The Paris Model Author, Alexandra Joel Comes Clean about Being a Story Thief

The Paris Model Author, Alexandra Joel Comes Clean about Being a Story Thief

STORY STEALING                                     

By Alexandra Joel

Time to come clean: I’m a thief. Probably a cheat. Maybe a liar, too. Just like every novelist, I steal from friends and family – even perfect strangers are not safe. That’s where stories come from; it might be a line in a newspaper, a conversation overheard on the bus or perhaps an intriguing exchange caught on the car radio just before I pull up at the supermarket or the beach.

I have come to realise there are few lengths to which we fiction writers will not go. Having apprehended a snippet from someone else’s life, we then set about inventing and embellishing, twisting words and melding scenarios until in the end it is impossible to recall how the whole thing started.

When it comes to my new book, The Paris Model, however, no doubts about its origins exist. After my last book, Rosetta: A Scandalous True Story came out (a memoir about my great-grandmother who left behind a husband and small child to run away with a half-Chinese fortune teller called Zeno the Magnificent), I began to receive emails, letters and messages from around the country. It seemed that there were vast numbers of people eager to confess their own family secrets, as if my act of revelation had given them permission to share what had been previously unmentionable.

Friends, some I’d known for years, confessed all manner of astonishing tales about their grandparents, parents, sisters and brothers that I’d never heard before. I was, therefore, not entirely surprised when, while sipping tea in the fragrant garden of dear ‘S’, she said, ‘Let me tell you about my mother.’

‘S’ proceeded to relate the extraordinary story of Grace Woods. As soon as I learnt about the mystery surrounding her birth, the tragedies that engulfed her parents and the unlikely coincidence that provided this strikingly beautiful, green-eyed girl with an entirely new identity, I was captivated.

‘Would you let me write Grace’s story?’ I immediately asked, only what I was really saying was, ‘Can I steal her away, take her on new adventures in glamorous 1940s Paris, make her a Dior mannequin, force her into perilous situations, watch on as she experiences joy and suffering, as she falls hopelessly in love?’ The process I had in mind amounted to much more than simply writing Grace’s story: I intended to make her mine.

When I’d finished the first draft of The Paris Model I sent it to my friend. Then began a nervous wait. I worried I might have caused offence, taken too many outrageous liberties, that she’d be distressed. When, finally, I saw her name appear on my phone I felt a ghastly pang of apprehension. ‘Um, what did you think?’ I stammered.

There was a moment’s silence. Then she said, ‘I love it – and Gracie would have too. You’ve given her the life she would have adored to live.’

It was a remarkably generous response, to a thief.

Reviews

The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel: Your Preview Verdict

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21 January 2020

The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel: Your Preview Verdict

    Preview Reviews: The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel

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    Preview Reviews: The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel

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        A Highly Enjoyable Debut: Read a Review of The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel

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        A Highly Enjoyable Debut: Read a Review of The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel

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            Publisher details

            The Paris Model
            Author
            Alexandra Joel
            Publisher
            HarperCollins
            Genre
            True Story
            Released
            20 January, 2020

            Synopsis

            Sometimes you have to lose everything to find yourself ... A stunning novel of love, betrayal and family secrets for all fans of Fiona McIntosh and Natasha Lester.After a shocking discovery, Grace Woods leaves her vast Australian sheep station and travels to tumultuous post-war Paris in order to find her true identity.While working as a mannequin for Christian Dior, the world's newly acclaimed emperor of fashion, Grace mixes with counts and princesses, authors and artists, diplomats and politicians.But when Grace falls for handsome Philippe Boyer she doesn't know that he is leading a double life, nor that his past might inflict devastating consequences upon her. As she is drawn into Philippe's dangerous world of international espionage, Grace discovers both the shattering truth of her origins – and that her life is in peril.Inspired by an astonishing true story, The Paris Model is a tale of glamour, family secrets and heartbreak that takes you from the rolling plains of country Australia to the elegant salons of Paris.
            Alexandra Joel
            About the author

            Alexandra Joel

            Alexandra Joel is the author of Parade: the Story of Fashion in Australia, a social history detailing the development of fashion, style and national identity. She is a former editor of the Australian edition of the international magazine Harper's Bazaar, and of Portfolio, Australia's first magazine for working women. She has also been a regular contributor of feature articles, interviews and reviews to a number of national and metropolitan publications including The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend Magazine.More recently, Alexandra has been a practising counsellor and psychotherapist. She is an honours graduate from the University of Sydney and has a Graduate Diploma in Applied Psychology.

            Books by Alexandra Joel

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