The week Marion Frith's book Here in the After is released, the news is filled with stories about the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. We watched as people clung to the sides of military jets as they tried to take off, watched the Taliban storm airports, watched women and children crammed amongst hundreds of people inside cargo planes, listened to stories as people questioned the point of the past 20 years.
"You watch, listen, read the news and every second story is about someone having experienced something horrendous," says Frith.
"So when they fall off the front page, how do they get back from that, what is that journey?
"How do you get back so you can get dressed, go to the shops again, engage? I was really interested in looking at that."
Frith, a former journalist, has always been highly regarded for her compassion, for her ability to find the human story behind the news. We were colleagues at The Canberra Times for many years and she was always a woman other reporters would seek out for guidance, someone who wouldn't lambast you if you dared to make a story personal.
For Frith, the human impact of a story was always the most important. So it's not surprising that her first novel, Here in the After, looks at the individual responses to trauma.
Anna is a 62-year-old grandmother who is the sole survivor of a hostage situation in a travel agency. Eleven people are killed, along with the three terrorists.
On the other side of Sydney, 35-year-old army veteran Nat is watching the news. He's still scarred from his experiences in Afghanistan.
He can't believe it's followed him home.
The pair end up forming an unlikely friendship, bonded by the violence they have seen and the memories that haunt their every moment.
While the book is a tough read at times - even Frith admits that pain and trauma don't make for light reading - it's a book that is full of optimism and hope, a story of the power of connection and being able to ask for help.
While the book tells two very personal stories, Frith went against her journalistic instinct and avoided interviewing people who had been in similar situations.
"Because this was such a big topic, and such a complex topic, and so personal, I actually made the conscious decision to not do one-on-one interviews," she says.
"I didn't want the responsibility of taking an individual story, someone's very private story, and then bending and translating that into a work of fiction, and have them being let down by those changes."
Instead she read interviews online, read first-person accounts from veterans, listened to stories from survivors of trauma.
"And that put up this wall between me and these people sharing their experiences, and that allowed me to look at it more objectively.
"It was quite a rabbit hole, but it was incredibly powerful."
Frith started the book years ago; it's not set in the present, she never intended it to be a statement on the current news headlines about the situation in Afghanistan, about the inquires into alleged war crimes by Australian troops.
"It's interesting, because Nat is a veteran who's been to Afghanistan twice and now he is really struggling with what he sees as the futility of their time there. When I was researching this, even then, the world wasn't calling it a failure, a complete waste of time, yet.
"Even the weeks before the release, were we at that point? I think a lot of veterans had been wondering what it was all for, for years."
In her time as a journalist, and she went on to work in communications for government agencies, in Canberra, Sydney and London, Frith had a strong connection with the fallout of wars. She walked the Kokoda Track, went to Gallipoli, to battlefields in Vietnam.
She covered the "shockingly belated" welcome home parade in 1987, was at the Australian War Memorial in 1993 when the unknown soldier was brought home. For many of us, she says, war was about something happening "over there". But it's here as well.
"I've always been interested in the cost of war on young people, it doesn't sit well with the rest of my life and that surprises some people," she says.
"My father served at Kokoda and suffered horrendously. A lot of people my age have that shadow over their life."
At 65, Frith lives with her partner, ABC journalist Fran Kelly, in Sydney. The pair have been together for close to 30 years.
She wanted to create a story that had an older woman in it, but one who didn't fit the stereotype.
"Anna is in her 60s, and she's strong, and complex and flawed, and now she's been through something terrible.
"I was interested in looking at the idea, because I'm older. The fact she's lived a life, had acquired wisdom through that life, was that going to help her find the grief to start to heal? I knew who she was - she had suffered already, losing her husband, she knew what grief was, what could she bring to the table of recovery?
"I wanted to look at the interplay of two people from two very different perspectives and backgrounds who had been through something terrible and how they managed that differently to hopefully come to a point where they begin to live again."
Frith didn't want to trivialise recovery.
"I didn't want to say one day you'll just get over this, I wanted it to be clear there was no easy way out," she says. "We have to pay heed to post-traumatic stress, it's a very serious illness that can be treated and there are all these support services doing a great job.
"But it's not only veterans who suffer post-traumatic stress, it can affect anyone, women and children who have been hurt, people who have experienced or witnessed violent crime, it's a big thing."
Perhaps it's even more widespread than we care to think, she suggests.
"My character Anna says at some point, something like does everyone who's been through something terrible have PTSD, or is it only really valid if you live in a wealthy country and get diagnosed?
"You only have to look at the footage coming out of Afghanistan and there wouldn't be a person, whose face the camera has panned, who wouldn't have PTSD, not a person. I think that's why we have to have a very sympathetic refugee system because millions of people are hurting."
- Here in the After, by Marion Frith. Harper Collins. $32.99.