LIVING IN THE VICE PRESIDENT'S MANSION hasn't been a good career move for Marilyn Quayle. At first she hoped to practice law, the profession for which she trained, but concerns about conflict of interest scuttled that plan. Then she flirted with the idea of filling her husband Dan's old Indiana Senate seat—until she realized that any vote against George Hush might embarrass her husband. She threw herself into disaster relief and breast cancer awareness but still felt a void. What was a modern Second Lady to do?
The answer arrived in bookstores across the nation last month. Embrace the Serpent, a thriller, is the debut literary offering of Marilyn Quayle, 42, and her sister, Nancy Northcott, 47. Set in Washington, D.C., and Cuba after Fidel Castro's death, the book chronicles the efforts of a band of Cuban patriots, aided by black Republican Sen. Bob Grant, to prevent a Russian-backed stooge from taking over in Havana. Crown Publishers has ordered a first printing of 75,000, a rare vote of confidence, and Quayle and Northcott have embarked on a publicity tour. "This is the first time I'm selling something that is my own," says Quayle.
Which doesn't mean she's left politics behind. Known for her scrupulous attention to her husband's image, Quayle takes pains in Serpent to portray her party in the most flattering light. In addition to good-guy Grant, the book features a doltish Democratic President and a scoundrel who edits a liberal D.C. newspaper. So far, reviews have been lukewarm at best. ("Democrat-bashing, tin-ear dialogue and soapbox style narration..." sniffed Publisher's Weekly.)
Northcott, a former English teacher, wrote on a personal computer at home in Tullahoma, Tenn., where she lives with her husband, Tom, an oral surgeon, and their four children. Quayle, who says Dan and their three children were supportive, wrote at home and on foreign junkets. The sisters edited each other by modem and visited once a month. "We laughed a lot," says Quayle, "but we approached it seriously."
"We didn't get a big advance," says Quayle. "If it sells, we'll make a decision on what to do with the money. We need college tuition..." Writing for profit might set Quayle, at least, up for criticism, since Barbara Bush and Millie gave their proceeds to charity. But critics and carpers be darned—Quayle and Northcott are already at work on a sequel. Says the Vice President's wife: "Now I'm standing on my own two feet."
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