Carola Perla
Artist : Author
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What Is That Book About - "On Malot, the Birth of Anka, and Paper Houses" - Guest Post - February 2013
"When I was eight years old, I came across a children’s book from 1922 titled “Nobody’s Girl”.  The author was French writer Hector Malot and the story followed the arduous foot journey of impoverished young Perrine across the Pyrennes.  She sets out from Spain in a photographer’s caravan with her mother.  Tragically, however, her mother dies on their way to Paris, where they had hoped to find long-lost family.  Suddenly left alone in the world, Perrine’s plight becomes one of incredible strength and self-reliance as she endures hunger, homelessness, and the predatory dangers of society in her search for acceptance and a new home..."(Excerpt)

Traveling with T - "Literary Influences: How Margaret Ball Changed My Life" - Guest Post - February 2013
"As a writer, people often ask you to name literary influences or a favorite book. I am never as happy as when I get to call much-deserved attention to the writers and artists who have inspired me. However, there is the temptation to make one’s selection sound as choice and academic as possible, and I confess I’ve fallen prey to my vanity more than once. Therefore, I am committed to candor this time around, and boldly admit that the book which has impacted me most in my life is not existential or post-modern, a work of magical realism or stream of consciousness, let alone penned by Salinger. Rather, it’s a little-known, sadly forgotten historical fiction novel by Margaret Ball called ‘Bridge to the Sky”.  I know I am not alone in my praise of this 1990 out-of-print medieval epic. The book has in recent years garnered a five-star rating on Amazon by the three people who still remember it. For those who don’t, think Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth”, minus five-hundred pages..." (Excerpt)
Book Hostage - "Q&A with Carola Perla" - Interview - February 2013
1. Carola, the men who live at Gibbin House are all very unique individuals. When you add Anka to the “family” the characterization becomes even more diverse. Did you find yourself struggling at all to switch between the various character voices?

"The switch in voices was made relatively easy by the fact that I knew the characters of Anka and Theodor so well. They are based on people and experiences which greatly shaped me as a young person. Before I ever put pen to paper, the characters had long existed in my mind, and I had carried on lengthy conversations with them. Admittedly, the earliest draft was written as two separate stories from opposite perspectives, which I pieced together after. But by the third draft, switching from one voice to another came second nature..." (Excerpt)

Peripheral ARTeries Journal - feature article - December 2013
Art Ascent Magazine - feature article - June 2013
Guest Post, Closed The Cover - book review website - April 22, 2013
  Art Basel Interview, Mapanare - December 2012
Publication Samples:
L'Allure Des Mots - magazine, February 2012
Indie Writer's Zone - blog, October 2011
Excerpts from Interview with L’Allure Des Mots Magazine (February 2012)


Tell us a bit about Gibbin House: Gibbin House is an immigrant’s story, set in London four years after the end of World War II.  The main protagonist is Anka, a young Romanian girl with a speech impediment who is forced to leave her mother’s side and carve out a new life for herself in an old Hampstead safehouse.  The place is already inhabited by a damaged set of exiled men, artists and intellectuals who never managed to move on.  Anka’s arrival is the catalyst for renewed hope, but it also sets in motion events that will reveal the truth behind past betrayals, romantic disappointments, and terrible sacrifices.   Ultimately, the story begs the question of these artists, immigrants, and former lovers - what do we leave behind without losing ourselves, and how do we forgive in order to start again?


How did you decide to turn your writing into an art installation? It seemed an obvious next step after I finally had the published book in front of me.  Gibbin House was a nine-year process, and my experience of writing it an often insular and hermetic one.  I suppose the self-aggrandizing artist in me wanted people to see what I had lived with on my own for so long – the boxes of journals and notebooks, clippings and storyboards, manuscripts obsessively reprinted and annotated, etc.  There is a material culture that emerges from such a process I felt deserved exposing and elevating.  Museums do it all the time, of course, but I could not think of an example when the author had offered the ‘inside’ glimpse.  It also occurred to me that, as the author, I was in the unique position of being able to fully incorporate a published work of literature into an art piece.  My art background and my close connection with ATELIER 1022 allowed me to follow through on that. The result has been very cathartic and validating.


Do you do other types of artwork? My second installation “Illegible” – a sort of companion piece to “Off the Page” – features a pencil portrait of a young woman.  I made the drawing when I was 21, around the same age as my main character Anka in Gibbin House.  Although I am really interested in further exploring paper art as a visual and textural extension of my writing, my first love is portraiture.  I am fascinated by human faces.  In my drawings they are a conglomerate of unuttered feelings and expressions.  In my books, I get to make them speak.


What were some of the challenges in writing your first novel? Most writers can attest to the fact that time and money are the practical challenges with a first novel – after all, no one is paying you to write it, and every dawn you greet with exhaustion and an overexerted ashtray makes you wonder if it’s all worth it.  Luckily, my flexible schedule and a supportive, understanding family helped me push past all that.  What I struggled with, more than anything, was finding confidence in my choices, trusting my voice as a writer.  With the first novel, there is always trepidation and second-guessing, because you have no proof that you really know what you’re doing. In my case, setting the story in a time period that required a lot of research created the added pressure of historical authenticity. But whenever I wavered, I’d go back to the famous anecdote about Oscar Wilde, spending the morning taking out a comma, and the afternoon putting it back in.  It would remind me that indecision plagues the best of them.  Fear of failure is part of the romance.


How much of yourself do you put into your characters? Virtually all the characters I create betray some aspect of my own personality, whether or not I intend this.  Writing is often like being an actor, in that you don’t just describe settings and situations, but try as much as possible to physically and emotionally inhabit the people in the story.  Of course, I did intentionally inject much of myself into my main characters.  Anka’s speech impediment, for example, arose from my own immigrant childhood and the sensation I felt as a young girl of being mute and unintelligible in every new country we moved to.  The relationship between Theodor and Raluca also bears a deep personal resemblance to my own past.  Undeniably, there is a reason that first novels tend to be Bildungsroman in style – they are an author’s first opportunity to portray himself and his life experiences, an urgency that is not necessarily there in the works that follow.  For my part, I would not say Gibbin House was autobiographical, but certainly an ‘echo’ of the truth.




Excerpt from Interview with Indie Writer Zone (October 2011)



What do you do when you get writers block? I roll up my sleeves and backtrack…the one thing I have come to suspect after all these years is that ‘writer’s block’ does not really exist.  Mind you, I’ve experienced what the term implies countless times - the impotence, the arrested imagination, the dissipated momentum…the block.  I’ve spent almost a year between chapters, writing nothing at all.  But invariably the reason for this is that at some point I wrote myself into a corner. Sometimes it can come down to the most insidiously small phrase that I threw in at 4 in the morning, because I felt myself running out of steam for the day, and I just wanted to write something. One word leads to another, and before you know it, a character’s actions become forced, the tone wrong, dialogue formulaic.   The downward spiral is so gradual, you keep thinking you can steer the story straight. You think to yourself: I can’t waste all that work!  And so you press on, until you hit the proverbial wall.  Then, as loath as you are to do it, rather than fancying yourself in some artistic crisis, you just have to bite the bullet and unspool the narrative until you find that untrue note.  It’s quite miraculous when you extract it, like some malignant cyst, how all the ideas and inspiration come flooding out again.


How many hours a week do you spend writing? When I was in the midst of the project, I would write about 10-14 hours  day, which in turn would yield about 1500-2000 words of usable prose.  The important thing for me was always to dedicate at least three consecutive days to uninterrupted work – away from my day job, which in itself involves a considerable amount of writing.   I’ve always admired those people who could meter out their writing in hour-long increments throughout the week, like sessions at the gym. I prefer the full immersion, if only that it feels more bohemian, a thanklessly romantic endeavor instead of a job. 


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