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October 24, 2022

A career in politics inspired Rothstein’s political thriller series featuring Latina president Isabel Tennyson. The most recent book, The Moment of Menace, follows “Tenny” as she faces down a conspiracy that’s working to seize control of the government.    

You’ve written three books featuring U.S. president Isabel Tennyson. How did you create the character?

BookLife’s review of The Moment of Menace describes “Tenny” as “a memorable and inspiring creation.” During my career as a political strategist and media producer, I met a great many Tennys—strong, capable, and courageous women filling roles as candidates, spouses, campaign leaders, and others. We’ve never elected a woman as the U.S. president. I decided that I would and that she would be a composite of women I met who would have been great presidents. There are many real-life Tennys in politics. I hope one day soon we actually elect one.  

You have decades of experience in the political arena. How did that translate to these books?

Think about what it means to be a candidate. Raising money. Lots of money. In a real sense, you will have to learn to beg. You will have to hire a professional staff who will make important decisions in your name and often without your knowledge. You will appear in public every day, sometimes in the media, weighing every word and gesture lest it be misinterpreted, often purposely, by the opposition. Tension will increase each day as election day approaches. The money won’t be enough. Attacks on your character will increase, all in public media. Your family will feel under siege. You will get conflicting advice. Every day, you will need to make decisions, any one of which could cause you to win or lose the election. This is stuff of high drama, and I lived it through more than 200 campaigns. Marriages were made and destroyed, and so were reputations, wealth, hopes, and dreams. I don’t need to use my imagination to develop characters and situations. I just need to remember.   

How is The Moment of Menace different from its predecessors?

While each of the three novels in this trilogy stands alone as a separate thriller, combined they follow a woman who goes from having no interest in politics to being elected as president and facing many of the crises familiar to all of us. I began writing the first novel, The Latina President, in 2015. Many of the problems Tenny faces in the book remain and are still relevant to that story. Now, we confront even more, including real threats to democracy. The Moment of Menace lives within the political environment of its time, now. Hence the title, The Moment of Menace.

Why or how do you think this book is particularly relevant now?

Well, good stories that keep you riveted to the page are always relevant, and, hopefully, that’s what I provide for my readers. But while entertaining, thrillers also can be vehicles for awareness, and that’s what I try to provide as well. In The Moment of Menace, I offer unconventional road maps toward resolving some of our most intractable and dangerous public problems, not by writing essays but by incorporating them into an exciting story.  

Can readers expect more books featuring Isabel Tennyson?

Possibly. But my next novel veers off in a totally unrelated direction. One of my summer vacation jobs in college was with an automobile stunt show, sort of a car circus of smashed cars, daredevil motorcyclists, and a finale with a car and driver being shot out of a cannon. We traveled the country as the Motor Olympics. I was “Suicide Saunders.” A fictional thriller based on that experience is my next book.