Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Arabelle's Shadows by Fleur Gaskin: Interview and Excerpt


How did you start your writing career?

I’d always planned on being a novelist as a child, I’d also planned on being a famous actress and a vet. When I left high school life took me in a different direction. Then in Paris in 2002 I read Wuthering Heights, the book really resonated with me and I decided that I also had tales I wanted to tell. From that moment on I was planning, scheming and crafting my first novel. I wanted to create something unique, something that did not follow the rules of book writing that English majors are taught in school. So I studied novels by myself, decided what I liked, what I thought didn’t work and ultimately learned how to write through try and era. 

Does travel play in the writing of your books? 

Before I was an author I was a model. I travelled all over Asia and parts of Europe. In fact, I haven’t lived in New Zealand for the past twelve years. So travel is a big part of my life and thus a big part of my writing.

In my novel, Arabelle’s Shadows, Arabelle travels all over the place. She lived in these exotic cities, she wasn’t there as a tourist, yet she wasn’t a native either so Arabelle had her own unique perspective on each place she went.

These days I’m living in China, which is fascinating because it’s changing and developing so quickly. I’m hoping that some of the characters in my next book will be living in either Beijing or Shanghai.  

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what? 

I honestly don’t think I could write a thing without listening to music. Songs are such an artistic expression of emotion, they inspire my own creativity. I generally listen to punk rock, rock or alternative music. When I was writing Arabelle’s Shadows I would listen to sad, emotional songs before I began to write, to focus my mind on the emotions that Arabelle was feeling. When I’m actually writing I generally need to choose songs I don’t know all the lyrics to – otherwise I start singing along and forget what I was saying.  

If you could apologize to someone in your past, who would it be? 

As I have grown older I have come to understand the importance of apologising. I have learned that an apology does not mean an admittance of failure on my part, it is actually an act of love. I had one friend who I was very close to when I was a teenager but she was messed up and I was messed up so we drifted apart and eventually had nothing to do with each other. I recently made contact with her. I told her I was sorry I hadn’t been a good friend. She wasn’t angry with me, she thought she’d done something wrong, and now I hope we can continue to keep in touch. If you need to apologise to someone just do it! It doesn’t matter what their response is, only what your intentions are. Life is too short to wander round carrying the baggage of your past. 

How do you react to a bad review of your book? 

Well first I sulk. It’s like being physically smacked in the face. Then I consider whether they are right or not. When I was writing Arabelle’s Shadows the friends who read my drafts often told me things I didn’t want to hear. But as a general rule, they were right and my book needed to be clearer, less complicated or less wordy. I took their advice and because of those negative comments I have created a novel I proud to put my name to.

When I receive a bad review now that my book is complete I am much more philosophical about it. I know this book is for a specific group of people, some will absolutely love it and some won’t be able to read the first three chapters, and I’m okay with that. There are plenty of best selling novels out there that others have loved yet I despised. 

Do your friends think you are an introvert or an extravert? Why? 

My friends would say I’m an extravert. When I’m out I can be loud and dominate the conversation with my many thoughts and ideas. What my friends may not realise is, the reason I talk so much when I’m with them is because I spend most of my time alone. I’m at home working on my books, my projects, hanging out with my cats. I’m an introvert who needs a lot of quiet time. But sometimes it’s nice to go out and express all those thoughts I’ve been quietly contemplating by myself. 

Is there a book you recommend our readers read?

How to win friends & influence people by Dale Carnegie. This is not my favourite book of all time, but if there was a book I wish the whole world would read it would be this one. Though written in the late 1930’s it’s clear and very easy to read. How to win friends & influence people is one of the original self help books and its message is so important. If you want something from someone, be nice to them. That’s it. I don’t understand why this concept is so difficult for some people. If you want your employees to work harder, ask them what will help them work more efficiently, don’t threaten them with docked wages. If you have to deal with customer service, make your complaint with a smile. If you yell at them, they’ll simply become defensive. It works for every situation, dealing with friends, children, bosses. Treat people how you want to be treated. 

What one word best describes you?


Everything in Arabelle's life is coming together. She has confidence, great friends, she's even dating Naak, a wealthy Thai socialite. But there are too many models in Bangkok. Arabelle’s broke, she can’t find an agent in New York, and Naak isn’t as wonderful as he first appears.

Slowly the Shadows creep back into Arabelle’s mind, bringing with them thoughts of hopelessness and despair. The vile Shadows know something Arabelle’s refusing to remember and, if she’s not careful, they’ll use it to destroy her.

Based on a true story, Arabelle’s Shadows takes us on a journey through the struggles of growing up, not quite making it as an international model, and attempting to overcome a crushing depression.



My day started off okay. I had a casting at Emporium, a shopping centre near Rompo. I’ve always loved being in Emporium. Outside it’s all hot, dirty and crowded but as soon as you walk through the entrance everything’s cool, spacious and sparkly. And it’s welcoming, even though it’s full of lavish designer stores. It’s not like other stuffy malls for the wealthy, which always make me feel uncomfortable like, since I don’t have a platinum credit card, I shouldn’t be there.

After the casting I saw my friend Ying Thompson walking towards the escalator. She broke off from the group she was with and came over to give me a hug. “Hey Arabelle, what are you doing? Come sit with me while I get my makeup done.”

“Are you doing a fashion show?” I asked her thinking of all the models that’d been with her. “Nope. The others are, I’m hosting the event. Come on!” Without waiting for me to reply she linked her arm through mine and led me downstairs towards a backstage area in the basement. Ying’s a very popular singer in Thailand. As we walked through the mall you could hear people saying her name and giggling. Ying paid no attention to all the turning heads. She was on the phone, in the middle of a fierce monetary negotiation with a client. They want her to become the face of their rice crackers.

The concrete room we entered was full of people bustling around getting ready for the fashion show. We found an empty space and sat down amongst everyone else’s handbags, shawls and bottles of water.

“So what’s been happening?” She asked in a strong Kiwi accent (her Dad's from New Zealand, her Mum’s Thai-Chinese). “I think I…” I was bursting to tell her about Naak but Ying’s assistant interrupted and started asking a lot of questions in Thai. “Sorry,” Ying said focusing her attention back to me, “what were you going to say?”

“I was out at Bed the other week and… well… I think I’m dating Naak!”

Ying pursed her lips together in a frown, not the look of excitement I’d been expecting. “No you’re not.” Ying said flatly, “Naak has a girlfriend. She left to study in the States a couple of weeks ago.”

Looking away from Ying I caught sight of my reflection in the makeup mirror opposite me. My face was stuck in the smile I’d worn when I was telling her I had a boyfriend. Except now the lines around my mouth were strained. With bulging eyes my smile looked more like a grimace.

“I think they’re dating because her family owns a lot of the property on Sukumvit Road,” Ying continued. “You know, she’s only eighteen!” Naak’s thirty.

“Okay,” I murmured. I searched desperately for something else to say in response. Luckily the brand new mobile on Ying’s lap began to vibrate. With her perfectly manicured fingers, a tiny crystal heart in the centre of each nail, Ying set about replying to the text message. Ying hates all unpleasantness and it appeared that, as far as she was concerned, the issue was settled.

I’ve had plenty of experience detaching myself from my wretched weeping soul and by the time Ying put her phone down I'd rearranged my face into neutral. My robot body looked at my mobile and told Ying, “Sorry, I've got to go see the agency now,” it hugged her goodbye. It smiled and acted like Arabelle didn’t care that Naak had a girlfriend.

My insides died and disintegrated the whole journey home. I paused the tears right up until I exited the elevator. When I found no one in my shared room I blinked, allowing them trickle down the sides of my face and jump to the floor.


Fleur Gaskin is from New Zealand. She was an international model for six years, working in over ten countries, mainly in Asia and Europe. She has been in TV commercials, walked on runways and appeared in many magazines including Elle, Marie Claire and Vogue.  She presently lives in Shanghai, China with her fianc√©.


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