There’s always a market for the next book that offers a different perspective of politics, the campaign trail and elections. However, books that highlight the experiences of a ‘campaign widow’ – the person left behind while their partner goes to work on a campaign – are nonexistent. That is, until now.
Aimee Agresti, who has been a campaign widow herself, is the author of the upcoming book Campaign Widows (Graydon House, May 22, 2018). While fiction, the book is fairly unique – Agresti, already a published author and journalist, writes beautifully, while her characters are bold and driven, making this one hard to put down.
Described as ‘Sex and the City meets The West Wing’, Campaign Widows focuses on Cady Davenport: living in a new city, with a new job, and newly engaged, she should be happier than ever. When her fiance leaves to join the campaign for the upcoming presidential election, Cady finds the downfalls of being the wife-to-be of a political campaigner – but she finds support in an unlikely group of women, who are all in the same situation she is: the ‘campaign widows.’
BookTrib got to chat with Aimee Agresti on writing the book, possible sequels, and her own experiences being a campaign widow.
BookTrib: This is such a great book title – can you tell us a little bit about what a ‘campaign widow’ is?
AA: A campaign widow is someone left behind when their significant other leaves town to work on a campaign. As you can imagine, there are a lot of these here in Washington, DC, where I am! My novel is about a group of unlikely friends in DC, who bond when their loved ones are out on the trail during a zany presidential election.
BookTrib: You bring a completely different perspective to political campaigns than I think the rest of us ever see because you also have personal experience with this – what was it like trying to put your experiences in writing?
AA: The idea was certainly first sparked by my experience as a campaign widow, but luckily the book really is all fiction—thankfully none of the crazy events in there actually happened to me!
I’ve been a campaign widow three times, all during Senate elections, and I didn’t know anything about campaigns when my husband—a Capitol Hill staffer–was first sent out. He went to New Orleans and I thought I’d be visiting every weekend, drinking hurricanes and parading through the French Quarter with a second line. Hardly! He was working 24/7 with no time for visitors or sightseeing. I learned fast that this was just business as usual in Washington: staffers join campaigns and are gone for months at a time, no big deal. But it got me thinking about all the wild things that could go on, what could happen to relationships during that time apart. I basically just channeled all my fears and worst-case scenarios into the book!
BookTrib: I love the relationships that develop between the ‘widows’ as the book progresses, and how each of them change as the book continues. Did you start writing knowing that this was the journey they would take, or did things come up as you were writing?
AA: I’m so glad to hear that, because the friendships between those characters are so important to me! I’m a total planner, so I map everything out before I start writing. I need to know where the story is going and how I’m going to get there and I need to chart each character’s arc. I especially tried to give each character a turning point that really cemented their friendship with the others. Sometimes it happens where we’ll feel like a new friend parachutes into our lives at just the right time, you know? That’s what happens with these characters.
BookTrib: One aspect of the book that you articulate so well is how often women are underestimated, but are also so self-sufficient. Can you talk to us about where you see it in the political spheres?
AA: I wanted a strong current of girl power running through this book! These characters are all very different on the surface, but they’re all striving to be the best at what they’re doing, whether they’re running companies, creating TV shows or raising a family. They’re smart, savvy and thoughtful, but they still feel like outsiders, since they’re all seemingly on the periphery of the campaign world. Sometimes though, being an outsider isn’t such a bad thing. These characters have some of the best and boldest ideas; through the course of the book, they really end up shaping the election. So, in terms of women in the political world, this is all a really long way of saying: if you have good ideas and you make your voice heard, you can change the world.
BookTrib: What advice do you have for women who are going through that feeling of upheaval, being left to take care of the fort, so to speak, while their partners just get really swept up in their own work?
AA: Always to find comfort in your friendships. Having pals you can count on to help you through rocky times or buck you up when you need it is huge and universal. You can never underestimate the power of having a support system! I feel the sudden urge to call my sister and a bunch of my girlfriends right now.
BookTrib: The book hasn’t even come out, but it’s receiving such great reviews. Can we expect to see a sequel by any chance?
AA: Thank you! I did purposely leave the book at a place that would make it easy to pick the story back up. I’m still thinking about these characters all the time, and I loved writing them. They still wake me up in the middle of the night when I’ll think of something one of them would be doing in the future. So we’ll see, you never know!
ABOUT AIMEE AGRESTI
Aimee Agresti is an entertainment journalist and former staff writer for Us Weekly. Her work has appeared in People and The Washington Post, among many other publications. Aimee has made countless TV and radio appearances on the likes of Access Hollywood, E!, and MSNBC. The author of the Gilded Wings trilogy for young adults, she graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, DC, area.