Four lives collide when one of the world's most famous paintings is stolen. It's a mystery that has the nation talking, but while Picasso's Weeping Woman might be absent from the walls of the National Gallery, in other parts of Melbourne the controversial painting's presence is being felt by Guy, Rafi, Luke and Penny for four very different reasons.
-The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex is about the unexpected consequences of our actions, as well as the importance of family,' says the author, Gabrielle Williams. -It examines the cascading effect a single action can have on a number of people. It looks at guilt, secrecy, deception and which version of the truth is the 'real" one. It examines grief and madness, as well as the mother/child connection. It puts a spotlight on toxic relationships and teases out questions about family and love and personal responsibility. And then it has a big belly laugh and wonders what the fuss is all about.'
From the author of Beatle Meets Destiny, shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Award and the Victorian Premier's Literary Award, and The Reluctant Hallelujah, shortlisted for the Gold Inky Award, comes this quirky, beautifully told comedy. You'll fall in love with these characters (despite their flaws!) and perhaps see a little of yourself reflected back. Perfect for lovers of Rainbow Rowell and Simmone Howell.
Gabrielle Williams has three kids, one husband and a dog. She has been described by The Age reviewer Cameron Woodhead as -one of the funniest young adult fiction authors around'. As part of her research for The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex, Gabrielle interviewed a number of people – some of whom may or may not have been the actual Australian Cultural Terrorists.
The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and his Ex
Allen and Unwin
Author: Gabrielle Williams
Question: Where did the idea for The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and his Ex originate?
Gabrielle Williams: I've been tooling around with the idea of writing a book based on the theft of the Weeping Woman for years now. In fact, I got an Australia Council grant years ago and write a whole entire book on the idea, then threw it away because it didn't work properly.
The problem with the basic concept, for me, was that the Australian Cultural Terrorists never got caught. The painting was returned to a locker at Spencer Street station, and nothing happened. Which is where it gets difficult from a writer's perspective, because there are -beats' you need to hit when you're writing a book, but with the theft there was no dramatic ending – no cop chase, no thieves caught – so the beats petered off. After trying to make the idea work I shelved it and worked on another novel instead – my next book called -The Reluctant Hallelujah'.
After finishing -The Reluctant Hallelujah', I started looking up the internet for things about the Weeping Woman (I was still keen to weave it into a book), when I stumbled upon the story of La Llorona: a South American myth about a woman who drowned her own children. They say that if you ever see La Llorona, she'll try to steal one of your children and drown them. La Llorona – translated into English – is -weeping woman'. And bang, I had my story. I took the real life theft of the Weeping Woman, and wove threads of the La Llorona myth throughout, and there you have it: -The Guy The Girl The Artist & His Ex'.
Question: Why did you decide to set the book in Melbourne?
Gabrielle Williams: The book is set in Melbourne in 1986, because that's when the Weeping Woman was stolen from the National Gallery of Victoria. I tried a version where it was set in current day and the characters were looking back with the advantage of hindsight, but it seemed to lack energy, whereas setting it in the 80s had a vibe that I liked. I also liked the idea of setting a book back in the days when there was no internet, pretty much no-one had a mobile phone, and everyone had a lot more freedom.
Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know?
Gabrielle Williams: I interviewed quite a few artists about the theft of the Weeping Woman, some of whom I suspect were actually involved in it. I also spoke to one of the journalists who covered the story back in the 80s. I became quite intrigued by how they'd lived in the 80s – the squats they'd shared, the anarchy they were involved in – and I probably based the artist character loosely on some of them. And of course, the -bastard ex' (who is also the artist character) is based on an ex boyfriend of mine who really was a very bad bloke. Otherwise, the characters might have been loosely based on various people but as the story took over, the characters became their own people.
Question: There are several issues raised in this book. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?
Gabrielle Williams: I always set out in each of my books with particular themes I want to explore. In this one I wanted to look at the art world, at greed, at truth and lies, at mental illness, at family, and at those massive parties we used to go to in the 80s.
Question: What's next for you?
Gabrielle Williams: I'm working on the sequel to -The Guy The Girl The Artist & His Ex' at the moment. It's set a year later – 1987 – in Melbourne again. I can't tell you much more than that, otherwise I'd have to kill you.
Interview by Brooke Hunter