Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, inspired the romantic hero in "Happy Endings," a 1991 bestselling romance novel.
Author Sally Quinn says she was looking for the perfect character to romance her protagonist, who was recently widowed in the second novel, when she met Fauci.
"I had not met him before. I knew who he was, because he was the famous AIDS doctor," she told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on "New Day." "We just sort of immediately got into a very intense conversation, and I just found him riveting, and unbelievably attractive, and charismatic. I thought he was brilliant."
"I thought he was really sexy," she said.
Fauci, who has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, then became the basis for Michael Lanzer, a fictional National Institutes of Health scientist who romances protagonist Sadie Grey, the fictitious former first lady, all while developing a cure for AIDS.
"[The protagonist in the book] had been married to the president, who was a jerk, and she wasn't really in love with him, and he was totally in love and involved with himself," Quinn said. "And here was Tony Fauci, who even though he was famous and, you know, well-respected and all that, didn't care about fame or money or power. He just was in it to do good, and that's very rare in Washington, by the way."
So she based Lanzer's character on Fauci.
Quinn also drew comparisons between the plot of the book and the current situation, saying that what Sadie Grey saw in Dr. Michael Lanzer is what everyone is seeing in Fauci today, as he speaks during the White House coronavirus press briefings.
"There's a petition now for him to be named sexiest man alive. He's become this great sex symbol, and it was kind of like who knew? I just wrote it the way I saw it, and suddenly here 30 years later, it's all coming true, except that he's not having an affair with the first lady."