When it comes to “views” Nicolle Wallace has had many. From the West Wing of the White House as President George W. Bush’s communications director to political analyst on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to co-host of ABC’s talk show “The View,” she has seen a lot up front and from behind the scenes. So it was Wallace’s “point of view” about the election of 2008 that propelled her to pen three novels about the high-stakes lives of the first female president of the United States and the high-powered women around her. The new “Madam President” (Simon & Schuster/Atria Books) completes the trilogy.
“I became obsessed by the ways that Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were treated differently from their male counterparts by the media in 2008,” Wallace, who served as a senior campaign adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign, says in an email interview. “During Hillary’s primary contest against Sen. (Barack) Obama, I observed the most revered figures in the political media establishment practically cheering for Obama and nearly sneering at Hillary for staying in the primaries.”
She didn’t conclude that it was necessarily tied to her gender until she saw the scrutiny that Palin endured. Some of it Wallace thought was justified, particularly where it pertained to her record in Alaska and her position on pressing issues. “But the lines of questioning about her pregnancies and motherhood were truly stunning, and when combined with the harsh treatment of Clinton, I decided to play with the topic of political power and the unique indignities suffered by women seeking it.”
Wallace says, however, that any resemblance between the characters in her trilogy — “Eighteen Acres,” “It’s Classified,” and “Madam President” — and the players on the political stage today is purely coincidental.
“My experience in politics was extremely public, and everyone has theories about whether I’m a thinly veiled Melanie or Dale (White House chief of staff and White House correspondent respectively). I am not. They are both more accomplished than me.” Wallace drew on her experiences as well as those of many close friends in Washington, D.C. to make the characters real, though.
Wallace speaks candidly about the events that inspired the creative process for “It’s Classified,” the second book, featuring a popular female vice president who has her share of secrets. “During the campaign, there were concerns about the effect of the campaign on Sarah Palin’s well-being. When the campaign ended and I turned to writing pure fiction, I explored what it would be like if someone with mental health issues rose to the office of the vice presidency.”
Since September 2014, Wallace has co-hosted “The View,” on which the political fur often flies.
“It’s a job that makes me feel like I won the lottery, every day. Becoming friends with Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie Perez is the best thing about working at ‘The View;’ and ‘The View’ viewers are the most loyal and devoted viewers in television. It is a challenge to honor the show’s legacy and the vision that Barbara Walters had 18 years ago when she launched the show.”
Wallace spends her free time with 3-year-old son Liam, husband Mark, who was a former ambassador to the United Nations, and Vizslas Lilly and Honey, whom she calls perfect brown dogs.
“We spend a lot of time hiking and cooking and riding tractors out at our house in the country,” she says, referring to Litchfield County, where the family can be found when they’re not in New York City. “My husband and I are passionate about being with our son as much as possible and we take our precious dogs everywhere.”
Wallace reflects on her life: “I never expected to have all of the professional opportunities that I’ve had, and I’m grateful that I get to continue learning new things. I also never expected motherhood to transform everything in my life, but I’m so happy that it has.”
So what’s in sight for Wallace? “I’d like to write something for television. Stay tuned.”