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10 Things You Didn't Know 'About After Before' by Jemma Wayne

Jemma Wayne spills some little-known facts about her debut novel 'After Before'.

A note from Jemma: After Before was published in June last year and the months since have been an illuminating time for me. Writing is such a solitary process that to finally be able to share this story with others has been exciting and strange. And wonderful. Hearing the interpretations of readers, the way the book made them feel, what they liked, didn’t like, what stuck with them – it is suddenly a collective entity, no longer just mine, and more powerful for it. So, in the spirit of sharing, here are 10 things you may still not know about After Before, even if you’ve read it…

 

  • The title came after the last full stop. The working title for After Before was ‘Betrayal’.
  • The idea for the book began at a charity event my husband had helped organise to support survivors of the Rwandan genocide. I had no idea that night that I would be so struck by the notion of betrayal, or that this would extend into a novel.
  • Emily grew. My original idea for Emily's story was to focus on the 'after', the impact of what happened in Rwanda, not the genocide itself. But for me to understand this character I had to at least research the 'before' and once I had done this the horror and tragedy of what happened kept intruding on my thoughts, just as it does on Emily, it pushed itself into my writing and it became impossible to write this book without confronting the events of 1994 head on.
  • During research for the Rwandan thread, alongside a vast amount of reading I spoke extensively with a survivor of the 1994 genocide, and read a number of first-hand testimonials given at the War Crimes Tribunal.
  • In the very first draft of the text, Jean makes his way to London and finds Emily. I so wanted them to have the chance to confront each other again. But in the end this seemed too contrived, and it felt more important to me for Emily to be able to survive her past through her own strength of spirit, rather than because of anything Jean might or might not say.
  • ‘John’ and ‘Jean’ sound almost the same – this was not intentional and potentially a red herring. But by the time I realised this I was too attached to the names for these characters to change them.
  • Vera was my grandmother’s name. I named my character shortly after her namesake died…and at a point when the fictional character had a rather less racy past!
  • St George’s church is (loosely) based on St Mary’s Church in Marylebone.
  • Some people have wondered if After Before was intended to be a galvanising Christian text. It isn’t. I am fascinated by religion and it is important in different ways to each of my characters, but I’m Jewish!
  • The audio version of After Before is voiced by my very talented actor sister Anna-Marie Wayne...who came to hate me after having to conjure multiple different accents per paragraph! But did do brilliantly.

 

After Before was published by Legend Press in 2014. It has been longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and shortlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award.

Find out more about the novel.