Most of the stories set in Canberra involve political intrigue, tales of parliament and the public service.
But author Margaret Bearman wanted to tell a story of family and friendship, one nestled squarely in the foothills of suburbia, rather than a mystery set in the big house.
We Were Never Friends is her second work of fiction, the story of the Coates family, acclaimed Australian painter George, his wife Claire, their children Lotti, Luke and Alice.
Told through the eyes of the eldest daughter Lotti, it flips from past to present, unfurling secrets, picking at scabs, tossing up regrets.
Canberra will be different, George promises his family, when they move from Sydney, for reasons which are never really explained. But, much like the city itself, explains Bearman, there are many layers underneath the surface.
Bearman was born and raised in Canberra, she did her schooling here, finishing up at Campbell High School. She left after high school to attend university "and I really didn't think about Canberra too much for a long period of time".
But in 2013 she was reviewing films for the Melbourne International Film Festival and one of them, Galore, was set in Canberra.
"I'd been out of Canberra for more than a decade then, at least," she says.
"But there was a scene, maybe on Mount Majura, somewhere around there, with the grass swaying in the heat of summer and it just hit me like a wave of nostalgia, that smell of the grass in summer, and suddenly I had this realisation that as a landscape Canberra was still completely under my skin."
She had already started We Were Never Friends a few years previously, so she dug the manuscript out of the cupboard and imagined it set in Canberra.
"So many of the imagined worlds of Canberra are about parliament or politics, the obvious things about Canberra," she says.
"But if you've lived there, you know it's a really particular city and it's not quite what people think it is.
"It's got these layers, there's an immense amount of poverty in Canberra. If you haven't lived there you don't think of it, you don't think of the underbelly."
If you've lived in Canberra, you know it's a really particular city and it's not quite what people think it is.Margaret Bearman
It's not that the Coates family is living in poverty, far from it. George, who was a top surgeon, now has paintings hanging in the National Gallery of Canberra, Claire works, their lives are relatively affluent with a large three-level house in a cul de sac, a large garden to play with. But when a classmate of Lotti's, Kyla, becomes intertwined in their lives, the window is opened just a little to that other side of the nation's capital. The one none of us like to talk about.
"Growing up in Canberra that was absolutely the experience my life, we grew up touched by these extraordinary institutions and people," Bearman says. "But by virtue of the public school system, and Canberra has much more of a public school culture, people's lives crossed a little more.
"You really did have this sense of the extraordinary and the underbelly kind of meeting at the same point."
Bearman says it's essential that Australian stories are told, and that they are set in Australia.
"I come from an idealistic place, and one of the very early pieces of idealism is the absolute belief in Australian stories and the need to have our stories told in our own places. It's interesting that driver has kind of threaded its way through through my fiction."
She lists Trent Dalton's Boy Swallows Universe, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, anything by Tim Winton, as important works, and "Christos Tsiolkas tells great Australian stories, but I don't always enjoy his books".
Bearman is a professor at Deakin University, specialising in how students and academia survive and thrive in a digital world.
"Technology is everywhere, I look at how affects how we learn, how we teach, what sort of skills you might need for jobs in the future, and I also do a whole heap of work in the health field as well."
As a child she wanted to be an actor. "But the reality of it was I wasn't overly good at it," she says. "I drifted into writing, I'd always been attracted to it, I wrote for theatre and I wrote a little bit of film, I was writing fiction.
"But I'm a realist, you make the choices you make but people who live in the arts often struggle to pay mortgages.
"I'm very practical from that perspective and I've never been attracted to the idea of living in a garret so I ran parallel career tracks and tried to keep those two things going.
"When I had kids that's like a third layer and it become a little too much so I pulled back on the writing, but I'm still intensely interested, just a little bit slower now."
Her children are now 14 and 18 and she says the early scenes of the book were written well before her own children were the age of the characters. We Were Never Friends looks at the transitional year between primary and high school, teenagers full of confusion and longing and angst.
"Writing those scenes were something of a meld of me remembering and imagining forward of what it was like," she says.
"It's quite gob smacking how brutal teenagers are to each other, it's a lot better now, kids know it's unacceptable, they still do it but they know it's unacceptable. Back in my day it was 'suck it up buttercup'.
"But something about the fundamentals of those teenage years remains the same, and I was glad that story rang true on some level for me."
Talk turns to motherhood, Bearman's own experiences, the role of Claire in the book.
"You ask me what books I like," she says.
"I've had a decade where I've lost touch with all popular culture, books, films.
"I can pick up Lego and I can tell you about the Teletubbies and I can get dinner on the table in half an hour and deal with the fact no one wants to eat it ... but all that other stuff has gone by the wayside.
"Now that the children are a little older I am beginning to find more time, it's been a great pleasure for me to be able to unpack all that writing that I've missed."
In the book, Claire holds the family together, as George does little else but paint, drink, cheat, ignore his children and his wife.
"I have enormous sympathy for Claire as a character," Bearman says.
"While you're focusing on the little things and your life is so full of the business of running a home, you can actually miss the terrible things that are going on.
"By focusing on the minutiae, you manage, but you avoid, and I think in Claire's case, somewhat willfully avoid, the things you really should be seeing.
"Mothers make the world go around, they really do."
We Were Never Friends, by Margaret Bearman. Brio Books. $29.99.
- Margaret Bearman will be in conversation with Zoya Patel at Paperchain Bookstore, Manuka, on March 13, from 6pm. Information at paperchainbookstore.com.au