How MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace Started Her Other Life As A Novelist

Political staffer, TV host, and author Nicolle Wallace might have started her career being thrown under buses whenever convenient to her superiors' narratives, but her time staring up at the White House's mud-packed axle would be invaluable in gathering intel for her future endeavors. And from serving on the White House staff during George W. Bush's tumultuous, 9/11-era presidency to becoming a senior advisor to presidential candidate John McCain, there were certainly plenty of buses to be thrown under — and lots to see while there. 

Wallace began her political career in California as a spokeswoman for the California State Assembly's Republican caucus. This would prove to be a brief appointment, as she was later fired for being too cordial with the press. However, this is precisely what would propel her to the top of Bush's advising circle and, later, to the appointment of White House Communications Director. 

Despite the cutthroat reputation of American politics, Wallace was overwhelmingly received as a warm, charismatic antithesis to a cold, aloof White House. Still, kindness doesn't equate to a lack of ambition, and Wallace used her experience in D.C. to write the next chapter in her life: political not-so-fictional fiction.

Laying under the bus in the name of grace

While no presidential campaign or term exists without at least a whisper of scandal, Nicolle Wallace's time in the political world was undoubtedly tempestuous. She served as Florida State Technology Office's Communications Director during the infamous Bush-Gore recount in 2000. When the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, Wallace was a special assistant to President Bush. Seven years later, she would serve as a senior advisor on John McCain's presidential campaign. This meant Wallace also worked closely with the famously chaotic vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. 

Palin later blamed Wallace for a particularly devastating interview with Katie Couric in the former governor's memoir, "Going Rogue," which Wallace claimed was rooted in haphazard obsessions and pre-existing prejudices (via CBS). Nonetheless, Wallace knew the importance of maintaining open and (relatively) healthy lines of communication, no matter how difficult. "If someone wants to throw me under the bus," Wallace wrote to Politico in 2008, "my personal belief is that the most graceful thing to do is to lie there." 

And lie there she did — but not without taking a few notes to use later for a future novel or three. According to the Los Angeles Times, Wallace was inspired by Lauren Weisberger's not-so-fictional novel "The Devil Wears Prada," which served as a thinly veiled critique and analysis of Vogue magazine and its stern, icy leader, Anna Wintour. Wallace believed she could do the same thing using her experience as a White House staffer — so she did.

From political staffer to political novelist

Beginning with "Eighteen Acres” in 2011, Wallace created a trio of novels ("It's Classified," 2012, and "Madam President," 2015) that centered around three fictional female politicians: President Charlotte Kramer, White House Chief of Staff-turned-Secretary of Defense Melanie Kingston, and Vice President Tara Meyers. In addition to the novelty of so many all-powerful females, the novels provide an inside look into the topsy-turvy world of politics without naming anyone specific. 

The novels have a few references that verge on the obvious. Charlotte Kramer, for example, was modeled after Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the similarity between the novel's vice president "Tara" and Wallace's real-life advisee, "Sarah," is also a bit hard to ignore, per the LA Times. In Patrick Anderson's review of "Eighteen Acres" in The Washington Post, he wrote, "To say that [Wallace's novel] is one of the best novels I've read about life in the White House may be faint praise — there haven't been many good ones." 

While that's not a slam dunk, per sé, Wallace seems to have successfully fulfilled her dream of making a White House-themed exposé via palatable fiction. As far as a future in politics? Her views have changed a lot since her time as a White House staffer. Wallace told Marie Claire in 2021 that she was happy to slip back into the shadows of the non-famous and unknown, preferring to focus on starting a family with her husband, Michael Schmidt.