Though The Devil Wears Prada (Doubleday, $21.95) follows a much-abused assistant and her egomaniacal boss at a fashion magazine, author Lauren Weisberger tells you three times that her first novel isn't based on her own experiences working for Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour. Sure, Weisberger's memories of life at the women's bible aren't all free makeup and Manolos: ''You don't even enjoy the perks,'' she says. ''You don't even know they're there as you walk around in your fog of misery.'' But the 25-year-old swears up and down that her main character's humiliations weren't inspired by her own. Really.
''Devil'' began as a series of simple writing workshop exercises. ''Other people were writing about their marital difficulties and their sex lives, and I just couldn't bring myself to write about anything so intimate,'' she remembers. ''So I thought I'd write about these little anecdotes from the magazine world.''
Her teacher forced her to show her draft to an agent, who forced it to a six-publisher auction (''I wanted to throw up! It's so exciting but it honestly makes me sick. Sick!''). She'll soon hit the road on a seven-city book tour (''That's the part that makes me really sick! Exciting, fun, but -- Omigod -- standing up in front of groups of people!''). Now Fox 2000 owns the movie rights (''I mean, I've never even read a screenplay! I don't even know what they look like!''), and Weisberger is free to hope one of her favorite actresses, Katie Holmes, lands the lead role. Given her good fortune, surely she's received a letter of congratulations from her former boss? ''Um, officially? No.''