Having worked as a current-affairs reporter and also as a media adviser to a series of federal cabinet ministers, I have experienced the close dynamic that exists between journalists and politicians operating out of Canberra.
In theory, that’s a feature of a healthy democracy. But when journalists insert themselves into the story by getting too close to politicians — and it happens a lot — the public does not see the full picture.
Although I write fiction these days, I am still committed to making the story plausible based on what I know of politics and the media. Regardless of how over-the-top my fictional situations can get, they are based on my knowledge of what’s possible.
And if I don’t know how a particular scenario would play out — technically or logistically — I make a point of finding an expert who can walk me through it. Again, my journalistic training has equipped me well to track people down and get them to talk to me.
Anyone who’s ever worked in politics or political reporting knows how addictive it can be. I’m still obsessed with Australian politics and, even more so these days, with US politics. It keeps me painfully aware of potential risks we face in Australia and as a species, and I find myself teasing out the ‘what-ifs’ in my novels.
What if Australia’s plans for an eruption of regional tension is put the test? What if the justifiable anger felt by many Aboriginal Australians boils over?
While I hope the things I’ve written about never happen, they’re not beyond the realms of possibility ...
It’s unnerving but also a huge endorsement to have someone like Mick Dodson, who has been in the thick of it all his life, saying that when he read Dead Heat he kept having to remind himself it was fiction because so many of the characters were familiar to him.