I have always loved Van Gogh but never thought I’d find a way to use him in a novel. Then, I read a letter a friend of his wrote about his funeral, describing the way his last paintings were hung on the walls, but he describes one painting that no one has ever seen. Was it an error by the friend? Or a painting that disappeared? That got me thinking. I combined that thought with my other current obsession, retribution of stolen art, in particular Nazi-looted art. The novel starts in a flashback, 1944, Paris, the war is ending, and a painting is being hidden. The rest, well, you will have to read the book to find out! 

Q: How long did it take you to write The Last Van Gogh? 

A: About a year and a half. There were many revisions (not unusual for me). At one point the manuscript was almost 700 pages. The final book is just over 300.

Q: You are both an artist as well as an author. How do you juggle doing both?

A: I used to be a very serious artist, a painter. That changed after I lost ten years of artwork in a fire. I now draw every day, and I do paint, but my primary work is writing. Now that painting is not my “career” I enjoy it a lot more.

Q: Would it be fair to say that your ideas for your books come from the art you do and from artists of the past?

A: Not from the art I do. Not at all. All of my books start with story and character. My current books came out of true stories. “The Last Mona Lisa” began from my exploration of the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre Museum in 1911. I then created a fictional story in the present to play against that factual story in the past. The two stories interweave and go back and forth in time in the book. The same is true for “The Lost Van Gogh.” It started with that letter, along with research I was doing on how the French Resistance hid paintings during the war. I built a fictional story around those two true ideas. The story, the action, and the characters, are always more important to me than the art. The art must serve a purpose, to advance the story. It’s never the other way around.

Q: If it’s not too early, can you talk about the next book you are currently writing now? 

A: I’ve been working on two books. One is a third Luke and Alexis book. The other is a mystery, but it is too early to talk about it. In general, it’s difficult for me to talk about the books I’m working on because they change as I write them

Q: According to your website it says in your bio, you’ve had work appear in publications such as Ellery Queen Magazine & Strand Magazine. What’s it like having your work appear in those publications? What advice would you give anyone who wants to submit work to those publications?

A: I prefer writing stories for anthologies or collections because the editor has asked me specifically to write something. To a lesser degree I have stories in those magazines, and I submitted them like anyone else. I think young writers should submit their work, their stories, anywhere that makes sense (look at and follow the publication’s guidelines exactly). And do not let rejection stop you! We all get rejected. I still do. The thing is to keep submitting, keep trying. If you do, it will eventually happen.