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SAN FRANCISO — Contrary to what tabloids might think, Melanie Craft is a real person. About two years ago, the New York Post ran a story claiming that her fiancé, software mogul Larry Ellison, had created Craft to quash any speculation about his love life. Perhaps the outspoken, thrice-married billionaire was fed-up with the media speculation.
“I said to myself, ‘My God, I need to get out more!’” laughs Craft, Ellison’s companion of seven years. “I have a small group of friends, but I’m not a social person.” Indeed, Craft has remained mostly anonymous outside Atherton, Calif., while her fiancé absorbs the media attention.
Today, however, she’s ventured to their San Francisco home to talk about her second book, “Trust Me” (Warner Forever), an urban romance novel set in San Francisco about a kind-hearted veterinarian who falls for a ruthless businessman from New York. Craft dedicated the book to her fiancé, writing “For Larry, who didn’t write this one either,” a nod to the rumors that Ellison had not only created Craft, but had actually penned her first novel.
Ellison does, however, make a good editor. “He’s got a short attention span,” says Craft. “I figure if I can keep his attention, then I’m doing great. He must be the only man on earth who reads these books.” Craft herself grew up reading romances by Judith Krantz and Danielle Steel and lots of fantasy and science fiction. Despite her polished demeanor, she says she was a nerd in high school who spent most of her time in the library of her Pittsburgh prep school. “That’s OK, it worked out for me in the end,” she says.
After studying archaeology at Oberlin College and the American University in Cairo, Craft followed her college boyfriend to the West Coast, where she quickly tired of waiting tables. Her first novel, “A Hard-Hearted Man,” grew out of an independent study project she’d done at school. In 1995, she dusted off the book, polished it up, and sold it to Silhouette, which published it in 1998.
At that point, she had been quietly dating Ellison for two years. “I was in a restaurant and Larry hit on me,” Craft says of their first spark. But though she writes about racy romance, Craft, who was engaged to someone else at the time, rebuffed Ellison, though the two remained friends for two years. “He’s got this media image of being a jet-setting, yacht-racing playboy,” Craft says, “and he does have that edge to him, but I’m lucky enough to know the quieter, book-reading, homebody side.”
In fact, Craft spends most of her evenings having quiet dinners in Atherton, and most of her days dressed in Nuala yoga clothes, typing away on her laptop. “I’m very shy,” she says. “I’m not antisocial, just unsocial.” She prefers to spend her time with small groups of friends, weaving them into amalgams for book characters. Her younger sister is a budding fashion designer, and might turn up in one of Craft’s next books.
Craft herself is an easy-going shopper who admits her method is to walk into Fred Segal and say, “OK, what’s cool?”
“I love Valentino and at some point I’m going to try to go to the couture,” she adds. “It’s a lifestyle I haven’t quite felt ready for yet. I sense it’s a full-time job.”
For now, writing is Craft’s priority. “They say you need to turn out a book a year or people forget about you,” she says, so she’s busy with revisions for her next one, “Man Trouble,” about a billionaire playboy who hires a history professor to pose as his fiancé in order to improve his image.
And she’d like to thank the New York Post. “Actually, that story gave me the idea, so I owe them one.”