Jed Mercurio's American Adulterer examines the personal life and many affairs of a sexually insatiable John F. Kennedy as America teeters on the brink of nuclear war.

Were you thinking of courting controversy when you were writing this novel?

I didn't write it with the intention of it being controversial. I wrote it because there was an idea I wanted to explore. But, obviously, it would be naïve to think that if you deal with a well-known and well-liked public figure that people wouldn't bring their own opinions of that person to the book.

The book deals with scandal. Are there some thing that didn't make it in?

There were things that I read about that I just didn't believe. Seymour Hersh wrote a very good book called The Dark Side of Camelot that put together a lot of the stories about JFK. However, Hersh wanted to take everything about President Kennedy and find a dark side to it. The other work I didn't feel had a lot of credibility was Judith Campbell Exner's My Story. Campbell was allegedly Kennedy's mistress. She wrote a long exposé about their relationship, but then subsequently changed her story. There are very few people who had intimate knowledge of Kennedy's sex life who have ever spoken reliably about it.

Some of the material in the book is factual, and some of it you obviously had to imagine. Was this mix challenging?

I felt that biographers were always coming up against the barrier of the bedroom door and that was part of the enigma and great territory for a fiction writer to explore. No one really knows what happened in the Lincoln bedroom or in hotels across the world. All we know is that Kennedy was involved with these women in some kind of intimate way. But we don't know if love was involved, how these relationships started, progressed or how they ended. I thought this was an extraordinary opportunity to try and create some kind of insight into the man purely through my own imagination.

You have a medical background and refer to JFK as “the subject” throughout the novel. Did you feel like his doctor?

Yeah, I did, obviously having been a doctor in the past. One of the areas of interest for me was his medical history. Having read various JFK biographies, I was really fascinated because there were lots of conflicting accounts of what was wrong with him and how he was treated. I read as much material as I could and then sat back and treated it the same as for any patient when I was practicing as a physician. I wrote down a “problem list”—problems the patient is facing, what you should do about it, what would be a realistic treatment plan—and had that in my head while I was writing the book.