Saturday, October 15, 2011

Indie Insider - Carola Perla

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? Editing? Procrastinating?

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.

Everyone knows the editing process can be interminable (just look at Milan Kundera who, ever the perfectionist, reedited his entire oeuvre decades after he had already won international acclaim.) The beauty of language consists in the luscious spectrum of choices to express one idea. The key to editing is confidence in your choice, rather than infinite second-guessing. Fear of failure can easily turn necessary editing into procrastination, and then before you know it, you’ve become Oscar Wilde, spending the morning taking out a comma, and the afternoon putting it back again. 

When I’m in the midst of writing, I tinker until I notice that the spontaneous rhythm of the first draft begins to erode. When I review the whole, my main criteria is whether or not I could stand hearing my words read aloud as a book on tape without cringing.

How long does it take you to create a book from start to finish on average?
My first novel took nine years, from conception to publication. Mostly on account of the fact that it was uncharted territory, I still had a day job, and that the story I so ambitiously chose for this freshman attempt involved extensive amount of research. However, the story exists as several versions, each of which took about eight months to complete. I hope the next novel follows that general 1-year timeline.

Where do you get your ebooks formatted?

I have yet to climb that particular Everest.
How are your book covers designed?

I am fortunate to have graphic artists in the family, who have an appreciation for the tone of my writing. For my first novel GIBBIN HOUSE, which centers around the lives of exiled intellectuals in post-war London, my mother designed a cover from a vintage stereographic photo – the scene of a busy 1920’s London street perfectly captures the book’s historic context and theme of travel and transition.
Do you use a professional editor, critique partners, or beta readers? Briefly describe your process.

I was strictly at the mercy of my mother and sister, and the intermittent erudite college friend. I confess, one of the main attractions about writing is that it is solitary work. I enjoy the hermetic existence into which I slip when I am in the midst of a project. Hence I have rarely sought out critique partners. My kingdom for a professional editor, though!

Which is the most important social media platform and why? Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, LinkedIn, or any other one you use.

Facebook has so far proved the most effective in garnering interest; however, my GIBBIN HOUSE blog is my favorite online tool. Not only is it sentimentally fulfilling, allowing me to revisit and highlight parts of the novel to which I am very attached, it also has the most international reach. My friends and colleagues have visited it via Facebook, but on its own, the blog has attracted readers from Russia, China, Portugal, Belgium, England, Chile, India, the Philippines, etc. which is always quite exciting to me.

Check out Carola's Blog and find her on Facebook.

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