Thursday, June 12, 2014

Interview with author Michelle Gable - A Paris Apartment

Please welcome today another new to me author, Michelle Gable who is here talking about her new novel, A Paris Apartment.

  • ISBN-13: 9781250048738
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/22/2014
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 384


Bienvenue à Paris!
When April Vogt's boss tells her about an apartment in the ninth arrondissement that has been discovered after being shuttered for the past seventy years, the Sotheby's continental furniture specialist does not hear the words “dust” or “rats” or “decrepit.” She hears Paris. She hears escape.

Read an Excerpt:

Chapitre I

She only wanted to get out of town.
When her boss sidled up and said the words “apartment,” “ninth arrondissement,” and “a ton of nineteenth-century crap,” April instantly thought: vacation. There would be work involved, but no matter, she was going to Paris. As every writer, poet, painter, and, yes, furniture assessor knew, it was the perfect place for escape.
The Paris team was already there. Olivier was in charge. April pictured him right then winding through the apartment, tablet in hand, scratching out notes with bony, crooked fingers. He’d called in reinforcements from New York because they needed another appraiser, specifically a furniture expert, to bolster their shoddy credentials in that area. According to April’s boss the seven-room apartment held “enough pieces to outfit twelve upmarket bordellos.” Peter’s expectations were low. April’s were high, but for a different reason. In the end they were both wrong.
Chapitre II
While her husband tightened his bow tie and straightened both sleeves, tucking and pulling to make his appearance ever more immaculate, April packed for her redeye to Charles de Gaulle. She was normally an efficient and well-honed traveler, but the thirty-day trip was screwing with her luggage ratios. April was never gone more than a week but, apparently, sometime in the two hours between “ton of crap” and before the issuance of a plane ticket, someone must’ve tipped Peter off that this was not your average find. Stay as long as you need, he said. We can extend the ticket.
April would remind him of this later.
“What’s the problem?” Troy asked, noticing his wife’s pinched forehead. He yanked his shirt straight.
“Packing. I’m not sure I have enough. Thirty days. In Paris. In June. Which means the temperature can shift sixty degrees in any given twenty-four-hour period. As they say, you don’t go to Paris for the weather.”
April looked up, eyes zeroing in on Troy’s left cuff link as it caught the light from the overhead chandelier. It was an irrepressible habit, “assessing” things, and April had to stop her brain from calculating how much that speck of onyx and platinum might go for at auction. It wasn’t that she longed for her husband’s sudden demise; not as a matter of course, anyway, and never as a means to obtain wealth. Rather, her mental appraisals were a by-product of working for the world’s largest auction house.
“What’s with the glare?” Troy asked, chuckling slightly. “Wrong links for this get-up?”
“No. They’re great. Perfect.”
April looked away, relieved she did not specialize in trinkets passed down from grouchy wrinkled coots and therefore lacked the education to size up her husband’s accoutrements. She did, however, have a hard-won de facto master’s degree when it came to assessing Troy Vogt. That alone told April the cuff links, the ones her husband earmarked for specific work events, were inestimable, at least to him. What it said about who might be in attendance April did not want to consider.
“I’m overwhelmed.” April shook her head, staring at her suitcase but not speaking strictly of sweaters and scarves.
“Pack light,” Troy said. “You can always buy more once you’re there. It is Paris, you know.”
April smiled. “That’s your answer to everything, isn’t it? Buy more.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” Troy said with a wink as he moved toward the full-length mirror, gently patting April’s backside as he squeezed past. “You are a rare wife indeed.”
A rare “wife.” The word startled April but shouldn’t have. It had a new meaning now. Wife. Wife.
“Not that anyone’s keeping track,” Troy went on, “except for all of Wall Street, but my ‘buy more’ philosophy is why the recession was the best thing to happen to my firm and our investors.”
“What a charming attitude,” April said, trying to joke. There’d been painfully little humor in their home of late. The whole thing felt creaky, rusted out. “Who doesn’t love the perspective of a smug Wall Street guy to really drive the point home?”
Troy laughed and slipped on his tuxedo jacket. He continued staring into the mirror, chortling to himself, as April sneaked one last pair of ballet flats into her hard-backed suitcase.
“Well, speaking of smug Wall Street guys,” Troy said with manufactured cheer, “it seems you lucked out once again.”
“Lucked out?” April steadied herself against the chest of drawers (George III, mahogany bow-fronted, circa 1790) as she eyed her suitcase, sizing up its potential weight. “In what way?”
It didn’t look that heavy.
April inhaled. Forever imagining her shoulders wide and strong like an Olympic swimmer’s instead of the slight, refined ones she really possessed, April heaved the bulging suitcase off the bed. It promptly thumped onto the floor, one-half centimeter away from shattering the bones in her left foot.
“Lucked out in avoiding another packing injury, for one,” Troy said. “You realize that thing is bigger than you are, right? Sweetheart, you already have the fortuitous plane ticket. You don’t need to break your foot to avoid going to one of my miserable work events.”
“Oh, they’re not that bad.” April wiped her brow, then tilted the suitcase on its side.
“‘Not that bad’? They’re awful and you know it. The other wives will be downright envious.”
The other wives. And what of them, April wondered? What did they think when they pictured Troy? When they pictured her?
“You are my lucky girl,” Troy went on. “Paris will save you. It will save you from yet another dreary evening in a roomful of capitalist drones.”
“Oh, yes, those wretched capitalists.” April rolled her eyes and continued in a poorly played British accent. “Sooo fortunate to avoid that ilk. Their vulgar obsession with monetary gain! They’ve no class a’tall.”
April hoped she’d adequately blanketed the sadness with her lame attempts at humor. She did feel fortunate. However, it was not because she got to bypass a swanky work event and tête-à-têtes with the brightest (and most insufferable) on Wall Street.
No, April could hang with the best of them, despite not knowing what happened in Asian markets that morning. She could even tolerate the scene’s newest trophy wife, who would inevitably overindulge in the champagne and spend half the night marveling at April’s various graduate degrees, ultimately screeching to those within booze-spilling range, “Troy’s wife majored in furniture!”
But April couldn’t remember the last time her PhD in Art History was mistaken for showroom salesmanship. Troy almost never asked her along these days. He was forever “just popping by” events that were “no-spouses” or otherwise “too boring” for April to attend. That was the problem. Troy called her lucky, he called her saved, but April couldn’t very well feel grateful to avoid a situation she’d never been expected to attend. Or worse, one where her company wasn’t even desired.
Troy stopped bringing her when things between them had been relatively good. Now, who knew? Was she even supposed to go? In the end April did feel “lucky” and “saved” because with a ticket to Paris in hand, she didn’t have to contemplate that night’s noninvitation. She did not have to wonder if it was by design.
“The accent needs work,” Troy said as he moved to her side.
“For the record”—April batted away Troy’s arm as he tried to help with the luggage—“I enjoy your events. The people are interesting. The conversation lively.”
He turned back toward the mirror and gave himself a smoldering stare. April never knew if Troy did this because he suspected she was looking or because he thought she wasn’t.
“What’s so important that you need to ship out tonight anyway?” he asked, the forced casualness in his voice indicative of a certain level of suspicion.
“You know how these things go.” April wondered if he’d cop to his own wariness. “Furniture emergencies. Have to get in there before the competition catches wind of the sale.”
“But you’re not usually gone more than a week, ten days max, and never with so little notice. It’s somewhat disconcerting to get an ‘I have to go out of town’ text and then come home to find one’s wife packing for a month.”
Is it? April wanted to say. Are you really all that bothered?
Under normal circumstances she might joke about him being the lucky one now, wife out of town and all that. But the figurative cuts and bruises were too fresh, their long-term prognosis unclear.
“I was surprised by the urgency, too,” April said. And she was surprised, but also grateful. “According to the guys in Paris, it’s a remarkable find. A woman died in the South of France but had an apartment in Pigalle that’s been in the family for over a century. They never owned the apartment, but leased it for a hundred years.”
As she spoke, her shoulders began to loosen, her jaw started to unclench. This was a place April still knew how to navigate.
“The woman,” she said, “the deceased, hadn’t been inside since 1940. No one has. I keep thinking the information must be wrong. Maybe the actual dates were lost in translation and it’s only been shuttered since an ugly divorce sometime in the late nineties.”
April felt herself cringe at the word “divorce” but it was too late. The word was already out. And she’d been so careful to avoid it.
“Seventy years!” she chirped, her voice climbing toward the thirteen-foot ceilings. “Unimaginable!”
“I don’t know,” Troy said and shrugged, betraying nothing with his stern, stone face. “Same thing probably happens in Manhattan all the time. Places stay locked up while estate lawyers and trusts cut automatic checks each month, no one bothering to question a thing.”
“Not if it was anything like this apartment. Evidently it’s crammed to the ceiling with furniture and paintings and basically every item that came into the family’s possession prior to World War II.”
“Anything good?”
“Olivier seems to believe so, or I wouldn’t be going. If nothing else, it’s all fresh to market. Not even the Germans got in there.” April shook her head in amazement. “You’d think at least one errant, gambling-addicted, drugged-up family member would have wanted to get his hands on the stuff somewhere along the way.”
“Unless it’s shit.” Troy picked up his phone and tapped out a message. His formerly smooth brow bunched up. “A Parisian hoarder,” he continued, though he was now most of the way checked out of their conversation.
April sighed.
“Ah, hon, I’m just kidding,” he said, always quick with the necessary retraction, like a reflex. “It sounds very cool. Really.”
The sigh? She hadn’t meant it like that.
“Yes. Cool.” April waved her hand around as if clearing the air. The gesture was haphazard but enough to pull Troy temporarily from his phone.
“Your rings,” he said, staring at her hand and frowning slightly. “They’re in the safe?”
April nodded and looked down at her bare finger. No one wore their good jewelry in Europe, right? This wasn’t about their marriage, it was about her job. Biting her lip, April blinked away the sudden sting in her eyes.
“Troy, listen—” April started, but he was already back to punching at his phone.
Suddenly April’s own phone rang. The car was downstairs. She looked over at her handsome husband and around at their handsome home and thought how happy she had been. For a time her life was bright and shining. Her apartment held everything she always wanted. Seventy years? She’d hoped to stay longer. Forever.
“I’ll miss you,” Troy said, appearing at April’s side as she tucked her phone into the leather tote she’d packed for the plane.
As he wrapped her in a hug, his perfectly masculine Troy scent filling every pocket of air around them, April tried to take him in. She tried not to contemplate when or if she’d have this five-senses feel of him again.
Troy gently kissed the top of her head.
“I don’t want you to leave,” he said, sighing loudly. “Maybe you can wait. A few days?”
He sounded so sincere.
“Oh, don’t worry,” April said and pulled away. “I’ll be back soon.”

Michelle Hi! Welcome to The Reading Frenzy.

Tell us all a bit about your new novel A Paris Apartment.
A Paris Apartment is fiction, but based on a real-life discovery. In 1940, as Paris fell to the Germans, a young woman locked her home, fled to the south of France, and never returned.
My agent forwarded me an article about the frozen-in-time apartment late in 2010, shortly after the woman’s death. The flat she left in Paris was filled, floor to ceiling, with the most exquisite furniture and artwork imaginable, including an important portrait rendered by famed artist Giovanni Boldini.
Not much is known about the woman who died or why she left the flat unattended for nearly three-quarters of a century. We do know her grandmother was Belle Époque courtesan Marthe de Florian, the woman in the Boldini.
What happened to Marthe de Florian? What kept her granddaughter away from the apartment and its roomfuls of priceless art? A Paris Apartment explores these and other questions through the intertwining voices of Sotheby’s furniture expert April Vogt and Marthe de Florian herself.

What a great premise for a novel.
Did you do your novel research in France?
I’ve been to Paris many times and was actually in Paris for work when my agent called to say an editor at St. Martin’s Press loved the novel. But I did not go there specifically to research this particular book. I used what I know of the city, along with the internet, newspaper articles, interviews, and books, including several that were a century out of print!

So how did a nice accountant like you become a novelist?
Ha! I think the proper question is how did a nice novelist become an accountant? I was a writer first! My high school accidentally placed me in an accounting class. I planned to promptly transfer out until I realized there was a cute boy sitting next to me. We became great friends and, meanwhile, I developed a genuine love for accounting…the debits, the credits, the balance, it’s so beautiful this zero-sum math. Friends say they think it’s helped me write, because stories need structure and balance too.
I went on to major in Accounting at the College of William & Mary. Once out of school, I quickly realized it was finance I loved, not accounting, which is a distinction only accountants and finance people understand! I quickly moved on to private equity, then investment banking, and now serve as head of Financial Planning & Analysis for a publicly-traded software company. Through all this I’ve written. Almost every day. For decades.

You've written more than just A Paris Apartment, yet this is the one that sold.
From an artist standpoint, what gives you the desire to keep trying?
Through the seemingly endless rejection, I continued to believe in my ability. It helped to have a tremendously supportive agent who believed in me too. In addition, even the rejections were complimentary. Everything felt very “almost there” though the “almost” lasted many years. It became a constant internal chant of “if this doesn’t sell, I’ll write another book, and another one, and a book after that.” I went several books down that particular path!
Admittedly, I had plenty of “screw this” moments but kept at it. If nothing else, the more you write, the better you become. Even the rejected manuscripts aren’t “waste.” It’s like practice before the big game!

Are you a character driven or plot driven author?
Usually it’s the nugget of a plot that first grabs my attention. Around this I’ll develop the characters. Often, once I start writing, ancillary characters pop out of nowhere! In A Paris Apartment, Margeurite was not originally contemplated. She simply showed up as Marthe watched Jeanne Hugo’s marital procession. I had to find out why she was there and she ended up with a pretty large role.

Michelle according to your bio, your dad is also a writer.
Would we recognize any of his work?
Probably not! His background is in journalism and he mostly writes non-fiction. He’s been business editor for the San Diego Tribune and a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. He was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.
My aunt Mona Gable (my father’s sister) is also a writer. Her memoir Blood Brother came out earlier this month.

Michelle even from just reading your bio I can tell that I will love your humor.
Is humor as important in your writing as it is in your life?
Absolutely! I try to inject humor into my writing as much as possible. Many friends have said that my protagonist April sounds a lot like me. I think the thread they’re picking up on is the humor.
I grew up with a ton of laughter in my home. My siblings and parents are hilarious and my father had a long-running humor column in San Diego Magazine. My husband has a very dry sense of humor and is the funniest person I know. We can usually joke our daughters out of bad moods or crying fits. Of course the tween now gets quite peeved when we’re successful at it. Especially when she’s worked so hard to stay angry!

Michelle you also say that you were writing in the 4th grade. Was there a certain catalyst or ahha moment in your life where you thought, hmmm, I might want to make a career of this?
I was obsessed with Sweet Valley High in middle school, and wrote many a rip-off featuring winsome blonde California teens. At that age, I’m not sure I fully grasped what a career involved and that my parents wouldn’t be paying my bills forever.  “What I want to be when I grow up” was still a fairy tale concept. It wasn’t until high school, when I read A Prayer for Owen Meany, that the world shifted and I realized that “writer” was a thing.
Around that time I also realized the problem with bills, and with living in California, so I played out my finance industry dreams while writing on the side. On the night of my thirty-first birthday, while having dinner at Mister A’s in San Diego, I announced to my husband, “I’m going to finally do something with this hobby!” It took a while, but it finally happened.
So tell us what you were doing when you got the-your-book-sold-call.
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but it was about noon and I was getting a pedicure. Whoops, sorry day job!
When my agent called, she sang me the news over the phone. My husband was on a golf trip with my brother, cousin, and uncle, and I knew he wouldn’t answer the phone. Why risk the chance for a birdie? I sent him a cryptic text, implying perhaps there was some kind of medical emergency.  It’s funny how someone can be so happy yet completely unamused at the same time!

Michelle thanks for chatting with me today. Good luck with this novel and all the ones still to come.
Will there be any author events coming soon?
Yes! I have two more dates in Southern California. I will be at the Del Mar Library on June 5 and the Barnes & Noble in Encinitas with author Don Wallace on June 8. Then I head to the east coast. I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble on 12th Street in downtown Washington, DC on June 25 and the Chesterfield Town Center Barnes & Noble in Richmond on June 27. All dates and times are listed on my website and we’re continuing to add to it.

Thank you so much for having me!

MICHELLE GABLE graduated from the College of William & Mary. She currently resides in Cardiff by the Sea, California, with her husband, two daughters, and one lazy cat. A Paris Apartment is her first novel.

CONNECT WITH MICHELLE - Website - Facebook -  Twitter

The Inspiration

Madame de Florian was a French socialite who fled her Paris apartment for the south of France at the outbreak of World War II. She kept her apartment in case she ever wanted to return. Though she never did return, she continued to pay rent on it until her death in 2010 at age 91, when an auctioneer entered her apartment and discovered the time capsule full of endless treasures, untouched since 1942. 

Be sure and check out Michelle's Website for further pictures and facts about A Paris Apartment


  1. So many good things about this post!

    Look at those photos, so pretty! And I dislike Accounting... and numbers in general. I love the concept of this one too, quint essential Women's fiction

    1. Hi Braine, yes I think it's the pics and the premise that make me want to read this.
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Those photos are gorgeous and make me want to jump on a plane and visit (okay, I want to do that some day anyways but these sure make me wish I could now!).

    Thanks for sharing the excerpt with us. :)

    1. Ha I know Kindlemom, me too!
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Ooo I loved the photos and this is a book I would love to read..heck I would love to have an apartment in Paris and to explore all the treasure in it!

  4. I've heard so many good things about this one, I borrowed it from the library recently but couldn't get to it in time and I'm kicking myself for it. Great interview Debbie!
    -Kimberly @ Turning the Pages

  5. Hey Kimberly, re-borrow this one. I'm dying to get my hands on it but these pesky requirements are keeping me from all my pleasure reading LOL
    Thanks for the comment

  6. That sounds so good! I love the premise and that it's based a bit on real life. What an interesting happening. What neat photos too.

    1. Hi Anna, this is also up there near the top of my pile!