The Reluctant First Lady has an intriguing premise. What inspired or triggered the idea to write a book addressing this particular topic?
The idea occurred to me during a family dinner. I was telling my sons what a great president I thought their dad would be, but that he would be hindered by me because I would refuse to be First Lady. One of my sons said if I took that position on the role, I would automatically become the most famous First Lady of all time. Out of that conversation, the idea for the book was born.
If your husband were to run for president of the United States, would you be willing to join him in the White House, or would you be more like the character in your book—a reluctant First Lady?
Currently, I don't believe a candidate's presidential aspirations would go
very far if it was common knowledge that his or her spouse wasn't willing to
join the president in the White House. But to answer your question, no, I wouldn't be willing to join my husband in the White House. I would absolutely be like Ashley in the book. However, I'm keenly aware that the public expects a package deal.
Anna Quindlen wrote an article for Newsweek in February 2004 about this topic. When Howard Dean ran for president, his wife, Judy, was busy running her medical practice. Howard Dean said his wife wouldn't be used as a prop in his presidential campaign, yet his wife was criticized for not being a proper political helpmate. Ms. Quindlen wrote, "The wives who get the most scrutiny are those who least conform to the little-woman standard. If you have a career or are outspoken, beware!"
Further, one must ask: Would the same standard be applied to a man if a woman were elected president? I think not.
Do you believe it's possible to be First Lady of the United States of America without being obligated to attend important functions or spearhead a cause and still maintain a separate and independent career?
If a woman chooses to support her husband and become First Lady, I believe she must do so with the understanding that the public expects the full-meal deal. If you look at past First Ladies, you'll see that none of them continued their careers while their husbands were in office. Personally, I think that expectation should change. People vote for whom they believe will be the best president and representative for our country. The First Lady is not on the ballot.
How do children factor into this equation?
For the most part, young children take their cues from their parents or role models. Older children, I believe, develop opinions of their own. So if this hypothetical situation were to occur, most children would be aware of what their parents thought and why. I know I wouldn't want to raise my children in the White House or under so much public scrutiny. Yet we have excellent examples of past presidents and First Ladies who have done a wonderful job raising their children in the limelight.
Are you independent by nature?
I think my answer depends on a person's definition of what it means to be independent. I consider myself independent. I choose what I do and what I get involved in. In some situations, I'm very independent; in others I'm conventional. The pertinent point is that I've made the choice in each situation.
When my children were young, I chose to give up my job to stay at home with them until they began kindergarten. It was my choice. My husband didn't insist I stay home.
When my husband and I were both principals at different schools, I didn't think it was necessary for me to attend social events at my husband's school, and I didn't think it was important for him to attend events at my school. I've always felt the important issue was that we be very good at our jobs.
You and your husband are both educators and have been happily married for many years. How has your independent nature impacted your marriage, or has it?
Of course it has. My husband is not always happy with the choices I make. Likewise, I'm not always happy with the decisions he makes. But we've always been supportive of one another, even when we've disagreed.
Has your independence affected your children? If so, in what way?
I don't know if my independence has affected my children or not; you'd need to ask them. However, it was important to me to raise children who looked beyond the obvious and questioned the why of things, children who knew when to challenge the status quo—respectfully, of course.
The Reluctant First Lady invites readers to think and reflect on a situation that has yet to occur but could easily happen in the near future. What is the main message you hope readers will take away after reading your book? What do you hope they will learn?
First, I hope they enjoy a good "what if" story. Second, I think it's time to ask these questions: Is a First Lady truly a necessity? Shouldn't each wife of a president have the right to choose to accept the position or not? Also, it's time to start thinking about what role a husband would play when a woman is elected president. So the answer is in the question. The reader is invited to think and reflect on this topic.
Do you have plans for a sequel?
Possibly. . .
Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Like most writers, I find my ideas come from everywhere and everything. A writer looks at an issue and asks,
What if this were to occur? Or what if that was thrown into the mix? What would that look like? I've also dreamed two of the books I've written.
How can readers contact you?
By going to my website, www.VenitaEllick.com.