An Interview with the Authors

Aug 20 2010
An Interview with the Authors

It was Kevin who was to be with me on that awful day that would change my life irrevocably. He was the unwitting witness to the terrible thing that would forever have both of us unable to close our eyes at night for fear that we would relive it once again in the narrow isthmus between consciousness and sleep.
- Lover Husband Father Monster, 2010

Graeme, Elsie, thank you for your time. Can you give me a quick rundown on what the story is about?
This book, set in Ireland and told in two voices, his and hers, traces the fragmentation of a well-intentioned marriage through to its irretrievable breakdown and chilling ending.
Jennifer and Stuart meet at a time when they both feel that marriage and parenthood have all but passed them by. He, the quite, reliable insurance salesman, because he has always lacked confidence with women. And she, the bright, pretty lawyer, because her experience with her first boyfriend years earlier has emotionally scarred her for life. Despite some glaring differences – he is a dour, church-going Protestant while she is a quirky, lapsed Catholic who has taken up Buddhism - they marry after a few months and on the surface develop into the perfect family. Healthy, successful, living in an upmarket Dublin suburb with three happy but unexceptional children.
However, things are not as they seem. Stuart appoints himself as the indisputable captain of the ship, whose commands must always be adhered to – how Jennifer looks, how she dresses, what she does every minute of the day. His obsessiveness and antagonism grows as his very successful business is threatened by the collapse of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger economic miracle. Reacting to his domineering approach, Jennifer finds solace amongst her circle of Buddhist and like-minded friends on the internet. An innocent Facebook link-up with her first lover from 20 years ago, Tommy, a rock band drummer, leads to cyber sex, romance and infidelity.
An angry Stuart stumbles across their treachery and Jennifer is to learn in the most horrible way that breaking free from her controlling husband will be more painful than she could ever have imagined. Stuart uses their young daughter to extract a most ghastly revenge, shocking everyone to the core. He wants to hurt his wife in a way she will never forget. And he does.

What is the message of the story?
Our message is that marriage is a beautiful, precious institution, but one that is also very fragile. It only requires a minor situation to spark a chain of events that will bring a marriage undone, leading to tragedy. Two views are brought to every marriage – two people, two ideas, two approaches to life. Sometimes these meld as one, but sometimes they can fall apart with disastrous results. Who is right and who is wrong depends on who gets to tell the tale.

You are both Australian and yet the book is set on the other side of the world...?
Yes, the book is set in Dublin, Ireland. We were able to stay in Dublin for almost a year by swapping our Melbourne house with an Irish couple. We lived in a cul-de-sac in a newish suburb, surrounded by husbands and wives doing their best for their growing families. This meant we lived the real suburban life, providing us with an invaluable insight into how the Irish go about the daily lives.

The family in the novel lives in the very upmarket seaside suburb of Dalkey and they circulate amongst well-known Dublin landmarks. The story spans 30 years up to the present day, the main part being set against the backdrop of the boom and collapse of the Celtic Tiger, the IT-based economic miracle that took Ireland to financial heights over 10 years but quickly unravelled, causing corporate and social devastation across the whole country.

The structure of the book is interesting... I believe that you, Elsie, wrote the female voice and Graeme wrote the male...
Yes, it is written in two voices – the view taken by the wife and the view taken by the husband. , so you get two different perspectives on many aspects of the story.

... which is really interesting. When you are reading the book, you end up sympathising with both characters...
Well, there are always two sides to every story. But what we've found is that generally people will side with one or the other. But it creates a lot of, er...

... arguments?
Well, we would prefer to say fervent discussion. The story touches on some very controversial ground at times, so yes, it certainly generates some strong opinions.
But what is interesting is that some of the smaller Incidents are described from their different perspectives, often giving vastly differing views of the same event, underlying that history is in the eye of the beholder and generally written by the victor.

Is there some basis in truth for the events that take place in the book?
Yes, the book is based on several court cases and real events that occurred both in Ireland and Australia, where marriages broke down and one of the parents extracted a terrible revenge.

What particular event was your inspiration for writing the book?
On arrival in Ireland we were looking around for a suitable topic for a book and became intrigued by a high-profile court case unfolding at the time. An ‘ordinary’ man had done an extraordinary thing. He had discovered his wife was having an affair and so killed her - in front of their three children. We felt that between that and other similar events that were unfolding in Ireland and Australia at the time, there was the opportunity to write a novel examining how a once happy marriage could break down to such an extent that a husband would so blindly turn to revenge. We felt the key was to provide the narrative in two voices, giving differing views on the circumstances, so that the reader could take both sides on board and make a considered opinion. Who was right? Who was wrong?

Graeme, Elsie, thank you for your time.

Buy the book now - Lover, Husband, Father, Monster, BookPal, 2010