Not Your Typical Family Melodrama

Patti Davis--daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan--tapped into her political past with her first novel, "Home Front" (1986), which was set against the Vietnam War and bore some autobiographical touches.

Now she's dug even deeper into her personal history with her first screenplay, "Home Fires," a White House drama set in the early 1980s about a troubled First Family coping with an assassination attempt.

She's just submitted the feature-length script to a major agency for consideration.

It's no secret, of course, that Davis' relationship with her family--particularly with her mother--is strained. That situation improved dramatically but briefly, Patti Davis says, when her father was wounded by would-be assassin John Hinckley in 1981.

"I watched the transformation in our family when my father was shot. How we pulled together and then how we fell apart again."

That experience has now inspired "Home Fires."

"I used the most dramatic event my family ever faced, which was when my father got shot," she explains. "That's the centerpiece of the story. I fictionalized it in a lot of ways, but with some aspects, I didn't."

The storyline revolves around an emotional "triangle" between the President, his wife and their daughter.

"They're strangers--three lonely people on this huge stage. For years, they can't seem to connect with each other. They seem unable to know each other. It takes a bullet to bring them together.

"It's not a story of somebody being right or wrong. It's the story of a family working through not getting along. I resist the word dysfunctional, but in essence, that's the problem.

"They're supposed to be representative of a family, but they're really not a family at all."

The Carol Publishing Group, meanwhile, is readying Davis' third novel, "A House of Secrets," for August publication (her second, "Deadfall" (1989), was set in Nicaragua). The new book promises to stir up at least as much attention as her first.

Davis describes it as a coming-of-age story about a girl deeply affected by a psychologically domineering mother, "wrestling with the residue of that" as she copes with issues of sexuality and motherhood as an adult.

She declines to discuss details, but concedes, "There are some very autobiographical elements in it."

The former President and First Lady are unaware of her latest writing efforts, she adds.

"I don't really apprise my parents of my work," she says, laughing. "I figure that at 38, I can work on what I want."

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