Speaking with PEOPLE, the former president also said that the family temporarily hired private security for daughter Chelsea after he left office

By Virginia Chamlee
June 09, 2021 02:56 PM
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While Bill Clinton and author James Patterson's new thriller, The President's Daughter, is fiction, at least some of the novel was informed by reality - including that the children of presidents are taught what to do in case they're in danger.

In an interview Wednesday on Good Morning America, Clinton said that his book, which follows fictional ex-President Matthew Keating as he plots to save his kidnapped daughter from a terrorist, isn't based on daughter Chelsea Clinton.

Still, he was able to draw on personal experience when he and Patterson, both 74, were writing certain scenes.

"For example, there's a hiding place or two in the White House and if you have young kids, you have to tell them where it is and where they're supposed to go," President Clinton told GMA's Michael Strahan when asked about a scene in the fictional president's daughter remembers being taught what to do if someone tries to abduct her.

Speaking to PEOPLE in advance of the book's release, Clinton said that he worried about his own daughter's safety following the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Though he was no longer in office, Clinton had attempted to have Osama bin Laden killed during his administration years earlier and he feared retaliation.

Chelsea Clinton
Chelsea Clinton
| Credit: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

Noting that his daughter no longer had Secret Service protection after he left office, Clinton told PEOPLE that he took his own steps.

"We did get security for her, headed by a former Secret Service agent, for quite a while after 9/11," he said. "I was really worried then."

Chelsea, now 41, was at that point living in New York and her dad said that it would have been obvious had she not been protected.

"In New York, people could see it up close, because the paparazzi were here all the time and she was being followed around, but we did, for several months, we got her security ... We tried to do the best we could to whatever point she felt comfortable, and if she didn't want it anymore, we didn't do it, but she was an adult and she can make the decision," Clinton said. "But she realized that she was at some risk for a couple of years after 9/11."

"At the time we wrote the book, I thought we were probably past the danger point," he told PEOPLE. Still, he said he cleared the idea with his daughter first, assuring her that the character in the book, while a first daughter, wouldn't be based on her.

Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
From left: Chelsea and Bill Clinton in 2016
| Credit: Andrew Gombert/EPA/Shutterstock

"I went through the whole thing with her and explained why this was different. This was a whole different character and she wasn't recognizable in it," Clinton said. "The daughter, in this case, was still in college, and why, in the end, she comes out as a heroine, not a victim, so it's not an invitation to victimize her."

Chelsea's blessing ultimately made it much easier to write the book.

"I talked her through it all, because I told [Patterson], I said, 'I like this book, but I don't want to lose my family over it,' " Clinton said. "She got comfortable with it and it made a lot easier for me to go forward."

* With reporting by SANDRA SOBIERAJ WESTFALL