Crown Senior Editor Kevin Doughten on the Making of SHATTERED: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign
Moving blow-by-blow from the campaign’s difficult birth through the bewildering terror of election night, Crown’s #1 New York Times bestseller SHATTERED by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes tells an unforgettable story both political and personal, that will change the way readers understand just what happened to America on November 8, 2016.
In our Three Questions for an Editor feature interview, Crown Senior Editor Kevin Doughten offers illuminating insights into the genesis, development and impact of this fascinating book.
When and how was SHATTERED born as a proposal, then a fully-envisioned book?
I had worked with Jon and Amie on their previous book, HRC, a biography of Hillary during her time as Secretary of State. After that book was a bestseller, the authors proposed a book in which they would follow the 2016 campaign. It was early in the campaign cycle at that point, probably late 2014, but given that they had such fantastic access to Hillaryland, we liked that idea immediately. Trump wasn’t even a blip on the horizon yet, but you had the sense from the first book that any campaign Hillary was involved in was likely to come with some drama. In the beginning we had a loose schedule of when the authors would deliver various chapters, but during the campaign I wanted to make sure they had room to report. Obviously the book wasn’t finished until after the election, and of course the result led to some re-envisioning, but since so much of the material had been reported and shaped as it was actually happening the real challenge in the end was finding the framework that made sense of it all. The election result actually helped with that since so much of what the authors were hearing from inside the campaign, even early on, suggested disarray.
The inside-the-campaign reporting by the authors is so detailed and incisive, they must have had mountains of material to work with. As their editor, how did you go about helping them make content decisions and shape the narrative?
It was important that the book not only document what happened during the campaign but also tell a fantastic story. Often we were evaluating whether a particular incident felt important enough to include—whether it was actually a strong building block in the story or just repetitive of a point that had already been made. Since I’d worked with the authors before, we already shared a mantra—get us in the room. Readers needed to see the campaign through the eyes of the people who lived it, in all its detail, and that meant working with sources to get the clearest understanding of what they heard, saw, and thought at the time. The goal was to create a book that said something important about why the election turned out as it did and also took the reader along for an exciting, thrilling, depressing/exhilarating ride.
Who do you see as the primary audience for SHATTERED and what do you feel are the most important takeaways for readers of the book?
I don’t know that the book has a primary audience, but rather a few. I think there were a lot of people who voted for Hillary who felt in the wake of the election that they still didn’t have a firm grasp on what happened, why she didn’t win. For those people I think the book offers an alternative narrative, or at least a complementary one, to the story that it was all James Comey, or all Russia. For Bernie fans, there’s justification here that their man had a better grasp of the electorate and ultimately didn’t quite get a fair shake from the party. And of course there are a lot of readers who just plain don’t like Hillary and will find validation here that she herself was a major contributor to her own loss. Beyond that, I think the most important takeaways are probably for the Democratic party. The authors contend that this was a winnable election, and without taking real stock of the unforced errors up and down the process it will be hard for Democrats to avoid déjà vu in 2018 and beyond.