A presidential candidate has an affair with a staffer while in the middle of the race of a lifetime. Sound like a story ripped from yesterday's headlines? It's a plotline in "Domestic Affairs" (Weinstein Books, $24), the debut novel by former political fundraiser Bridget Siegel, 35, a Dix Hills native who now lives in New York City. Complete with political idealism, scandal and power plays, the book follows character Olivia Greenly, finance director for the presidential campaign of Georgia Gov. Landon Taylor.
In a recent telephone conversation, Siegel discussed the parallels between her fictional story and real campaign life, her own political background and the 2012 presidential campaign. Specializing in political fundraising, Siegel has worked on numerous campaigns, including Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign, Andrew Cuomo's gubernatorial campaign in 2001 and 2002, and the Kerry-Edwards 2004 presidential ticket.
Nowadays, rather than organizing fundraisers for others, Siegel is partying it up at events like the release party for her book last weekend in East Hampton, with guests such as socialite/designer Tinsley Mortimer, former Whitesnake guitarist John Sykes and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
From the characters to the plotline, how much of this novel is drawn from real life?
It's all true stories, just not one complete true story. I've taken a lot of stories from friends and campaign workers and put together one fictional story out of a lot of true experiences. It's based on a lot of people, and hopefully, people will have fun reading through and trying to figure out who's who.
One thing that surprised me was how luxurious campaign life can be -- there are private jets, expensive dinners and many other perks.
I wanted to highlight this inside look into a fundraiser's life. The truth is, there are so many luxurious parts, but the day-to-day is: You're not making any money; you're not sleeping; you're working crazy hours. You get off a private plane, and then you don't have money for a cab home.
Do you think readers will be taken aback by this luxury?
I hope they'll be surprised by it. I think you hear about things like these astronomical figures and crazy dinners at George Clooney's. I hope my book provides a look into what really goes on behind the scenes of those numbers and events.
In the book, you portray a rather dark change in one candidate as the campaign wears on. Would you say this happens in real life?
From what I've heard and what I've seen, the intensity, the amount of hours and the crazy schedules of campaign life really do change a person. I still believe there are people and leaders who make it through and stand on strong moral ground. But it's a very difficult life to lead.
How did you start working on political campaigns?
My next-door neighbor in Dix Hills brought me to a Democratic county lunch when I was about 12. So it really all started at the Suffolk County Democratic lunches. My Long Island politics have always kept me going.
You aren't involved in the campaign this election season. Do you plan on hitting the campaign trail ever again?
I'm taking some time to do some writing and some acting. It's a nice change to be able to throw parties that I don't have to raise money for. As of now, I'm burned out. Most people spend about two years in it. I was burned out after six and stayed for 10. So I think I've overstayed in political fundraising.
Rufus is fantastic, and Obama is lucky to have him at the helm. But it's an uphill battle, especially with all the money coming in from side groups and Super PACs. I don't think they necessarily need to outraise a different candidate. You need to raise the amount of money you need to put your program into play, to run the ads you want to run and to pay the staff you want to pay.
Are there any plans to adapt this book into a movie? Who would you envision playing the main characters' roles?
I'd love to see this made into a movie. I would love really anyone to play these roles -- any of those spirited young actresses out there. I can see like an Emma Roberts play it. And who wouldn't love for George Clooney to play a presidential candidate?