Gentle readers, we continue with our series of character interviews I am conducting. Recently, I had the delight of chatting with Abby Fraser, the heroine of the historical novel Shadowed in Silk (E-book releases May 2011, printed version releases Sept. 1, WhiteFire Publishing) by author Christine Lindsay.
POV Boot Camp(PBC): Abby, what do you love most about being an army wife living in India?
Abby Fraser: I was born in India, and have loved this country all my life. That love grew deeper after I was wrenched away from here when my mother died when I was six years old. I grew up in Albany New York with my aunt, but hated every minute of it. With my father being a famous general of the British Raj, it always seemed fitting that I should return as an army wife, and I couldn’t wait to get back. But it is India with all its spices and smells, and the wonderful people. The Indian people are so warm, so colorful, so beautiful.
PBC:So, any drawbacks or challenges?
Fraser: It breaks my heart to see lower caste Indians treated like dirt by their own people within the Hindu religion. Take my sweet Ayah, Eshana. She takes care of my little boy, Cam. I love her like a sister, but her life has not been easy. As a little girl, she went through a marriage ceremony when she was seven years old. Later, when she turned thirteen, she was supposed to move from her parent’s home and go to her husband’s. But her husband died before that could happen and Eshana became a child Hindu widow. From then on her life became a nightmare. But Eshana tells me that she has since rejected that life. She says she has found a new joyful life through her relationship with Jesus Christ.
Our mutual friend, Major Geoff Richards, is also a devoted Christian, and he too encourages me to believe in Christ. But I’m not sure . . . I’ve got to sort out my own problems, especially those with my husband . . . don’t I?
PBC: No, hon, you don’t. 😉 Could you tell us a bit more about the political tensions between the Indian people and the British army? What do you think of the rebel leader, Gandhi?
Fraser: Nothing makes me madder than to see the English treat the Indians like third class citizens in their own country. And the British are terrified of another uprising from the Indians they are ruling. Most Englishmen sleep with a revolver under their pillows, and many Englishwomen carry pistols in their handbags. Very few of the British Raj are like Geoff Richards. He cares more about his Indian friends than his English peers. But he says it’s the faith in Christ that he shares with some of his Indian friends that makes them family. And I have to admit his faith seems to be helping with his shell shock that he received during the Great War in Europe.
As for Gandhi—I find him fascinating. He could be the political savior of India. He wants to change the way Hindus mistreat each other, and especially the way they abuse Hindu widows. But Eshana says that, while Gandhi is a very good man, he doesn’t even come close to the way Jesus treated women. Eshana says that, when she came to know Christ, she began to see herself as a person of great value. I wish I felt the same, but lately with the way Nick treats me, I feel invisible. Much like the way the Indian multitudes seem invisible to the British.
PBC: What are your greatest hopes and dreams?
Fraser: To be the best mother I can be to my son, Cam. And I want to live the rest of my days in my beloved India. I also want to do something to aid the Indian people, and I enjoy helping out in the small Christian mission that Eshana came from. But deep down . . . my desire is to be a wife and a mother. I want to be cherished by my husband . . . to be seen for who I really am.
PBC: What are your greatest fears? Weaknesses?
Fraser I’m afraid I’ll never win back the love of my husband, Nick, or that if he continues to mistreat me, I’ll be forced to flee to safety. But I must be strong, and not allow him to hurt me. I won’t stand for that. Sometimes, when he’s been drinking, I fear he’ll hurt Cam. But I’ll do anything to protect my son. . . anything. Maybe that’s my weakness—I’ve become too self-sufficient growing up unnoticed. But even Geoff Richards fears for my safety and urges me to be careful.
PBC: Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
Fraser: I am so bored with endless tea parties with the other officers’ wives, and their constant stream of cocktail parties at the garrison club. But when Eshana takes me to the Christian mission that she’s attached to, the desire to teach has developed in me. It’s the little sweeper boy in our bungalow who plays with Cam that started my interest. And there are so many orphans at the mission. I want to help out there. Geoff encourages me to help out in the mission. He agrees that the social whirl of the British Raj is mostly a waste of time. But Geoff is always talking about God. I wish he wouldn’t. It makes me feel uncomfortable, as if I don’t quite measure up, and I don’t know why.
PBC: How about pet peeves? What annoys you?
Fraser: I will never accept that the shade to a person’s skin makes any difference in how they should be treated. And I’ll tell anyone that, even the British governor of India’s biggest province. But the Governor didn’t listen—he just walked away as if he didn’t hear me.
PBC: What do you value most?
Fraser: My son. I’ll do anything to see that Cam is safe and happy. That’s why I’m so grateful that Geoff takes Cam out for rides on his huge cavalry charger, Samson. Nick ignores his son as much as he ignores me, but I suppose it’s better to be ignored by Nick than to be physically mistreated.
PBC: Tell me a bit more about your family and friends. What do you like about them? Dislike?
Fraser: It was bad enough growing up invisible to my aunt and later my father. And then to discover Nick married me only to further his career—it almost broke me. I suppose I should be thankful that their neglect made me stronger. My English friend, Laine always makes me laugh. And I love Eshana and Miriam from the mission, and admire the way they refuse to be downtrodden as Hindu widows. They believe they have every right to live in joy as followers of Christ.
Geoff has been a great friend to Cam, though not so much to me, lately. For months now, Geoff just gives me the time of day, a mini sermon that I should be taking all my troubles to Christ, and then he’s off to entertain Cam. I wish Geoff would talk to me like he used to, but he’s been keeping himself distant from only me. I don’t understand this, as he’s always so caring with others who are hurting. I feel safe when Geoff’s around. I wish I didn’t. It should be my husband who makes me feel safe. And I wish there was someone who would listen to me and hear me in the middle of the night when I feel alone.
And now there’s talk of revolution in India, and another war between Afghanistan and Britain. What’s going to happen to us all?
Fraser: I’m so glad we’ve changed the subject from me. I don’t normally talk so much about myself, but your kindness just opened me up. And I don’t think my friend Christine likes to talk much about herself either. But when she does, it’s to share something from her own life to encourage other people. It’s for that reason she’s rather open about some of her past failures, and how God helped out through those difficulties. She’s a bit like Geoff and Eshana—loves to talk about what God did.
PBC: So, Abby, what do you think of Christine Lindsay? What do you like or admire about her? Anything you dislike?
Fraser: I suppose what I dislike about Christine are those mini sermons she gives. I don’t see yet, why I need such a deep faith in Christ as she does. But I am thinking about it. She’s also a bit of a wimp—I think that’s the term you would use in the future—but Christine is a coward. In a way she reminds me of Geoff. He too has been hurt a great deal in this life—who hasn’t—and yet he’s afraid to trust that his God has good things in store for him. I think Christine is just starting to learn about the depths of God’s goodness. It’s certainly taken long enough, she’s 53.
I admire Christine for relinquishing her first child to adoption. She did that when she was a young woman and not married. She even named her baby girl Sarah in faith that God would bring them together again when Sarah was all grown up.
Now here’s the thing. Christine understands hurting women like me who feel invisible, and she likes to encourage people to see themselves through God’s eyes. And God did reward Christine’s faith. He did reunite her with Sarah 20 years later, but Christine always struggles with the glass half empty attitude. Her faith needs to grow stronger. It’s true she wishes for a closer relationship with her birthdaughter, but God did something amazing for her. He used her very own Sarah’s picture for the front cover of my story.
PBC: Abby, if you had one question you could ask Christine, what would it be?
Fraser: Why do you have even the slightest fear of what the future may bring when God has been so good to you?
PBC: If you could change one thing in Shadowed in Silk, what would it be?
Fraser: As a fictional character, I’ve been answering your questions as if I were living in the middle of the book. But I’ll jump to the end and say that I wish Christine had written more about my happy ending. She left if off with a warm, sensuous, exhilarating kiss with the husband the Lord gave me. My insides skitter sideways when I think of that kiss. But I wish she’d told you that we went to Kashmir on our honeymoon and floated for weeks on a placid, lotus-dotted lake that reflected the Himalayas.
PBC: Abby, if you could spend a whole day with Christine, where would you go and what would you do together?
Fraser: My husband and I would bring Cam over to Christine’s house. She and her husband, David, would cook a roast beef dinner with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings. I’d bring halva for dessert. Christine and David’s grown up kids and grandkids, and her birthdaughter, Sarah, and her husband would be there. Christine is never happier than when she’s with her children and their children.
PBC: Abby, what do you think of the cover of Shadowed in Silk
Fraser: Well as I’ve already hinted, the model on the front cover is not really me. That beautiful girl resembles me closely, but she is Christine’s birthdaughter, Sarah. I was happy to step aside and let Christine have her daughter on there. You should have seen Christine weep with joy over that. Because I’ll tell you a secret.
After the reunion with Sarah several years ago, it broke Christine’s heart. She started to relive the original loss of relinquishing Sarah all over again.
But God told Christine to write out her pain, and then to put the healing she received from Him into Christian fiction. It’s only fitting really, that the muse to inspire Christine’s writing ministry in the first place be on the front cover. As I think of this sweet gift that God gave to Christine, we should all trust such a loving, heavenly Father with our deepest desires.
Thanks for stopping in and chatting with us, Abby! Readers, it’s your turn! Got any questions for Abby Fraser about India or anything else on your mind? Comment away. If one of your characters would like to chat with us here, send me an email and we’ll set a date.