RANCHO SANTA FE — If Karna Bodman had not been trying to catch up on work at the White House Press Office on May 30, 1981, she would have been standing by her boss, James Brady, when John Hinckley Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan, Brady, police officer Thomas Delahanty and secret service agent Timothy McCarthy outside the Washington Hilton. “I was scheduled to be in the car with Jim. I would have been standing right next to them, but I remember there was a lot of work to be done and press calls to be returned. I remember Jim saying, ‘This is just a little speech, it’s no big deal,’” she said.
Bodman decided to stay behind and the rest is, of course, history.
In her position as deputy press secretary to Brady and later as senior director and spokeswoman for the National Security Council, she had a front row seat for gathering ideas for her next career as a political thriller author. She is now promoting her fourth book, “Castle Bravo,” and is working on her fifth.
“Each of my books is about a national security threat,” she said. “’Castle Bravo’ is about a small nuclear device set to detonate high up in the atmosphere by say a militant group or a country that does not like us,” she said. “The effect is shockwave called an electromagnetic pulse, which fries all the electronics on the ground in its line of sight, which means we would have no electronic grids, no communication, no cell phones, no transportation and it would (disable) the entire defense system. It would set us back to the year 1910.”
She said of course there is “guy and a girl and a love interest and a lot of political intrigue.”
Still, her work is more “faction,” than fiction because her book scenarios are based on fact.
In the case of “Castle Bravo,” the device could be delivered by a scud missile, which by the way can be purchased on the black market for about $100,000, she said.
“I remembered George Bernard Shaw said the best way to get your point across is to entertain,” she said.
Is she giving away government secrets?
“It is true that people who worked in certain agencies like the CIA, their work is reviewed for security clearance, but my books are novels and I am careful,” said Bodman who lives in Rancho Santa Fe part time with her husband Dick.
Her first book, “Checkmate,” was inspired by Reagan’s missile defense program, Star Wars, she said. During a party where the book was launched, Bill Webster, who was head of the CIA at the time, was one of the guests.
Bodman said she remembers thinking, “If Bill thinks it’s OK, then I guess it’s OK.”
“Castle Bravo” was actually named for a once classified project. “It is now declassified, so I borrowed the title,” she said. “It had to do with nuclear tests our government conducted back in the 1940s and 1950s, after World War II.”
Bodman said she has always had an interest in writing beginning with writing poetry in grammar school and then as a television news as a reporter and anchor on NBC and ABC.
“Throughout my life I have been writing, writing news scripts, in the White House position papers, news columns, magazine articles, but then I decided I wanted to write novels and had the time to do it,” she said.
She said she had to learn how to expand a single idea to 400 pages.
“I joined writers workshops, went to writers conferences,” she said. “I read books on how to do subplots. Each character had to have goals, motivations and conflict. My process is to get an idea, do a ton of research, sit down write a character outline and chapter outline, then sit down a type out a book.”
She has learned a few other things too.
“I have a writing mode and marketing mode,” she said. “A lot of authors spend 25 percent of their time writing and 75 percent marketing. I do spend a lot of time marketing. I have a great time talking to different groups.”
Her books have been featured on “The Today Show” and “Castle Bravo” was the featured title at the recent book expo in New York. She does all types of radio interviews including being on “The Rush Limbaugh Show” four times.
After her last appearance on his show, her book hit No. 1 on Amazon.
She is already working on a sequel to “Castle Bravo,” with the same characters.
Bodman will appear at Mysterious Galaxy Book Store in San Diego at 2 p.m. Aug. 18 and on Aug. 19, she will speak at the Rancho Santa Fe Republican Women Federated from 3 to 5 p.m. at The Pantry Patio, 6024 Paseo Delicias.
To learn more about Bodman, visit karnabodman.com or contact her at [email protected].