Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Interview: Author Alicia M. Long (Capitol Hell)

Author Alicia M. Long drops by to discuss her debut novel Capitol Hell which she co-wrote with her best friend, Jayne J. Jones. She talks about fashion, what it was like to write a book with her best friend, her favorite characters to write, and what was one of her best memories from working for Senator Norm Coleman.

TeamNerd Reviews: As two strong, intelligent, and honest women, Allison and Janet make the adventure of working in politics quite humorous. How did the friendship you share with Jayne inspire how you approached writing both Allison and Janet? What traits from yourselves did you implement into them? What traits do they possess that you aspire to grow into?

Alicia M. Long:  I think Jayne and I were both pretty naïve when we first arrived on the Hill.  We became a little more politically savvy during our time there, and I think you can see that happening to Allison and Janet as the book progresses as well.  I think other similar traits include our passions for public service.  Jayne and I have always felt a calling to public service, and I think you can see that in Allison and Janet as well.  We all also all love to laugh! J

TeamNerd Reviews: One of the first things a reader will notice and discover about Allison is her wardrobe. Are either you or Jayne fashion obsessed ladies? Is there a certain type of style that you prefer over another?

Alicia M. Long:  I think we both love fashion, although our sense of style is very different.  One thing we do have in common is that we both love finding a good deal!  I love shopping at places like Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off-Fifth, Ann Taylor Loft, and Macys.  As a young professional woman, you can always find work appropriate attire that is easily transitional to something that is appropriate for a happy hour or a night on the town.  I am a huge fan of Calvin Klein.  You can pair one of his dresses with some funky jewelry, big high heels, and a blazer, and you are all set!

TeamNerd Reviews: There is a long list of characters that appear throughout Capitol Hell. There are some sassy women and some easy on the eyes men to enjoy. Outside of Allison and Janet, which female character was your favorite to write and why? Which was your favorite male character to write and why?

Alicia M. Long:  The Senator’s Wife Karma!  We both had a blast writing her character because she is so over the top.  She is self-absorbed, vapid, and incredibly vain.  We loved asking ourselves, what should Karma do next?!?  The possibilities with her were endless.
As for men, my favorite character to write was Blair.  Like Karma, he is definitely an antagonist in the book.  He stalls Allison’s and Janet’s efforts at every turn, and in short, he is a real pain-in-the-ass.  That being said, his character was tons of fun to write.  I mean who wouldn’t like writing about a spoiled rich kid who has no sense of reality?

TeamNerd Reviews: There is this absolutely hilarious scene where Karma, the wife of Senator McDermott, gets her hand stuck up a condom machine. Is that story inspired by a true story, even loosely? If not, how did you come up with it?

Alicia M. Long:  We like to say that a good girl never kisses and tells! ;)  Like the other stories in the book, the reader will just have to read it to try and see if they can figure out what stories are true and which ones are based in reality!

TeamNerd Reviews: What was one of the best memories you have from working for former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman? What would you say was the hardest aspect about working for a senator?

Alicia M. Long:  I would say my favorite aspect was working with constituents and feeling like you could make a difference in their lives.  It was amazing to be able to help the hardworking folks of Minnesota and I wouldn’t trade my experience on the Hill for anything.  The hardest aspect was the long hours and the fact that the job seemed never-ending.  I remember working nights, weekends, and at times it seemed my blackberry never stopped buzzing!  It was hard to have proper work/life balance.

TeamNerd Reviews: Where Allison focuses more on her career, Janet focuses on her crush (and obsession) with Senator Jenkins. Will there ever be any romantic interludes for Allison? Will they perhaps at one point include the gorgeous Cam?

Alicia M. Long: Funny you should ask!  We actually just started writing book 2!  I would like to see Allison get a little more action, but life on the campaign trail is hard.  We will all just have to wait and see!

TeamNerd Reviews: How did you and Jayne approach writing a book together? Did you guys build a certain routine with each other?

Alicia M. Long:  We get this question a lot, and I think we were both surprised how well we worked together.  I actually wrote Chapter 1, sent it to Jayne, she added her take to Chapter 1 and then wrote Chapter 2.  She sent it back to me and I did the same thing.  We actually wrote the entire book that way—piggy backing off of one another.  The other funny thing was that we never talked to each other about where the book was going.  So it was literally a surprise to get the next chapter, because we had no idea what the characters would be up to!

TeamNerd Reviews: What did writing a book teach you about yourself and about your friendship?

Alicia M. Long:  Great question!  The first thing it taught me about myself was that I could write a book!! Who knew!?!  As for our friendship, I am not sure that I really learned anything about that.  Jayne and I have been friends for over 10 years.  We like to say we are more like sisters, because we are in constant communication, and I think there is very little, if anything, that we don’t know about each other.  I will say this though; I think she is probably the only person in this world that I could collaborate with like this to write a book.

TeamNerd Reviews: Have you and Jayne started working on the sequel yet? Have you gals planned how many books there will be featuring Allison and the crazy crew from Capitol Hell? What are some juicy tidbits about the sequel you’re willing to let readers in on?

Alicia M. Long:  We have!!  We are super excited to see where life on the campaign trail takes Allison and Janet, and I think we will all have fun reading about the misadventures they get into as they try to make it to the White House!

TeamNerd Reviews: To take a cue from Allison and Capitol Hell which often mentions food, drinks, and ice cream as way to survive working on the Hill . . .

Alicia M. Long:

Favorite Flavored Coffee: Caribou Coffee’s Turtle Mocha!!
Favorite Flavored Ice Cream:  Ben and Jerry’s “Americone Dream” of course!  It’s Stephen Colbert Approved!! J
Favorite Drink:  Depends on the time of day.  I will say this though; nothing beats a margarita on a beautiful day after a long day at the office!  Happy Hour here we come!!
Favorite Snack:  Ooo that’s tough.  I don’t know if I have a favorite snack, but I can say that I LOVE chocolate!

About the Author: Alicia Long is originally from Hartford, South Dakota, a small town just outside of Sioux Falls. In 2003, she received her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Upon graduation, she moved to Washington, D.C. to work on Capitol Hill. While working on Capitol Hill, she served for United States Senators Norm Coleman (MN), John Thune (SD) and George Allen (VA). She also served in various capacities, including scheduler, legislative correspondent, legislative aide, intern coordinator and caseworker. While working on the Hill, she became proficient at mastering the metro system, crashing the nearest receptions, and acting as a tour guide for friends and family.

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