To celebrate the release of his new novel, To Kill The President, we caught up with Sam Bourne to find out about his inspiration for the book and writing as a whole. 

Sam Bourne by Philippa Gedge

Sam Bourne by Philippa Gedge

Could you tell us a bit about your book and what inspired you to write it?

To Kill the President imagines a situation where a volatile, reckless demagogue has been elected to the White House. Two of his most senior aides conclude that he poses a danger to the US and to the world – and decide it is their patriotic duty to remove him. Maggie Costello, who works in the White House, discovers their plot and has to decide what’s right: to stop an assassination, and leave the free world at the mercy of an increasingly crazed tyrant – or to commit treason against her Commander-in-Chief.

I was inspired to write it by the two most useful words for any writer, but especially for a writer of thrillers: What if? Over the last two years, as the US election unfolded, I began to ask myself: What if you were a loyal and senior official and you suddenly found yourself working for a leader you believed was genuinely dangerous? What would you do? Where would your duty lie?

What kind of research did you have to undertake for this novel?

I was covering the US election throughout 2016, travelling around, talking to Trump voters and Republican officials from Manchester, New Hampshire to Cleveland, Ohio. And I’ve been covering the country for many years – so all of that experience informed this book. I also had very specific research to do: about sniper rifles, about IT systems, about game-hunting in Namibia, about boilers, about the nuclear weapons protocol, about Indian slums, about a whole range of things that feature in the novel. I won’t say any more in case I give something away!

Will Maggie feature in future novels?

I hope so. I’ve grown very attached to her. And readers respond to her very warmly.

Who would you like to play Maggie on the big screen?

I think Jessica Chastain would do it really well. And I’m a fan of Rachel Weisz. 

What’s the first fictional story that you remember writing?

I wrote a story at school when I was 14 called The River which I remember being proud of. I might even have it somewhere.

Was there a novel that inspired you to write fiction?

So many. But 1984 remains the gold standard: a human drama that tells a larger truth about politics and the world. In a way, 1984 is the ultimate political thriller.