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BBC: Search History by Amy Taylor

What is Search History about?

Search History follows Ana, a twenty-eight year old woman, who we meet just after she’s moved from Perth to Melbourne in the wake of a bad break up. In Melbourne she meets a man named Evan, who is a complete aberration from the type of man she usually dates; he’s charming, he seemingly has his life together, and she finds him really enthralling. She makes a pledge to herself that she won’t look him up on social media before getting to know him in real life, but the temptation is too much and from his social media accounts she discovers that the woman he was previously dating, Emily, died in a hit and run accident the year before. Soon she realises that Evan is unable to talk about her, and Ana begins to use Emily’s dormant social media accounts to try a figure out who this perfect ex-partner was and why Evan is unable to talk about her.

Who is the main character of Search History?

The story is told from the perspective of Ana, which allows us to have a really close connection with her thoughts and feelings throughout the novel. She’s a lonely person. After moving from Perth to Melbourne, nearly all of her close relationships are conducted entirely through the screen of her phone. She’s the only child of divorced parents; a stubborn, passive-aggressive mother and a guru of a father who occasionally floats into her life to dispense intangible wisdom. In her earlier years, she was a teenager who learnt to be independent to a fault. When we meet her, she’s an adult who struggles with vulnerability and has learnt to process her feelings alone.

What themes do you explore in your novel?

The main theme the novel explores is the way our relationships are divided between the online and offline world, and the way the distance speaking online allows us to manipulate our behaviours. I find this concept fascinating because so much can be lost in translation. The distance allows us to curate ourselves, perfect our answers, deliberate over our responses, withhold, or share too much. At our worst, we say things we’d never dream of saying to a person’s face, we harass others, or play games by deliberately ignoring people. At our best, we find connection all over the world. I wanted to explore this idea through the lens of a character who was prone to over-analysis, because let’s be honest: there is a lot to analyse.

Why did you decide to have Ana and Evan meet in real life for the first time?

Our first meeting point with someone new is so often online these days and because of that we instantly form preconceived ideas of who they are. Ana needed to find Evan interesting, mysterious and different from the moment she met him, so it was important for the development of the story that she connected with the ‘real life’ version of him before she began to uncover information that he hadn’t disclosed to her. That decision paved the way for this divide between the online and offline version of Evan to develop, which is crucial to the story.

Do you think there was a point where Ana went too far in her search for information? If so, when was it? If not, why not?

Yes, Ana takes it a little too far. I think if she didn’t there wouldn’t be much of a story. I think there is a definitive line crossing moment when she takes her search for more information out into the world, but then also in the way she spirals into obsession and allows her initial assumptions about Emily to provide a very unstable foundation on which she continues to build as the story progresses.

How much of Ana was based on personal experience?

Not a whole lot of Ana attributes were based on my own personal experiences. I approached the development of her character and made decisions like having her move to a new city and being the only child of divorced parents in response to the question of ‘what kind of person would go down this rabbit hole?’ I tried to use that as a compass. But of course, I did take some elements from many of my own experiences; I’ve worked in both an art gallery and an enthusiastic tech-start up, I’m a trained yoga teacher who studied in Bali, I also moved from Perth to Melbourne and I currently live in Brunswick, like Ana does.

Have you ever “stalked” a partner’s ex, or anyone? What was the experience like?

I have certainly used social media to try and find out more about a person or a situation in the past and I’ve always regretted it. It’s a very complicated and shame-inducing act because you then gather information that you shouldn’t technically know and you’re then required to conceal it. Not only that, but we love to believe our own theories and we can build whole narratives on our interpretation of a situation. It’s learnt over many years that it’s always better to go to the source and to have open conversations.

Why do you think it’s so difficult to resist the temptation to stalk people—especially strangers—online? Is there an antidote to this behavior?

Like a lot of things actually, I think the temptation comes down to our inherent fear of rejection and desire to avoid of pain. Looking for information about people online is a way in which we try to gain control over a situation. It’s actually completely normal, and I believe anyone who has a social media account performs these behaviours in some form, and for the record, I’m very suspicious of people who claim 

they never do it.

What made you decide to become a writer?

When I was much younger, I would write stories. Mostly these were inspired by whatever I was reading. We could call it fan fiction. I think I felt compelled to do that because I had a very active imagination and I wanted to explore the worlds within the stories I read on my own terms. As an adult I feel the same way, only now I want to explore other lives, other worlds on my own terms.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

After a couple of false starts, Search History was the first manuscript I ever actually finished. I didn’t plan much, but I came to regret that when I had a completed manuscript and went back to edit it. I think for me, the best combination is plotting in a macro sense and pantsing in micro sense. I need both structure and freedom.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I have a personal theory about writer’s block. In my opinion it can be a lack of one of two things: a lack of ideas, or a lack of motivation. If I’m struggling to feel motivated but I have an idea I want to work on the solution is to implement a routine and stick to it no matter what. I write best in the morning straight after coffee. To encourage motivation, I create the space and circumstances to write and I force myself to sit at my desk. If I feel a lack of ideas, the solution is to stop writing and go out into the world. I’ll leave my desk and venture out to observe people, learn new things, read broadly, go to the cinema, visit galleries, travel and see friends.

Are you writing anything currently? or do you have plans to write anything in the future?

I am currently working on another novel. I won’t say too much, but it’s very different to Search History. I made a pledge to myself that I would always try to push myself into new territory every time I started a new story—so far the book I’m working on is definitely doing that.

Throughout Search History, you weave in commentary about misogyny and violence against women. What's the connection between these themes and Ana's story?

The incorporation of those themes came really organically because I truthfully found it difficult, when writing about a woman in her late twenties who was dating and living in a new city, to not include those elements of fearing for your safety when you walk alone at night. Or having disappointing experiences in dating or in the workplace. Every single woman I know has many stories of these experiences. To avoid them entirely and have a character walk down a street alone at night without a second thought truly felt disingenuous.

What do you want readers to take away the most after reading Search History?

For those readers who, like Ana, find it hard to be vulnerable and have a tendency to internalise their feelings, make assumptions, and process everything alone, I hope they feel seen but not judged, and maybe even learn something from Ana’s mistakes and find some solace in her growth.



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Ann Green
Ann Green
Jun 18

The book looks at how our relationships are split between our online and offline selves and how we can manage our behavior by conversing virtually. Macro-level planning and micro-level execution make for the ideal combo. Happy Wheels

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