Jul 31, 2013

Book Hop GIBBIN HOUSE by: Carola

Summer Giveaway Hop 2013 ~ Over 120 blog giveaways

Gibbin House 
by Carola Perola  (1 print copy autographed)

“Gibbin House”
a novel by Carola Perla

“For days on end I fought off hands sliding surreptitiously on my seat as I took it, felt palms coasting my skirt on the stairs, fingers searching my hip in a busy corridor.  And if it was not these physical trespasses, then I endured leers over newspapers, crass teasing, uninvited questions, flatulence…as far as I could tell, a man’s invasive nature knew no bounds…My eye caught the brass glint of clock hands.  Ten more minutes before I was expected downstairs.  To commence this new chapter with yet more men about me.  Except that in this case, considering the circumstance, the title of invader was really mine.” – Gibbin House 

Thus tells Anka Pietraru, a mute 22-year old Romanian with a history of victimization at the hands of men, of her forced journey from Vienna to London.  It is the summer of 1949, and Europe remains a scarred postwar landscape of ravaged cities, broken families, and poverty.  At Gibbin House, a former safehouse for political exiles, only four men remain - feuding intellectuals, artists, and academics trapped in the house by the disappointment of the life that evaded them. 

The mysterious circumstances of Anka’s arrival shakes them out of their stupor. Particularly Theodor Soller, the most withdrawn and embittered of the Gibbin House residents, who finds himself endeared to this insular but precocious young woman.  Soon the most unlikely of friendships forms between two alienated souls longing for connection. But with this trust comes the unearthing of the house’s buried grudges and unrequited loves.  Anka’s discoveries will unwittingly expose her mother's own unthinkable sacrifices and reveal a secret thread that connects them all. And before they know it, the men will have to decide if they can put their demons to rest in order to give Anka the future she deserves, of if some wounds run too deep to forgive. 

Book Synopsis:

During World War II this Hampstead villa was a refuge for artists and intellectuals fleeing the continent. But when the former beacon of hope becomes a prison for the four men who remain exiled there, the mysterious arrival of a young mute woman with secrets of her own, tests the men's perception of love and loss, and their ability to forgive the past in order to live again.

"Gibbin House by Carola Perla is one of those rare books that made me fall in love with the story from the very first line...an intense, emotional and flawlessly romantic story...(the) relationships are strained and developed, and the cities take on lives of their own. The story and the language both are so beautiful...It was simply perfect. There are no words with which I can adequately describe my love for this book. Gibbin House should absolutely be a must-read." -- Ashley LaMar, Closed The Cover

"The writing (in Gibbin House) is top notch in an intellectual vein and the characters are drawn with a depth of observation." -- 19th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards

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Carola Perla
author . artist . visual poet

Carola Perla, Gibbin House - On her decision to create Anka Pietraru as a mute protagonist:

“Transience leaves a special sort of mark on a young person, especially in terms of language.  Not being able to communicate for months at a time with people around you, being dismissed because you have no voice.  And even when you begin to speak, you suffer the sensation of never quite being able to express everything.  I’m always in awe at a place like immigrant-rich Miami, because it is a place overflowing with lives, thoughts, and feelings unshared.  I’ve been Anka much of my life and I see her everywhere.”

Artist Biography:

Carola Perla is an award-winning Miami-based artist and author, born in 1977 to German-Peruvian parents in Timisoara, Romania.  She holds an M.A. in German Literature and a B.A. in Art History from Florida State University.  In 2002, she co-founded the LatinEPR Inc. Public Relations Firm, while also contributing as a sports columnist to upscale lifestyle magazine Tendencias.  She published Gibbin House, her debut novel on postwar exile, in 2011.  The same year, she launched the ATELIER 1022 Studio and Fine Art Gallery in Miami's Wynwood Arts District.  

Her first exploration in paper art was the installation "Off the Page: An Anatomic Look at the Creation of a Novel" (2011), which combined the material culture of an author with a lighted paper sculpture depicting her novel's last page.  Exhibited at ATELIER 1022 during Art Basel Miami 2011, the publicly-acclaimed installation gave rise to a series of multi-lingual paper sculptures and visual poems that address language, transience, and transculturation. 

Carola is currently working on her second novel, Humboldt's Riches, a semi-autobiographical 'Heart of Darkness' set in the remote Amazon region of Apurimac during Peru's 1980 guerilla uprisings.  Concurrently, the writing stages and themes of this book will be reflected in a series of paper installations, which will serve both as springboard and incubator for ensuing prose.  Intended as one large cross-media project, Konzeption is a new visual approach to hypertext and the creative process.  The introductory piece to the series, “Se Vende”, debuted in May 2013 and seeks to interpret the destruction of a Lima landmark and ancestral home through poetry, cut-paper, drawing, and voice recording.  “K1: Prologue” officially initiates the writing of the novel and will debut August 2013.  Carola Perla’s work is currently on view at ATELIER 1022, as well as South Florida’s Vargas Gallery and the Foundry Art Centre in Saint Charles, Missouri.  Her work earned her a ‘Best in Show’ award in the center’s “Paper Cuts” exhibit, which runs until September 27, 2013.

Artist Statement:

Transience.  In this case, the psychological as well as physical state of homelessness. It is the common thread that runs through both my writing and visual art work.  It reflects my fascination with what constitutes home, the effects of displacement and immigration, language as a barrier, and the process by which we construct new cultural identities. 

This fascination arises from my own Banat Swabian and Peruvian heritage, its multi-ethnic contradictions and conflicted history, as well as my migratory childhood which impressed  on me from a young age the feeling of “otherness”. My suspicions that I was something of an anathema, along with my sense of homelessness, manifested itself early on in a love of Roma music, alienated fictional heroines, and portrait painting, along with an obsessive preoccupation with architectural floor plans. However, it was not until my debut novel, Gibbin House (2011), that I first treated the idea of transience consciously, introducing characters during the European postwar era who face geographic and personal exile. As such, they are forced to conquer the impotence of voicelessness in foreign places and in their relationships; people being much like strange countries themselves. 

As to the wall-size paper installations which constitute much of my plastic art: I began creating these mixed-media works following the completion of Gibbin House, in order to transcend the inherently hermetic nature of the writing process. By publicly exposing my words, my personal artwork, and the material culture of my journey as an author (typed manuscripts, collected postcards, floppy disks, discarded notes, etc.), I aimed to offer an intimate glimpse at a writer’s interior landscape. This impetus evolved organically into the sculpture ‘Off the Page’, which elevates the novel’s final page to an artwork in its own right through the ephemeral combination of paper and light.  

When the meticulously-cut yet still dangling letters of these cascading paper sculptures are lit from behind, the effect reinforces the spontaneous, oral vibrancy of language. The words themselves become transient, seemingly wanting to float off the page. At the same time, the act of cutting paper is an irreversible one, symbolizing an ironic permanence, a commitment to direction. The sculpture’s success has since prompted me to continue exploring the relationship between the traditionally inward direction of literature and the external power of visual art. My fictional subjects serve as springboards in this symbiotic creative process.  Alternately, I also employ the paper surface for works of poetry 'chants'. 

I call my poems 'chants' because they evolve from a word or phrase on which I must meditate during the process of cutting each letter freehand.  The perpetual incantation organically inspires the sound or image of the next, the motif functioning as both a visual and musical building block that slowly draws in other elements.  Since such poems depend on the immediacy of the physical creation, they are each a product entirely of the moment.  This means that despite their graphic precision, they are each absolute and spontaneous originals.  

Together with integrated elements like graphite drawings, embroidery, light features, and voice recordings, these white paper blankets of poetry hang in the space like giant conversations, addressing identity, transculturation, human value, displacement, and the power of words. 

On occasion, I work with raw or indigenously crafted paper in place of my regular floor-to-ceiling format.   Collected on my travels and much smaller in scale, these papers are already imbued with their own cultural subtext, and thus offer interesting possibilities in weaving together ideas on language, culture, and gender roles.   

My next book project is the novel Humboldt’s Riches.  It is currently in progress, and will be a modern semi-autobiographical ‘Heart of Darkness’ that leads a Romanian protagonist and her young family into Peru’s remote Apurimac region during the guerilla uprising of 1980.  In keeping with my creative process, the book will be accompanied by a series of paper installations that either treat the novel’s themes and characters, or the experience of writing itself.

ATELIER 1022 Studio and Fine Art Gallery
2732 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33127

Artist Contact:
Carola Perla
1551 Meridian Ave #102, Miami Beach, FL 33139

Artist Interview ~ In Carola's own words:

In your debut novel “Gibbin House”the protagonist is a young Romanian woman who is forced to leave her home after the Second World War and start a new lifein London.   Is this story of exile based on anything that happened to you?

To some extent, yes, although I was much younger than Anka when I left Communist-era Romania in 1979.  Five years earlier, my father had traveled from his native Peruto Timisoara, to study biology at the Polytechnic University.  He hadn’t been there long when he went to a party and met a leggy blonde with John Lennon glasses.  He barely spoke a word of Romanian, but he was beautiful and brilliant in after-shave and bell bottom jeans.  It was a typical hippie love story, but for the fact that theCeausescu regime forbade relationships with foreigners.When I was born in 1977, the government reluctantlygranted my parents a marry license.  I was almost twoyears old by the time the actual approval came through.  After the weddingthe state gave my mother two weeks to leave the country.

It was a historic opportunity - only one other couple at that point had ever gotten permission to leave that way. But it meant my mother could never return, never see her family againShe was twenty-one. And since my father had to stay in Romania to finish his last college termshe had toleave her home with me on her own.  

Did you have your mother in mind when you wrote about Anka’s journey to London?

Naturally.  Here is this young woman – my mother - with an old suitcase and baby in her armswithout a penny to her name, having never eaten spaghetti or watched a scary movie, in clothes she’s sewn herself, getting on a plane, and seeing her own mother, as far as she knows,for the last time in her life.  She’s headed to Lima to live with a strange family in a strange culture. Of course Ilooked to her, to our experience, as I described Ankaembarking on her uncertain journey.

And then there’s the flight itself, not unlike Anka’sfragmented train itinerary.  Our cheap tickets had us stopping in Zurich, Madrid, San Juan, Caracas, and Bogota, with long layovers in deserted terminals in between.  I still remember moments of that tripbesides which my mother and I have spoken so much about it over the years, it was not difficult to put myself in Anka’s shoes– how overwhelming the experience would have seemed to herAt least my mother took comfort in having me by her side.  Anka would have been completely adrift, alone. Add to this her inability to communicate, and hers becomes the classic immigrant story.

Do you see migration as a central theme to “Gibbin House”?

Certainly one of them.  I’m interested in how people find a ‘home’, what that means.  It would have been a very important consideration after the war, with so many homes destroyed, families separated, political boundaries redrawn, deportations forced on various ethnic groups.  How do people recapture ‘home’ after all that?  “Gibbin House” is a microcosm of this scenario.  As the bookbegins, the characters are all stuck in this house, inert in both a physical and psychological sense, because of scars in their past.  

But as you learn more about them, you see that each at some point in his or her life had the courage to move forward.  They traveled great distances in defense of ideals, in search of love or adventure.  For young Alfred it was Cambridge, for Theodor a writing career in New York.  Most unconventionally in Irina’s caseit was the romantic lure of her mother’s native Banat. Until I returned to visitTimisoara in 1997, I felt similarly an adopted nostalgia for a home I hadn’t really known myself.  For twenty years it had existed only in rustic dishes, old vinyl records, and faded diafilm slides.  In the meantime, I’d lived in Lima, the Amazon, Germanyand South Floridaa passenger on my parent’s journey in search of home and happiness.

Since as a child I didn’t have much to do with my family’smovements, I’m fascinated as an adult by the reasons and impulses that drive one to emigrate.  It takes such hopeand belief in yourself to leave your home for a new one, whether under dangerous conditions or not.  And although I’ve often thought of living somewhere else againI’m not sure I could do it now.  Maybe that’s why write about it.

Did any other personal experiences find their way intothe book?

Like most authors, I write what I know, mostly in terms of relationships between people. Anka’s feelings in a new country are very familiar to me; her inability to speak mirrors my many months spent in silence every time I moved to a country where I did not know the language.  Her close connection with her mother is also something where I could inject elements of myself.   And of course there’s the romantic plotline, but perhaps I’ll leave a bit of mystery there.

Considering that you draw from autobiographic materialwhy did you choose historical fiction as the format of your first novel?

Many first-time novelists opt for the Bildungsromantheir “Catcher in Rye”.  If I had started with serious literary intentions, I might have done the same.  But to be honest,at the beginning I had no idea this book would become so personal.  I set out to tell a simple story of lost love with apaint-by-numbers plot, a quick beach blanket read.  I wasfresh out of grad school, with a lot of time on my hands, and I had always wanted to write something.   My teachershad supported the idea, and growing up I’d won a coupleof awards here and there.  But after an exhausting school year, I had no interest in intellectual challenges.  just wanted a breezy project, something creative.  A little book.

In light of my escapist personality and Anglophile tendencies, a British setting and some costume dramawere inevitable. I also had years of thesis research on Fin-de Si├Ęcle Vienna swimming in my head.  It seemed a shame to waste it, so that settled the timeline, and the historical fiction nature of the book.

Looking back, my choices appear rather arbitrary.  I wasonly aiming to amuse myself, to get away and be in a place that was not sunny Miami Beach.  I wanted the respite of hermetic life and to have a good reason for it.  Later I flew to Vienna and London to play the role of dedicated novelist.  But in these early stages, I didn’t think to write about myself.  

However, as “Gibbin House” evolved, it began to offerunexpected catharsis.  Increasingly, I realized my book was a mechanism by which I could process everything I’dever regretted, exorcise what I’d ever feared, and pay tribute to everything I’d ever loved…it was wonderful, and also a complete disaster. ended up putting too much of myself in it.  After nearly nine years, with no end in sight, I had a tangled mess of soliloquies on my hands. I resigned to drop the whole thing.  

My sister was the one who stopped me quitting.  She insisted I give it one last push, and in hindsight, given thatthis book has been the key to every artistic accomplishment since, I owe her what amounts to my life.Anyway, I went back, and tried very judiciously toexcavate a work of fiction from within the maze ofconfessions and admonitions.  I sincerely hope that in my final attempt I succeeded.

Do you have any new writing projects in the works?

My next novel is “Humboldt’s Riches”.  The title referencesthe 18th-Century Prussian explorer and naturalist whogave his name to an ocean current that affects much of Peru’s coastal climate.  The novel itself is a ‘Heart of Darkness’ tale, set in the Amazon’s remote Apurimacregion during the 1980 guerilla uprising of the Shining Path.  It follows a young family’s struggle against the odds to escape the conflict, and this time the semi-autobiographical story is intentionally so.  

I’m very excited about the projectpartly because of the more contemporary setting, and also because this will bemuch more of an adventure story.  Anka’s physical limitations in “Gibbin House” worked well to set the novel’s tone, which is quite solemn and reflective.  For the time period and historic circumstances, that felt appropriate.  With this book, I get to be much louder, faster, sultrier, and even a bit sexy.

What is also very different from “Gibbin House” and probably from most novels, is that I’m approaching the creation of this book as a visual art project.  These days my work includes large paper installations with visual poetry, and for HR, I have started by composing the prologue within a sculpture.  The ensuing pieces will continue to inform the novel, and vice versa, with ongoingdocumentation of the process. I’ll be posting the progress on the cross-medium project “Konzeption” on my website:www.carolaperla.com, as well as facebook.com/carolaperlaartist and Twitter@gibbinhouse.I invite everyone to follow me on this artistic journey throughout the coming year!

Hop on over to the other blogs & check out their giveaways!


  1. Thanks so much for participating!

  2. Thanks for sharing the hop and your giveaway. evamillien at gmail dot com


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