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  • Writer's pictureHRKemp

Writing – How reality sparks fiction.

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

I often read non-fiction books to help me learn about and understand complex issues. I pick topics that either puzzle or intrigue me. As a reader I like to expand my perspective and as a writer, I search for the elements that will make my plot-lines plausible although not to mimic reality.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I pay attention to politics more than is good for my health, which means there is often a political theme in my reading. I’m not interested in the politicians themselves, or their careers, so I don’t read autobiographies or biographies.

What interests me is the way politics, politicians, and their policies influence the lives of ordinary people. The impact their ideology has on the disabled, the elderly, education, health policy, the environment and more.

I can’t escape from applying my own values and making judgements about what I think is right or wrong, however, I can honestly say I try to understand where a point of view comes from. But, understanding doesn’t mean agreeing. It's difficult to be a disinterested party.

I’m dismayed by how the media is so often full of opinion pieces pushing a particular point of view, rather than reporting facts and arguments based on reason. They don't try to promote understanding but rather try to convince or force a particular opinion on readers. Our local paper doesn’t even explain the credentials of those writing opinion pieces. It doesn’t tell the reader about the person’s role or why they’ve been asked to write the column and doesn’t identify their biases, belief base, or vested interests. For me, these are critical for evaluating the information. I’m sure we can all see that the slant of an article on smoking would be different if you were a tobacco company executive, or a lung cancer sufferer, or even a scientist studying the effects of smoking.

Reality can provoke plot ideas.

I read Kick Back: Inside the Australian Wheat Board scandal, by Caroline Overington, many years ago and it left a big impression. I’d read newspaper articles when the scandal was first exposed, but reports left much unexplained. This book gives a comprehensive account of the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) scandal, how it unfolded, and the public and political response.

It reads like a thriller novel, the only problem is, it's true.

Kick Back: Inside the Australian Wheat Board scandal, by Caroline Overington, is an example of superb investigative journalism and lays bare the machinations that led to an Australian agribusiness rorting the UN oil-for-food program by including an illegal transport component which would funnel more than $AUD290m to Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime over fewer than 4 years.

The AWB not only undermined the intent of the oil-for-food program, they also channelled money to Saddam Hussein during a time that Australian, the USA, and the UK leadership were talking up weapons of mass destruction and threatening to wage war. In fact, the money flowed to Saddam Hussein right up until the day Australian troops were sent to Iraq.

Caroline’s book explains:

- Who planned it?

- How it was allowed to happen?

- Who is to blame?

- What is the real cost of one of the world’s biggest swindles?

It’s a shameful episode in Australia’s history, and one that many people have forgotten but shouldn't.

The Howard government was repeatedly warned that AWB was up to its neck in corruption but took no action. And when the scandal was finally uncovered, Prime Minister John Howard, Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer, and Trade Minister Mark Vaile denied all knowledge of the scam.

The resulting enquiry laid the blame at the feet of one employee of the AWB.

This book is worth reading, still. It will surprise and dismay you. It lays bare the political processes designed to preserve careers and status, while dodging responsibility and obscuring the truth.

Books like this build a case for public to stay vigilant and hold our politicians to account. Something I’m passionate about. Without keeping our ears and eyes open, without protecting whistleblowers, almost anything is possible, and not in a good way.

Politics seen through a prism.

I often encounter people who dismiss politics as boring or even irrelevant. They’re too busy with their every-day lives, earning a living, raising children, or even, just having fun. The complexity of current issues means it can take dedication to get to the crux of an issue. Simple answers or solutions are tempting. For me, politics, policy, and government ideology, need to be scrutinised and politicians need to be held to account. It’s important but I admit it’s not easy.

Books like Kick Back can be depressing. It shines a light on the insular behaviour that endangers the wellbeing of others while the politicians shirk all responsibility. It's hard to read. But turning a blind eye endorses that behaviour. Just because it’s uncomfortable or challenges our loyalties doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge the behaviour. Sometimes we have to face up to the truth.

I write conspiracy thrillers. My writing draws on contemporary issues. It's an outlet and a way to investigate issues more thoroughly. My themes are usually about ordinary people being asked to summon extraordinary courage to challenge a terrible miscarriage of justice. It's about being vigilant and paying attention to what is happening on the political front. It applies to those who stoke fear and unrest for their own vested interests too, not just politicians. After-all politicians are not the only ones who play politics.

My personal beliefs revolve around caring about others and the environment. I believe as a society we need to protect the vulnerable and work together for the benefit of all. These underpin my life and of course, my writing.

Fiction made plausible

As a writer, I learned a lot about the situation in Iraq, the war, and its destabilising effect on that country from reading Kick Back. It sparked ideas for plot lines. Scandals. corruption, power, and the characters that became embroiled in the saga stoked ideas and from these ideas, grew the plot for my next novel, Lethal Legacy.

Lethal Legacy is fiction.

The characters are not real and don’t portray real people. I didn’t model them on the people involved in the AWB scandal. As I read Kick Back, my overactive imagination kept asking what if? questions, and although I’ve mentioned the AWB situation as a backstory issue, it’s a jumping point. The plot of Lethal Legacy then diverges into its own intrigue.

My main character, Laura, is married to Tom who worked for a company that partnered the AWB and used similar methodology to gain a trade advantage. The story then moves on into my fictional plot.

Cover reveal

Lethal Legacy is an Australian conspiracy mystery thriller with intrigue and suspense.

It's a stand-alone novel.

It will be released on 8 April.

My previous novel

If you enjoyed, Deadly Secrets, then I’m sure you will also enjoy Lethal Legacy.

If you haven’t yet read Deadly Secrets, it also draws on current issues for its multi-layered plot. You can purchase Deadly Secrets in eBook or paperback (or Hardcover) from your favourite online retailer using this link:

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