Joining me today for the first author spotlight of 2021 is Gabrielle Yetter. Gabrielle’s novel Whisper of the Lotus was self-published in November. Here she tells us about herself, what she’s been reading recently and, of course, about her book. It’s available now in paperback and ebook formats and you can order a copy online here: Whisper of the Lotus
First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I was born in India to an English mother and a Maltese father and grew up in the Persian Gulf. I spent the first 16 years of my life in Bahrain, then I finished my schooling and became a journalist in South Africa. When I was 22, I travelled to the US with another journalist friend and I ended up staying more than 20 years. At first, I worked in public relations and marketing in New York then I moved to California where I launched a dining guide in San Diego before going to San Francisco and working for Business Wire, a global newswire organization. In 2001, I moved to London to set up Business Wire’s first international office then I returned to the US two years later and married my husband, Skip.
Our honeymoon in Thailand led to a decision to step off the proverbial treadmill, so we sold our home, quit our jobs and moved to Cambodia. In Phnom Penh, I worked as an English language advisor at an NGO (non-governmental organization) and wrote freelance articles. I was hired to write The Definitive Guide to Moving to Southeast Asia: Cambodia as well as The Sweet Tastes of Cambodia (about traditional desserts), then I self-published two children’s books, Ogden The Fish Who Couldn’t Swim Straight and Martha the Blue Sheep and co-wrote Just Go! Leave the Treadmill for a World of Adventure with Skip.
Tell me about your journey to publication
Writing a novel was something I’d always resisted as I felt I wasn’t capable, but my husband encouraged me and once the idea was sown, it blossomed into a wild shrub with multiple branches. The process of writing Whisper of the Lotus took almost five years (with stops and starts in between) and, after approaching and getting nowhere with agents, I decided to self-publish.
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
Whisper of the Lotus is about a young woman who travels to Cambodia to visit her best friend and meets a mysterious old man on the flight. When she arrives, she discovers a land of golden temples, orange-clad monks and kind-hearted people, then realises many things are not what they seem—including her own family relationships that bubble to the surface through a series of revelations. It is a story of mystery, magic, and Buddhist messages, wrapped around the sights, sounds and smells of Cambodia.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
It’s a metaphor for Charlotte’s life. The story of the lotus is about a beautiful flower that begins life underwater, buried in mud. As it grows toward the surface, it pushes the mud from its petals and emerges as a magnificent bloom, free from dirt.
How did you celebrate publication day?
I launched my book on November 9 which is Cambodian Independence Day as well as my birthday. Since we were in lockdown, I did a virtual book launch that was hosted by a friend who is a wonderful raconteur. More than fifty friends from around the world joined in and I announced I was donating all proceeds from the book for the first 57 days to Justice and Soul, an anti-trafficking organization in Cambodia.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Most of my time is spent promoting Whisper of the Lotus but I’ve been asked by a number of people to write a sequel so there’s a chance the lotus may resurface.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
I recently read 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak which I loved. And A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is a brilliant and haunting story that will remain with me for years to come.
What are you reading just now?
I just started Shuggie Bain, the novel by Douglas Stuart that won the 2020 Booker prize.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
Probably something like How to Entertain Yourself for 24 Hours with Coconuts and a Whole Lot of Sand. But, if there isn’t such a book, I might take Shantaram by Gregory Roberts, a book that is intense, beautifully written and long!
[Haha – I was away looking up that first book until I realised you had made it up!]
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
Not really. I can’t picture any of my favourite books on the screen as I prefer losing myself in the written word and visualising my own version of the characters.
[Fair enough – I think people are often disappointed with casting choices]
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
On Facebook, I’m at https://www.facebook.com/GabrielleYetterAuthor, Instagram is @gabrielleyetter, Twitter is @Gabster2, and LinkedIn is https://www.linkedin.com/in/gabrielleyetter1. My Amazon author page is https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00BXBZOOW
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I think it might be Mary Poppins. I love the messages she imparts, the twinkle in her eye, and the meaning she brings to the world. Besides, she can fly!
From the back of the book
A buzz sounded from inside Charlotte’s handbag, so she stopped and fumbled for the mobile phone she’d switched on after landing. Surely nobody would be contacting her here. Her fingers curled around it and she flipped open the case and checked the message: Welcome to Cambodia, Charlotte. You have 57 days
Sometimes you have to go a long way from home to come full circle back to discover what was right in front of you.
Charlotte’s mundane, dead-end life lacked excitement. She never imagined that sitting on a plane to Cambodia, struggling with her fear of flying, would lead to her being befriended by a Rashid, an old man whose tragic secret would take her on a mystery tour of discovery.
In a land of golden temples, orange-clad monks, and smiling people, Charlotte discovers nothing is as she’d expected. She also never imagined the journey would take her back to the night when her father walked out on the family.
And who was Rashid? Was he just a kindly old man, or was there something deeper sewn into the exquisite fabric of his life?
From the author of The Definitive Guide to Living in Southeast Asia: Cambodia and Just Go! Leave the Treadmill for a World of Adventure, Whisper of the Lotus is a multi-layered story about friendship and family, love and identity, set in an exotic, magical country in Southeast Asia.