-My name is David James Forrester. I'm a solicitor. Tonight, at 6.10, I killed my wife. This is my statement.'
Tense, atmospheric and gripping, What Came Before is a stunning literary thriller from debut author Anna George.
In Melbourne's inner west, David James Forrester sits in his car, dictaphone in hand. He's thinking about the difference between admitting and confessing. His wife, Elle Nolan, hovers over her own twisted and lifeless body on her laundry's cool tiles.
David reflects on their two year relationship and what has led them to this fateful night; he can't deny what they shared was intense, unique and passionate.
Floating and unafraid, Elle also unpicks the telling snippets of their tempestuous past. Before David, she'd enjoyed a contented, independent life as a successful filmmaker. But quickly she'd been enthralled by him, and then so completely undone; -an incredible thing, she thinks, for an intelligent woman to allow'.
What Came Before is a topical and chilling exploration into the risks you take when you fall in love and an unsettling portrait of how a vibrant, intelligent, professional woman can be drawn into an abusive relationship. If you liked Gone Girl and The Lovely Bones, you will love What Came Before.
Initially trained as a lawyer, Anna George has worked in the legal world as well as the film and television industries. She studied Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT, and has written feature film scripts. What Came Before is her debut novel and rights have already been sold internationally to Germany and the Netherlands. Anna is currently working on her second novel set on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and two children.
What Came Before
Author: Anna George
Question: What initially inspired the idea behind What Came Before?
Anna George: I was inspired to write the book after reading a news article about a woman who'd been murdered by her boyfriend. She was quoted as having said of her boyfriend that he'd been changing, no one understood him as she had, and he wasn't so bad. Reading those words I'd been shocked as I'd said similar things myself about a previous partner with whom I'd had an unhappy and volatile relationship. I did some research and realised what I'd experienced was emotional abuse. And emotional abuse in most cases precedes physical abuse and always accompanies it. So what I'd gone through was on the same continuum of abuse as what this woman had endured. It made me wonder how much further along that continuum had been the violence she'd suffered.
At the same time I read others in the media questioning why women stayed with abusive men. I began exploring those questions and that story, using my own experience as a spring board into it. As I wrote the book, I found the story moved far away from my own and became a richer, cautionary tale.
Question: What motivated you to leave the legal world and begin writing?
Anna George: Unhappiness! While I was at university I'd realised that the law was probably not for me, although it was intellectually stimulating.
I had always wanted to write, but after high school, I'd felt lost without a built in audience for my writing. Looking back, I lacked the confidence to simply write and find other outlets for my work. So I had stumbled into law.
Once I graduated from university, I worked in a large, commercial law firm in the city and that decided it for me. Many of the senior people, the partners, didn't look happy to me either; so they weren't a great advertisement for hanging in there. When I made the decision to leave the law, I found a professional writing and editing course (at Holmesglen TAFE) and a part time job in legal publishing, and I was away.
Question: Can you tell us about your next novel?
Anna George: My next novel is also a psychological thriller; it's set on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, today. It is also framed around a crime and is concerned with class, parenting and judgement. But it's early days so I can't tell you too much more about it!
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Anna George: A lot of my inspiration comes from real life, particularly news-stories. I'm drawn to crimes that illuminate particular aspects of the wider world we live in. It was probably my interest in crime stories that led me to stumble into law in the first place. I also draw on what's around me and people I know or have observed.
Question: Can you talk about the research you did for the novel surrounding abusive relationships?
Anna George: My research into domestic violence generally, and emotional abuse in particular, ranged from reading everything I could find about it (in the news, government reports, domestic violence resource centre literature, text books, pop-psychology books, first person accounts) to talking with people who've experienced it to varying degrees. Over the years, friends and acquaintances have been in relationships with partners whose behaviour was abusive and I've had that experience myself. Part of the motivation for writing the book was to shed light on domestic violence and in particular emotional abuse.
Interview by Brooke Hunter