The New York Times named the author’s first novel, Prep, one of 2005’s ten best books; its successor, The Man of My Dreams, was a national best-seller. Her newest, American Wife, draws inspiration from the life of Laura Bush, though the author asserts that Wisconsinite Alice Blackwell is not a doppel gänger for the first lady. Readers may draw their own conclusions.

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How closely did you hew to Laura’s life?

I tried to explore what life could be like for someone with a moderate resemblance to her. I chose several large events in Mrs. Bush’s life to build around—the tragic car accident when she was seventeen, her twelve-week courtship with George, his struggles with alcohol, his being a wartime president—and made up just about everything else.

How long did it take to write?

Two years of working longer hours than I ever plan to work again. My earlier books took longer, but I was also freelancing and teaching, not writing full-time. But it’s fun to feel really engaged in a project.

What can you tell us about your next book?

1) My husband and my editor think it sounds weird. 2) I haven’t written a word of it yet. And 3) It doesn’t have anything to do with anyone famous. Random House, $26 (Read the full interview.)