Spotlight & Author Interview: Presidential Conclusions (Samantha Harrison #3) by Douglas J. Wood

Book Blurb & Info

A political thriller, this is the third book of the trilogy of the personal and political life of a fictional character, Samantha Harrison. In this book, she is President of the United States and must deal with serious issues of terrorism, the Middle East, and the Ukraine.

Ripped once again from today’s headlines, Presidential Conclusions is a political thriller with unpredictable twists as the inspiring heroine and her rise to the nation’s highest office presents readers with hard decisions on what today’s politician must do and endure to leave their mark in American history.

America sustains a concerted and devastating series of terrorist attacks, casting the country into chaos, prejudice and fear. Sam needs to find a way of establishing calm and hope. Through a series of moves that allies her with surprising allies, Sam tries her best to reunite the country and bring justice to the murderers who killed thousands of innocent souls. Sam knows she can’t do it all alone, but what compromises is she willing to make? What compromises must every President make to lead this nation? The answers paint a moral story of profound impact.

This third book in the trilogy of Sam’s political career presents what will be her legacy. Readers will have to decide if that legacy is worth the sacrifices she made.

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Author Interview

Why did you decide to write a three-book series about a Republican woman running for president of the United States? How did the idea come to you?

The idea came to me in 1998 while flying to California on business.  It was years before Hillary Clinton would make a run at the presidency, but her name was already being bandied around by the press as the political frontrunner for the “first woman president.”
I believed then that we would eventually have a woman as president, and it got me thinking about the prospect. If it isn’t Hillary Clinton, where on the political food chain might her best competition be?  And even more intriguing for me was the idea that we could see a political campaign with two women running for president. All those ideas eventually led to Samantha Harrison and the cast of characters around her. I picked it up and put it down hundreds of times until I saw Hillary Clinton get as far as she did in 2008.  It occurred to me that Republicans had no woman candidate that had any chance of beating Hillary Clinton.  I wanted to invent someone with a chance, but who was as flawed as any politician.

As President of the United States, which past president’s morals, ideals, and stances on issues does Samantha Harrison align with the most?  How?

Samantha is not, per se, identified with any particular past president. If I had to characterize her, I’d say she’s a combination of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.  Both were flawed yet both found a way to work with the opposition, balance budgets, and keep the country safe. Reagan had to work with Tip O’Neal and Ted Kennedy. Clinton had to work with Newt Gingrich. A cast of characters who could not have been more divisive at times and opposite in viewpoints. Yet it essentially worked. Each approached the challenges differently as so many leaders do.  But they got their jobs done.

Throughout the series, Samantha meets with Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton (who, in your novels, is president in 2016). She also has conversations with world leaders like Vladimir Putin. Why did you decide to use these real politicians in your novel? What was your thought process behind their conversations?

My goal was to write a plausible story that included real people and events. That made it believable. I want readers to believe the story was as much reality as it was fiction; I tried to remain true to historical facts and individual views expressed by living politicians. While I exercised creative freedom with some dialog, many of the quotes are verbatim from the real characters. When I gave them words, I tried to keep to their public and private personas. At times I speculated, but always with an eye to accurately reflecting who they were.

What kind of research did you have to do for these books? As a lawyer for over 35 years, was writing Samantha’s court scenes difficult or easy?

Research was key. Writing is not easy, particularly creative fiction. I wanted to be certain what I presented as fact was unassailable.  If I failed in that respect, the core integrity of the story would suffer. So my research was extensive and included talks with countless people who lived in the real world of politics, terrorism, and law. I spoke with prosecutors, military officers (both U.S. and foreign), politicians, policy wonks, weapons and aircraft specialists, Guantanamo commandants, scientists, doctors, and more. I thoroughly researched every location, visiting those I could legally visit, and meticulously checked and double-checked facts.

As a lawyer who works in New York City and lives in New Jersey, what made you decide to make Samantha Harrison a presidential candidate from Virginia?

This one’s simple. I needed a state that had capital punishment so I could realistically address the conflict Samantha faced as a prosecutor and governor. I also wanted a state on the East Coast with a rich history in politics. Virginia was a natural choice.

Are any of the people in the books based off people you know or have met?

Yes, but I’ll never let anyone know who!

What’s next for Douglas J. Wood as an author? Will we ever see Samantha Harrison again?

Maybe. Or perhaps her daughter, Amanda, will be next to write history. She has grown from a combative daughter to the precipice of true leadership. Richard Haddad, the CIA operative, is also an interesting character. He’s a Muslim and a patriot, yet unconventional. Their stories create fascinating possibilities and intersections.

Who are your favorite authors? Did any of them inspire you as a writer?

I’m a big reader, both for work and recreation. I like all kinds of fiction and non-fiction books.  When it comes to fiction, I enjoy a good mystery…especially if woven with legal, espionage, or ethical drama.  My favorite novelists are Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Robert Ludlum, William Manchester and Michael Crichton.  I am also inspired by my good friend and fellow author, Michael Hicks Thompson, a great mystery writer.  They all gave me the courage to try.

We know in the third book, Presidential Conclusions, that Samantha runs and wins the Presidential Election in 2020. Have you ever thought of running for public office?

Who would vote for me!? For me, politics is a spectator sport. I’d rather stay in the in the bleachers and enjoy the show rather than be hit with a bean ball.

Author Info

Douglas J. Wood has spent over 35 years practicing law. He is a senior partner at Reed Smith LLP, and through his practice has seen politics at its best and its worst. He is the author of Presidential Intentions, Presidential Declarations, and nonfiction books 101 Things I Want to Say: The Collection and Please Be Ad-Vised: A Legal Reference Guide for the Advertising Executive. He currently lives in New Jersey, works in New York, has been happily married for over 44 years, and is the proud parent to three grown children.

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