I’ve been on a kick lately about really wanting to authentically communicate with the authors who request book reviews. In the teaching world, we (mostly literacy people) talk about using “authentic texts” that are meaningful and build on (hopefully many) concepts or skills we’re trying to teach. I’ve realized lately that I have just been reviewing books that most independently-published (and by this I mean the non-traditional, big publisher method) authors send on. And that’s it. End of conversation. Sometimes not even a thanks.
So, as the few that have recently trickled in with their requests, I make a point to ask or suggest additional materials and conversations (especially if it’s a first-timer). I’ve found that they want to share just as much as I want to hear – and I want to start building some lasting relationships with authors, and to hopefully be part of their future projects. 🙂
All that aside, I recently was kind of blown off by a big-time author and agent. That got me really down considering the vast amount of work I put into reading the book (which, yes, I put at the top of my list and totally screwed up and backed up my reading schedule), writing a meaningful review (in hopes of sparking conversations) and other related blog tour type posts.
I felt like a small fry in a big ol’ vat of fat, crinkly fries. You know, the kind of small fry that gets all burnt to a crisp and no one wants? Yeah, that’s how I felt after that whole episode. That’s just not nice. That whole experience prompted me to make a few changes in my policies, and it was like this whole concept of TALKing to the authors lit up in flashing, bright neon lights. I couldn’t give up on blog tours that easily. I just had to do it my way…
This is one of the handful of authors that has requested a review – or in this case, co-authors! To me, two authors who jointly write and publish a singular book (or series) together is new to me. I really haven’t seen it before, but I think it’s an absolutely WONDERFUL idea. I’ve also noticed from a few other requests that have come in, that this seems to be growing into a trend. I hope it doesn’t die out.
These two lovely ladies, Alicia Long and Jayne Jones, ran into each other by way of Capitol Hill and congressional office staff and worked for almost ten years in the political arena. They first got started working together under Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman. They realized there was just too much not to share, so why not write a book together? Hello, Capitol Hell!
They are both extremely dedicated woman to a variety of institutions and groups, and I think that makes them even more “real” to readers. I enjoyed reading their bios on the Capitol Hell website. You may find out one of these two ladies dreams of marrying Green Bay Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers…and yes, it is on her bucket list!
Oh, and one last thing before we get to our interview: you can get a SIGNED, PERSONALIZED copy of the book right now. How’s that for nice?
Both of you worked together under MN Senator Norm Coleman. Were you friends before that opportunity, or did you become friends because of it?
Alicia: Our love of politics actually brought us together! We met on former Senator Coleman’s campaign when we were both working in the Volunteer Center. We even shared a desk, so we became fast friends!
Jayne: We met on the Coleman campaign and shared a desk. Trust me, if you can share a desk with me then you can be my best friend!
Alicia: I don’t think either of us had ever considered actually writing a book before. But after we finished working on the Hill and began to tell people about all of the crazy things we saw, the common response was, “You should write a book!” So, one day we just did. Not only was it cathartic, but it was also so much fun rehashing memories with one another.
Jayne: After we both left the Hill, we were sitting on my couch laughing about all our stories and other staff stories. Alicia decided to write chapter one and she sent it to me. I loved it. Added a little sparkle and off we were rolling.
Why did you think it was important to share the experiences and situations that crop up in your book?
Jayne: Ha. I’m not quite sure we think it is important, but more or less we wanted folks to laugh and bring the inside the beltway humor to outside the belt. We were sick and tired of DC tell-all-books.
Alicia: We definitely didn’t want to write a “tell all.” We wanted to write a fun, light-hearted book, that gives readers a glimpse into the life of a Hill staffer, and I think we were able to accomplish that. 🙂 There are just so many crazy things that happen there, it’s too good not to share!
How did you decide what situations (and ensuing commentary) to include or exclude?
Jayne: Believe it or not, we had no notes or outline. We just wrote and what stuck—stuck. 🙂
Alicia: Everything just sort of came organically and we went with it. Jayne and I like to joke that we share a brain, so there was really never any arguing about what to keep in and what to cut. We stuck with what was funny!
What did the writing process look like as the two of you wrote this book together?
Alicia: We love this question! I actually started the book and wrote chapter one. I sent it off to her, she added her pizzazz and sent it back to me. She then took a stab at chapter two, and I added my take on things. We literally piggybacked the book like that, and what was so fun was neither of us knew what the other one was join going to write! It was always a surprise. We had talked about an overarching theme, but that was it! It was almost like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.
Jayne: It was gruesome. Just kidding. It was a total blast and we piggy-backed the entire journey. Folks like to call us ham and eggs. You can’t have the one without the other. We had zero hiccups, fights or angst over stories, wording or storyline. I’m not sure I could do this partnership with anyone else, besides Alicia!
Was it difficult writing this book? What were the most challenging things about writing this book together?
Jayne: I think the most challenging is what many authors don’t do. Post production you must work your fanny off and self promote your book as much as possible. From marketing to book signings to media, your book (or our baby, as we call it), really is a priority and focus for both of us.
Alicia: Ditto what Jayne said. The editing process was also tough… revision, after revision, after revision. Writing is the fun part!!
Were there any authors that influenced how you wrote the book?
Jayne: To be honest, not really. I love to read but I’m not sure I’ve read a book like Capitol Hell! : )
Alicia: I definitely looked at the works of other chick-lit authors I enjoy like Sophie Kinsella and Lauren Weisberger. I also read Stephen King’s “On Writing” because, lets face it, he is the master!
The book kick starts with Allison’s first days, and the insane amount of flack she puts up with from both her superiors and her co-workers. I applaud you both, because I wouldn’t put up with it! How did both of you continue to work in such an environment? What made it bearable?
Jayne: This is a great question. Here’s the deal, we both are truly thankful and appreciative for our experience on the Hill. There is no better job training for other jobs or life, quite frankly. We were young and very naïve! Plus, you have everyone telling you what a glamorous cool job you have—you don’t quit.
Alicia: Some days were tough. Some days were great. I think we both were raised with Midwestern values and were taught that you work hard and never give up. That being said, I don’t think we would put up with the same things now as we did in our twenties. But everything is a learning experience. You learn and you grow.
Some reviewers have indicated that the book shies away from a lot of political issues on the table these days. I’m sure you were both privy to more of these issues than is shared in the book. Why did you decide not to include such issues?
Jayne: And, some reviewers think we hit too hard on some political issues like immigration, etc. This isn’t a political thought book—trust me, if we wanted to write one we could—we both are very opinionated and engaged. We wanted readers to laugh—bringing that hilarity to the election box—that’s our campaign motto. And, gosh darn it, we are sticking to it!!
Alicia: We wanted to ensure that the book would be enjoyable for folks on both sides of the aisle and we purposefully tried not to alienate anyone. We obviously had to affiliate the characters with a political party, otherwise it wouldn’t be true to real life, but the point of the book was not to promote a political agenda. It doesn’t matter which party you support, if you work on the Hill, you are bound to experience the madness there!
What do you want readers to take away from reading Capitol Hell?
Jayne: A read that will make you laugh, wonder how much is true and really teach others about how to treat fellow colleagues and people.
Alicia: The urge to read Capitol Hell 2! 😉
Will there be a follow-up book to Capitol Hell? Or is this the last we can expect from either of you?
Jayne: Oh come on, you know this isn’t the last!! Of course, CH 2 is in the works as we type!! We hope to have it ready by the end of the year! Go McDermott!
Jayne & Alicia: CH2 Sneak Peak!?!? Sure why not!?! Here yo go!! -J
“Rise and shine, Valentine,” I stated as I aggressively shoved Janet to roll over.
She mumbled and finally came to life. And when she did, I could tell that she was just as shocked as I had been to find us nestled half-naked together in bed. “What the hell happened?” she asked.
“Ha,” I scoffed, “I was hoping you could explain this to me.”
“Oh, oh, I have a headache the size of Texas,” she whined.
“Well, no shit…so do I. Stop complaining and get some damn clothes on,” I ordered as I got out of bed. I had an uneasy feeling about what had transpired the night before.
“Easy, Karma Wannabee,” she bitched back. “You’re no fun when you’re hungover.” I ignored her comment and we both slowly got dressed without saying another word. Janet finally broke the silence.
“You were a hot mess last night,” she said. “You could barely stand up.”
“What, happened?” I asked. “All I remember is dancing with Cam and then nothing. I think I blacked out.”
“Whiskey must make you mean. Do you remember bitch-slapping Blair across the face last night?”
“What!?!” I shrieked. “I couldn’t have!”
“Oh, you sure did. And everyone saw. Charles even over-reacted and asked if he should call an ambulance.” she continued, “You were dancing with Cam, showing off moves I didn’t even know existed, and those long legs of yours were grinding and swaying all over the place. Cam’s face was pitch red. Apparently, Blair tried to come join in the fun and you had no time for him,” she continued. “Cam told me that Blair came up and asked if you learned those moves in stripper school and then said you could dance on his pole anytime. Without saying a word, you whipped around and slapped him right across the face. It was glorious,” she said grinning from ear to ear.
I stared at Janet unable to speak. I couldn’t believe that I had physically assaulted Blair in front of all my co-workers. Granted, he definitely had it coming considering the comments he made, but there was no way this was going to end well…
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Jayne: We’d love to hear from you or better yet send you a signed copy—check us out at www.capitolhellbook.com. We LOVE talking and Skyping with book clubs!! Thanks for your tremendous support!
Alicia: A BIG HUGE THANK YOU!! WE LOVE YOU GUYS!!