When Rauber and Reingold first pitched the idea to an agent, she sighed. “Five years ago,” in the fatter days of book publishing, she said, “I could have sold that on concept alone.”
But no. Rauber and Reingold’s new series “Capital Girls” had to happen now. It’s primed for this time of low approval ratings, of government stink eye — this time when the only way to get elected to go to Washington is to talk about how much you hate Washington.
It’s equally primed for this era in young adult literature when it seems like heroines are either master archers fighting in post-apocalyptic death matches or master back-stabbers fighting in post-adolescent grapples to get to the top of the social ladder (a marginally different kind of death match).
St. Martins Press bought the series in a three-book deal, published under the pseudonym Ella Monroe. The WB has already optioned a television adaptation.
The first book, “Capital Girls,” released Tuesday, introduces Jackie, the daughter of the chief of staff to the U.S. president. She’s dating Madame President’s son, Andrew, but sneaking into well-appointed offices with a handsome, older Hill aide. This dalliance leaves the door open for her friend Laura Beth, a Republicenne who fantasizes about a party-crossed love match with Andrew herself. Both girls mourn Taylor — a member of their clique who died in a mysterious car accident the year before — and suss out the motives of Whitney, the new-girl daughter of a gossip columnist who seems like she’s out to get them. Probably because she is out to get them.
All of these relationships become entangled with the president’s announcement of a new immigration act. If it doesn’t pass, that could result in the deportation of the girls’ Paraguayan friend, Lettie, the only 99 percenter in the book.
“We tried to keep some foundation of Washington —” Rauber says.
“But of course it’s not meant to teach you about term limits, or how the government works,” Reingold adds.
“Everybody loves to fantasize — about having fabulous clothes, a fabulous life,” she says.
This particular fantasy began more than 15 years ago, when Rauber’s daughter, Phoebe, and Reingold’s daughter, Celia, were kindergartners at Lafayette Elementary in Chevy Chase. The girls eventually landed at different schools, but their mothers remained part of the same kaffeeklatsch. When Phoebe and Celia graduated from the Field School and Georgetown Day four years ago, Rauber and Reingold — respectively, a former congressional reporter for the New York Post and a Cordon Bleu-trained chef — decided to line their empty nests with pulp fiction.