Lawrence biographer's Condoleezza Rice book in demand

Antonia Felix said she never expected to be Condoleezza Rice's only biographer.

When her book "Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story" was released in 2002, she assumed it would be the first of many to hit the shelves.

But now, as Rice is poised to become secretary of state, Felix's biography remains the only one available. And the Lawrence resident is hoping to update the book for dissemination to a broader audience.

"We thought there would be a flood of them after my book," Felix said. "We're still amazed. It's good for us."

Felix is writing a revised version of the book, which is scheduled to be out in February. The first version -- available now in both hardcover and paperback -- has sold about 80,000 copies, the author said.

"Condi" is the 13th book written by Felix, who moved to Lawrence in summer 2003 when her husband, Stanford, enrolled in graduate school at Kansas University.

The book chronicles Rice's childhood in Birmingham, Ala., her college career that ended with graduation at age 19, her professional and political career, and her passions for football and the piano.

The updated version will include highlights of her years as national security adviser to President Bush.

Felix, like many commentators, said she expected the Bush administration to provide a more consistent message with Rice as secretary of state than it has during the tenure of Colin Powell, who currently holds the post.

"What they'll hear from her is how Bush feels," Felix said. "There was sometimes a distinction between what Colin Powell was saying and what the White House was saying. It'll be a direct link, and there's two sides to that."

Rice -- like many of Felix's subjects -- declined to be interviewed for the biography. However, she did provide personal photos for publication.

Felix faced the same challenge on her best-selling book on Laura Bush, "Laura: America's First Lady, First Mother," which sold more than 125,000 copies.

"This is a very tight-lipped White House," Felix said. "It's difficult to get sources."

Another challenge in getting sources is the public's perceptions about some biographies.

"A lot of commercial biography gets a bad reputation, that it's pasted together and schlocky," she said. "That reputation has haunted me. I have to do a good selling job with my major sources."

Felix started her career as a biographer after writing advertising copy in New York while she was pursuing a singing career there. She remains active as a freelance lyric soprano and has performed recently in New York and Europe.

Her first subject was John MacNally, a little-known Irish musician. The book was published in 1993.

But the profile of her subjects quickly became more prominent. Her subject list now includes Christine Todd Whitman, Harry Connick Jr., Andrea Bocelli and Wesley Clark.

Felix said Lawrence had proven a good location for her research and writing, especially because her husband's status as a student gives her access to KU's library databases at home.

Her current project is the biography of a musical savant from Massachusetts, which is due to the publisher this spring.

"To me, every life is like the typical Greek tragedy," she said. "Everyone's the hero at the center of their own life. They all have obstacles to overcome. Everyone has some sort of an arc."


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