CONCERNED with our country’s stance on asylum seekers and climate change, Perth novelist Susan Midalia took to the streets doorknocking as a political party volunteer.
She visited homes in the western suburbs over several years and was astonished by people’s reactions.
Her new novel, The Art of Persuasion, is loosely based on these experiences.
“I wanted to write about Perth as a political space because when I started doorknocking I expected people to be politically informed, aware, interested and reasonable; open to thinking about things differently – to being persuaded, if you like,” Midalia said.
“But to my dismay, I found many people were not politically informed: they didn’t know the policies of the parties and just voted as they’d always voted because ‘My dad voted Liberal so I’ll vote Liberal’ – that kind of thing.
“Some people didn’t even know an election was coming up which horrified me, because I think in a democracy your vote is so important.”
The former ECU tutor also wanted to write about local people’s perceptions of Perth.
“It does have this reputation as being friendly, laid back, relaxed, with lovely beaches and beautiful sunshine, but I think there can be a cost to that and that cost is complacency,” Midalia said.
“It’s almost an attitude of: ‘We’ve got it good here, why should we care about other people?’.”
Not wanting to preach to readers, she avoided a hard-hitting political novel and added some romance to the mix.
“I wanted to write a novel that was political but also entertaining because that might persuade people more to think differently,” Midalia said.
“I also wanted to link romance and the politics by looking at romance as a moral concept, not just as a sexual attraction.
“It’s similar to what Jane Austen does, asking: ‘Why do we fall in love with someone?’. So I’ve connected those two things by really exploring values.”
“Hazel (central character) is young, she’s only 25 and she’s still in a sense formulating her values and asking what is important to her.”
The Art of Persuasion is available at www.fremantlepress.com.au.