In January 2004, a new reality show premiered: Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.” By the end of that season, American audiences were hooked – and Bill Rancic, winner of that season, became a household name. Since then, Rancic has spent a few years working for Trump’s organization, became star of his own reality show with wife Giuliana, hosted a lifestyle show with Leeza Gibbons, tours as a motivational speaker, has written a number of nonfiction books, became a father, and donates his time to building homes in Haiti. A tireless go-getter, Rancic also wrote a novel. That book, First Light, publishes November 1. We caught up with Rancic via email to get his thoughts on fiction, fear, and more.
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE:The premise of your debut novel, First Light, is fairly terrifying: A young couple, newly engaged and expecting, are on a flight when the plane catches fire and crash lands in the mountains. The two survive the crash and so begins a physical and emotional journey. What inspired this premise?
BILL RANCIC: I was on a flight home from Alaska and I started thinking, “What would happen if this plane went down?” At the time we did not have a child but we were planning on starting a family soon and my mind started wandering. Everything changes when you become responsible for someone other than yourself. We didn’t have Duke until I was forty so I was pretty set in my ways and used to doing the things I wanted to. Now I have to think twice about how it will affect him. I travel a lot for my job and getting on planes isn’t as easy for me as it once was.
PRH:So the plot of First Light plays into some of your own fears as a young husband and father?
BR: Yes. I don’t really have a true fear of flying; however, my wife does. As a husband and a father you take on a lot of responsibility so everything I do now I have to think twice about and how it will affect my wife and son.
PRH:So much of your professional life has been tied to highly visible roles – as a contestant on “The Apprentice,” a motivational speaker, star with your wife, Giuliana, of the reality show “Giuliana and Bill” and beyond. What made you want to write a novel – a process that is often a significantly more solitary experience?
BR: That is correct; it is a solitary experience and I am okay with that. What the public sees is only a fraction of my life. I do occasionally spend time alone to reflect and reevaluate – I really enjoy the writing process and try to continually challenge myself. I had a wonderful English teacher in high school and she is responsible for really getting me into literature.
PRH:Historically, you’ve focused a lot of your philanthropic attentions on Haiti. Are you still involved with efforts in the country? Why is Haiti of particular importance to you?
BR: Yes, I am planning another trip there in January or February. I take a few guys with me and we help build houses. The country needs a lot of help and I am fortunate to be able to go there and do what I can for the people of Haiti. Everything about this experience is fulfilling; however, when you see the look on the homeowners’ faces and their gratitude when the houses are finished – those are moments that take my breath away. I realize that I have been very fortunate and I need to “pay it forward.”
PRH:What surprised you most about the process of writing a novel and how was the experience different from your nonfiction writing endeavors?
BR: I felt a lot of pressure. When I first made up my mind that this was something I was going to do, I wanted to do it well. It is so different than nonfiction, so much more creative; to be honest I wasn’t sure I had it in me.
PRH:Now that you’ve added Novelist to your resume, what’s next for you?
BR: Well, I would love to write a follow up to First Light. Stay tuned.