Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta on the enduring romance of friendship

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  • “When we write, we try to impregnate our friendships with as much emotion and care and tension as a romantic relationship.” The life and writing partners of Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta talk about love and friendship in their dazzling debut novel, The View Was Exhausting.

    Words by Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta

    Last year, after three months of strict rigor in our Berlin apartment, we saw our best friends again. Of course, we had seen it during the first horrible wave of the pandemic: glitching over our crappy connections in the short and obsessive flirtation with Houseparty; pretending a Zoom pub quiz was as good as the real thing; sending bored selfies from our couch to theirs. But when the block was easy enough for us to meet in a park on our separate picnic blankets, their faces seemed to us alive again, their idle gestures just fascinating. We were so excited to see them, and so used to being around other people, that we were in the background spitting with every excited exclamation, and the only thing that mitigated our embarrassment was that they were just as excited to see us.

    There was something strange about moving to be reunited with our friends. It was the same little shock of tender affection as when another friend brought us a sweet card and a candle after the death of our cat, or when a friend and his friend made the birthday cake for us. childhood of Mikaella’s dreams from an Australian recipe cult of the 80’s.

    “There’s a little kernel of romance in every friendship”

    Because good friends love each other, there is a small kernel of romance in every friendship, the same excitement and mystery that makes our heart beat faster on a date or birthday. When a friend arrives, we often have the same pleasure of fluttering as a squash – without the annoying anxiety of knowing if you’d like to come back.

    In the romcoms, the heroine’s best friend is a base of the genre, to such an extent that Judy Greer has written a whole new memoir to play the role. The popular choice of romcom is to make it the opposite of your main character – if your heroine is straight-laced and uptight (the Katherine Heigl type), give her a relaxed beast with a straw cocktail between her teeth and eyes. on a child; if your heroine is furious and wild, give her a better friend than she desperately hunts down and shouting “at least put on underwear!”.

    However, a really good fictional friendship – both in a classic work of literary genius and in a horror B-movie – should feel as vivid and spooky as you and your favorite friend. And a romcom is particularly ready to do that, because love and care are at the heart of the genre, ready to be expressed not only between our main couple, but between our heroine and her best friend. A good romcom will show us just why our heroine and her best friend are so attracted to each other, the invisible ropes and the intricate story that binds them together. We can’t see the whole story, but the sense of it must be there, beating beneath the surface.

    “We wanted them to love and be loved”

    As a writer, you almost want to imply that it’s just luck to sort out that your heroine’s best friend isn’t, in fact, your heroine. They had to be like a real person, like developed a character; we must give our fictional friends the same respect and interest we give to our real-life friends. A stand-alone friend who is there to encourage the hero and explain the plot to the public will do the trick, but they rarely move anyone. When we write The view was tired, we wanted our heroine, Win, to have a friend who had her own desires and ambitions, which were sometimes contradictory to those of Win. We created Shift, our addition to that tradition of best friend romcom, not only to support Win, but to challenge it. We wanted them to get together and go crazy.

    When we write, we try to impregnate our friendships with as much emotion and care and tension as a romantic relationship. The focus of the novel might not be friendship, of course, but that kernel of romance at the heart of friendship will make the pages where it is the fire comes alive. In the same way, most romances go well with a heart of friendship at heart: an assurance that our main couple will want to talk to each other, spend time with each other, be interested in each other. even if they are not in the grips of passion or love.

    Last year, we got married (for the second time – it’s a long story). It was a long, beautiful, stressful day, which marriages tend to be, a blur of family and friends and which shake hands hand in hand. But one of the clearest moments that arises is when someone pours curry over Mikaella’s white silk shirt, leaving the two of us staring at each other until Onjuli yells, “I’m going to pick up Sophie!”. Our best friend (and maid of honor) fell on us like a dream, expertly scrubbing the stain with nothing but hand soap and a paper towel, all of us laughing and knowing that this was another moment. in the mythology of our friendship, right here on track.

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