Friday, September 7, 2018

Karna Small Bodman, from White House insider to writing page turners

BREAKING NEWS! Last night at Bouchercon 2018 Rhys Bowen's In Fairleigh Field was named the winner of the Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Fiction!
Today's guest is Karna Small Bodman.  Her careers as TV news anchor and White House press secretary turn out to have been research for her current career: the author of bestselling political thrillers.

She loves the question: Where do you get your ideas?

KARNA SMALL BODMAN: Every author recognizes that question since it’s asked so often on our book tours.  If you’re an aspiring writer, any one of you can pick up a morning paper or
check stories online and see a veritable petri dish of plot points. But when I decided to start writing novels (long a dream of mine, after having written TV News scripts as a TV anchor and position papers in The White House) I figured out that “being there” is even better.

So I thought back on the six years I spent in the Reagan White House, first as Deputy Press Secretary, later as Spokesman for the National Security Council and recalled SO many events/crises/challenges that could be turned into a pretty good thriller or mystery.  Let me  take you on a trip down “memory lane” and list a few:

The first that is seared in my memory occurred 9 weeks into the Administration – the date was March 30, 1981. I was scheduled to be in the car with Press Secretary Jim Brady – but stayed back at the last minute to handle the workload. And you all know that when Jim and the President walked out of that event at the Hilton Hotel, that’s when John Hinkley fired those 6 shots wounding the President and four others. I would have been standing right next to him….but actually spent the day in the Situation Room as the crisis unfolded. Talk about plot, characters, settings!

Many other crises occurred, as they do in any administration, for example: the assassination of Sadat, the attempted assassination of the Pope, the shooting down of a Korean jetliner with an American congressman as a passenger, the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle with the school teacher on board.

See what I mean?  I have used many of these incidents, along with controversial presidential initiatives, foreign “bad actors,” and especially the settings such as the  Oval Office, Cabinet Room, Roosevelt Room, White House Mess and many scenes in the Situation Room. Four of my novels have been revised and released over the summer: Checkmate, Gambit, (I named my pups for that title and the heroine in the story) Final Finesse, and Castle Bravo – as a lead-in to the new thriller.

And that new one is Trust but Verify – I’m sure that title rings a bell with some of you.  Since I had the opportunity to travel to arms control talks with the Soviets and Summit meetings with their General Secretary – I have been fascinated with the challenges that Russia presents (then and now!) This story features a member of The White House staff teamed with an FBI Special Agent who race to unravel a plot by Russian oligarchs that  threatens the lives of international financiers and would sink stock markets worldwide.   

Now the question is: if you are an author, where do YOU get your ideas? And if you are a reader, what ideas might you have for US? Do leave a comment as it just might inspire the next thriller. And thanks to my friend, Hank Phillippi Ryan for her kind invitation to share my thoughts with you today. 


  1. Congratulations, Karna, on your newest book. I’m looking forward to reading “Trust But Verify.”
    I imagine there’s enough political intrigue around for a never-ending supply of story ideas . . . .

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks, Joan, for wanting to read my new thriller - appreciate that very much. (Just tried to leave a comment above, but miss-typed it, so removed the reference.) I'm also replying here through our own Rogue Women Writers connection.....Karna Bodman

  2. Welcome Karna, or may I call you Karma! And congratulations on your newest book.

    Hank, timing is everything, and did you ever time this guest appearance right. I'm having Deep Throat deja vu moments this week.

    Karna, I am off to have an Amazon look at your books. What with the current political climate, I didn't thing anyone would need make this stuff up!


  3. Your new book sounds fascinating and timely, Karna! I assume you witnessed and were privy to things during your time in the White House that you don't share; what makes the cut? And are there some things that readers would never believe, even though they're true?

  4. So glad that you're here today, Karna! I hadn't been familiar with your books, but I'll certainly take a look now. And, yes, what a wealth of material you have witnessed, though I know a lot of it was traumatic and sad as well. As you listed the events, I had a vivid flashback of where I was when the Challenger went down. I guess we all have moments like that - where were you when...? Good luck with TRUST BUT VERIFY and, like Ann, I'm off to check on your books.

  5. Having a front row seat to so many historic events must provide a rich source for writing material! Especially now, when so many parallels could be drawn that readers can relate to better than they could have prior to today's unfolding disaster.

    Although I suspect there are still events and situations readers might find unbelievable. What do you think, Karna?

  6. What a wealth of experience you have! I look forward to reading your books.

    My beat is small Ohio towns filled with gossip, domestic drama, and people who look out for each other. I created my dream high school: zero period (sports conditioning, clubs) starts at 8 and classes not till 9.

  7. Welcome to Jungle Reds! Congratulations on your new book! I like the title. At the present moment, I am a reader. I enjoy books that are well written. I am very picky about grammar! The current events right now are giving so many ideas and material for future novels!


  8. I love the title TRUST BUT VERIFY! That was one of my husband's favorite phrases - often deployed when considering something one of our kids had allegedly done. I agree with Ingrid - a thriller about Russian interference in the west is totally of the moment. Exciting!

  9. What wonderful news! Congratulations, Rhys, on your well-deserved award for the fabulous “In Farleigh Field” . . . .

  10. Love the title TRUST BUT VERIFY! Need to apply that more in my life. Speaking of life, you've had an exciting one that probably is the source of many great book ideas! My life is a bit (meaning a lot) more not-exciting. LOL. I look forward to reading your books. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Karna, what an amazing journey to authorship you’ve had! Trust but Verify sounds timely and compelling! I can’t wait to read it!

  12. Rhys, congratulations! I’m not at all surprised. It was hard to say goodbye to the characters when I finished reading the book.

    Karna, how timely your topic is! You couldn’t have picked a better time for it to be published. I plan to look out for it.


  13. You are so impressive & fun, Karna! What adventures you had, and how wonderful that you weave it all into fascinating contemporary tales! I loved TRUST BUT VERIFY! Gayle Lynds

  14. Reading ALL of those great comments has really "made my day!" Thanks so much for your interest in the new thriller, TRUST BUT VERIFY -- now I just hope you like the story - and again, I appreciate appearing here on the Jungle Red page! (I'm answering through our Rogue Women Writers connection....another great group of women thriller writers)….Karna Bodman

  15. OMG I can’t believe you were almost shot by John Hinckley!!! And how many years have I known you????

  16. Right, Lisa? Little did we know! What a fascinating career you've had, Karna.

    And Rhys, congrats! You might need to build a new wing just to hold your awards.