It’s my pleasure to share a guest post from Kathryn Barrett for the blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
Kathryn is writing about creating a plausible fictitious universe.
When I set out to create an entirely fictitious presidency, I didn’t think about how difficult that would be. I knew a lot about the presidency—I’d worked on a presidential campaign, and loved presidential trivia and history. I even was given a tour of the White House, including the West Wing, from a friend who worked there.
But creating an alternate universe, where the real president didn’t exist, took a bit of fantasizing! I made my president an Independent, to avoid any partisan issues—even though I think it would be extremely difficult for an Independent to win the Electoral College.
I also had to create a fictitious country, Bhotaan, which was in turmoil, and also a fictitious military conflict where my hero, Adam, had earned his Medal of Honor—I based that on my knowledge of previous Central American conflicts that the US had a role in.
By the time I started writing, my ‘president’, Adam Dybik, still a mere glimpse of a character, surprised me even more. It turned out he kept hearing the voices of dead presidents! I had not meant to write a ghost story, but for some reason, those voices wouldn’t shut up. I started looking forward to their input. Lyndon Johnson was a hoot, and Kennedy was a bit of a pompous twit. (Lincoln was suitably serious, though.) In the end, I figured out why those voices insisted on being heard, and it tied in nicely with the rest of the conflict in the book.
I’ve always felt that when writing fiction, especially fiction that may seem farfetched, it’s best to ground it in facts whenever possible. And fortunately, I love research! There is no shortage of books written about the presidency, and there are even quite a few written about the Secret Service, although it’s called “Secret” for a reason! One of my favorite research books was a book about Secret Service dogs, by Maria Goodavage. (I never found out what language they train the dogs in, but I assumed for my book it might be Dutch.) Their training is very rigorous—they’re the best security agency in the world, and in the book, Ellie was proud to be a member of this elite protective force.
I also fell in love with the president’s daughter, Katie. I think a lot of my own teenage angst came out in her! Moving to a new school when you’re a teenager is never easy, so I don’t blame her one bit for rebelling!
In the end, writing a book set in the White House was both harder and easier than I had imagined. Knowing exactly where many of the scenes took place was helpful—the White House floor plans are even online! And I knew a lot about how things worked in the West Wing, from reading presidential biographies and other books about the presidency. Inspiration for scenes was often just a matter of reading the Washington Post or the New York Times—the famous turkey pardon ceremony happens every year, right before Thanksgiving, and Halloween parties on the South Lawn are White House institutions.
I also like to bring characters from previous books back—in fact, my inspiration for future books comes from wondering what a secondary character is up to! I knew that Connor Forrest, from True Gold, was perfectly suited to be Treasury Secretary. (I always meant to write an epilogue for that book, where he got the call to join the administration!)
I hope everyone enjoys reading about this fictitious president, and his family, as much as I enjoyed writing about him!
Thanks so much, Kathryn
From award-winning author Kathryn Barrett:
Some days it was hell being leader of the free world.
The Washington press calls him the “accidental president.” As a Medal of Honor recipient and national hero, Adam Dybik agreed to run for president during the country’s deepest crisis.
Now that things have stabilized, he’s got problems at home: his 14-year-old daughter Katie keeps ditching her Secret Service protection and reminding him he’s the world’s worst father. And on top of that, he’s begun hearing the voices of dead presidents. Either he’s going mad, or the White House is haunted.
As the new head of Katie’s Secret Service detail, Ellie Brody is trying to live up to the high expectations of her father, former agent Frank Brody. But her new job puts her in direct danger of succumbing to the president’s charm.
Can these two find love in the White House, under the most intense media scrutiny—and the watchful eye of Lyndon Johnson?
Kathryn Barrett has always loved larger-than-life characters and happy-ever-after endings. After working on several political campaigns, including a US presidential campaign, she moved to England and began writing the stories that intrigued her. Her first novel, TEMPTATION, was the winner of the Golden Quill Best First Book contest, the Holt Medallion for Best Mainstream/Single Title, and the Holt Award of Merit for Best First Book. Find out more at www.kathrynbarrett.com.