Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman doesn’t believe “Capitol Hell” is based on his life.
“Although I haven’t read the book,” Coleman told me via e-mail, “I’m told my former staffers had some fun knitting together a number of Washington characters. I’m also told the senator in question was a candidate for president and liked his tea cooked a certain way. I never harbored such lofty ambitions; I was strictly a latte man, never a tea drinker. No, I’m not worried about whether the book was about me or Laurie.”
There you go, Soledad O’Brien, Jeff Probst, Jim Bohannon, et al., who’ve asked attorneys and authors Jayne Jones and Alicia Long if this book is about Coleman.
Whatever the inspiration, this is a funny little book from Jones — a Minnesotan currently teaching political science at Concordia College — and Long — a South Dakotan now working in D.C. as a lawyer in the chief counsel’s office of the DEA. The authors, who met Coleman while working on his 2002 campaign, worked for him in both his Minnesota and D.C. offices.
Their book is about one Sen. Anders McDermott III of Minnesota and his wife, Karma, who’s chasing a career in Hollywood. Jones tells me the book is a finalist for two awards from the Midwest Publishers Association: fiction/contemporary and humor.
Last time I ran into Laurie Coleman we were on the same D.C.-to-Minnesota flight. She was lovely to me, as usual. Just in case, Laurie might want to skip this Q&A with Alicia Long that I conducted via e-mail.
Q This book is NOT about Sen. Coleman and his wife, right?
A “Capitol Hell” is a fictional tale of life on the Hill. The senator is from Minnesota, he’s Jewish, and his wife is a former actress. We wrote about Minnesota because we both love Minnesota. And let’s face it, we have quite the history of electing some of the nation’s most talked-about politicians.
Q Interesting that Karma, who is described as silly as a rabbit and unpredictable as a monkey, was pursuing a career in Los Angeles while Sen. McDermott remains in D.C.?
A It is interesting, isn’t it? We wanted to make sure “Capitol Hell” gave readers a glimpse into what life is really like inside our nation’s Capitol, and these types of marriages seem to ring true inside the Beltway. Many times senators’ spouses and their families remain back in their home states. We thought it might be fun to add a little twist to the McDermott family and thought Karma should opt to spend the majority of her time in L.A. rather than back home.
Q How did you get a deal with Edina’s Beaver’s Pond Press to print your book?
A Beaver’s Pond Press has been terrific and we’re thrilled to have found a small locally based publisher for our first book. The book is based in D.C. and Minnesota, so it seemed fitting to talk with a Midwest publisher. We did send a fast e-mail to a big NYC publisher. We had a few friends with connections at BBP. They called us within 24 hours. Apparently, they’ve got one of Sen. McDermott’s favorite attributes — a little bit of ATD (attention to detail).
Q When was the last time you talked to Sen. Coleman?
A Gosh, it’s been ages. I think we all run in different circles now.
Q Does Sen. Coleman return your phone calls?
A The senator always taught us to never leave the office until all calls and e-mails are returned. We’re sure he also practices what he preaches. We think he would answer. We just haven’t dialed.
Q Is it good or bad for selling books that Sen. McDermott is believed to have been modeled after Coleman?
A A good girl never kisses and tells, C.J.! We have never said that Sen. McDermott is modeled after our old boss. “Capitol Hell” is a work of fiction. Curious readers across the nation are eating it up.
Q If you go to work for another politician, do you anticipate having to sign a nondisclosure agreement as a term of employment?
A We are women who like high heels and carry the Constitution in our matching handbags. Nondisclosure agreements wouldn’t fly in public service offices such as in the U.S. Senate. But, for now, we realize that our time on the Hill could be over.
Q Have you ever heard of a senator in D.C. saying to a staffer: “Please start to care about my life. I don’t appreciate it when you make me late.”
A Guilty. I think most staffers on the Hill have experienced something similar. The Hill is a great opportunity that opens many doors. But, you also do anything that is asked of you or stated to you. The thicker your skin, the more likely you are to succeed.