Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Interview with Carolina De Robertis

I was absolutely taken with Carolina De Robertis' novel Perla, about a young woman's battle with the ghosts of her family's past, and I'm thrilled to share this interview with her.  Read on to learn more about her writing, her book, and what she does when she's not writing.  Be sure to enter the giveaway at the end!

Carolina De Robertis
What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

I’ve never actually told this in public, you’re the first to get it out of me! The first story I ever wrote was called “Spimp, the little Kirmie.” It was about, well, a Kirmie—an extraterrestrial creature that looks something like a bunny, a bear, and a racoon rolled into one—who is sent to earth to study the way humans live, and discovers that we are in fact stranger than previously imagined. It comes complete with illustrations, and is twelve pages long. I was seven years old. I didn’t write it for school but for the sheer adventure of it. It has never been published.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I don’t adhere too strictly to any particular routines, as it’s important for me to remember that writing can happen anytime, anywhere, and that the gates are always open. I don’t want to become too dependent on anything, because, in a life full of noise and responsibilities, it’s important to stay limber and flexible. That said, I know that I write best when I have long swaths of time in which to sink into the work, rather than many smaller nuggets of interrupted time. I strive to write first, leaving the seductive (and powerful) chatter of the internet for later in the day. I do not answer the phone. I take walks to mull particular questions, to get unstuck, or to “feed the well” by tuning into what the light is doing, how it lands on leaves and sparks in gutters. And I dip back into books that have blown my mind in the past, with the hopes that they might jostle open ideas or push my own prose to a higher level.

Was Perla the original title of your book?

No! The book went through many, many titles in the course of writing it, and Perla didn’t stick until the very end, when all the rest of the writing and revision was done. My editor and I went through a long process of pitching titles to each other and exploring a myriad possibilities. And then we came together around a simple, direct title: Perla. And it is right. Because this young woman’s name—where it came from, what it means for her to carry it—holds so many secret keys to this book.

As you were writing Perla, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

I knew some things about where the narrative was headed, but there were aspects of the ending that remained nebulous to me until I was finally ready to write it. The details of what happens on a certain final night (I’m being vague to avoid spoilers, but hopefully those who’ve read the book will know what I mean), actions that Perla takes—those were unexpected, and they startled me and even moved me with the meaning they carried under the surface. In the process of writing that scene, I came to see understand Perla in a new way, her strength and pain and immutable inner wildness.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I love reading (big surprise!), going for walks, cooking meals together with my wife, and playing with my infinitely exuberant three-year-old son—from kicking a ball around to pretending to be sharks or reading ¿Cómo van a la escuela los dinosaurios? for the hundredth time and still laughing at the jokes. At the moment, I’m also eight months pregnant, so I have to say, I’m really enjoying rare precious moments with my feet up, staring at the wall.

Read any good books recently?

No doubt! I just read, and absolutely loved, The Lady Matador’s Hotel, by Cristina García. It’s beautifully written, and such a delicate and engrossing example of polyphonic writing—a story woven from many points of view, in this case exploring the intrigues of a luxury hotel in war-torn Central America.

On my nightstand right now: Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and, as part of research for my third novel, the 500-page memoirs of Francisco Canaro. He was an Old Guard tango musician who lived the history of tango music from its earliest, grittiest days to the golden era. Not only has this book never been translated into English, but it’s out of print even in Argentina. It took me almost a year to get my hands on a copy. It was worth all the effort. To my surprise, it’s a riveting read, and filling me with images and ideas for my next book.

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My thanks to Ms. De Robertis for her time and answers! Learn more about her and her writing at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Perla to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 6/8.


  1. Audra, thank you so much for inviting me in for this interview! It was a true pleasure and joy. Thanks to you for your time, insights, and generous thoughts.

    1. My pleasure! It was such a treat getting to learn more about you and your process.

  2. I cannot wait to read her next sounds fantastic...I have no idea how she finds time to write with the son and the new baby on the way...cudos to her.

    1. I'm *dying* for the next book already -- it really does sound marvelous! And I'm so deeply impressed she's so busy with a toddler and a new baby soon to be there! Here's I'm all pleased I can read real late into the night -- when/if my wife and I have a baby, I will consider myself lucky if I can shower/eat/function all at the same time!

    2. Trust me, babies change all! This I know. I wish I didn't some when I'm sick (now) and she is too! Not fun...but we have better days ahead with this medicine...staying positive here. I also want to go back and read Carolina's previous work.

  3. I think I love this book (and the author) a little more after reading her interview. I love it when that happens!

    1. I know -- I was just so enchanted with Ms. De Robertis' responses -- it has made me an even bigger fangirl! Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit has an interview with her as well -- it made me jealous it was such a good interview!

    2. No need to be jealous...I always think your interviews are great!

  4. LOL how funny about her first story! What a creative child :) This has been on my wishlist since I first heard of a it a few months ago :)

  5. I love that her first story came with illustrations. I think that shows what an amazing imagination she had even at 7 years old!