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.
Carolina De Robertis, a writer of Uruguayan origins, is the internationally bestselling author of The Gods of Tango, Perla, 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.