Author Interview: Alicia Long & Jayne Jones

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their funny book

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!

Both Amanda (over at The Eclectic Bookworm) and I have reviewed Capitol Hell. It was really hard for me not to go read her review, which you can read here. This is my take on Capitol Hell.

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!

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Former Senator Norm Coleman (MN)

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!!

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*cover varies by edition

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!

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Alicia Long & Jayne Jones

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!!

Keep up with these gals on Facebook or Twitter. If you want to know more about the authors, or get connected, their emails are provided on their bio pages.

 

Book Review: Capitol Hell

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Capitol Hell by Jayne  Jones and Alicia Long

Genre: political, chick lit, humor, contemporary fiction

Jayne Jones and and Alicia Long are former Senate staffers-turned authors.  After working nearly ten years in politics, the pair decided [they] had way too many hilarious stories to keep to [themselves], so [they] penned Capitol Hell, a fictionalized tale of what life is really like behind the scenes in Washington D.C. Capitol Hell tells the story of Allison Amundson, a small town girl from South Dakota who lands the highly sought after job of scheduler to the newly-elected and rising star of the US Senate, Senator Anders McDermott III (MN).  While she thinks she is on the fast track to success, she quickly learns that life on Capitol Hill is even more dysfunctional than portrayed on TV. In fact, it is ‘Capitol Hell.’ Capitol Hell is repeatedly being called “‘The Devil Wears Prada”‘meets Washington D.C.” and chick-lit lovers are eating it up.

No one ever said life on the hill was easy…

The story is told through Allison Amundson, a college graduate that snagged a “job of a lifetime.” Twice. However, on her very first day as a scheduler for her Minnesota senator she realizes it’s not the pretty picture she imagined it to be. Indeed, he is demanding and critical, insincere and phony, and believes Allison to be on duty 24/7. She is trying desperately to keep things on an even keel in an office where she is saddled with the workload of several, and the target of a staff clique.  She has no real ally or support until a friend from the senator’s campaign, Janet, comes to the Hill.

And then Mr. Snot Nosed Brat, Grade A member of the Allison Haters Club and whose father was a maxed out donor to the senator, throws Allison and Janet for a loop – and puts the whole office in turmoil…and lands the girls on air mattresses in the senator’s house back in Minnesota to work from the state office. Not only that, but the first-year senator is about to make a remarkable national announcement.

This book was definitely an interesting read. It gives insight into the workings of the US Congressional offices, with the senators and staffers that fill them. I think this is a lighthearted but very telling commentary about what happens behind closed doors in our government offices. The staff members put up with a lot of flack from superiors and co-workers. Indeed, the Allison Haters Club could disappear from work for hours on end to go to the movies while one the clock, make incredibly snarky and inappropriate comments and get away with it all without reprimand.

The inner-workings of this office and the staff who “run” it made me cringe. I worked in a university office where things were rapidly falling apart, and I booked it out of Dodge before it landed on my – a student’s – shoulders. My counterpart who stayed…well, she got screwed over royally. I saw the writing on the walls, as Allison can clearly see from her coworkers, and yet she keeps her mouth shut and signs on for another round in the same office but with much more at stake. None of the characters in this book display growth or improvement, except maybe some more insightful glimpses of the chief-of-staff, Charles, who is a married man that adores his children, and later in the book comes to Allison’s defense.

The senator and his wife are an incredulous couple: he’s a lying, cheating, penny-pinching senator, she’s a brainless ex-model-wanna-be-actress who spouts the most insane things for a wife of a government big-wig. The commentary made between the two of them, both on and off the record, include immigration policy, feminists, and working moms. Needless to say, the wifey alienates the entire female population of the United States by some of her comments – and the senator is OK with it. To me, that just doesn’t make sense and is slightly unbelievable that there’s no one doing PR damage.

Some have mentioned in reviews that this book strays away from most issues facing our country and government, and for the most part they are correct. That’s a disappointment and I think not a true reflection of the encompassing novel this could have been, but I also see it from the other side. As a reader, I don’t want politics shoved down my throat. The only real thing that crops up in this book is about immigration. The senator could care less about any MN constituent stuck in a prison somewhere overseas – but he wants a public image of having diverse staff and volunteers, and being the working man for people who’s loved ones are held up by other governments. Sweetheart Janet comes to the rescue, and it is clear that her character is emotionally invested in helping the people her boss ignores. That was a touching moment for me, because I would be just like her.

Overall this book is intended for a light read and I enjoyed it for the most part, but I just couldn’t get past how Allison (or Janet) would have stayed. I grew up with the same values they were raised with: work hard, believe in God, and you’ll be rewarded. When it comes to reaction to criticism, I’m much like Allison: I get angry. So how she could have stayed escapes me. But I suppose it was worth the rewards, which readers don’t find out about.

This book ends in such a way that there could be a second book…

About the Authors

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Alicia and Jayne

Jayne Jones and Alicia Long, co-authors of Capitol Hell began their political careers by working for former Senator Norm Coleman (MN).

Jayne Jones, a graduate of William Mitchell College of Law, left Capitol Hill to work for the Minnesota House of Representatives, where she was the Executive Assistant to the Speaker of the House. Her favorite adventure is teaching others about the legislative process and how to draft legislation in her capacity as a political science professor at Concordia University. Jones is also in the process of starting a summer camp for teenagers interested in public policy.

Alicia Long, a South Dakota native and graduate of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, also worked for United States Senator John Thune (SD) as well as former United States Senator George Allen (VA). After graduating from law school, she obtained employment as a Presidential Management Fellow in the Department of Justice. In that capacity, she worked as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia. Currently she is an attorney working in Washington D.C.