What's next for Bill?
“If I don’t write, it’s like pulling my fingernails off,” Andrea White told an interviewer after the publication of her first novel for young adults in 2005.
Since then, Houston’s former first lady has been happily pounding the keys on her computer and published four more books, including three more novels for teenagers. She also wrote a book about what it was like being a political wife when her husband, Bill White, was mayor of Houston and ran for governor of Texas in 2009 (losing to Rick Perry). Now she has just published her fourth sci-fi novel for teens, Windows on the World, the first in a trilogy.
Windows on the World is set in 2083 and charts the intertwining paths of two teenage girls living nearly a century apart. One is in danger of dying in the Sept. 11, 2001 catastrophe in Manhattan and the other is trying to save her life. As she has done in her three previous novels, White blends science fiction with actual events and people.
“All my books have had an historical core,” she says. The first one, Surviving Antarctica, revisited the ill-fated Robert F. Scott 1912 expedition to the South Pole; her second book, Window Boy, weaves the life of Winston Churchill into an American setting of the 1960's; and her third novel, Radiant Girl, explored the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Her second book landed White at a book signing and press conference in China with basketball star Yao Ming when she was Houston’s first lady. “The book was about a boy in a wheelchair who wanted to play basketball,” explains White, “and Yao wrote an endorsement for the book in Chinese.” White and her publisher donated the Chinese rights to the book to the Yao Ming Foundation, an organization Yao founded in 2008 to help victims of the deadly earthquake in China.
White writes in a comfortable chair in her bedroom with the computer on her lap, she says, and for her, writing “isn’t work. It’s fun!”
On her Facebook page, she calls herself “a former lawyer who always wanted to be a writer.” She first began writing seriously in the mid-1990s in Washington, D.C. when Bill White was working as deputy energy secretary in the Clinton administration. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News last year, she talked about writing three adult novels that were never published. She kept sending them to agents every few months and getting universally rejected. “The first was terrible, the second was bad and the third was worse,” she said.
But White never gave up, and her luck changed when she started writing for teens. Her three children used to read her books, but they’re too busy now, she says. One son, Will, is a teacher at Yes Prep school in North Forest, and two younger ones are still in college. Elena is at Rice and working this summer, and Stephen is at Texas A&M and “in training for something called the ‘Death Race,’” White says. “It’s an adventure race in Vermont and his dad is his crew.”
Her husband is not a fan of science fiction, but Bill White does read her books when they’re published, his wife says. He is also very supportive of her writing and posted a recent notice on his Facebook page pointing out a good review she got on the new book. And Houston’s former mayor is surprisingly active on Facebook, commenting on various topics in the news. Does Bill White, who lost the governor’s race to Rick Perry, still have political ambitions?
He’s not saying, but he’s busy this summer writing a book about the national debt, which will deal with the politics and economics of federal debt in our nation’s history. He seeks his wife’s comments on his work, he says, and hopes to complete a first draft by the end of summer.
Meanwhile, Andrea White is working on a second book in the trilogy she’s planning to write, and she tries to sit down at the computer every day.
“But it doesn’t take discipline,” she says. “I love doing it. Sometimes it takes discipline to do other things.”