The Debs Interview with Carolina De Robertis + GIVEAWAY of The Gods of Tango

As this year’s Deb class moves toward publication of our first novels, I was inspired to call on one of the women writers who inspires me, Carolina De Robertis. I met Carolina when she was waiting for her first novel to come out (and expecting her first child!) I have carefully observed her career as a novelist, a wife and mother, and a cultural critic. I am thrilled to have her as our first guest for the class of 2016.
Image result for gods of tangoCarolina De Robertis’ newest novel, The Gods of Tango, is a lyrical, deeply moving story of a young woman whose passion for the early sounds of tango becomes a force of profound and unexpected change. Called “riveting” by BBC.com, and “a rousing tale of sex, violence, exhilaration, poverty, luck, and redemption” by The San Francisco Chronicle, the novel explores social themes such as immigration, sexual identity, rebellion against gender roles, and, of course, the birth of the tango. 
Carolina has offered to send a copy of THE GODS OF TANGO to one lucky commenter—details at the end of this post!

The Debs Interview with Carolina De Robertis

When you were a teenager, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?

I’ve known since I was ten years old that there was nothing I wanted more from life than to become a writer. As a teenager, I continued to spend rhapsodic hours devouring books, but my idea of what it meant to become a writer was extremely vague. In my wildest dreams, I pictured myself living in Paris, a single woman alone, unattached and therefore free to create, smoking cigarettes in sidewalk cafés with dog-eared books piled up next to my coffee as I scratched out ecstatic words on napkins.  Naturally, this is not the sort of plan that gets the approval of career counselors. Luckily for me, my public high school had no career counselors, so I was left to my dreaming for a good while.

Share one quirk you have that most people don’t know about.

I am double-jointed in my elbows, so when I bend my arms back, they bend the other way. Every once in a while, I forget myself and stretch my arms out in front of people, and they become alarmed, thinking that my arms have suddenly both broken, or perhaps that I’ve escaped from the freak show. Growing up, I was the only one in my family who had this trait, but now, it turns out, one of my children has it too.

What’s your next big thing?

I’ve just wrapped up a book tour for The Gods of Tango, and am enthusiastically clearing the decks to dive back into my novel-in-progress. I always take a break from writing when I’m launching a book. It’s impossible for me to write while I’m in book promotion mode—or, better said, book outreach mode. I prefer that language over “book promotion,” because the thought of “selling” my book feels horrible and daunting, while the idea of connecting with readers, engaging with the media, and sparking conversation about themes and issues I care about so much that I wrote a novel about them, well, that just sounds like pure joy, and an honor.

What is the best perk of your job?

Doing something I love so immensely, and getting to call it work. It is work, of course, to write novels: long, slow, laborious work. And yet it’s work I deeply love. I feel fully awake, fully alive to myself and the world we live in, when I am immersed in writing a book. When I think of how many of my ancestors, especially female ancestors, never had the opportunity to sit down and write, I count myself incredibly fortunate.

The other thing I absolutely love about this job is hearing from readers about their experiences with my novels. It’s an unbelievable gift, beyond measure, really.

Do you have a regular first reader?  If so, who is it and why that person?

My wife has been my first reader for all of my novels. She is my trusted adviser, an excellent reader and thinker, and a terrific writer, too. We do have different perspectives on some controversial issues, such as the Oxford comma. That is true. That will likely never change; I can’t convert her, and she can’t convert me. And yet, even with these differences, we have kept up a fabulous relationship for fifteen years, and for all of those years we have shared the intimacy of being first readers of each others’ work. 


Padilha_headshotCarolina De Robertis, a writer of Uruguayan origins, is the internationally bestselling author of The Gods of TangoPerla, and The Invisible Mountain, which was a Best Book of 2009 according to the San Francisco Chronicle, O, The Oprah Magazine, and BookList. She is the recipient of Italy’s Rhegium Julii Prize and a 2012 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has been translated into seventeen languages. Her writings and literary translations have appeared in Zoetrope: Allstory, Granta, The Virginia Quarterly Review, the anthology Immigrant Voices: 21st Century Stories and elsewhere. Visit her online at her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.


 GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by Noon (EST) on Friday, September 18 to win a copy of Carolina De Robertis’ novel, THE GODS OF TANGO.  Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!

 

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Aya de Leon directs the Poetry for the People program in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley. Her work has appeared in Essence Magazine, xojane, Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Mutha Magazine, Movement Strategy Center, My Brown Baby, KQED Pop, Bitch Magazine, Racialicious, Fusion, and she has been a guest on HuffPostLive. She is the author of the children's picture book PUFFY: PEOPLE WHOSE HAIR DEFIES GRAVITY. Kensington Books will be publishing her debut feminist heist novel, UPTOWN THIEF, in 2016. For more info, go to ayadeleon.wordpress.com.

This article has 10 Comments

  1. Loved this: “the idea of connecting with readers, engaging with the media, and sparking conversation about themes and issues I care about so much that I wrote a novel about them, well, that just sounds like pure joy, and an honor.”

  2. So insightful, and it’s great to see a writer who embraces the concept of “book outreach” with such magnanimity. I can’t imagine what it must be like to write books that engage and touch other people, but if that’s what comes of effective “outreach” that must be so rewarding!

  3. I really appreciate the idea that, as authors, we’re not all salespeople. Some of us don’t mind that part, but she speaks to those of us who balk at “promoting.” I love her suggestion that we can really tap into what made us write the book and reframe the process of getting our books into the hands of people who want to hear our stories.

    1. Exactly, Aya. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who understands that readers pick up books because they want to connect emotionally with a story. We write stories, and what the industry calls “marketing” is better thought of as finding people who will respond to the stories we write. At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself, when it comes time to “market” my book!

  4. Me, too! Love the reframing of “book promotion.” I also wonder what Ms. De Robertis means by “long, slow laborious practice.” How long, how slow? And thank you for the gorgeous description of the writer in Paris!

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